Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Allure of the Confederacy

This is a continuation of my previous post, which you might want to scroll down and take a peek at first if you have not already seen it.

The Civil War's place in modern American culture becomes more and more interesting the more one looks into it.  This is the only country in which citizens gather to re-live the nation's bloodiest civil conflict, complete with authentic uniforms and functional firearms and artillery.  If fights ever break out between Confederate and Union reenactors, I have never heard of it.  This says something about the character of Americans.

I find it interesting that the strongest opinions regarding the Civil War seem to be on the side of the Confederacy.  Not that most people are Confederate sympathizers, by any means.  Liberals think that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves, and that Southerners were all either vicious racists or were duped by rich plantation owners.  But excluding people who believe this middle-school social studies version of history, those who actually know something about the Civil War are likely to either think that the South's defeat was a tragedy, or else think "Well, it's good that the country stayed whole, I guess."  Nobody really gets fired up about the Union.

About two years ago, I began to wonder why the Confederacy had so much appeal among libertarians and even anarchists, which is strange considering that the Confederacy was hardly a libertarian or anti-statist endeavor.  I realized that it was because the South lost.  Because of this, people are free to project their own ideals onto the Confederacy, and their most charitable imaginings of what might have been.  Heroes of the South like Robert E. Lee will forever remain cryogenically preserved in their finest hour, aristocratic gentlemen standing heroically against the aggression of crass power and financial interests.

Had the South won, it would have been a different story.  Lee, or Jackson had he lived, would have gone on to be the next president of the CSA.  He would have been criticized for his handling of slavery.  Criticized for his handling of Indians.  Of Mexico.  Of foreign relations with Europe.  Of economic policy and trade.  The North would have made every effort to sabotage and discredit every move the Confederacy made, and harp on every blunder.  Had the Southern cause been successful, it would not be so idealized today.

The Confederate flag is a powerful symbol to people across the right-wing spectrum, even in the North.  To Libertarians and proponents of small government, it represents resistance to encroaching government power.  To racially aware Whites, it represents White culture and identity and resistance to the anti-racist, anti-White narrative.  To others, it represents the rebellion of traditional values against the modern, the rural against the urban, agrarian against industrial, noble against the common, aristocratic against the egalitarian.  People on the losing sides of these conflicts often identify with the Confederacy, even if the meaning is only perceived subconsciously by those who chose to signal their dissatisfaction with the modern world by displaying the Confederate flag.

I think that identification with the Confederacy for many people serves as a surrogate for the cause that we do not have, and the identity that has been denied us.  Perhaps it is fitting that the Lost Cause should symbolize the ideals of the Right, which have been on the wrong side of history for so long.  White ethnic identity has been pathologized almost to the point of nonexistence.  Americans are divided between Left and Right, and the Right is itself fragmented and crippled by infighting, and without any meaningful representation in government.  The Republican Party seems determined to serve the interests of anyone but its own constituency, who are united by little except for blind loyalty to a government that could hardly do more to betray them.  When I listen to the song that I wrote about in my previous post, the line that moves me the most is "If I must die for my home and land, my spirit will not falter.  Here's my heart and here's my hand, upon my country's altar."  I believe that there is a longing among many on the Right for a cause that is worthy of that kind of commitment, for something to fight for. 

Will the South rise again?  I doubt it.  White identity and conservative American values might be stronger in the South, but the conflicts in American culture can no longer be neatly geographically divided.  However, the Confederate flag is likely to endure as a symbol of the values of the Right for a long time to come, especially now that Leftists are waging war on anything Confederate.  Hopefully this assault will anger some Americans into standing up for their own racial and cultural interests.

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