Conversation/Legend of the Day:
Southern Belle (with parasol twirling, at the outset of the Civil War)–General Beauregard, do you think we can whup them yankees?
General Beauregard (resplendent in grey Confederate finery)– Honey child, don’t you worry your pretty little head. We can whup them yankees with corn stalks.
–Four years later–
General Beauregard (walking down the same street in patched uniform, hatless and worn out boots)
Southern Belle (sans parasol, in faded, tattered dress) General Beauregard! I thought you said we could whup them yankees with cornstalks!
General Beauregard Yes ma’am I did. But them sons of bitches wouldn’t fight with cornstalks.
—as told by William Ferris, though I’ve heard this story told in several different ways; if I were telling it, I’d have to add a “blank stare” from the Southern Belle at the end
TB has been interested in history from my youngest days. My earliest memories of my Grandmother involve sitting in her dimly lit ramshackle house at night, watching the lightning bugs outside the window and listening to her tell stories of her childhood and repeating the stories she recalled from her own Grandmother. Some of those tales involved the Civil War and of the yankees who marched through and skirmished in Phoenix, Mississippi, as part of the Vicksburg campaign. Since that time I have always been fascinated with the story of the Civil War, and proud of the Quixotic effort of my ancestors and the South as a whole. I still am in many ways. But from the beginning there has been the nagging problem. For all the arguments in favor of the Confederate position,the nuance in causes of the war, for all the abuses one can find in the Union’s treatment of the South, the war boiled down to slavery and on that point the South was wrong. And incredibly freakin stupid. The Civil War was the second dumbest thing this country ever engaged in; the first being coming into existence with legalized slavery in the first place.
As I walked among so many American dead last week at Arlington, former home of Robert E. Lee and now the eternal home of thousands of Union soldiers, I considered silently the legacy of that war and of the incongruity of so many like me who consider ourselves American patriots yet still honor the soldiers and generals of the South more than we can ever bring ourselves to do for the North. I’ll never find a soft spot in my heart for Sherman or even Grant though Lee and Jackson I will always admire. Of course, I’m wrong. I know that in my mind if not my heart. Sherman and Grant fought for the right cause. Lee and Jackson fought not only for the “lost cause” but for a cause that was never righteous.
I have come to understand that the issue of slavery, if looked at in economic terms only can be peeled back an additional layer and viewed as an issue of cheap labor. Our country since the day the last Redcoat departed has been embroiled in turmoil over the appropriate ratio of capital to labor costs. After the Civil War this issue manifested itself in the rise of the unions, the civil rights/Jim Crow era and up to the present day battles over minimum wage and immigration. While the war permanantly settled the moral question of slavery it did nothing to resolve the underlying issue of labor costs. The legacy of this tension is what drives all politics in all places. Trickle down economics vs bottom up economics is simply another way of describing the problem.
My thoughts on all this were no coincidence. The balance between labor and capital has tilted toward capital for many years with a strong majority favoring that status. But over the last few years, public opinion has begun to shift. The pendulum is near its fulcrum and the possibility that labor is going to gain an advantage over capital has caused political rhetoric to reach levels of hostility not seen in this country in many years. Little did I know as I walked among the dead that down in Texas and on Glenn Beck’s television show the unthinkable word “secession” was reentering our political discourse.
I think its a good idea.
In fact, I think if Texas doesn’t secede, the United States ought to kick them out. Actually, how about this? For ten years we have a national bet. Texas and all the states politically aligned with them–part of the old Confederacy and Arizona I guess–are to operate as a separate, self governing country. The New CSA can write its own constitution, elect its own leaders and determine its own economic future, and if they like what they’ve become after a decade, they can formally become their own country without a shot being fired. Meanwhile, the remaining United States can continue operating under the system developed over the last two and a half centuries.
The New CSA should be given a pro-rata share of the USA’s military to give it security. Other than that, each region will keep what it already has. This gives rise to what surely will be the first major issue over which the southern nation will have to grapple–how to pay for their military. The former red-staters will see new political parties develop, one against all taxes and one in favor of just enough taxes to maintain the greatest military in the world. F-22’s ain’t cheap after all. The good news is there will be no other government intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens. No more substandard, forced public schooling, no more interstate highway upkeep, no more socialized agriculture or mail. Everything will be privatized. Perhaps the military can even be privatized, thus eliminating completely the need for public funds. Of course, the politicians will still need to be paid, but they can simply serve on corporate boards for pay. Better yet, the South could simply make it official and anoint the CEO’s of their largest companies as a head of state by committee.
All guns would be legalized in the South and if you wanted to buy a tank to protect your house, by God you could buy a tank. The torture “debate” would be settled conclusively and the need for implementers of torture would create a new growth industry. Torture could quickly be expanded to include all criminal suspects in addition to neighborhood kids in areas with a high incidence of TP’ing. The pro-business laissez faire government non-existent government would undoubtedly attract corporate investment from all over the world and create literally millions of new jobs. These jobs would pay around .50 a day, or whatever the competing wages of Malaysia happen to be on any given day. The fair, internationally competitive wages would serve to solve the immigration problem from Mexico and South America; well that along with the neighborhood tanks and torture techniques thriving in the New CSA.
The religionists would no longer be plagued by the problem of prayer in public schools, there being no public schools. And the evangelicals could outlaw all the crazy religions that are unable to know the truth as they do. The Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews would be expelled, though the question over how to deal with the Catholics would be a little trickier. The problem of tort reform would be settled once and for all by simply banning lawsuits altogether. Gay marriage? Ha!
Pure conservatism, rugged individualism, America as it should’ve been–that’s the New CSA. As for ole TB, being a student of history I will rely upon the example of Robert E. Lee who struggled with whether to keep his oath and serve the United States or whether to cast his lot with his beloved home state of Virginia. History shows that Lee chose poorly. I’ll be hitting the Oregon Trail. It’ll be a story I can tell my grandchildren all about.
Bonus Quote of the Day:
Does the individual have any rights anymore? Does the state have any right any more? And I know, because I’ve heard it, from all of the conservative, uh, you know, uh, historians…and scholars, and everything else. But you can’t convince me that the founding fathers wouldn’t allow you to secede. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. And if a state says, I don’t want to go there, because that’s suicide, they have a right to back out. They have a right. People have a right to not commit economic suicide…I sign into this Union, and I can never get out, no matter what the government does? I can never get out? Well that leaves only one other option. That doesn’t seem like a good option. —Glenn Beck, Fox News