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The Civil War Never Ended; The Neo-Confederate Tea Party Fights On
Real Republicans should be outraged that Southern extremists have taken over their party who are anti-equality, anti-public school, anti-governement, and against human rights for all people.
By Denise Oliver Velez
I learned about the Civil War in school, and at home. I knew I was the great-granddaughter of enslaved people freed by the war. My great-grand-uncle Dennis Weaver (black), was a former slave, freed by early emancipation in Washington, D.C., in 1862, who enlisted immediately in Company D, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Troops (USCT).
My great-great-grandfather, James Bratt (white), was opposed to slavery and fought for the Union in the 6th Light Artillery Regiment, Wisconsin. I also know, through researching my family history, that I am descended from slave holders.
As a young person, I learned "Lincoln freed the slaves," and that the Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. It boiled down to "the North won, the southern slaveholders lost." Most of the history of what happened after the end of the war was skipped over in my classes. We learned next to nothing about Reconstruction. Thankfully, my parents filled in many of the gaps, but one of the things I could never understand, even as a child, was why, when we would drive through the South, there seemed to be more monuments to Confederates than to the victors. I learned early on to associate Confederate flag-carrying and waving with KKK activities, lynching, rape, murder, repression, segregation, and hatred of black people.
Is it any wonder that today, almost 150 years from ending of that bloody conflict, I find it completely disturbing that for a significant portion of our population, the Civil War continues? More distressing is the fact that children in this country are being taught that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. For this anathema, we have to point a finger directly at conservatives, right-wing teapublicans and libertarians.
Doug Muder, who goes by Pericles here at Daily Kos, wrote an absorbing piece recently, Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party. In it, he wrote, "Tea Partiers say you don't understand them because you don't understand American history. That's probably true, but not in the way they want you to think."
It's not a Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party protest was aimed at a Parliament where the colonists had no representation, and at an appointed governor who did not have to answer to the people he ruled. Today's Tea Party faces a completely different problem: how a shrinking conservative minority can keep change at bay in spite of the democratic processes defined in the Constitution. That's why they need guns. That's why they need to keep the wrong people from voting in their full numbers. These right-wing extremists have misappropriated the Boston patriots and the Philadelphia founders because their true ancestors -- Jefferson Davis and the Confederates -- are in poor repute.He said something else in the piece that struck me: "The South is a place, but the Confederacy is a worldview."
As an adult, I am still deeply disturbed by all of the shrines dotted across the nation, particularly in the South, honoring Confederate leaders. The most disturbing one for me is carved on Stone Mountain in Georgia.
The largest bas relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate leaders of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (and their favorite horses, "Blackjack", "Traveller", and "Little Sorrel", respectively).Across the nation, grade schools, high schools, and colleges are named for Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Fourteen states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. Alabama still has an official state holiday that celebrates Jefferson Davis' birthday on June 3 each year. The Confederate battle flag is incorporated into several state flags.
There is a misperception that many of the of Southern states have flown some version of the Confederate flag without interruption since the Civil War. For the most part, the Southern states that raised the Confederate battle flag or incorporated it into their state flag did so in the early part of the 20th century or during the 1950s and 1960s, in a defiant stand against integration. Denmark Groover, the Georgia House floor leader who in 1956 sponsored the legislation to add the Southern Cross into the state flag, freely admitted as much. He maintained that he and many of Georgia's legislators at the time were staunch segregationists who had urged that the Confederate symbol be added to the flag as a protest against federal integration orders.As we move into 2015, there are many events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and far too many of them will be honoring Confederate traitors. We will hear the refrain repeated again and again, that it isn't about slavery, and that neo-Confederates are "not racists." The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines neo-Confederacy:
The term neo-Confederacy is used to describe twentieth and twenty-first century revivals of pro-Confederate sentiment in the United States. Strongly nativist and advocating measures to end immigration, neo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned.For an academic look at the rise of the neo-confederacy, I suggest Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, edited by Euan Hague, Heidi Beirich, and Edward H. Sebesta:
An interdisciplinary team examines the mainstreaming of the New Dixie movement, whose calls range from full secession to the racist exaltation of "Celtic" Americans and whose advocates can be found far north of the Mason-Dixon Line. A century and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, the legacy of the Confederate States of America continues to influence national politics in profound ways. Drawing on magazines such as Southern Partisan and publications from the secessionist organization League of the South, as well as DixieNet and additional newsletters and websites, Neo-Confederacy probes the veneer of this movement to reveal goals far more extensive than a mere celebration of ancestry.Whenever you hear someone state that "the Civil War wasn't about slavery," refer them to Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family, who wrote Commemoration, minus the myths:
I can testify about the South under oath. I was born and raised there, and 12 men in my family fought for the Confederacy; two of them were killed. And since I was a boy, the answer I've heard to this question, from Virginia to Louisiana (from whites, never from blacks), is this: "The War Between the States was about states' rights. It was not about slavery." I've heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn't let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states' rights.Adele Stan wrote If You Think the Civil War Ever Ended, Think Again, explaining, "But the larger issue is the notion that a Confederate History Month should be celebrated at all, with or without an overt mention of slavery."
When I first moved to Washington, D.C., I had hardly a stick of furniture, so I boarded a bus to take me to the nearest Ikea, which was in a Virginia mall. Quite unfamiliar with the territory, I watched out the window with curiosity as the bus traveled along the chain-store lined route. Soon I noticed we were traveling along a road called the Jefferson Davis Highway. I was stunned, and a bit sick to my stomach. How could it be that a highway was named after a man who made war against the United States, all so the citizens of his region could continue to hold human beings in chains? All so slave masters could continue to rape the women they claimed to own. The children of these unions were usually enslaved by their own fathers, often acting as servants to their white half-brothers and -sisters.Take a look at Confederacy Theory:
And you thought the Civil War was over... Confederacy Theory presents and unflinching portrait of the cultural war that has erupted around the confederate flag - a century-old symbol that threatens to divide the South like no issue since the Civil Rights movement. Using never-before-seen archival footage and exclusive interviews with politicians, pundits, activists, and scholars, Confederacy Theory traces the history of this symbol and its impact on Southern culture, history, and identity - from the Civil War to the frontlines of a modern-day secession movement.It was just recently that we got these polling results from Mississippi: 37 percent of Mississippi Republicans Say They Would Would Back Confederates over United States.
Last year, Mother Jones featured teapublican Chris McDaniel schmoozing with neo-Confederate racists in an article, GOP Senate Candidate Addressed Conference Hosted by Neo-Confederate Group That Promotes Secessionism.
Chris McDaniel is taking the "GOP Civil War" to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the "war of southern independence."
Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel's first political campaign and wrote recently that the "controversy" over President Barack Obama's birth certificate "hasn't really been solved." McDaniel continues to battle in the courts in his bid to be on the ballot.
My civil libertarian friends will probably disagree with me, but I find myself wishing that we had laws--similar to the Strafgesetzbuch section 86a in Germany that "concerns Nazi symbolism in particular and is part of the denazification efforts following the fall of the Third Reich. The law prohibits the distribution or public use of symbols of unconstitutional groups, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting."
I dream of living in an America that no longer celebrates, and erects monuments to, slavery and secession, where a plurality of my fellow citizens no longer believe the Civil War was about "states rights."
Since I won't live to see that dream, I'll settle for fighting for a third Reconstruction, and working to vote every racist neo-Confederate tea partier out of office.
This article appeared at Daily Kos.
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