Thursday, April 09, 2015

That thing about the past not being past

For much of the post-Civil rights era, Confederate perspectives were in retreat, or so it seemed. What happened in the 1980s, however, was the establishment of magazines, such as Southern Partisan, that published reinterpretations. of recent American history through a Confederate lens. By the 1990s, publishers like Pelican Books of Gretna, Louisiana, offered new jeremiads like The South Was Right! (which boasts on its inside cover of 120,000 copies in print) and this small but active cohort began spreading their viewpoints through websites and by hosting conferences on topics such as a state’s legal right to secede. By the 2000s, supporters were able to fund the creation of research venues such as the Abbeville Institute. In these various forums, proponents rearticulated 19th century Confederate beliefs for a post-Civil Rights audience, joining tired but persistent arguments about states’ rights to articulations of laws regarding secession and the right to nullify federal legislation.
The important thing to understand about the Confederate strain in our national politics is that it is an essential component of the mainstream.  Too often it is papered over as some sort of anachronistic fringe but that description does more harm than good.  Seeing the past as merely the past slows the pace of progress.

It is precisely the lie that old battles have been "won" that allows them to go on in perpetuity through new generations ignorant of the significance of what has gone before them.

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