More Confederate Stupidity

I’ve noted before that one of the most fascinating things about Confederate sympathizers is how tortuously they will twist their tiny but ambitious intellects to suggest that the Confederacy was really about something more than a bunch of rich white people owning a bunch of poor black people, and managing to bamboozle a bunch of poor white people into thinking it had something to do with them, too. Another one of these jackasses has popped up in the comments to this entry, in which I note that the CSA is fundamentally evil because it explicitly codified the enslavement of humans into its Constitution, something that even the US, despite its shameful, not-to-be-minimized history of slavery, never did. Get a load of this particular attempt at getting the Confederacy off the hook:

Your assertion that the CSA was evil because of Article IV, Section 2 of it’s Constitution falls flat on it’s face when Article I, Section 9 is considered. To wit: “Sec. 9. (I) The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same”. This is a demonstration of the fact that the CSA government was not so concerned with the perpetuation and expansion of slavery as it was with the protection of private property rights. Yes, at the time slaves were considered to be private property. As reprehensible as this is to us now in the 21st century, it is hardly fair to judge the actions of those in a society were slavery had been largely deemed an acceptable practice by comparing it to a society (like ours currently) where such a practice is considered immoral.

Leave aside for the moment the monstrously ignorant and ahistorical dismissal that would suggest that everybody in the 19th century thought owning slaves was just peachy, despite the massive piles of evidence to the contrary. Focus instead of the following line of reasoning:

1. Yes, the CSA encoded slavery into its Constitution.
2. But look! They didn’t want to get slaves from anywhere else.
3. So that meant encoding slavery into the CSA Constitution wasn’t about slavery, it was about property.
4. Property which just happened to include, you know, other people.

The author of this comment apparently believes that banning the international slave trade meant that the slave populations in the South would thenceforth be static and then would eventually decline as the existing slaves died out. As quaint a picture as that provides, it does ignore one small detail, which was that one of the reasons that the CSA could choose to ignore the international slave trade was that there was already a robust slave trade inside the southern states (and thus, by extension, within the CSA). Here’s a fun little excerpt from an article on the matter:

Several ante-bellum events converged to encourage slave breeding. Legal limitations on the Atlantic slave trade reduced the number of slaves entering the country, despite smuggling. The soil in Virginia began to wear out from overuse and some planters turned from tobacco to slave farms. The Deep South had insatiable needs for workers for labor-intensive crops, from sugar to cotton.

A slave breeder would select a group of healthy young black women and lock them up with some healthy black men who were strengthened by having been fed meat, not in the usual slave rations. After a few days it was hoped that the women would be pregnant.

Other references I see online to the interstate slave breeding trade note that slave women were started breeding at ages as young as 12 and 13 and that some slave breeders would promise these women their freedom from slavery if they could produce 15 babies. Consider, if you will, the human mind that would tell another human that the way to purchase her own freedom is to condemn 15 of her own children to slavery.

Note also that the CSA specifically exempted US slaveholding states and territories from its prohibition, which says a lot about the mentality of the CSA — not only did it fully intend to continue its own internal slave trade, it kept a door open to trade human lives with what slave areas remained in the US. What would the effect of this be? Well, aside from the obvious economic benefit, it could potentially serve to keep the US off-balance internally, because the bitter division between slave and free states would still exist. A US that was busy with its own internal politics is a US too busy to bother with the CSA. In other words, the slave trade could have been a potentially effective political tool for the CSA.

But wait, there’s more! If breeding slaves was a profitable enterprise, as it clearly seems it was, couldn’t one view the prohibition of an international slave trade simply in protectionist terms? Which is to say, by prohibiting the international slave trade, the CSA is protecting a growth industry within its borders from undue competition. The CSA had a native slave population of some three million (a population only slightly less than the entire population of the US at the time of its independence from Britain); this was a large enough number to assure a robust breeding pool for some time to come.

In short, my Confederate friend’s suggestion that encoding slavery into the CSA’s Constitution wasn’t actually about slavery works only if one ignores the inconvenient fact that slave breeding already existed in the south and/or CSA, and the obvious benefits of continuing such breeding programs for the white, racist, evil sons of bitches who created the CSA in the first place. And I don’t see any reason to do that, because unlike Confederate sympathizers, I don’t have to pretend that the hateful and pathetic political entity that was the Confederacy was anything more or less than a system designed to let one group of people deny the human rights and dignity of another group of people for no other reason than that there was profit in it.

Given that my correspondent’s assertion that the CSA isn’t evil is handily disposed of (and indeed, is shown to enable further perpetuation of the evil practice of slavery, thus deepening the fundamental soul-rotting evil of the CSA), his continuing blatherations on the matter are moot, and I only cursorily scanned them, noting only in passing that he trots out the tired “the CSA had a right to secede” blah blah blah, which I took a hammer to some time ago, the gist of my thinking on the matter being: Would that the USA had agreed on that point, because then it would have been a simple matter of kicking the ass of the foolish and evil political entity to the south of us and taking its territory for our own, instead of hewing to the polite fiction that the CSA were merely rebellious states. But isn’t that just like a Confederate not to think things all the way through.

But let’s leave aside the demolition my correspondent’s idiotic line of reasoning to note one simple thing: No matter how you slice it, and in any era you choose to place it, slavery was evil, period, end of sentence. Any state that codifies slavery into its very constitutional fabric codifies evil into its very being. Therefore the CSA was, is, and will until the very end of the human race continue to be, evil. All rationalizations, all excuses, all twisty attempts at tortured logic fall under the simple question: Did the founders of the CSA choose to make slavery part of its fundamental nature? They did. Any attempts to distract from this fundamental evil are merely the attempts of the morally vile to disguise the festering inhumanity at the very heart of the CSA.

The problem is, you can’t hide something like that. And you shouldn’t. The fact Confederate sympathizers continue to try says something very small and sad about them.

83 thoughts on “More Confederate Stupidity

  1. Amen, brotha!

    I love you to pieces, John, but one of these days someone’s gonna barbeque a large Christian icon on your front lawn. And that’s really gonna piss of the local Beautification Society. Take care.

  2. Besides, John’s lawn is so large, it’s not like anyone would notice.

    So — far be it from me to question such masterful deconstruction of the simple-minded, but I’m curious… why the repeated essays against the Confederacy? You write frequently against various hateful ideas, but you seem to have a particular bee in your bonnet on this one.

  3. “Why the repeated essays against the Confederacy?”

    Because the dumbasses keep showing up to argue for it, I suppose.

    I actually haven’t written on the Confederacy in any significant way since October of ’03, so I don’t think I overvisit the topic.

  4. The guy who wrote the comment starting this thread writes:

    “The CSA merely wanted to be left alone to determine it’s own destiny.”

    Of course, that’s all except for the black people in the CSA. They didn’t get to determine their own destiny.

  5. Well, there’s that; also the minor problem that the destiny of the CSA was to have the stuffing kicked out of it by the USA, and the CSA determined that when it tried to pocket several states worth of valuable real estate.

  6. And another couple of things:

    The guy who wrote the original comment says that the northern states profited from slavery, that the U.S. flag flew over slaves far longer than the CSA flag did.

    All of which is true. The institution of slavery is a badge of shame on the whole of the United States, not just any one region.

    And it is also true that the North’s primary motivation, through most of the Civil War at least, was NOT to wipe out slavery. It was to preserve the Union, and the relationship between that issue and the issue of slavery was complex and not direct.

    However, it is also true that good things are often done for mixed reasons. The U.S. did not enter World War II to stop the Holocaust, but is there any doubt among reasonable people who were the good guys in THAT war?

    And it is also true that, come the early 1860s, there was one group of states fighting to perserve slavery, and another group of states fighting to wipe it out, and the group fighting to preserve it was the CSA.

    Two other things that are also true, pointed out elsewhere by Our Blog Host:

    – The other defining characteristics of the CSA, aside from being slaveholders: They were L-O-S-E-R-S. With a capital “L.” If you’re a CSA-sympathizer, just tattoo a big L on your forehead. Even people who wear Star Trek uniforms for their normal streetwear feel sorry for you, you pathetic L-O-S-E-R you.

    – The Southern United States are a fine region of the world. There is no such thing as inherited guilt. Southerners are done a disservice by a few crackpots, bigots and L-O-S-E-R-S who are trying to make it seem like they are representative of the entire region.

  7. Indeed, losers twice over, because in beating the drum of states rights, it becomes even more difficult to have a reasoned discussion about modern states rights or fears over a too strong federal government. States rights has become a code word for “institutionalized racism”.

  8. Without making an argument for slavery (I don’t believe one can be made), I am curious about this question: Can a nation’s (or a people’s) morals legitimately change over time?

    What if something we all consider moral today is deemed immoral 100 years from now? Does that make us all evil?

    More interestingly, what about those issues that we, as a sociey, debate heavily today (abortion and gay marriage immediately come to mind)? If we, as a nation, reach general consensus on these issues 100 years from now, are you prepared to call those of us on the losing side “evil” today?

  9. “What if something we all consider moral today is deemed immoral 100 years from now? Does that make us all evil?”

    It seems to me that if something is objectively evil, it’s objectively evil even if it is also popular. So yes, the kind of social conservativism that tries to hold on to such traditions is by defintion evil. Although, I will allow that there are degrees of evil.

    To get back to your point, owning slaves is very objectively evil. That we shouldn’t blame the people of the time because “They didn’t know better” is a cop out. 1. It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that slavery is evil. and 2. Even some people who lived then saw it that way.

  10. DJN:

    I (and, I’d assume, most people in the US today) agree with you about slavery, but I don’t think your argument holds.

    Consider a scenario where it’s 2105, and the country universally agrees that abortion is immoral. Couldn’t someone at that time state, as you just did, that 1) It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that abortion is evil, and 2) even some people who lived then (i.e., now) saw it that way?

    If that comes to pass, are all pro-choicers retroactively evil? What if it goes the other way? Are all of today’s pro-lifers evil?

  11. Arrrrgh. You would *have* to use abortion. Why don’t you just walk out into the middle of a room with a big tub of gasoline and a flare gun. So let’s *not* actually go there, if it’s all the same to you.

    Perhaps a less heated example might be child labor, which was common well into the 20th century but which everyone today agrees is a very bad idea, and some would consider an evil. Are the people who put kids to work in the 19th century evil to have done so?

    It’s additionally worth noting that until the 19th century, the dividing line between child and adult was not as bright as all that. One of the interesting bits about the recent “Master and Commander” film was that it showed boys working on ships and also in officer training right around the same age as today’s kids are getting out of sixth grade. I don’t expect most people would view the British Navy as evil even today, although they probably wouldn’t want their 12-year-old to sign on as a midshipman, either.

  12. DJN:
    “It seems to me that if something is objectively evil, it’s objectively evil even if it is also popular.”

    Your flaw here is putting “objectively” and “it seems to me” in the same sentence.

    I do believe in evil. I don’t believe in *objective* evil. Evil cannot be separated from human perception and judgment. My own ideas of evil are largely derived from my projections of how I’d feel in particular situations. I can have strong opinions on it without concluding that my opinions reflect some fundamental law of the universe.

    Slavery is evil, yes, I think we have practical consensus on that today. But “objectively” evil? What does that even mean?

  13. I see your point. It’s sort of what I was driving at (although I could have been more clear; I was trying to be brief) when I said “Degrees of evil”.

    I suppose you might argue for mitigating circumstances in this case – that the CSA knew it was evil, but in a practical sense had no other choice. But I think even that arguement is facile. Alternatives existed, and were in widespread use elsewhere.

    The CSA held to slavery (and later segregation) because of a belief that those things represented they way life should be. I don’t think that holds for the other examples brought.

  14. Scalzi wrote:
    “Perhaps a less heated example might be child labor, which was common well into the 20th century but which everyone today agrees is a very bad idea, and some would consider an evil. Are the people who put kids to work in the 19th century evil to have done so?”

    I can think of a muddier example than that. Consider pets. The popular social view (and the one I subscribe to) is that there is a fundamental difference between owning people and owning animals. I believe that *abusing* animals is evil — on a deep level it bothers me more than most cases of abusing people — but as long as pet ownership is approached responsibly and with consideration for the animal, it can be a good and rewarding experience for both parties.

    That’s my view. A minority disagrees. Some people consider all pet ownership to be slavery. Some consider it indistinguishable from abuse, and they think it’s evil.

    The problem is, I don’t think there’s a purely logical resolution to this dispute. I could present facts to back up my opinion, but the other side could present facts to back up theirs. And it has not escaped my notice that many of the facts I might present (“Dogs and cats are less intelligent and independent than people;” “Dogs and cats evolved into a particular niche;” “I can provide a better environment for my animal than the wild”) are very similar to “facts” that were used to justify slavery in the nineteenth century. Most of the “science” in favor of slavery at the time has since been discredited. But people back then believed it, with the same conviction that I believe today that the natural function of dogs is to serve people and that they’re often happiest doing so.

    So how can I reconcile the belief that owning people is evil, but owning lower orders of animals is good? I’m actually not sure. The best I can put forward is that it *feels* like there’s a major difference. And that feeling probably stems from my identity as a person, and not another kind of animal. That’s a subjective rationalization, not an objective conclusion.

    A hundred years from now people might decide that owning pets is immoral, and my descendants may revile me for keeping a corgi. It doesn’t seem likely, but it’s possible. Could I call them wrong? Not really. All I can say is that this is what I think today. I have fun with my dog, and as best I can tell my dog has fun too. I can’t really do better than that.

  15. To start with the pro-CSA argument represents moral relativity, which some people say they strongly oppose.

    One thing I like is how it adds another layer of obfuscation onto the whole thing. One pro-CSA arguments says “It wasn’t about slavery, it was about State’s rights,” to which the proper response is “Yeah, State’s rights to slavery.” But this commenter takes it one step farther – It was about State’s right – State’s property rights – specifically the right to own people as property.

  16. The problem here is that you are discussing “immoral” and “evil” as though they are unchanging, immutable terms. Some people believe that they are (it’s an article of faith for several religions) but few people can agree on what, exactly, is objectively immoral or evil.

    When somebody says that something is immoral, what they mean is, “This action is in violation of some moral code.” This can mean “against God’s moral law,” “against my own moral principles,” or “against ‘s moral principles.” Owning a pet is a violation of some peoples’ moral principles. But it is not against my moral beliefs. Is owning a pet immoral? It depends who or what you use as a measure. Though it might make debate easier, in fact there are no immutable moral rules floating in the ether. Saying that something is immoral is like saying that something is “brighter.” Brighter than what?

    Evil is much the same thing. Evil, says who? Many religions have much to say on the nature of evil, and much that they say conflicts with the other religions.

    So what? “There is no good or evil, only people?” “They didn’t know any better?” “We can’t judge people then for what we know now?” Bull-excrement. We have an obligation, now, to define for ourselves what we, as a society, will tolerate. It is against our society’s morals to own other people. It is against our society’s morals to kill ethnic groups, to launch nuclear weapons, and to properly fund our schools. (Sorry, Ohio resident here.) In the future, different things may be immoral: using fossil fuels, owning pets, eating meat, listening to rock music. We can’t do anything about the decisions of history.

    The worst atrocities in human history happened because normal people didn’t stop to think about what they were doing. I believe that more people would have been against slavery than for it had more people stopped to think about it. Same thing for various genocides in our history, and the proliferation of boy-bands. We owe it to our children to make informed decisions about the way we treat the world and each other. May my grandchildren never say about me “Well, he just didn’t know any better.”

  17. Kevin Q wrote:
    “The problem here is that you are discussing ‘immoral’ and ‘evil’ as though they are unchanging, immutable terms.”

    Who is? Your entire post supports the point I was making.

  18. The school in question has since decided not to use the booklet anymore, so I don’t have much to say on the matter.

  19. Could someone explain to me the fundamental differences between slavery and the draft? I mean, besides the fact that one is “evil”, while the other appears to be somewhat accepted as an occasional unfortunate necessity.

  20. One critical reason why the CSA banned most international slave trading was the probable reaction of Britain and to a lesser extent France. The British Navy had effectively shut down most of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (at least north of the Equator) and made it quite clear that any nation that thought it could poach Africans could think again. Since there wasn’t much of a slave trade to begin with, the CSA founders figured there was no reason to annoy the global superpower, who they wanted help from, by trying to revive a dead industry.

  21. You wrote: “Any state that codifies slavery into its very constitutional fabric codifies evil into its very being.” Not that this in any way weakens your point about the CSA, but…

    The Constitution of the United States, Section 9: “The Migration or Importation of Such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exeeding ten dollars for each Person.” In other words, not only encoding slavery into the Constitution butleaving a way to profit from it, too.

    As I understand it, that section was written in because the Framers could not come to agreement on the subject of slavery. It was interpreted by Congress as a ban on even debating the issue before 1808 because they were afraid even the argument on that subject would irrevocably tear apart the union they were trying to forge. Still, while “agreeing to disagree” for a finite term may have been an ugly necessity, it hardly excuses the attached profiteering.

  22. Rook asks: “Could someone explain to me the fundamental differences between slavery and the draft? I mean, besides the fact that one is “evil”, while the other appears to be somewhat accepted as an occasional unfortunate necessity.”

    The closer analogy to the draft would be indentured servitude: you’re in for a limited duration, you get paid while you’re in (though not much), you have rights pertaining to your station. Slavery wasn’t for a limited duration, you received no compensation of any kind and had no rights (other than to be owned and be worked to death or killed outright by your owner).

    Some folks would say that the draft is part of the social compact as a citizen of the country (serve the country to better understand the rights and freedoms granted by the country). However, IMHO, the draft is a way to bolster the numbers of people serving in the military when the government perceives a military need that the public doesn’t (Draft 2005! Watch for it!).

  23. Paula writes:

    “In other words, not only encoding slavery into the Constitution but leaving a way to profit from it, too.”

    There’s no doubt that the US Constitution has a number of weaselly passages regarding slaves (not the least of which was counting them as 3/5 of a person or taxation and representation purposes, which not providing them with even 3/5 of the rights assured others), which recognized the fact of slavery as it existed in the colonies. However, in my opinion, none of them are specifically designed to assure and promote slavery as part of the fundamental nature of the state, as article IV sec 2 of the CSA constitution does. They are administrative rather than, shall we say, aspirational.

    It’s also worth noting the framers specifically avoided using the words “slaves” and “slavery” in the Constitution, which reflected how uncomfortable many of them were with the practice and the implications it had for this new country (and as it turns out, they were right to be uncomfortable). The framers of the CSA’s constitution had no such moral qualms.

  24. I agree that it’s clear from the Constitution and other documents of the time that many of the framers were uncomfortable with or opposed slavery and that they felt they were forced to it. But that bit that says “but it’s OK to make $10 a head from it!” still sticks in my craw.

  25. I noticed that everyone has been pretty clear in pointing to the CSA and/or the southern states as a complete entity as “evil”, rather than the individual leaders of the Confederacy. I am curious if most of the posters here would paint all of those individuals associated with the CSA, such as those who served in the Confederate Army and individual Southern leaders, with that brush. I’m not taking a position either way, but I am wondering about the pervading opinion on the issue. Were these good men who made poor decisions or were they evil?

  26. I don’t think many of the individual CSA leaders were evil, although all were traitors (if one assumes they were still citizens of the US). I also think at least a few of the CSA leaders were admirable men, most notably Robert E. Lee, who as a matter of record opposed secession but felt loyalty to Virginia. However, it doesn’t change the fact they were in service to an evil institution.

  27. “This is a demonstration of the fact that the CSA government was not so concerned with the perpetuation and expansion of slavery as it was with the protection of private property rights.”

    Oh, that is so much horse hockey. If your correspondent had seen fit to read further in section IX, he’d see this little nugget:

    ” No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

    In other words, you can’t make slavery illegal, unless you care to amend the constitution. Tell me again how the South wasn’t trying to perpeptuate slavery.

  28. John smirked:
    “Well, for one thing, no one ever excused a slave because he had flat feet or bad eyesight.”

    Well, it’s not like the draft for vietnam automatically excluded caucasians either. If I recall correctly, the slavers tried to pick physically superior specimens too. Essentially we’re still talking about people giving their lives for the utility of others.

    If we were to put a time limit on slavery, such that there was a contract length like for indentured servants, and made it so that a person kept some rights, such that people could not be born into slavery and they couldn’t be treated worse than animals, would that make slavery not be “evil” any more? What if we replaced bankruptcy with slavery, with a timed contract proportional to their debt? Could be handy.

  29. I should mention that I’m just arguing for slavery because I can. For the specific case of the Confederated Assholes, I’m glad their asses got kicked. Breeding a race of slaves is as morally repugnant as I can imagine. I’m just looking at the issue from the perspective of a wage slave.

  30. “What if we replaced bankruptcy with slavery, with a timed contract proportional to their debt?”

    There used to be debtor’s prison, which worked on a similar concept.

  31. Please keep hammering away at this, John. Many people might think that the Confederacy, and its ideals, are dead. But they’re not.

  32. “Could someone explain to me the fundamental differences between slavery and the draft?”

    The draft usually doesn’t involve locking some 13 year old girls into huts with some young men hoping that they’ll get pregnant as soon as possible.

    Besides, while in both cases, people are forced to do something for the benefit of others, in the case of the draft, those other people often (though not always) include most or all people close to the draftees, not to mention their own future.

    And a point that only applies in a hypothetical specific situation: If a country is attacked by aggressive neighbours and can’t get enough soldiers to defend itself through voluntary enlistment, then it will end up with a lot more oppression of people if it doesn’t introduce the draft than if it does.

  33. Raphael said:
    “The draft usually doesn’t involve locking some 13 year old girls into huts with some young men hoping that they’ll get pregnant as soon as possible.”

    Technically speaking, I’m talking about owning human beings, not rape. If you want to insist that it’s hard to decouple the rape from the slavery, then I’m going to suggest that it is similarly difficult to decouple rape from warfare as well. You don’t need to officially sanction rape in order to officially sanction either slavery or war (and thence the draft).

    Keep in mind that the claim stated on this thread is that slavery is capital-E Evil. I’m arguing that it is not necessarily so. I suggest that the perception of Evil is possibly more about how someone goes about slavery, like the Confederated Assholes did, than the actual ownership of humans.

  34. RooK, in the CSA, the slaves were property. They could be killed, denied medical treatment or bred at their owner’s whims. A slave was a slave for life.

    The draft is a complicated affair. There is an assumption that it would only happen for a finite period.

    And the soldier, unlike the slave, has rights. Rights to freedom of worship, and right to property. He receives a wage for his work.

    And, while a soldier can be SENT TO HIS DEATH on the orders of superior officers, he can’t simply be arbitrarily KILLED by them. Outside the exigencies of battle, a soldier has the right due process.

    Despite all that, some people STILL maintain that the draft is immoral, for precisely the reasons you allude to. Robert A. Heinlein was one of them. He argued that a nation that couldn’t win enough popular support for a war shouldn’t fight that war, and that a nation that couldn’t win enough support from its citizens to defend itself was a nation that deserved to be conquered.

    Heinlein exempts World War I and World War II from his condemnation of the draft—he says that the conscription in those wars are only nominally drafts, that support for those wars was so overwhelming at home that the draft wasn’t a way to get recruits, but rather a way to slow down recruiting and organize it so that the recruits could be processed.

  35. Mitch, I hear you. The way the Confederated Assholes practiced slavery was quite objectionable. I admit that there’s no real defense of the CSA, and that modern draft has little to compare with it in most important respects.

    Not trying to belabour the tangent, but I think we can probably find examples of drafts through history that didn’t involve many rights for the draftees, nor necessarily a finite duration (Hannibal comes to mind, on the Iberian Peninsula). Also, I’d point out that the sidearm worn by commanders isn’t for combat, but euphemistically for “discipline”. Soldiers can just be shot, and have been, by their commanders as they saw fit. Of course, it might be a political mess in a modern “Western” military.

    Nevertheless, I still persist that if you strip away things like indefinite term, contravening some basic human rights, unequal regard by the law, and any allowance for neglect, then owning humans – also known as slavery, and equivalent in some tradtions as marriage – is not necessarily Evil.

  36. Mitch Wagner wrote:
    “The U.S. did not enter World War II to stop the Holocaust, but is there any doubt among reasonable people who were the good guys in THAT war?”
    I’d say rather that the United States and others did the right thing in waging war against the Third Reich. I associate the term “good guy” with a particularly grotesque morality appearing all to often in american “action” films. Just venting here: you clearly do not divide the world into good guys and bad guys.

    DJN wrote:
    “It seems to me that if something is objectively evil, it’s objectively evil even if it is also popular.”
    Yup.

    “1. It’s obvious to anyone who thinks about it that slavery is evil.”
    I wish that that were so; slavery would have been a non-starter in that event. Unfortunately, we only have subjective access to the world. (IMNSHO)

    Steve Eley wrote:
    “But “objectively” evil? What does that even mean?”
    Evil relative to the true morality, rather than a personal or societal morality. No I can’t demonstate the existance of any such beasty as a “true morality”, or “truth” for that matter. We clearly believe in somewhat different metaphysical concepts. :shrug:

    Steve Eley wrote:
    “The problem is, I don’t think there’s a purely logical resolution to this dispute.”
    There are several, with different conclusions based on how you choose your premises and rules of logic.

    Steve Eley wrote:
    “So how can I reconcile the belief that owning people is evil, but owning lower orders of animals is good? I’m actually not sure.”
    Yeah, my belief system isn’t self-consistent either. I’m sure we could both make our belief systems consistent with a sufficiently tortuous logical system, but what would be the point?

    Kevin Q wrote:
    “Though it might make debate easier, in fact there are no immutable moral rules floating in the ether.”
    I happen to believe that there are immutable moral rules “floating” around. But just what are they? Why, what I think they are of course!

    Seriously, I get the feeling that we are in violent agreement.

    RooK wrote:
    “Nevertheless, I still persist that if you strip away things like indefinite term, contravening some basic human rights, unequal regard by the law, and any allowance for neglect, then owning humans – also known as slavery, and equivalent in some tradtions as marriage – is not necessarily Evil.”
    Harumph, I’d have to disagree here. But I’ll allow that different forms of slavery are not equal in their harm.

  37. Might I request a point of clarification here?

    Was slavery in the Confederacy evil as a matter of principle or practice?

    If it was a matter of principle, then how was the US any less guilty, as you seem to have admitted that slavery was allowed in the US constitution, expressly or no?

    If it was a matter of practicality, then again I ask the same question, considering that blacks before, during and after the war lived in the same conditions. After all, throughout the nation people of colour were free in name only; you yourself argued once that the difference between slavery and serfdom, for lack of a better word, is the lack of rights versus being denied rights one supposedly has. Seems to me at best a philosophical difference, hmmm?

  38. Andrew Wade said:
    “Harumph, I’d have to disagree here. But I’ll allow that different forms of slavery are not equal in their harm.”

    So, it would be… what? Quasi-evil?

    Amitava D., I think it might be better characterized that the philosophical direction the Confederacy seemed to be aimed for may be deemed as “more evil” than the track that the United States, and the rest of the civilized world, was trying to achieve. It gets logically awkward to make things like “evil” be a boolean operator.

  39. Whups, used inappropriate brackets there. Please read the “quasi-evil” statement while imagining me crooking my little finger towards the corner of my mouth.

    Also, I’ve got to say Mr. Scalzi, you’ve got a pretty interesting crew of contributors on some of your threads. How many of these people are regulars?

  40. “Was slavery in the Confederacy evil as a matter of principle or practice?”

    Well, quite obviously, both. It was also evil when it occured in the United States. The difference being that the US did not explicitly encode slavery into its national DNA. The framers of the US Constitution acknowledged the existence of slavery within the boundaries but did not affirm it as an integral part of its national character (and indeed — as noted — the framers refused have even have the words “slave” and “slavery” penned into the document). The framers of the CSA Constitution on the other hand, went out of their way to affirm slavery as critical to the national character.

    One thing worth noting here is that the CSA constitution is almost word for word the US Constitution *except* for the portions which the CSA added to explicitly reference the slaves. If the US Constitution had implictly or explicitly encourage slavery (as opposed to grudgingly admitting to its existence), such editorial “improvements” would not have been needed.

    Thus I feel confident in saying that while the USA certainly *did* evil in allowing slavery to exist, it as a political entity was not evil itself in this regard. The CSA was evil in allowing slavery to exist, and to encode into its constitution that slavery was a desirable and fundamental part of its national character. This is, naturally, more than a “philosophical” difference.

  41. “If it was a matter of practicality, then again I ask the same question, considering that blacks before, during and after the war lived in the same conditions. After all, throughout the nation people of colour were free in name only”

    Actually…they didn’t.

    Although it was uneasy and not at all universal, during the era known as “reconstruction” blacks actually had more rights and more freedoms than they did in the pre-civil rights 20th century. At one point in time, there were several black people in government at all levels and at one time a prominent black polititician of the Deep South (Alabama, I believe) married an equally prominent Northern white woman – with less public remark than it would have gotten just 30 years ago.

    The big reversion to previous levels came about mostly as a fearful white backlash to this success – made institutional by turn of the century president Woodrow Wilson.

    Generally portrayed as a stolid and rather kindly father figure, he was in reality one of the most racially bigoted and widely reviled presidents until GW himself. Bad enough that he finally lost election (pre-term limits) to Warren Harding who had barely campaigned – the original “anybody but…” candidate.

    When Wilson entered the White House, it was as desegregated and racially tolerant as it was to be until the last few decades of the 20th century. By the time he ran for his first re-election, it was almost entirely (if not entirely – I forget which) white. He was also the “venture capitalist” behind the racial agitation film “Birth of a Nation” created by his old school chum, DW Griffith, the film being the moving force behind the re-emergence of an obscure and previously short-lived mayhem group now known as the KKK. Speaking of the film, Wilson called it “history writ with lightning.”

    During his tenure, race riots were worse and far more frequent than during the later horrific civil rights battles of the 50′s and 60′s.

    He was incredibly colonial and racist in foreign affairs (having a sort of “self rule for all, unless you’re swarthy” point of view) – to the point that at one time his meddling in a South American civil war was so egregious that both countries stopped fighting each other long enough to tell him to get the heck out of their business. And his failed efforts to horn in on the control of the government in the crumbling post-Czarist Russia pretty much created the paranoid tension against the West that became the Cold War.

    It is under Wilson’s watch and because of his good-ol-boy attitudes and governance that most of what we are familar with as the Jim Crowe society was regenerated out of the ashes of the thwarted success of black freedom. Prior to that, Reconstruction was working and life, if not good for blacks, was certainly better than it would be until the last few decades.

    Unfortunately, that is not often taught in schools. What is taught is that blacks were simply unable to govern themselves and “dropped the ball” lifestyle- and self-governance-wise. Too bad – one wonders how different modern black culture would be if the real tales of successful self-governance, competence and leadership that rose so quickly during Reconstruction were taught with the same zeal as Wilson’s sanitized biography.

  42. “If it was a matter of principle, then how was the US any less guilty, as you seem to have admitted that slavery was allowed in the US constitution, expressly or no?”

    Because the US repented eventually, while the CSA’s Constitution explicitly forbade such a repentance. I wouldn’t use the term “less guilty,” but I think “less evil” definitely applies.

  43. If I may be so bold, how did the US “repent”? Widespread opposition to slavery outside of the Deep South was for anything but enlightened reasons (David Wilmot, as a point of fact, embraced racist platitudes into his Free-Soiler campaign before the war) or concern for the welfare of blacks.
    I don’t know as much about Woodrow Wilson as you appear to, Soni, but I hasten to point out that many of the Reconstruction policies affecting blacks’ socio-political rights weren’t enacted in Northern states until well after they were in Southern states (much to the chagrin of abolitionists, and somewhat reminiscent of abolition itself). That being said, although I haven’t read as much about the state of race at the turn of the century as I would like to, I do know that race riots did not first arise during the early-mid 20th century (some of the first riots that had anything to do with race-specifically, violence against those who had attempted to educate blacks, in both North and South-took place before the war, and the KKK (during its first “golden years”), lynchings and the like reared their ugly heads before the turn of the last century.

    You make a very good argument against the CSA, Mr. Scalzi, one of the best I’ve ever seen. But if this IS a matter of principle (which I am inclined to believe it to be more so, considering that in for far too long one didn’t have to be a slave to be consigned to subhuman status), then as a matter of good vs. evil it’s an argument of absolutes, at least in terms of your argument. Was slavery in a nation’s constitution or wasn’t it? No matter how begrudgingly, how unwillingly, there are those three clauses that, as someone put it, are enough to stick in your craw. I might point out that I don’t think the CSA ought to be expurgated for its faults; it’s just seems unfair to me to single them out for blame.

  44. “If I may be so bold, how did the US ‘repent’?”

    Please refer to Amendments XII – XV, inclusive.

    “Was slavery in a nation’s constitution or wasn’t it? No matter how begrudgingly, how unwillingly, there are those three clauses that, as someone put it, are enough to stick in your craw. I might point out that I don’t think the CSA ought to be expurgated for its faults; it’s just seems unfair to me to single them out for blame.”

    Inasmuch as I’ve said that the US should be appropriately ashamed of its history of slavery, I don’t believe you can say the CSA is singled out for blame. The CSA is singled out for being *evil,* which is an entirely different thing.

    To repeat, because some people apparently are having difficulty with this point, there’s nothing in the US Constitution that affirmately *establishes* slavery as integral to the national character — a point which CSA Vice-President Alexander Stephens takes pains to note in his address which I excerpt in the previosly-linked entry.

    Note also that Stephens is very clear of his opinion (and as he was one of the framers of the CSA Constitution, one can expect he would *know*), that the cornerstone of the CSA Constitution “rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

    So, again, if the VP of the CSA makes a point of noting that the CSA is the first Constitution in the history of the world have slavery encoded into it — and that the US Constitution did *not,* it would seem he would be in a position to speak on the matter from some experience.

  45. Whoops. I think I may have accidentally deleted a comment here during a comment spam sweep. To whoever it was whose comment I deleted, my apologies, and please feel free to post it again.

  46. I would say, Mr. Scalzi, that you are doing nothing more than voicing your opinions, but then again that’s what your site is all about, isn’t it…

    A couple of points to make: what good are the aforementioned amendments if they serve no purpose, as was the case for several generations? If anything, one could argue it makes the travesty all the more vile.

    In regard to Mr. Stephens (who, incidentally, lived not too far from where I live), one could just as easily refer to his post-war writings to support the claim that the war was NOT about slavery. One can only expect a political figure to voice opinions that would be most harmonious with the prevailing sentiment of the time.

    May I suggest, however, that the war arose from neither slavery nor states’ rights per se, but rather from the issue of balance of power. That is, if Lincoln were elected president, then it was feared among many forward-looking Southrons that slavery would be banned in any newly-created states in the West, thus tipping control of Congress away from the South (conversely, this was one of the reasons why the Free-soiler platform had its support mostly in the North). I would say that this points to two things:
    1. How for the population as a whole at the time, slavery was a moral issue lastly, if at all. (Most people don’t know that the abolitionist movement had numerous members well below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s just that those in the North didn’t have a plantation class with a stranglehold on the economy to go up against).
    2. How it had become a matter of principle more than anything else, as slavery, even if permitted, would not have been feasible in many of the newly-created states. One could argue that this was even proven during the war, when western territory that was under the control of the CSA for any length of time never saw an influx of the farming class or slaves.

  47. “I would say, Mr. Scalzi, that you are doing nothing more than voicing your opinions.”

    Well, no. As it happens, I’m also voicing the opinions of the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, as he was so kind to leave them in the factual historical record for us. How delightful his opinions regarding the content of the CSA Constitution (and of the US Constitution) are consonant with my own.

    “May I suggest, however, that the war arose from neither slavery nor states’ rights per se, but rather from the issue of balance of power.”

    An issue of balance of power that arose fundamentally from the issue of slavery, as you yourself cannot avoid noting. Which is the funny thing about every argument made by Confederate apologists; sooner than later it gets back to the issue of people owning people.

  48. Rook: “Not trying to belabour the tangent, but I think we can probably find examples of drafts through history that didn’t involve many rights for the draftees, nor necessarily a finite duration (Hannibal comes to mind, on the Iberian Peninsula).”

    And one of my own great-great-uncles skipped out of Russia to avoid the Russian Draft. The term of service for that was 25 years, but nobody every lived that long.

    Rook: “Also, I’d point out that the sidearm worn by commanders isn’t for combat, but euphemistically for ‘discipline’. Soldiers can just be shot, and have been, by their commanders as they saw fit.”

    I don’t think it’s the case that soldiers can be shot by commanders as they saw fit, but rather that commanders have a right—indeed, some might say an obligation—to shoot their men in certain circumstances: when displaying cowardice in battle, for instance.

    I’m not sure of this, though. Are you? If you’re not, perhaps someone else in this thread is sure, someone who, say, might have done some research recently to write a military sf novel…. ?

    But, still, my point still stands: the draftee in the modern Western military has rights that are spelled out by laws and regulation, his life and death is not at the whim and pleasure of his CO.

    Outside of the battlefield, of course. Like I said, this is complicated, and subject to very fine shading of meaning indeed.

    Me: “The U.S. did not enter World War II to stop the Holocaust, but is there any doubt among reasonable people who were the good guys in THAT war?”

    Andrew Wade: “I’d say rather that the United States and others did the right thing in waging war against the Third Reich. I associate the term ‘good guy’ with a particularly grotesque morality appearing all to often in american ‘action’ films. Just venting here: you clearly do not divide the world into good guys and bad guys.”

    Actually, I do. I do it freely and glibly when discussing the news. Nazis, Geoffrey Dahmer, Josef Stalin, Saddam Hussein, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: Bad guys.

    America, England, Israel, and, yes, even France and modern Germany: Good guys.

    In other words, I reject moral relativism in many areas of life.

    Of course there IS always the possibility of redemption, and sometimes the good guys do bad things, and we all have an obligation to forgive. And of course the CITIZENS of evil nations are generally only trying to get by, following orders, just like the rest of us. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are not suicide bombers.

    This is something that pretty much never comes up in my day-to-day life. I figure the kids who smashed the window on my car, the bosses in past jobs who were mean to me, the guy who flips me off when I’m driving—those people are not evil, they’re just wrong.

    Except for people who put pineapple on pizza. THEY’RE evil.

    RooK: “Also, I’ve got to say Mr. Scalzi, you’ve got a pretty interesting crew of contributors on some of your threads. How many of these people are regulars?”

    Well, me for one. I’ve been thrown out of every decent blog on the Internet.

  49. Amitava D.: To paraphrase my favorite Internet pundit (me):

    What it comes down to is that, by the late 1860s, there was one group of states fighting to abolish slavery, and another group trying to preserve it. The group trying to wipe it out was the Union, the group trying to preserve it was the Confederacy.

    That’s not hard, is it?

  50. By the great Internet Pundit, Mitch Wagner:
    “I don’t think it’s the case that soldiers can be shot by commanders as they saw fit, but rather that commanders have a right—indeed, some might say an obligation—to shoot their men in certain circumstances: when displaying cowardice in battle, for instance.

    I’m not sure of this, though. Are you?”

    I admit that my information is purely anecdotal. My grandfather could have been exaggerating, and my CO might have just been messing with our heads.

    More Mitch:
    “But, still, my point still stands: the draftee in the modern Western military has rights that are spelled out by laws and regulation, his life and death is not at the whim and pleasure of his CO.”

    Fair enough, and I won’t dispute that. What if “modern Western slavery” was similarly different than some of its unsavoury historic examples? Although, it might be hard to imagine what fun it would be if you couldn’t beat your slave, it still might have some economic possibilities to redeem it. And still not be Evil, as I pathetically am trying to argue.

  51. To Mitch Wagner:
    It’s actually that kind of simplistic analysis that I have the biggest problem with. Mostly because it implies that one side consisted of the “good guys” and the other of “bad guys”. I can’t swallow that when slavery was never really abolished in terms of the day to day existence of black folks, slavery didn’t even become an issue of the war until 1863, and there were a great many in the North who didn’t care a whit regarding the welfare of slaves (notable among them, I might take the trouble to point out, was William Tecumseh Sherman, the “hero” who as an acquaintance of mine put it, and with whom I vociferously disagree, worked so hard to break the back of the South’s racist regime).
    To Mr. Scalzi:
    Again, you refer to Mr. Stephens’ writings. If you are going to reference him at all, why do you only use what he wrote that supports your argument?

  52. “Again, you refer to Mr. Stephens’ writings. If you are going to reference him at all, why do you only use what he wrote that supports your argument?”

    Suggesting that you are aware of a later document from Mr. Stephens during his executive tenure that explicitly repudiates this position, and as publicly as he made this one (it was a public speech, after all)? By all means, please produce it. Otherwise, this goes down as a question that is, at best, extraordinarily rhetorically naive. When making an argument, one presents information that supports one’s argument. As it happens, the VP of the CSA supports my argument.

    It would seem that you are trying to suggest that I am not presenting the whole story, and that Mr. Stephens at some point in his public career as the VP of the CSA changed his mind and decided what the CSA constitution was really about what something else entirely and/or that he really regretted the whole “blacks are an inferior race and meant to be slaves to us superior white people” comment he made at that speech. Again, I ask you to present it. Otherwise, your casual implication that there’s more to the story simply doesn’t wash, and you’re just using a cheap rhetorical trick to suggest I’m being intellectually dishonest, which I *don’t* appreciate.

    To save you some time in your research, I will note that *after* the war (and after he’d spent time in the slammer for, you know, being a traitor), Stephens’ two-volume “A Constitutional View Of The Late War Between The States” attempted to suggest that the real issue behind the Civil War was — surprise! — states rights, and also attempted to claim that “Some of the strongest anti-slavery men who ever lived were on the side of those who opposed the centralizing principles which led to the war.” To which I say: Riiiiight.

    However, even if we were to grant that (which one should not do pending examination), *he* was not one of them; it was well-documented that we has a slavery proponent for many years prior to the Civil War, and there’s even a series of letters between him and Lincoln on that point. Stephen’s latter-day conversion to “state’s rights” as opposed to the right to own people would be far more compelling if it had been his position before his side lost and he’d done time in the big house for it, and was writing with an eye toward the historical judgment of his actions.

    In any event, to come around to this point yet again, the *reason* “state’s rights” were an issue for the southern states at all was because of the institution of slavery — without slavery, and the need to defend and promote it, there simply would not have been the series of crises that lead inexorably to the Civil War. So, at best, Stephens does what every single Confederate defender has done since the defeat of the Confederacy — presented an airy constitutional abstraction to distract from the reality of black men and women treated like animals.

  53. RooK: “I admit that my information is purely anecdotal. My grandfather could have been exaggerating, and my CO might have just been messing with our heads.”

    If you were actually in the military, I defer to your expertise.

    Me: “But, still, my point still stands: the draftee in the modern Western military has rights that are spelled out by laws and regulation, his life and death is not at the whim and pleasure of his CO.”

    RooK: “Fair enough, and I won’t dispute that. What if ‘modern Western slavery’ was similarly different than some of its unsavoury historic examples? Although, it might be hard to imagine what fun it would be if you couldn’t beat your slave, it still might have some economic possibilities to redeem it. And still not be Evil, as I pathetically am trying to argue.”

    I believe that, historically speaking, slavery was not usually the sort of slave-has-no-rights, chattel affair that it was in the U.S. In Rome, for instance, slaves had rights. But, still, I’m reluctant to call any system that grants significant rights to the servants as “slavery.” It may be oppressive as hell anyway, but I think the Confederate practice has pretty much taken over meaning of the word.

    Amitava D.: “It’s actually that kind of simplistic analysis that I have the biggest problem with. Mostly because it implies that one side consisted of the ‘good guys’ and the other of ‘bad guys’.”

    I don’t just “imply” it, I outright SAY it. Because it’s true. I’m sorry that you have a problem with it. Sometimes life is simple like that, other times it’s complex.

    “I can’t swallow that when slavery was never really abolished in terms of the day to day existence of black folks, slavery didn’t even become an issue of the war until 1863, and there were a great many in the North who didn’t care a whit regarding the welfare of slaves (notable among them, I might take the trouble to point out, was William Tecumseh Sherman, the “hero” who as an acquaintance of mine put it, and with whom I vociferously disagree, worked so hard to break the back of the South’s racist regime).”

    I’m not 100% sure I’m reading this sentence correctly. I’m aware that slavery wasn’t the DIRECT reason the North got into the war, the North was fighting to preserve the Union, and at first might have been quite willing to sell out the blacks to do it.

    But the South WAS fighting to preserve slavery—and, by 1863, the North was fighting to stop slavery.

    I’ve drawn the analogy to World War II here, earlier in this discussion, and I’ll do it again. Nazis were committing genocide against the Jews in Europe. Americans were fighting to stop the Nazis. I’m sure many American soldiers were anti-Semitic—but the heck with that—I’ll buy ‘em a drink anyway—because they were fighting to keep me and my family out of the gas ovens.

    (I have an Italian-American friend who had a great experience visiting Italy and getting re-acquainted with his family there. I don’t get to do that myself; the Nazis got to my whole family in Eastern Europe.)

    The fact that Stephens recanted his support of slavery late in life doesn’t make his support of slavery earlier in life less sincere and enthusiastic.

    Moreover, the recantation is suspicious, because it comes as a general trend in the 1890s, in which the leaders of the Confederacy nearly reversed the outcome of the war on political and propaganda grounds, with the help of Northern bigots (see, Amitava D., I’m not trying to give the North a free pass on this issue). They recast the war as being about “states rights” rather than slavery, and swept the entire issue of civil rights for African-Americans under the rug, so that white Americans in the North and South could be free to oppress blacks for the next 50 years or so.

    Parenthetically: Critics are baffled by the ending of “Huckleberry Finn.” The novel is the story about how Huck, a white boy, comes to see Jim, a black man, as a man–and an admirable one at that. It’s about a boy who sheds his racism. At the end of the novel, Tom Sawyer comes on the scene, and the novel descends into an adolescent story about practical jokes committed on Jim.

    I have sometimes thought that Mark Twain was, perhaps, trying to anticipate just the sort of hypocrisy that came into vogue in the 1890s and continues, well, to this day—whites who pay lip service to civil rights, but don’t really mean it.

    I have something very patriotic to say about this, too, but I’m running late for an eye doctor appointment so I gotta skedaddle.

  54. s it okay with you John that I am proud to be from the southern United States? Do you think my pride in my hometown, my families’ long presence here and the sacrifices made by them so that I could also be here is evil?
    Every culture has a shameful past. Ours is no different. You stated the core of your argument is over whether people can be property. I see your argument based on a belief that there is and should be only one American perspective of the past (merely coincidentally the one that you have yourself). I don’t think you agree there is a separate culture. I strongly suspect you believe that any differences in culture are based on stubborn ignorance and rampant bigotry.
    I don’t want to own people. I certainly don’t want to be owned myself. I don’t have any attachment to the failed government or its ridiculous agenda. I have a high level of attachment to the flag that was carried into battle by troops of the CSA because members of my family fought and died under that flag.

    My family never owned slaves (though, admittedly, were racist in their views but no more severely then was common for the time). They were poor, uneducated and fiercely loyal to the community. My pride stems from my own recognition of the history of those people, the good and the bad. I have no wish to return to those days or to justify bad reasoning.

    As I told you before, I took my Confederate Flag down and have put up a flag I hope is less offensive. I don’t agree with the politics of racism and wouldn’t want anyone to think that I do.

    There was a time not long ago Cuban Americans could not show their pride in their heritage by displaying the Cuban flag for fear other Americans would think they were Communist sympathizers. Now we live in a more enlightened time and the Cuban flag is freely displayed in cars and on houses- people now understand the intent behind the display. I have boxed my family’s Confederate flag and hopefully one day before I die I can raise it again over my home without being confused with a bigoted moron.

    I can’t speak for all Southerners. I am well aware that there are Southerners that hold onto the past without learning from it. They do not speak for me.

  55. Dane asks:

    “Is it okay with you John that I am proud to be from the southern United States?”

    Not that you need me to be okay with it or not (I’m not the boss of you), but absolutely. The American South is a fabulous and fascinating place. As I’ve said many times, the Confederacy is not the whole of Southern culture, and it’s a pity so many people try to make it so.

    And to be clear, as an American, the history of the American South is *my* history, too, as much as the history of any portion of the US. The good parts of that history as well as the bad parts are for me and every American to recognize as a whole.

  56. To quote the ever eloquent Terry Pratchett:

    “There is a such thing as an edible, nay delicious, meat pie floater, its mushy peas of just the right consistency, its tomato sauce piquant in its cheekiness, its pie filling tending even towards named parts of the animal. There are platonic burgers made of beef instead of cow lips and hooves. There are fish ‘n’ chips where the fish is more than just a white goo lurking at the bottom of a batter casing and you can’t use the chips to shave with. There are hot dog fillings which have more in common with meat than mere pinkness, whose lucky consumers don’t apply mustard because that would spoil the taste. It’s just that people can be trained to prefer the other sort, and seek it out. It’s as if Machiavelli had written a cookery book.

    Even so, there is no excuse for putting pineapple on pizza.”

  57. In reply to John Scalzi, who wrote:”The American South is a fabulous and fascinating place. As I’ve said many times, the Confederacy is not the whole of Southern culture, and it’s a pity so many people try to make it so.

    And to be clear, as an American, the history of the American South is *my* history, too, as much as the history of any portion of the US.”

    That right there is the difference in our positions. I say Southern America- you say American South. My loyalties are Southern before American.

  58. Mitch Wagner wrote regarding dividing the world into good guys and bad guys:
    “Actually, I do. I do it freely and glibly when discussing the news. Nazis, Geoffrey Dahmer, Josef Stalin, Saddam Hussein, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: Bad guys.

    America, England, Israel, and, yes, even France and modern Germany: Good guys.”

    Woah, colour me surprised. A few years ago a U.S. representative or senator opined on international television that “we should not question that Saddam Hussain is a bad guy.” Royally steamed me. Apart from the anti-intellectual “we should not question” crap, there was also the implication that this was a reason to go to war against him. Saddam killing, torturing and displacing his own citizens? That’s a reason. The possibility of Saddam building and using a nuclear weapon? That’s a reason (at the time that was a credible possibility). Saddam helping Al-Quaeda? If true that would have been a reason too. (Al-Quaeda was not fond of secular regimes like Saddam’s). But “Saddam is a bad guy”? f— that. He was and is indeed a bad guy, but outside the twisted morality of an action movie, that’s not a reason to wage war, with all it’s costs, against his country.

    Mitch Wagner wrote:
    “In other words, I reject moral relativism in many areas of life.”
    That’s one of the more unusual definitions of moral relativism I’ve run across.

    Mitch Wagner wrote:
    “Of course there IS always the possibility of redemption, and sometimes the good guys do bad things, and we all have an obligation to forgive.”
    Obligation? :snort: Let’s see some repentence or even a change in behaviour first. Halliburton is but one in a long list of companies America has pandered too at the expense of people, and Iraq but one in a long list of countries whose state services have been privatized by force. America has done many, many good things in history, but her history is very mixed.

  59. Andrew, I don’t disagree with any of your preceding post, nor do I see any contradiction with anything I said earlier.

    To pick one example: Saddam Hussein. Bad guy. Didn’t mean we should’ve invaded his country. Unintended consequences resulted, possibly making the situation in Iraq worse rather than better.

  60. “My loyalties are Southern before American.”

    Which is pretty silly, because it pretends there is a single, unified South that can be separated from the rest of America. Missouri is not Georgia. Virginia is not Mississippi or Florida. As the Confederate government found out the hard way, being part of “the South” did not overcome state loyalty.

    There is no “South” to which you can have loyalty. The South is a geographic region that is extremely diverse. Is your loyalty to the heavily Jewish areas of Florida? To the Acadians in Louisiana? To the Appalachians, or to the upper-class African-American communities in Alabama?

    You do your heritage a disservice when you allow Yankees to say, eh, below a certain geographic latitude they’re all the same. Which is exactly what you do when you have loyalty to “The South.”

  61. I am loyal first to my family, then to my county, then my state and then the South. I will fight and die to protect all Cajuns, Floridian Jews or the local transient population from any threat as long as they share the same climate, graces and hardships that combine to make the South a unique culture.

    We are no more all the same then in any culture. It is a disservice of you to assume that diversity in population could stop someone from having loyalties for all in the culture. Geographic latitude is only a small part of what makes the South. If my stating to be faithful and loyal to that causes a few misinformed “Yankees” to think we are all the same- I won’t loose any sleep.

    I am insulted by the idea you believed I meant to exclude anyone living “below a certain geographic latitude” from my feelings of commonality in culture. The only distinction I make among people deserving of fealty is those that have attacked the South and those that haven’t. No one in my family has ever had their home burned and crops trampled on by advancing armies of Cajuns or retired Jews.

    There is a South. I live here. I honor my heritage by remembering those killed in war and murdered in hate. I don’t have to cling to the mistakes of the past to know that I share a history with those men and women. I am also well aware I am sharing a present and my children are to share a future with a changing South. That is something deserving of pride. We’ve survived the Civil War and we survived Civil Rights and we will continue to survive with an identity distinctly Southern. Nothing can change that.

  62. “The only distinction I make among people deserving of fealty is those that have attacked the South and those that haven’t.”

    All those who have attacked the South are long dead. You aren’t going to find any Union veterans around nowadays.

    You do not share a single climate (unless you mean, “warm,” in which case you ought to be loyal to Los Angeles), or a single culture, for that matter.

    As I recall, there were a lot of home-burnings and crop-tramplings *by* those with whom you claim to share a culture. Church burnings, too. Do you think black Southerners refer to having “survived” civil rights? How about Jews living in Louisiana? I doubt their South is your South.

    My mother’s people are Southern. They don’t put Conferate flags on their trucks or bemoan having lost The War. Their loyalty is to family, and to where they live. There is no notion that everyone in certain states has something in common, something to hunker down behind when those Yankee outsider come to call.

    If you find that insulting, well, John put it much better than I did.

  63. Mitch Wagner wrote:
    “Andrew, I don’t disagree with any of your preceding post, nor do I see any contradiction with anything I said earlier.”
    I apologize for implying otherwise and for my tone.

  64. Having read and considered Dane’s comments, I must say: they make me want to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. As an agnostic Canadian, this is no small achievement.

  65. “Having read and considered Dane’s comments, I must say: they make me want to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. As an agnostic Canadian, this is no small achievement.”

    I’ll see you and raise you one: I feel the same way, and I grew up in Arkansas.

  66. Mythago,

    Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to your mother and her people. Pride in heritage is best exhibited by living as a decent Southerner, with self-repspect and dignity- not by slapping plastic decals on a windsheild. I hope others will follow suit.

    If there are any other insults you have to aim at Southern culture, I agree it would be best to let John phrase them. He really is very talented.

  67. Not sure if anyone will read this, so if not then I guess this is all rhetorical. To Mitch Wagner: The analogy of US vs. CS is like America vs. Nazi Germany is, I would argue, somewhat erroneous. A more accurate comparison could be made with the USSR vs. Nazi Germany.
    As for Mr. Scalzi, did I imply that you were withholding information? I suppose so, in which case I beg your pardon. Upon closer analysis, I actually was thinking of Jeff Davis’ “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”, although Stephens’ writings fit the bill of my argument. As you may recall I have long sought some resolution that might explain our differences, I ask: how would you classify someone as myself? There is nothing that you have written regarding the CSA that I did not previously know; therefore I am not ignorant. Does that make me evil?

  68. “There is nothing that you have written regarding the CSA that I did not previously know; therefore I am not ignorant. Does that make me evil?”

    No, just unwilling to accept that the CSA is evil.

  69. The US Constitutino also codified slavery at least twice into it’s Constitution.
    While I agree with your assertions regarding the Confederacy, and it has been glorified for some inane reason over time, just remember the 3/5ths clause and the fugitive slave parts of our own glorius constitutino.

  70. Hi, Phil.

    Yes, this is something that’s been mentioned before. while taking away nothing of the odiousness of either mention, it’s worth noting two things: First, that neither the 3/5ths or fugitive slave mention required that slavery exist (as did the CSA Constitution), they were administrative clauses dealing with the fact slavery did exist in several states. Second, the fact that neither directly mentions the word “slave” or “slavery” is not insignificant; it was an intentional omission, one presumes to avoid the suggestion that the US Constitution did, in fact, promote or require slavery.

    To some, this is nitpicking, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree, but since profoundly differing philosophies on the nature of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution hinge on the placement of one comma, let’s not pretend that words (or the lack thereof) don’t matter when it comes to the Constitution.

    (Note also that when the CSA borrowed the US Constitution for its own constitution, it explicitly put in the word “slaves”; this where the US Constitution refers to “3/5 of all other persons,” the CSA version is “3/5 of all slaves.” One can indeed presume that the change was there for a reason.)

    Again, while neither clause is a shining moment in an otherwise generally fine document, at no point did the US Constitution require that slavery exist. This stands in rather explicit contrast to the CSA Constitution, which does, in several places (and which also specifically mentions that it is “negro slavery” that is the slavery of the land; interesting specification, that). It’s a distinction with a rather substantial moral difference.

  71. More Americans need to become aware of this undercurrent of Confederate idiocy in politics.

    You seem to have nailed just about everything in this article, but one.

    Their preamble.

    Add that to the brew and you also get “put God back into government” and “state sovereignty” in such a close paraphrase that it’s almost unmistakable which country they “pledge allegiance” to … so help me God…

    What I’d like to see:

    Take the gloves off, man! :-)

    [Of course, I'm only half joking...!! Check it out though...]

    They got their divine guidance. Asking for favor is just a little over the line, eh?

    Thank you very much for this article.

    (Now everyone at once, on the count of three, turn on the ALL the lights.)

    CSA Preamble

    We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

    [How's that for irony? Thanks again!]

  72. Now ya’ll I was raised a southerner and shall remain to be one no matter what you igonorant yankee sonss of bitches say my ancestors didn’t fight and die for slavery hell no my ancestors were fighting for their rights why can’t you igonorant sons of bitches got that through you thick skulls Why can’t you just let us live the way we want to live in freedom I don’t want slavery I hate the idea of slavery i hate racists and racists groups all i want is to live in freedom and this nation our great nation of the Confederacy has been under occupation and under a tryannial rule by your nation for almost 150 years I can’t see how you sleep at night you son of bitch

  73. Greetings from afar, Mr. Scalzi!
    I do not know if you (or anyone else, for that matter) still keep up with these threads; mayhap I’m just spouting off to empty space. But having remembered the start of this dialogue 4 yrs. ago, a sense of nostalgia impelled me to raise again a few points that were never quite answered to my satisfaction (or even addressed). To wit:

    1)Regarding the memorial to fallen American soldiers (I’m pretty sure now that it was Brown U.) and the debate as to whether it should include those who fought for the South: Why again should “America” only refer to the USA? You once replied that if Confederates were to be considered “Americans”, so too would Mexican and Canadians, as they are in “the Americas” as well. But they don’t have “America” in their name, a quality which has been shared by but two countries, namely the USA and the CSA. Assuming the CSA was a separate country, how was it any less American?

    2)It seems to me that any disagreement can be attributed to one of two things: ignorance on the part of one party or a difference of opinion. As I said, there’s nothing that’s been brought up here, as far as history is concerned, of which I am unaware. Therefore I can only assign our disagreement to a difference of opinion. What might that be, in your view? A disagreement on the degree of difference b/w the roles of slavery in the USA’s and CSA’s respective constitutions, perhaps?

    3) What’s your opinion of blacks who fought for the South? How about black neo-Confederates?

    Kind regards

  74. Actually, Amitava D., I addressed these particular questions in previous threads, some of which are no longer on the site due to gaps that occurred when I transferred the site to a new host provider. At this point in time I have almost no interest in responding to these questions again, because the Confederate thing well and truly bores the crap out of me right now. The only real new question is what I think of the black neo-Confederates, of which, if they truly exist, the best can be said is “stupid is as stupid does.”

    To accentuate how bored I am with Confederate subjects and what genuine lack of interest I have in discussing them at the moment, I’ll be closing the comment thread here immediately after posting this.

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