Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Further observation

Samuel Johnson famously asked (approximately) "how is it the loudest yelps for freedom are coming from the drivers of slaves?", and I thought I might render an answer (and then, if I am candid, wander around a bit trying to say I'm not quite sure what, but don't have time to edit further.)

The Southern slave holders were the closest thing to a British style aristocracy we have ever had.  As such, they had ample time to read philosophy, law, and what we would now call political science.  They had time to contemplate it, and to reach reasoned conclusions.

In this, they were no different from Plato and Aristotle and Socrates, who also benefited from slavery.  They were no different from many Roman writers, who also benefited from slavery.  They were no different from medieval writers, who benefited from the feudal system, which amounted to slavery.  They were no different from the many Islamic writers, who also benefited from slavery.

Today, many think of Southerners as ignorant and stupid.  This is because their best and brightest--at least one, and in some cases two generations--were slaughtered in civil strife, and the survivors condemned to conditions in many cases only slightly better than the "freed" slaves.

People forget that wars leave invisible scars.  Those who survive often do so missing a leg, or arm, or eye, or with pieces of metal permanently stuck in them.  They survive with psychic wounds which make them permanently different than the person who left.  Particularly in defeat, it makes them mean, cold, and hostile.

Given the Union's decision to humiliate the South in defeat, to boss them around with blacks uneducated to the task, and egged on in their hatred and aggression, all while using and abusing them every way possible, it is no wonder that a paramilitary force--the KKK--came into being as a means of the defense their governments could no longer provide them.

I can't and won't defend the KKK's racist abuses.  But they were no different in kind or outcome than the mass slaughters and mass shames inflicted by the North on the South.  Shit rolls downhill.  There were multiple single battles in the Civil War where more Confederate troops were killed than were killed in all the lynchings in all the South in all of American history up to the present day.

We have been conditioned to view Lincoln as a great man.  But in my own view, based on my own reading, slavery was in any event on its way out.  It was not an efficient economic institution.  We could have tolerated two nations for a time, and it might well have been possible to negotiate the South's reentry in the United States within a generation, and possibly with the simple alteration of a moderate in the White House.

No comments: