Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Uncivil comments

Let's make a deal, Sgt. Stryker. I won't claim that slavery wasn't involved in the secession of the Southern states in the Civil War, and you won't hand me this sanctimonious crap about how the Union side was fighting to free the slaves and stamp out a culture that was "evil and wicked to the core".

You don't like revisionism? Then what do you think about the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation was written halfway through the war, and didn't free the Northern slaves?

You don't like secession? The general rule is that, unless we're talking about the Mafia, we can leave associations if we choose after we join. Tell me what in the Constitution forbade secession. And if nothing forbade it, tell me why the 10th Amendment doesn't make it legal. The Southerners could see clearly that they were going to get a long brutal screwing once they were no longer in a position to block hostile legislation backed by Northerners, so why should they stick around?

One of the things that amazes me about this topic is how people who ordinarily would make fun of religious fanatics become such sanctimonious pricks themselves when expounding on Northern motives. And in fact a bunch of what could fairly be called religious fanatics provided much of the impetus. They were the abolitionists - a bunch of people who would suffer no economic impact from their radical changes, and who were bound and determined to impose their beliefs on everyone else. There's the analogy to Islamofascism Stryker was looking for - he was just looking on the wrong side.

Yankees have been morally masturbating about their role in ending slavery for a long time now, ignoring the fact that they weren't particularly enlightened about race themselves, and that most of the social disruption would happen far from their neighborhoods anyway. People would lose what historically had been considered property and uneducated ex-slaves would be dumped into the economy with even fewer guarantees than they had had under slavery. Yet back in Boston, where the likes of William Lloyd Garrison did their braying, they wouldn't see any of this. We saw just how tolerant Yankees were, especially Bostonians, over 100 years later, once blacks started migrating north in large numbers.

Slavery certainly doesn't meet modern moral standards, but it wasn't so exceptional by the standards of its time. Should it have been eliminated? Yes. At any price? Don't insult my intelligence - would anyone have voted to prosecute a war knowing it would cost 620,000 dead when many alternatives remained unexplored? Lincoln himself favored shipping blacks back to Africa. And if fighting against it was such a moral imperative, surely it is not diminished now - why aren't we sending troops into the Sudan and other places where the practice survives?

Admit it, the Civil War was about brute force politics and nothing more - the subsequent mythology is the whitewash it takes to cover up the incredible toll. The "save the Union" line sounds like the classic from Vietnam - "we had to destroy the village in order to save it". "With malice toward none"? Right - troops would invade others' property, kill them by the thousands and ruin their economies for years to come, but dammit, we draw the line there. To Stryker, people who have a problem with the way Lincoln, Sherman et al handled the war are "obstinate".

And while Stryker sheds crocodile tears for the slaves, let's note his claimed ties to Philip Sheridan. You remember Sheridan, don't you? He's the alleged source of the expression "the only good Indian is a dead Indian". That's the kind of racially enlightened moral paragons who were leading the armies of the North - after slaughtering their brothers who were defending their homes, what's a few redskins?

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