Monday, April 12, 2010

A Response on Confederate History Month

Remember how we said that Confederate History Month (yes, it's an actual thing now) was a dumb idea?  And offered anyone who wanted to the chance to write with an opposing viewpoint? Well someone did - and here's his unedited take on why it is not the dumbest idea ever. 
Okay, I’ll bite, but it’s not because I dislike political posts. I don’t even so much want to argue against your conclusion. My problem is that your tone is too easy and comfortable, and the war is too ugly.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans died in the war.
Any narrative for how that happened shouldn’t be accepted lightly. The good side beating the bad side and releasing the slaves is so perfect that it’s almost as if the story was designed to placate listeners. Heck, there were slaves in the union. You mentioned that Davis’ “cronies crushed reconstruction efforts.” Is that plausible? The union was willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to defeat confederate armies in order to end the legal institution of slavery, but after the surrender southern politicians “crushed” efforts to substantively improve the conditions of freedmen? What’s the relationship between the effort to win the war and the effort to reconstruct the south?  If the union is more nuanced, maybe the confederacy is too.
It is not necessary to interpret the Governor’s proclamation as approval for the policies of the confederacy, much less slavery in particular. The Vietnam memorial is not a statement about the decision to engage in that conflict, and the Iliad is not a call for wars to be waged over adultery. If nobody is in disagreement, then listing the flaws of the confederacy seems a lot less persuasive. On the other hand, you may interpret the proclamation as having some sinister underlying message from the Governor. But condemning that message effectively requires more work on your part than disparaging the confederacy. If the Governor or his critics are using the civil war as partisan material to identify with one modern party on another, shame on them and shame on our entire polity.
As to Virginia honoring confederates, as opposed to all American dead or only the Union dead, the state government of Virginia was part of the confederacy. The capital of the confederacy was in Virginia. If any government is going to take an unpopular stance and recognize the sacrifice of confederates it should be Virginia.
I cannot concede* that a poor and uneducated resident of a confederate state was morally obligated to avoid fighting in defense of the state where he lived. As the captured rebel quoted by Shelby Foote put it, in response to curious union captors, “I’m fighting because you’re down here.” It’s disingenuous to judge that primal notion according to some high level understanding of the political forces driving the war. Official recognition of that soldier’s sacrifice should not be categorically less acceptable than memorials for other wars.
To try to end on a positive note, recognizing sacrifices on the unpopular side of the war may provoke some people to understand the war more thoroughly.

*I might make an exception for pacifism in general, but blaming confederate soldiers for being soldiers at all is hardly useful in context.


Anonymous said...

At first I thought the governor's decision was stupid, but after giving it some more thought, I realize it was a selfless, brillant move that accomplishes its purpose better than anything else he could have done. Here's why:

If he calls April "Civil War History Month" like people have suggested, no one even gives it a second thought. Since the purpose of the proclamation was for tourism, no publicity is bad publicity.

But since he called it Confederate History month, he got all kinds of publicity. People all over the country heard about this, and in the process were reminded that Virginia really is the hub for all things related to the civil war, and they thought that it might be fun to go check out all those battlefields. Now that is how you get a tourism message out! Sure, he took a political hit for it, but that just shows how he is willing to sacrifice his own good name to help bring tourism dollars into the Commonwealth of Virginia during a recision.

NGSL Alpha Secure said...

11:31's post reminds me of a time I decided to let some of my schoolmates defeat my clearly superior team in a game of softball during the UVa invitational tournament.

At first, people thought it was BETA of us to let the other team win, but later everyone saw how much attention it brought to my team and NGSL, they realized how ALPHA it was of us to let our fellow softball studs have their own moment of glory.

Anonymous said...

The reason merely denouncing the confederacy wins the argument is that the designation to a subject of its own month of history is a celebration of that history, whether or not the words which few will ever read within the proclamation declaring that month of history invoke a more complicated human response to events such as "remembrance." This is because of the empirical facts that most such designations are taken that way-- and quite understandably and rightly so, given that nearly every other state-designated month is used to praise deserving but uncelebrated historical movements and figures.

And certainly the words in proclamation aren't enough to overcome this justified presumption that the statement is one of celebration. While the proclamation is (only slightly) more carefully worded than one might think just from reading the news, much of it indicates clear celebration of the Confederacy. To take two examples, the proclamation:
1. characterizes the war as one "for independence"
2. invokes David v. Goliath imagery of the match-up (involving a courageous and dignified Confederate Army that was ultimately "overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army")

Anonymous said...

In general, months that are designated for a particular purpose usually celebrate that purpose; however, in this instance that clearly isn't the case. Does anyone honestly believe the Confederate History month is about celebrating slavery? A person of reasonable common sense should understand that Confederate History month is not a celebration of the institutions of the Confederacy, but rather is a recognition that slavery & the Confederacy played an important role in the history of Virginia.

The criticisms about Confederate History month seem to be nothing more than critics attempting to spin this into something that it's not. Confederate History month is not an attempt to say that the South should have won the war, or that Virginia would be better off had it won the war. It is not an attempt to say that the institution of slavery was a good thing. Does anyone really believe that a high ranking political figure would choose to risk future offices by making such outlandish claims such as celebrating the institution of slavery? This clearly cannot be what Confederate History month is about.

I understand people not liking the Governor, but is this really what you're angry about?

Anonymous said...

yo ikm so high i rep that stl all day get money kiddd

Anonymous said...

I know that on its face, the "without mention of slavery" meme sounds like spin-- as if it's not taking the pro-proclamation argument head-on. But it's actually a pretty well-reasoned line of attack. The particular component of an event that we choose to remember--and honor--to the exclusion of others, has meaning. To take an example, let's say on April 13, 2004, a large family lost three members in a horrific car crash. Everyone in the family loved all three, but perhaps they only loved one of they kind of had to. Today, they will gather together and honor two of them, visiting their graves and placing flowers on it. For the other, they will simply do nothing. That selective remembrance is wrong. To the immediate family of the slighted victim of the car crash-- people who had really believed that they were finally part of the larger family--it would have been devastatingly offensive. Definitely a "no more Thanksgivings together" type of thing at the very least, don't you think?

Not a perfect analogy so don't start mechanically plugging in "slavery" and "confederate history" into it, but I think you get my point.

Also, a month of history is about celebration simply because that's what people take it to mean. Proclaiming April Confederate History Month is hardly different from holding a Confederate History Party, with the invitation reading, "come enjoy pizza and beer as we remember those who fought for freedom but ultimately fell to the big, bad Union Army... oh yeah and we'll also think on this time in Virginia's history." If the invite were less obviously celebratory (which it wasn't), reading "come eat pizza and beer as we 'reflect' on the role Confederacy in Virginia's history," would it really make that much of a difference?

Anonymous said...

2:27 here,

I think you're right that failing to mention slavery was a fairly serious gaffe, and I after I posted I meant to qualify my post with that but forgot.

However, I don't think the idea of Confederate History Month connotes a celebration of that history. This is obviously an empirical question and you seem to disagree, but merely having Confederate History month does not, in my mind, indicate that we are celebrating the institutions of the South or slavery. The party analogy is quite convoluted and is just a restatement of your belief that this is a celebration of the institutions of the South. Although I understand that there is still racism & people who for whatever reason (most likely racism) believe that the Confederacy was a good thing, I really have a hard time believing that the vast majority of people view Confederate History month as a celebration of the ideals of the South.

Anonymous said...

Will UVA Law Blog be covering the 3L Loan Repayment talk?

Anonymous said...

gucci be goin hard

Anonymous said...

this beat cold! gucci goin stupid hard!

Anonymous said...

To everyone whose got their panties in a bind over recognizing a vitally important event in the history of this state and country: GET A LIFE!


Anonymous said...

"To everyone whose got their panties in a bind over recognizing a vitally important event in the history of this state and country: GET A LIFE!"

LOL @ these teabagger know-nothings arguing the importance of history.

FYI - the people in this debate who have a problem with history are retarded, unaware, revisionists like wingnuts like McDonnell, et. al

I quote today's Washington Post:

"I don't know what you would say about slavery," Barbour told CNN, "but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying."

And that's the problem -- Barbour thinks it "goes without saying." The governor of the state whose population includes the nation's highest percentage of African Americans believes it is appropriate to "honor" those who fought for the Confederacy. Clearly, he has no problem revisiting the distant past. Yet he sees no reason to mention the vile, unthinkable practices -- state-sanctioned kidnapping, torture and rape -- that those Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect

Anonymous said...


sometimes you want the teabaggers to stop yapping their stupid mouths and actually secede - recreating sherman's march would be fun

Anonymous said...

WGWAG is more prestigious than LR.

Anonymous said...

I want a wgwag history month!

Anonymous said...

stfu abt wgwag already. my god you aren't the least bit funny.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

this blog is a rancid ttt. (it's not in decline bc it was always a rancid ttt).

Conservative Majority in 2011 SECURE said...

Why are liberals such hateful people?

And why do they think they can hide that hatefulness by acting indignant over an atrocity that the entire nation was guilty of perpetuating but which ended 5 generations and 150 years ago?

Anonymous said...

lol 11:27 - u mad?

"hateful" liberals? bwahahaha. u mad?

"[McDonnell, Teabaggers, et al] think it is appropriate to 'honor' those who fought for the Confederacy. Clearly, [they have] no problem revisiting the distant past. Yet [they see] no reason to mention the vile, unthinkable practices -- state-sanctioned kidnapping, torture and rape -- that those Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect"

Not a Hypocrite/Liberal SECURE said...

11:43, I'm assuming you are a UVa student. If so, how hypocritical of you to attend and pay tuition to a school founded by one of those hateful rapists you seem to so despise.

Anonymous said...

lol, good argument 11:48, you really got me there.

also - u mad?

Anonymous said...

"recreating sherman's march would be fun"

I think that's what s/he was referring to in describing liberals as hateful.

Anonymous said...

It's hateful to be eager to defend your country against insurrectionist teabaggers?

Anonymous said...

It's hateful to be proud of your heritage? Stop being a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Care to explain how an invasion 800 miles into another country that involved destroying private property and terrorizing the population is not hateful?

Anonymous said...

"Care to explain how an invasion 800 miles into another country that involved destroying private property and terrorizing the population is not hateful?"


"into *another country*"

"involved destroying private property" (does that include their taking away their slaves?)

"terrorizing the population" (lol @ insurrectionist racist slavery supporters whining about 'terrorizing' anyone)

Anonymous said...

Rule 12f:

You talk about slavery, but we have hardly improved our moral qualities since then, and (to make matters worse) we now enjoy a standard of living that makes the other atrocities that we engage in completely unconscionable:

- rendition (practiced by every administration since Vietnam, revealed to little fanfare, outrage, or demand for change).

- our prison system (people are raped every day in full view of the
guards. This de facto cruel and unusual punishment boggles the mind,and incidentally most victims are nonviolent blacks)

- our oil wars. We have killed millions of people. Not enslaved, but starved (via sanctions) and killed (via bombs). The human suffering caused by these wars (via direct suffering and also at the hand of despotic regimes we have sanctioned) is a truly breathtaking atrocity.

- our apartheid system of "illegal" immigrants. In the shadow of the statue of liberty and around the US our second class citizens are held without charge, abused, denied basic police protection for fear of deportation, and denied safe working conditions. Every day many of us walk by these people on the street without taking notice of the truly grueling self-deception we undergo to avoid being appalled enough by this to do anything.

So to rail against "Confederate History Month" is simply a self-aggrandizing pat on the back to help you feel morally superior amid the looming realization of our utter moral depravity.

Anonymous said...

12:27/dumbass -- "destroying private property" also includes burning down cities and tearing up railroads. I'm not saying the Confederacy was right (it wasn't), but was it really necessary to fight a brutal war to prevent the country from splitting? Secession may have been about keeping slavery, but I don't think the war was fought to end it. That was just the cherry on top.

Also, 1:20, about illegal immigrants -- really? Because immigrants who fill out their paperwork and get approved are more than welcome here. Are you arguing that we should just let anyone who wants in, in? I mean, why even have borders -- I'm sure anyone who wants to come to America just wants to do an honest day's work, so why even check who they are or try to stop them? Isn't that what you're saying?

Anonymous said...


eh, I get your point but the fact is that these people are here but our society completely ignores them and for the most part treats them as lesser people. Maybe the answer is tougher immigration laws and enforcement to keep them out in the first place but that doesn't solve the problem of what to do with those who are already here.

Good post 1:20. It baffles me how someone like 12:27 was welcomed into a UVa Law community that professes to be tolerant and collegial.

Anonymous said...

MOAR UVa Law news/entertainment; less liberal tttrolling

Anonymous said...

The best comments here are about WGWAG.