In which I pit Gordon Young of the Ku Klux Klan

Yikes! I almost forgot I was in the pit! Marley23, i gothca on the thing about no meaning thing, if it did not mean anything to anyone it would cease to exist. We had the Australian flag next to Old Glory while an exchange student was living with us. I have no love for the stars and bars, but I defend the right of anyone to show it, just as viciously as I would fight anyone to make me take down my stars and stripes. We just had a reasonable discussion in the pit. Is that allowed? Did we break a rule or something?

Marley23, maybe you are having difficulty understanding his P.O.V. The Old South and its ideals are obviously an important part of Operation Ripper’s heritage and family history and he feels strongly about Der Trih’s implication that the Old South was the inky-black nadir of human cruelty. When someone comes along and casually denigrates an integral aspect of your past, it puts you on the defensive.

No, I think I get the point of view. I don’t understand why it was a personal insult to Operation Ripper. The antebellum South was worse than the Klan; that’s so obvious that it shouldn’t even be argued about. The Klan hurt and murdered a lot of people, but not nearly as many as the institution of slavery did over a couple of centuries. I guess it’s because of who Der Trihs is; he makes a lot of sweeping generalizations and his post does say that the Old South=slavery.

No, parts of the antebellum South were bad. Parts of it were not. Not everybody lived in Tara, or Belle Reeve. Not everybody owned slaves, nor did everyone condone slavery.

You do know that the economics was driven by slavery, correct?

You are aware, I hope, that when the Southern representatives ripped apart the Democratic Party over Douglas (thereby ensuring a win by Lincoln and the newly formed Republicans), the discussions in that Charleston hall all revolved around the need to protect slavery. You are also aware, I hope, that slavery was explicitly named in the secession statements of nearly half the states that left the union and that no state that seceded did so without substantial comment from its delegates regarding the need to preserve the institution of slavery. (This despite the fact that Lincoln had been very careful to never make a statement that he intended to push for abolition.)

Now, if one wants to assert that the North never entered the war with the intention of freeing the slaves–they only wished to preserve the Union–you can find lots of documentation to substantiate that claim.
A claim that the war was not about slavery, given that the reason that each one of the eleven seceding states departed over that exact issue, is silly.

Not true, by your own admission. A majority of the States did not mention slavery in their secession statements. It is fair to say that slavery is one reason for the civil war. It is not fair or accurate to claim that it was the only reason. There were many causes that led to the war. Economic issues, including tariffs that benefited the industrialized North while penalizing the agricultural South, were a factor. Another was a drafting problem in the Constitution, which did not clearly answer the question of whether a State, once admitted, may thereafter leave the Union.

I thought the rest of my post made it clear that I know that. It’s still true that more harm was done by slaveowners than by the Klan. But like I said, I’m guessing the problem is that Der Trihs spoke so generally.

I’m always perplexed as to why the stars and bars should seemingly bear the entire stain of the institution of slavery and be irredeemably villified along with those soldiers who died gasping beneath it when the institution for which it flew lasted somewhat less than five years. Old Glory and our own illustrious and respected nation gladly profited and enacted laws protecting and perpetuating slavery with widespread support for over 80 years, in addition to carrying out the forced relocation of the cherokee, the indian wars, the mexican-american war, propping up a disgusting number of tin pot dictators under our monroe doctrine and yet, we wave the stars and stripes proudly. Oh, and in addition to the oft glossed over fact that the vast majority of pro-confederate southerners never owned a slave and in fact had no possible prospects of ever owning one is the fact that a great many southerners were Unionist and fought in blue. They are today all but forgotten, is it any wonder that some of their decendents find the very flag they fought against a symbol of cultural pride when they’ve been told to be ashamed of their southern heritage as ‘evil’ and inextricably associated with institutional racism?

I agree with the op, fuck the KKK and the subversion of a flag.

Even that is not necessarily true. The slaveowners were not generally the people who captured other people and sold them into slavery. Slaveowners had an economic incentive to not kill their slaves, and at least provide a minimal level of sustenance. Slaveowners are not without blame. Owning a human being is inherently wrong. Klansmen, on the other hand, had no incentive to do anything other than inspire terror in innocents via torture, rape, and murder. I have no cite, but I suspect that the Klan, in all it’s incarnations, commited more acts of murder than slaveowners did. The issue of relative morality between Klansmen and Slaveowners is entirely subjective. Both classes did horrible things. How do you quantify the harm done to a community by a single lynching when you consider all of the ripple effects of the terrorist act?

You mis-read my statement. Nearly half of the states that seceded mentioned slavery explicitly in their documents of secession. EVERY state that seceded was led to the convention by declarations that they needed to preserve slavery. No seceding state made a convention issue of tariffs or employment.

You are also engaged in a strawman: I did not claim that slavery was the sole reason. However, every other economic reason, including the tariffs, was directly tied to the issue of the Southern economy and its reliance upon slavery.

The proximate reason given for secession was that the North would attempt to close off new territories to slavery, making the slave states a substantial minority in Congress. However that very minority was defined by the establishment of slavery.

As to the rights of states to withdraw, the South had already settled that issue in the negative when, during Mr. Madisons’s War (1812 - 1815), Northern states grumbled about being dragged into a fight they did not choose at the Hartford Convention and other meetings, to which the Southern states responded with dire warnings that such treason would not be tolerated. They simply chose to turn their opinions around when the shoe was on the other foot. And there was no reason to discuss the right to withdraw except in the context of assuring the safety of slavery in the South.

Didn’t the Confederate president explicitly state that the war was about slavery?

I think it’s because that confederacy was formed primarily to preserve a vile institution. Slavery was the Confederacy’s principal raison d’etre. However egregious the misbehavior has been at times of the U.S., that misbehavior was not in support of the nation’s principal reason for having been formed. Might seem a minor distinction to you, but not to most.

And those soldiers gasping in the shadow of the Confederate Battle flag died in defense of the institution, whether or not they owned a slave, and their defense involved killing American soldiers. I would find it an aspect of Southern heritage a bit difficult to defend.

I can understand the ambivalence, though. Our founding fathers are a source of great pride for most Americans–their vision, their courage, their passion–and rightly so. Then I think about the fact that many of them owned slaves, and that pride–well, it doesn’t go away, but it’s definitely affected. I’m not a southerner, but I imagine it’s similar. I’m sure I’d have pride in my heritage as well, but I be troubled by the fact that this heritage was inextricably intertwined with an awful instituion. How to reconcile this? I don’t know.

Der Trihs, as usual, generalizes.

A symbol, by the way, means what people vest in it, whatever the symbol may be. However, you do not get to choose what others may vest in your symbol. If a swastika means love peace and brotherhood to you, for example, all well and good, but don’t be surprised if others think you’re a Neonazi creep for displaying it.

It needs to be stressed here, though, that the “Rebel Flag” does not mean “I support the racist and evil attitudes of the antebellum South” to a great many Southerners; it’s a symbol of regional pride for them. I believe I’ve mentioned several times the bumper sticker sequence I used to see on an old truck near here: the Rebel Flag, the HRC equals symbol, and the old 60s “Peace” sign.

Finally, just to correct one minor but fascinating detail that Tom~ got wrong, not every secessionist state left the Union because of slavery, or because of states rights questions intimately connected with slavery. North Carolina, by a slim majority, voted not to secede during Secession Winter; it only seceded when the swing votes went over to secession after President Lincoln called for troops from all the Union states, including North Carolina, to fight against secession. I’ve always felt that that furnishes the ground for a fascinating “What if” scenario: Lincoln has the common sense to make sure that his call to arms doesn’t alienate the unionist Southern states, we redraw the 1860s map with NC staying in the Union and Virginia physically separated from the rest of the Confederacy (other than the Holston valley), Wilmington a Union port rather than a refuge for blockade runners, the North vs. South attitude ameliorated by Southern loyalists…

So, the last vestiges of the Confederacy, then.

Sorry, man, as a Southerner slavery and racism is part of your heritage. As it is to the US in general. Or Nazism to the Germans.

When the KKK claims that they represent a part of Southern heritage, they are right. It’s a part of your history best left in the past and left only to be described in the history books. But don’t pretend it isn’t part of your history.

Then the Southerners who considered it a source of regional prode should have said something when the saw the flag being co-opted by hateful racists. The flag showed up in respone to civil rights legislation, and if anyone resisted its use because they were perverting a symbol of regional pride I’d like to see it. They had a responsibility to defend whatever honor they saw in that flag, and they failed to do so. It’s too late to unring that bell. It may have been your flag, but you abandoned it.

Of course, one reason given for NC’s refusal to secede was expressed eloquently by Thomas Crumpler in his persuasive speech to the House on the topic in January, 1861: If NC seceded, the Union would have no reason to honor the Fugitive Slave Law and would further permit no new slave states as the territories were organized. Thus, slavery would actually be threatened by secession. Crumpler then went on to discuss the various intra-regional rivalries that cast slavery in a separate economic light for each state, but always with an eye to the necessity of preserving the institution. He disparaged the “disunionists,” but made clear that the source of the problem was evil abolitionists.

Dear Southern pride folks,

You lost the war. Get over it. Shut up about your “culture”, “heritage” or “pride”. The condederacy had, what, 4 years and that was it? I’ve got socks older than that. And before you start rambling on about how your great-granddaddy-brother-cousin died in the war, let me remind you that lots of other people have died for actual NOBLE causes and not your cotton pickin’. Seriously, shut the fuck up about it.

The North.

IIRC he said that the Confederacy was about slavery. The South was obsessed with slavery; a Congressman of the time compared it to the Biblical plague of frogs because it was everywhere and covered everything. Southerners who came north and went to church expressed surprise that Christianity had anything to say about subjects besides slavery.

It might have something to do with the fact the flag represented the Confederacy and the Confederacy represented the southern states determination to preserve “their way of life”. This marvelous state of being required a large part of the population to be treated like chattle livestock. So its no wonder that people think “slavery” when they see the flag. This word association is as natural as thinking “period” when you see a maxi pad.

Yeah, but the US wasn’t formed with the sole purpose of keeping a whole group of people enslaved. Seems like you overlooked that detail, but its rather important.

The whole southern economy benefited from slaves, so it doesn’t matter if only a handful of people owned slaves. Not every American has a sweatshop laborer in their basement pumping out Nike tennis shoes and cheap Walmart jeans, but the American economy still profits from such exploitation.

It’s going to be hard to divorce the flag from the war that it was fought under it. To argue that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery is too hilarious. What else could it have been about? Summer cotillions and mint julips? All that blood shed and money wasted could have only been about one thing, really. And coon dog hunting wasn’t it.

Excellent post.

I could believe this more if the South hadn’t decided that its heritage was best represented by the Confederate Navy Jack - explicitly a symbol of how the South sent its own sons to kill their countrymen in the explicit defense (thanks, tomndebb) of slavery. If “Southern heritage” means celebrating this, then there’s something wrong with Southern heritage. The Confederate Navy Jack was used only for two years - two years of the war that the South fought against its fellow Americans in order to preserve slavery. That’s the worst bit of Southern history to any right-thinking person; if that’s the symbol you choose to represent your heritage, then remember that you’re the one associating your heritage with young Southern men dying to preserve that “peculiar institution” that you claim isn’t the essence of the South.