The Peristaltic Testator (peristaltor) wrote in liberal,
The Peristaltic Testator

I Did Not Know That: Southern Reconstruction and the Tea Party

I'll be the first to admit that most primary and even secondary educations are inadequate. No, scratch that: they are adequate for most things; for some things, they completely miss the point, because to come to the point they would have to address uncomfortable facts and what school wants to deal with uncomfortable stuff? That's just unnecessary.

So in school I learned almost nothing about Vietnam—how it started, reasons the country was even involved—even though many of my classmates had fathers and uncles still deployed there. We learned of old wars, and of course of the big one, WWII; but teachers shied away from even mentioning 'Nam, lest some student go home and mention the mention, leading to a shitstorm from one side of the kerfuffle or the other.

It turns out one of the biggest taboos of our history went back a bit farther to the Civil War. And these taboos, according to a fascinating article, regard the Dark Period after the Confederate Surrender, specifically how this period leads to, of all things, the Tea Party.

The author of the post notes that, contrary to what we were taught:

In 1865, not only was Davis not agonizing over how to end the destruction, he wanted to keep it going longer. He disapproved of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and when U. S. troops finally captured him, he was on his way to Texas, where an intact army might continue the war.

(NB: Where the author emphasized with italics, I have emphasized by emboldening, given LJ's continued stupidity in formatting all blocked quoted with italics.)

Surprised at this? I was (just a bit; I did know of the confederales, plantations owners and operators who fled to and were welcomed by Brazil, a country that maintained slavery), and so was the author: "That sounded crazy until I read about Reconstruction."

In my high school history class, Reconstruction was a mysterious blank period between Lincoln’s assassination and Edison’s light bulb. Congress impeached Andrew Johnson for some reason, the transcontinental railroad got built, corruption scandals engulfed the Grant administration, and Custer lost at Little Big Horn. But none of it seemed to have much to do with present-day events.

And oh, those blacks Lincoln emancipated? Except for Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, they vanished like the Lost Tribes of Israel. They wouldn’t re-enter history until the 1950s, when for some reason they still weren’t free.

To be fair, we learned a bit about Jim Crow laws in school. Perhaps I was in school a bit later; I don't know. The author then notes the Dark Age that was filled with Jim Crow laws—which in themselves should have been a clue. He continues:

Here’s what my teachers’ should have told me: “Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War. It lasted until 1877, when the Confederates won.”

I hope that that statement baffled and confused you as much as it confused me. Ah, but there is a lot of historic evidence to support it. How about D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation? I saw it in college, of course, and couldn't help but note the almost silly way the Klan got its robes.

Threatened with behavior toward his daughter most unbecoming someone with so much melanin, he suggested they dress like ghosts and scare them! It worked with the small children, after all! (Of course, who wouldn't be scared by ghost-dressed terrorists who only don their pointy headed white outfits when it's time to do some terrorizing?)

After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877. Before and after 1877, the insurgents used lynchings and occasional pitched battles to terrorize those portions of the electorate still loyal to the United States. In this way they took charge of the machinery of state government, and then rewrote the state constitutions to reverse the postwar changes and restore the supremacy of the class that led the Confederate states into war in the first place.

By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control, and the three constitutional amendments that supposedly had codified the U.S.A’s victory over the C.S.A.– the 13th, 14th, and 15th — had been effectively nullified in every Confederate state. The Civil Rights Acts had been gutted by the Supreme Court, and were all but forgotten by the time similar proposals resurfaced in the 1960s. Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws.

So, instead of stopping the Civil War's history at Appomattox, a more appropriate historical parallel might be to use that point of surrender as Lincoln's Mission Accomplished moment, and to regard the Southern response to the war's "end" just as Iraqis have regarded Bush's victory moment on the carrier.

And here we get the first glimpse into the mindset that connects the Confederacy with today's other social and political movements, with all the frightening implications they bear.

But the enduring Confederate influence on American politics goes far beyond a few rhetorical tropes. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

That worldview is alive and well.

Just as it was for the Confederates who refused to surrender, seeing their way of life more a Way of Life, so to does the anti-choice zealots and their doctor murdering terrorists, so to does the Tea Party. Seriously, look at how the Confederates viewed the situation, and compare.

When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.

We haven't (as far as I know) gotten to the murder phase of the Tea Party's opposition to our current president—though Gabrielle Giffords' shooting comes close, especially when one remembers Sarah Palin's website—but every other marker has been passed. The number of open carry demonstrators packing all manner of firepower in Tea Party gatherings alone should qualify as at least a portent of "physical threat." Consider also the silliness of the Birther movement, the Kenyan connection rumors. The author sums up resistance to everything President Obama has touched—the Affordable Care Act, getting bin Laden—quite simply.

"A black president calling for change, who owes most of his margin to black voters — he himself is a violation of the established order. His legitimacy cannot be conceded."

Just as the Confederates could not—and did not—concede. And the modern-day Tea Partiers? Are they hewing to the spirit of the original protestors? Far from it.

"These right-wing extremists have misappropriated the Boston patriots and the Philadelphia founders because their true ancestors — Jefferson Davis and the Confederates — are in poor repute."
Tags: racism
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