The Battle Hymn of the Confederacy

photo 2The American Civil War (1860-1864) has been in the news of late in a number of ways both in the third dimension and that fifth dimension that exists within the internets.  The fight over flags and license plates, rebel cars, and statues at campuses, the lack of safe spaces and the number of digital pages and angry Bookofface comments counter arguments, personal attacks, and defriending.  The Civil War of history is lived out in so many spaces today real and imagined and often pits Facebook cis/brother/sister against Facebook cis/brother/sister, an anonymous commenter on a news site against another anonymous troll on a message board, and everyone against one another. People have ignited the arguments and moved to cover up or deface memorials, remove or deface statues, and attempt to erase history or/and promote a new narrative on the landscape that is cleaned of any trace of a now unpopular regime.

photo 3(1)I remember being taught about the Civil War.  That this was a war to free the slaves.  I also remember reading translated history books written by Germans…  actually it was Nazi propaganda that said that the battle of Northern Aggression was industrialists fighting agrarians and that President Lincoln did not attempt to make slavery a cause until he was sure it would bring in the support of the most radical wing of the Republican party… which as a child was strange to read.  Even stranger that this Nazi narrative is/was promoted in college (at least when I attended).  Apparently not by Nazis… however, we harvested their scientists so perhaps we took a few historians in the deal too and they got mixed in or otherwise propagated out among the liberal elite’s memescape.

photo 1(1)Bethatasitmay, the war’s cause and impression on the culture of the United States may be of some consideration, contest, and ultimately in a post-fact environment lost to the fog of history.  There is something that cannot be denied, and that is every major city below Alexandria Virginia was laid waste to by Union troops and was rebuilt from these ruins to a restoration, only to be again ruined by our new Geography of Nowhere.  The cities of the South and certainly attest to the only area of the United States (to date) that has experienced war and resistance since the American Revolution/Battle of Colonial Aggression and even if they fall short in culture, art, or influence makes them more European than those hoity-toity scions of the North.

photo 4Columbia, South Carolina was the location where the rebels drafted and ratified the Articles of the Confederacy.  In order to escape typhoid or cholera or the mumps, the signers of this document met in a church in what is now downtown Columbia.  That church, and all others, were burned down as was various buildings and houses.  The historical markers, some of them today vandalized, attest to the destruction and implied rape of the Union troops, as well as the rebuilding effort.  I walked the cemeteries of the city and looked at the fallen sons, the daughters dead young, the children lost and thought about one thing that I was taught in Sociology 101, and certainly exposed by the more activist professors and that is resistance.
I thought of the many monuments by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and they were no longer in m mind a collection of spinsters and racists, but women raised without fathers and brothers who may have had some unfortunate experiences at the hands of the “liberating” army.  I saw the churches rebuilt.  I saw streets carrying the names of generals, battles, or one lane was named Confederacy Street.  I thought of resistance of so many more war-torn areas of the world, albeit more popular causes than that central cause espoused by the powerful of the Old South and to which either was the sole cause of the war if you believe dusty old US History books from your high school, or if you believe the Nazis, served as a useful element in the power struggle of the Union and reemerging Federal Government to galvanize radical elements of the Republican party.
I thought of not only the war dead entombed in the many cemeteries; I thought of their survivors.

photo 3Those many stones showed the passing of elders who died in the 1950s born at the time of the War of Northern Aggression/Civil War. The youngest markers recorded the passing of two elderly people I assume were male and female based on the names engraved on the rock (perhaps were husband and wife – or perhaps that is my cultural assumption and gender bias ) who died in the 1980s but must have grown up with veterans of that most recent unpleasantness.  These were people born but a decade or so after the humiliation and destruction of the community, the burning and raping of the city, the occupation, and confusion of the land.  I thought of the Stars and Bars and the many monuments not as “redneck” aggression, for which they can be so employed, but as resistance, just as I was taught to look at other resistance movements that chided under the yoke of whatever oppressor we were taught to hate.  This doesn’t mean I have to agree with The Cause.

photo 2(1)It does give me an object lesson I may reflect upon, and a challenge to understand that history does not just stop at a certain date but lives on through the lives of so many.  Maybe by visiting these haunted cemeteries and rebuilt churches I see a little better. I can look to rest those old battle flags respectfully in the museum rather than tearing them off the statehouse and burning them since while the resistance continued for so many generations, it is time to finally make those plowshares we have been speaking about for so long.

photo 5While we don’t paint any sentimental picture of the South or slavery, perhaps, were we in another more enlightened age rather than this one of dislikes, angry bird comments, and clusterfuckism activism, we would approach the meaning of these old monuments and flags with more understanding.  Perhaps even sympathy – following the older root of the word.  And while some of these more blatant symbols of flags and aggressive supremacism need to be retired to collections and museums, they need to be so in a way that understands their role in the generations of resistance. No sympathy for the Devil, however.  I see in the coming decades that the churches will again be burned.  The monuments toppled or defaced if not jackhammered into bits since, as all ages since we apes took up sticks and poked one another to death; history is written by the victor.  Columbia has torn down one-half of the city already for parking lots, sports statism, and Kentacohuts.  Maybe the activists will finally take down the other half.  If you can, see the old city as it stands upon the hill. And come to some understanding of what war once looked like in these United States least we again bring it to our land by our own hands.

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2 thoughts on “The Battle Hymn of the Confederacy

  1. wow. this jibes with my experience (albeit limited) in the deep, deep South: Meridian, MS. i flew down to meet Theo (my then-girlfriend), as she cleared out her remaining possessions from her mother’s house. [IMHO: she combines the absolute best of the South with a “Northern” UC Berkeley education. she was at the time an English Literature doctoral candidate at Cornell. she now teaches high school outside Detroit. ROFL]. my experiences that week were great highs and lows.

    the highs:
    – the food!
    – the welcoming heart of ALL the people (table service at a fast food restaurant!)
    – the beauty of the town – a live oak is a magical tree
    – while she often behaved like a chucklehead teenager, Theo’s mom had taught for 30+ years in Mississippi’s embattled public school system – a heroine
    – the food!
    – the gay episcopal priests!
    – the story of how all the Jews in town (of which there were more than you might think) had become Episcopalian, lol.
    – what i can only call the historicity of the people. i felt that they all knew in their hearts that they were proud and long-suffering links in one of the long chains of American history.
    – the food! i now understand catfish (and pimento cheese)

    the lows:
    – my first meal in the state was at a waffle house (which i already loved, thank you scranton, pa) in jackson. our waiter overheard me talking about my home state of California. “where are you from?” “originally San Francisco.” “isn’t that the AIDS capital of the world?” theo (bless her heart) chose not to say “actually, that would be the Mississippi Delta.”
    – i was “Theo’s Jew Boyfriend.” while i am Jewish (at least by heritage and culture), then and now i identify much more as an atheist/agnostic. i had also hadn’t ever brought this into any discussions.
    – i was a Yankee. WTF? California wasn’t even a state during that war . . . trying to explain to a Southerner (even Theo) why that was divisive and offensive (and to be quite honest: un-Christian) was about as easy as explain to a Hawaiian why it is racist to call mainlanders Haole.
    – Theo’s late grandfather was in the Klan. as a rule, i consciously avoided discussing politics as much as possible. it was so hard to join tis fact in my mind with his widow, Theo’s dear sweet grandma, who invited us into her home to make mac & cheese. perhaps this is why her son (Theo’s dad) turned out to be a great poet and a raging liberal atheist

    but to put this all together: there was a real rebel spirit. and this was not a spirit of oppression, segregation, or discrimination. it was a spirit of inclusion. of love. of forgotten, small-town, good-will. almost what i think of as that original Christianity before it became corrupt by politics. people wanted to live their lives with their families in a simple tried and true way – irrespective of the chaos of the world outside. they wanted peace. they wanted love. they wanted not to be bothered. and they were good hosts.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yeah, in general the world is simpler and more complex than we think. I would like to travel more in that area and learn more.

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