12 April 2010

Late to the Confederate-bashing ball

Last week, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, known here at the Cat as The Old Dominionist, declared April "Confederate History Month."  Studying Confederate history -- or rather, the Civil War the C.S.A. spawned in its secession attempt -- is one thing.  The war and its effects live at the core to Americans' very identity.  (Go see blog buddy Matty Boy's eloquent summary of the Confederacy and what it still means.)

Celebrating Confederate history, however, is another matter.  I've heard conservative and libertarian apologists personally tell me that the Civil War was really a conflict about states' rights.  Sure, it was -- if the most important right to was the one that let white men own slaves.  Back in Virginia, Gov. McDonnell tried to pretend, in fact, that slavery had no role in the Civil War.  That's bunk, as he surely learned when he read the Confederacy's own constitution.  It's hard, then, to interpret his declaration as anything more than the latest iteration of the Republican Party's Southern Strategy.

Whatever McDonnell intended, the ensuing attacks have been furious.  In fact, a co-dependence has developed between the modern Republican party and the South, particularly its more conservative and reactionary elements.  Attacking that particular relationship is okay.  Modern conservatism sucks, no matter where it is espoused.  Expanding that attack to target the South as a whole, however, is problematic.

For example, calling on Texas to secede just because it's dominated by its own GOP might feel good.  Heck, I've felt like doing that, if only because it will rid us of Rick "Goodhair" Perry and his crony-capitalist toll-road schemes.  At times, I've felt like I've had some authority to do it.  I was born in Texas; I've spent a third of my life there; and almost all my extended family still calls it home.  At one point, however, my immediate family was spread from North Carolina to Northern California, and from Arizona to Minnesota.  None of us, however, has lived in Texas since early 1995.  The political climate outside Austin has just been too much for us to endure.

On the other hand, because my family was in Texas when it was still Mexican territory, I don't feel attacked when others criticize the South, its slavery-afflicted past or its current state.  It's clear to me that attacks on the Confederacy and its continuing influence aren't about us, the descendants of Mexicans.  The real targets are -- or should be -- racialist white mendicants who, like McDonnell, Perry and Mississippi governor Hayley Barbour, keep invoking the stillborn C.S.A. as a campaign tactic.

It isn't that broadly attacking the South doesn't inflict collateral damage.  Over the past week, I've seen progressive Southerners (white and otherwise) take offense to the attacks in blog comments.  It's understandable; I've never seen any of them claim that the Confederacy is a purely positive part of their heritage.  But clearly, many white Southerners -- and a distressingly high number of whites in my corner of the North -- openly wave the Confederate flag.  If those folks feel like targets, well, maybe they should.

No comments: