Moonlight, Magnolias, and Mothballs

E.J. Dionne reminds us that April 12, 2011, will mark the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War. Except countless gasbags to declare to us that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, which is hogwash.

The usual argument that the war was not fought over slavery hinges on the fact that the northern states went to war to preserve the Union, and Lincoln himself declared that he was willing to protect slavery in the southern states if that would keep southern states in the Union.

However, it is a bare-assed, unadulterated fact that the only reason several slave states tried to secede and form a new confederacy was to protect the institution of slavery, a point Dionne makes very clearly. Any other “causes” the confederates thought up were clear afterthoughts.

So South Carolina started the war by firing on a federal military installation, Fort Sumter, leaving Lincoln little choice but to send troops to put down the rebellion. And ever after, generations of southern whiners have called this the beginning of the War of Northern Aggression. And the culture of denial and victimhood continues to this day.

Other stuff to read — another good article on the reason global climate change is causing colder winters in some places (like here). Steve Benen explains why Florida is screwed.

20 thoughts on “Moonlight, Magnolias, and Mothballs

  1. The current temp in Kissimmee is 32 degrees, tomorrow will see a low of 27.
    We don’t usually see this kind of weather until early to mid Feb.
    Last winter we had (I believe) something like 20 straight days with frost as far south as Naples.It lasted well into March, which is very strange.
    Florida is a big winter veggie producer; expect higher prices at the grocery store.

    When it was announced that Rick Scott won the Gov’s mansion, it was no surprise.
    He has the Bush crime family solidly behind him.
    Behind door number 3 stands the unemployed NASCAR dad with his loaded Glock.Shorlty, the unemployed and underemployed, and all the guys working for cash under the table to make ends meet as they fend off the credit card companies and the repo man will have a long awaited revelation.Gas is just about to bust $3.00 per gallon, and the Repubs are bitchin’ that the unemployed don’t spend enough time looking for work?
    We need to get Dubya’s clip about looking for the WMD more air time, maybe do a parody about looking for work.For christ sakes, what’s wrong with working at McDonalds until the jobs come back? If they only knew…….
    So far, they have blamed Mexicans for stealing their jobs and driving construction wages into the dirt; they have accused “liberals” of wanting to take their guns, and bitched about the black welfare queens and disproportionate number of blacks commiting crimes.Eventually they will run out of scape goats.

    • Eventually they will run out of scape goats.

      Maybe, but the pattern in many states is that after years of right-wing whackjob policies have run the state into the ground, voters flock to politicians who are angry right-wing whackjobs. Voters are angry, too, and they want somebody to “get tough” with somebody. If only people would figure out that visceral
      reactions are not solutions. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  2. When I lived down South, I learned a new euphamism. We in the North always called it The Civil War. But down there, it was always “The War Between the States,” or “the War of Northern Aggression.” The new one I heard was, “The War on Manners” – like Dear Abby’s troops fired on Ann Landers’ fort, and the poo-poo hit the ventilator from there.
    I guess keeping slaves was considered mannerly, and we rude Northerners crashed their party.
    Maybe they need a new one. I have an idea! What with the magnolia’s, the cotillions, the gentlemen Colonels, the dainty Southern Belle’s, versus the Hun-like Yankees, they can call it “The War on Decorum.”
    I’d like to call it “The War Where We Should Have Burned Everything Down to the Ground South of Baltimore and Cincinnati When We Destroyed You, and Never Reconstructed Jack-Sh*t and Let the People Slowly Starve Unless They Swore to Never Mention This As Anything Less Than a Civil War And That The War Was Over Slaves And They Need to Remind Themselves of that Every Day Until the End of Time, and, Oh, Did We Mention That We Destroyed Your Sorry Southern Asses and Won the Damned CIVIL WAR – and Don’t you Dare to Mess With the the Former People You Kept as Slaves Until The Same End of Time, and if we Find Out That You Messed With One, Just One African-Americans Right to Vote or Live as They Choose, We’ll Dig Up Ol’ Tecumsah Sherman and Sick His Now Dead Zombie Ass to Form a New Army and Finish What He Started Because He’s LOVE to do That – CAPICE?!”
    Yeah, a bit long.
    And probably not too mannerly.
    Oh well, but then, I’m a damn Yankee, aren’t I?

    And if anyone doubts that many of the native white assholes living down there, male and female, aren’t still fighting this war, go and live there for awhile. You’ll soon see that there’s a reason that I call the party that the people in the South and deeply rural areas love, the RepubliConfederate or RepubliKlan Party. Having said that, the rebels are very polite and the foods great, especially if you don’t mind being a diabetic with clogged arteries.

  3. erinyes,
    I like the Bush video being redubbe, “Nope, no jobs here! Nope, not under the couch cushion either…”
    As for weather, I understand that FL doesn’t normally have the weather you’re having – Global Weirding? Just be glad you weren’t in NY yesterday.
    Winter is when I really miss NC – except for the rare snow or ice storm. Yesterday, my cousin in NJ had his 2nd sons Christening. We left Upstate NY for the church just as the blizzard was starting to really bliz, and then went to his house, gulped down some food, rushed out, and then I drove home with my parents for amost 3 1/2 hours in near white-out conditions in what’s normally an hour and 15 minute drive. It was some of the worst winter driving I’ve ever experienced, and I grew up in NYC and Upstate NY.
    As for the NASCAR Dad’s and Mom’s, until they turn off FOX News, it’ll be the same-old same-old. Everything’s the fault of the Yankees, Liberals, Democrats, and brown people – 24X7X365. EVERYTHING!

  4. Absolutely. Victimhood has become the talking point of the Right. Conservatism is the Party of loss. And, it is still true in America that because I am white I belong to the ruling class and (name your ethnic, or political, or ‘other’) group is a daily threat to my rule.

  5. “And ever after, generations of southern whiners have called this the beginning of the War of Northern Aggression”

    To me what this all represents is that many in the south (the one’s who deny the reason for the civil war) are just racists who can’t come to grips with their racism so they just deny it. I suppose it is progress that they seemed ashamed enough of their racist past to deny it. As a recovering racist I know of what I speak, you can’t get past your racism until you can admit to yourself that you are a racist, much like a drunk or drug addict, one has to acknowledge the problem before you can begin to get past it. So many in the south are in denial, I mean just look at the recent statements by Gov. Barbour, the man obviously does not understand what minorities went through during the civil rights era, yet he is elected to run a state that has such a poor history of civil rights abuses. The fact that this alternate reasoning for the civil war has gained so much traction and really receives so little scrutiny just shows that race is still a huge problem in this country. It makes me wonder, these folks that deny what the civil war was fought for, what they must think of having an African American President?

  6. uncledad,
    “It makes me wonder, these folks that deny what the civil war was fought for, what they must think of having an African American President?”
    Haven’t you been watching, listening or reading anything the last few years? 🙂
    My guess is that it’s somewhere between praying he’ll die, to making it happen.

  7. I think a better title for this post would have been:

    Gasbags, hogwash and whiners.

    As for the climate deniers, if they want to know where the ‘heat energy” is tell them that it is in the wind….literally.

  8. If I may play devil’s advocate for a bit…

    Sure the South Carolinians fired first, but from that point on the war was mostly fought on Southern soil, and it was the South that suffered most of the devastation.

    But that’s just the American way of war, isn’t it? Fight it “over there, over there”, rather than right here, right here. It’s a very practical way of war, as befits a very practical people.

    So really “War of Northern Aggression” is a euphemism for “War of Northern Victory”. Victory looks a lot like aggression, to the loser.

    • Paradoctor: By the same logic, the Japanese might think of World War II as “The War of American Aggression.” How does that work for you?

      The South wanted the war, and started it. The North did not want a war until after Fort Sumter; then, the southern states clearly were in open rebellion against the Union. The South lacked the resources and manpower to take the fight to the North, and the couple of attempts to penetrate Yankee territory, such as Gettysburg, were beaten back.

      Even so, given its political goal of independence the South did not have to defeat the North; it only had to defend its territory and hang on long enough that the North would give up the fight. (In the same way, George Washington’s army during the Revolution did not have to swim to Britain and take London; it only had to persuade the British they couldn’t defeat the combined forces of the continental army and the French navy.)

      The North, on the other hand, had to subdue the South to bring the southern states back into the Union. These were the conditions and terms of the war the South itself established by starting a rebellion, so the South is hardly in a position to complain about the North’s “aggression.”

  9. maha: Your logic is correct, and similar to mine. The difference is one of attitude; you are indignant, I am ironic.

    Perhaps the Japanese _would_ call WWII the War of American Aggression, if the USA didn’t afterwards help the Japanese build one of the biggest economies in the world. (The Marshall Plan worked similar wonders in Europe.) That’s a speculation, of course; but I _do_ know that the Vietnamese call what we call the “Vietnam War” the “American War”. I suspect that such relativity of historical nomenclature is common.

    I think that “War of Northern Victory” would be a fine name, but for two facts: those who favor the winning side don’t want to look divisive, and those who favor the losing side don’t want to look like losers.

    • Paradoctor: One of the most unusual things about The Late Unpleasantness (my favorite name for the war) was the aftermath. The rebels, including their generals and leaders, for the most part were not punished. The only executions, I believe, were of the Lincoln assassination conspirators and the commander of Andersonville Prison. Jefferson Davis and some of the generals were detained for a while, but usually only weeks or months, and then they were paroled and allowed to go on about their business. Some of the leaders of the secession movement would eventually be elected to Congress.

      Right after Lee’s surrender, as General Grant left the McLean house in Appomattox Courthouse, he forbade all celebrations and said, “The rebels are our countrymen again.” Later, he refused to carry out President Andrew Johnson’s order to arrest Robert E. Lee, saying that as far as he was concerned Lee was living up to the agreement they made at Appomattox, and if Johnson wanted Lee arrested he would have to do it himself. Johnson backed off.

      Most of the bellyaching about Reconstruction is classic Southern Victim Culture also. For the most part, the plantation owners quickly returned to their plantations and continued living like feudal lords. I doubt many of their wives were reduced to making dresses out of the draperies, and in any event it’s doubtful any southern lady could sew well enough to make a Victorian era dress. They had “servants” for those things, you know.

    • That’s a speculation, of course; but I _do_ know that the Vietnamese call what we call the “Vietnam War” the “American War”.

      That makes sense, though. With Vietnam, America was butting in where it didn’t belong. And I assume they called the earlier phase of fighting the “French War”?

      Further, if the Southerners wanted to call the war “The War With the North” or “The Yankee War” or some such thing I would understand the perspective, but calling it the “War of Northern Aggression” is the stuff of a mass martyr complex. It’s pretending the war wasn’t their doing, and the damnyankees aggressively attacked the poor, defenseless South because they were bullies who wanted to steal the wealth of the South, somehow. That isn’t rational, but I assure you plenty of southerners think that way.

  10. The “Late Unpleasantness”?! What a serene euphemism. Should I laugh or weep?

    As for Northern lenience and Southern bellyaching; that’s crazy, but I have trouble imaging a less crazy outcome for a civil war.

    • The “Late Unpleasantness”?! What a serene euphemism. Should I laugh or weep?

      I didn’t make it up; it was a common euphemism used by many Americans after the war. Whether they meant it sarcastically I cannot say.

      As for Northern lenience and Southern bellyaching; that’s crazy, but I have trouble imaging a less crazy outcome for a civil war.

      Crazy, perhaps, but it was what it was. Certainly there was deep antagonism for a long time, but the chief “punishment” the South received was the attempt to make whites stop the wholesale massacre of African-Americans and to nullify the “black laws” that would have rendered African Americans into something like serfs required by law to work for white people (something like slavery, actually). See especially Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 for a factual rather than mythical history of the era.

  11. Oops, that should be “imagining”.
    And steal the wealth of the South? That wealth _was_ its slaves. The North didn’t _steal_ that kind of wealth: they _abolished_ it. Viewed in economic terms, the war was Capitalism vs Feudalism, and Capitalism won.

    • The North didn’t _steal_ that kind of wealth: they _abolished_ it.

      Have you not spent much time with southerners? I ask because you seem surprised, as if you’ve never heard this before. The notion that the aggressive north went south to loot and steal and take away the south’s wealth is believed by many of them to this day.

      the war was Capitalism vs Feudalism, and Capitalism won.

      That’s exactly right, but you’ll never get a hidebound southern revisionist to admit that.

  12. Just as an aside…In reading accounts of life in Andersonville and the social order among seems that New Yorkers were viewed as the dregs of prison camp society. They had gained a reputation for thievery, scheming, and untrustworthiness among fellow prisoners…It does me proud as a native New Yorker to know that my fore-bearers kept the faith and upheld the tradition of reputation that us New Yorkers by birth cherish so dearly. American by birth…New Yorker by the grace of God!

  13. Swami,
    Me too! DITTO!!! MONDO-DITTO’S, even – got to say away from Radio RushWanda speak. I’m an untrustworthy, scheming thief from NY, too! It’s nice to see that some things never change.
    Did anybody ever read “Andersonville” by MacKinlay Kantor? It’s one of my favorite American novels. That reminds me, I need to reread it. I haven’t done that in about 8 years. I used to reread it every year or two, probably reading it 10 or more times. A truly great, great, book.

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