August is the month when America celebrates stupidity and I have been avoiding the celebrations. Sure, the stupidity of Americans is on display almost any given day. After all, we live in a Nation where 25% of the folks do not believe in evolution and also, too think that President Obama was not born in the United States. Almost as many also think that he is a secret Moooslim. The stupidity of these Twenty-five percenters is astounding, but not as astounding as the stupidity that lets these dumbshits define the political issues of the day.
And yet, here we are.
Over in Washington a vanguard of fools came to town to hear the drivel of the latest iteration of the bastard union of Know-Nothing Nativism with Confederate piety, racism and morality–all wrapped up in a patina of Jesus to make the appeals to hate, ignorance and fear seem blessed by the Divine. The name of the rally was Key: “Restoration Of Honor”.
The Confederacy and the Confederate movement has always been very concerned with ‘Honor’ and its restoration and when seen as a neo-Confederate rally the gathering today make sense as a fitting endpoint to a month celebrating stupidity in America. It makes sense that these neo-Confederates would hold this rally on the Anniversary and at the site of MLK’s famous speech 47 years ago. And it is predictable that these shifty fuckers would claim ownership of King and his movement. After all, Confederates have been trying to reclaim their right to own people, their labor and their ideas for more than two hundred years.
“Honor” is a wingnut code word that defines the term in the same way that the old Confederacy defined the term. And when paired with the word “restoration” it is a call for a return to an American rooted in the White Supremacy of the Confederacy. This Neo-Confederate movement has–ironically–captured the political party that was formed over a 150 years ago to destroy Confederate thinking and slavery. History is filled with funny twists of fate.
Rather than spend my time following the rantings of these neo-Confederate wingnuts, I have been enjoying a 27-part online lecture series by Yale historian David Blight on “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877”. One thing that is amazing is how similar the arguments of the Confederates and the modern Conservative movement are. And certain words cut through the ages like a golden thread ever linking the generations of extremist wingnuts to certain ideas, myths and goals. “Honor” is one of those words.
In his second lecture of the series, Blight talks a bit about the Confederate sense of “Honor”. Now in these lectures he talks about the South and in the time he is talking about it was fair to use the terms ‘Confederate’ and “South’ interchangeably. That is no longer true. Today, the Confederate mindset is an infection that can be found in all fifty states. It is distinct and separate from “the South”. So, in this passage replace the word ‘southern’ with “wingnut” or “Confederate” of “Republican” or Teabagger. It still works as a apt description of both eras:
In one of the greatest books ever written on the South, by a Southerner, in particular Wilbur Cash’s great classic in 1940 called The Mind of the South, he did something similar to Jefferson, although he’s focusing only on Southerners here. Cash was a great journalist, intellectual historian in his own right, deeply critical of his beloved South. In fact it was Cash who wrote a book called The Mind of the South in which he argued, in part, that the South had no mind. He didn’t really mean it. He said Southerners are “proud, brave, honorable by its”–The South is “proud, brave, honorable by its lights, courteous, personally generous, loyal, swift to act, often too swift, but signally effective, sometimes terrible in its actions. Such was the South at its best,” said Cash, “and such at its best it remains today.” Then comes a “but.” But the South, he says, is also characterized by, quote, “violence, intolerance, aversion, suspicion toward new ideas, an incapability for analysis, an inclination to act from feeling rather than from thought, attachment to fictions and false values, above all too great attachment to racial values and a tendency to justify cruelty and injustice.” [snip]
As one of my favorite historians warned me once, “don’t leave out the politics.” Don’t leave out politics. Now, if I could hang your hat on one kind of Southern distinctiveness, perhaps above all–it’s fun to play with all these stereotypes and realize that if so many people were writing this way, from personal observation, yes, there must be something to all these differences. But what eventually evolved in the South–and we will return to this a good deal next Tuesday when I’ll devote an entire lecture to this kind of slaveholder worldview and the pro-slavery argument–the pro-slavery defense–and how that evolved into a political culture. But if there’s one thing–and this is a little risky because there are always holes in any claim like this–but if there’s one distinct feature of the Old South society and indeed its leadership and most of its people, it would be what we might label anti-modernism
It was a society that eventually developed a disdain for what they perceived as the corruptions of modern commercialism. Southern slaveholding leadership, in particular, were very suspicious of the spread of literacy. They were very suspicious of the democratic tendencies, or so it seemed, the democratic tendencies of that northern society which was spreading literacy more widely, and eventually the right to vote more widely, at least among white people. It is a society where the leadership for sure, and much of the non-leadership, were suspicious of reform, suspicious of change, suspicious of democracy itself. Democracy, the slaveholding class of the South came to see–small d–as a dangerous thing. It was a threat to hierarchy and the South became quite distinctively a very hierarchical society–more on that in just a second. It became a hierarchical society rooted very deeply in open conceptions of class and obviously open conceptions of race. Some were born to rule. In the overall attitude of the planter class and the leadership class of the American South by the 1840s and 1850s, some were born to rule and some born to be ruled. Deal with it, was their attitude.
They became deeply protective and insistent upon their own peculiar sense–and there’s a great scholarship on this–their own peculiar sense of honor. Honor. That old-fashioned concept–it’s an old-fashioned word. How many of you even use that word anymore? “Do the honorable thing.” Ah. “Oh, I didn’t act today with much honor did I?” We’re more likely to–we have other words for it now. What would the–? We might say class — “we did that with class.” Or being effective. I don’t know, what would a synonym today be for honor? Anyone? A good synonym for honor. “A person of character.” Oh, I don’t know. Work on that, will you? A synonym for honor.
Well, honor in the Old South. There’s a whole vast scholarship on this and two or three of the teaching assistants in this class are real experts on it. So check it out with Steve and Sam and others. But it was essentially a set of values, and it was a deeply rooted set of values in the planters’ worldview. It was a form of behavior, demeanor. Yes, it meant a certain kind of gentleman’s understanding of behavior. It was the idea that a gentleman must be honest. A gentleman must be trustworthy. A gentleman was a man of entitlement. A gentleman was a man of property. A gentleman had class, rank, and status, and you better recognize it. And the most important thing in the Southern code of honor, I think, safe to say, was reputation. A man of honor must be recognized, must be acknowledged. And indeed there must be virtually a ritual of that recognition. [snip]
James Henry Hammond of South Carolina once said, I quote, “Reputation is everything. Everything with me depends upon the estimation in which I am held.” That’s honor, personal honor. For many Southerners it was more important than law, more important than conscience. And when they started encountering these Northerners, whether they were from Massachusetts or Ohio, who started talking about a politics of conscience, or a politics of law, they’re not always talking on the same page. So anti-modernism and honor are two hooks you can hang your hats on.
And these are the hooks the Teabaggers hang their tri-corner hats on: anti-modernism and a Confederate sense of honor–a code word of respect for white rule as an entitlement and that an elite of those whites folks are blessed by God to rule us all.
IMHO there is nothing honorable about the fools who followed Beck to Washington to support a restoration of the Confederacy. Fuck them and the horse’s ass they rode in on.