Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Myth as history

The iconoclasm that has swept across America is truly astounding. The tearing down of statues of people such as General Lee is justified by an incoherent mythology masquerading as history. According to the iconoclasts, such statues must be destroyed as they are symbols of neo-Nazi, white supremacy. Just stating this out loud immediately reveals its utter absurdity.

The inaccuracies and absurdities of this mythology are manifold. These absurdities largely stem from the fact that the iconoclasts are apparently completely ignorant of American history. If this were not so, they would want to tear down not just statues to Robert E Lee, but also those of Washington and Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, along with many others.

This historical ignorance is revealed by the very same people who want to tear down Lee's statues simultaneously defending statues to Abraham Lincoln. According to their mythology, Lincoln, and the north, is an emancipator of  slaves and Lee, and the south, is a defender of slavery. One has to wonder where they get their history from? It certainly isn't from the works of historians. Maybe it is from Hollywood. Who knows?

Lincoln was not the emancipator of the slaves. And it does not require much historical knowledge to be aware of this. Lincoln was a racist, to his very core. He fully supported the institution of slavery. His words and actions are completely clear on this issue.

Lincoln's first inaugural address, for instance, provides clear evidence of his position on the issue of slavery. Lincoln makes perfectly plain that he fully supports the institution of slavery and has no intention or inclination to interfere with it. He even makes plain his commitment to return runaway slaves to slavery.

Indeed, Lincoln's collected works make it clear that he was a racist, consistently so. For Lincoln, the ideal solution would have been a "separation of the white and black races". In fact, he worked for the deportation of the "black race" to Africa and South America. He was completely opposed to marriage between the "races" and repeatedly asserted there could never be equality. He was totally opposed to the idea that black people should be allowed to vote or sit as jurors or hold public office. Anyone who has bothered to read Lincoln's own words would know all this and more.

The associated notion that the northern states fought the so called Civil War in order to abolish slavery, is equally false, and equally obviously so. And this too can be easily seen in Lincoln's own words.

The so called Civil War was unleashed by the northern states for economic reasons and the resistance of the southern states was also motivated by economic concerns, but also to defend the Constitution: ie, states' rights. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln actually makes the northern states' economic motivation perfectly clear: he threatens war over the issue of taxation. The protectionist taxation regime effectively plundered the wealth of the southern states for the benefit of northern capitalism. Lincoln's first inaugural speech clearly tells the southern states: pay up or die. Indeed, when the Senate issued its War Aims, it explicitly stated that it would not interfere with the southern states' established institutions, ie, slavery. The notion that the so called Civil War was fought to end slavery is a post hoc rationalisation, intended to provide a veneer of moral purpose to an immoral act of naked aggression.

The Emancipation Proclamation is, of course, cited as though it somehow disproved Lincoln's racism. However, the claim is either ignorant or disingenous. Lincoln declared it was a war measure; ie, applicable only for the duration of the war. Moreover, it only applied to slaves in areas not under the control of the northern states. This reveals very clearly its purpose: it was designed, not to free slaves, but to foment slave rebellions in areas of under the control of the southern states. Lincoln freed no slaves. He had never intended to and he never did. The Great Emancipator of myth could not contrast more starkly with the Lincoln of history. When slavery was finally abolished by the thirteenth amendment, Lincoln played no part (notwithstanding Hollywood myth-making).

Any reflection on the history of the so called Civil War makes one wonder at the purpose of the iconoclasts. Why would statues dedicated to people who tried to defend their state from the unconstitutional coercion of the northern states, which were determined to replace the voluntary union of the states by a forced union under the hegemony of the north, be unacceptable? It makes no sense. From the perspective of the time, the northern states were the aggressors, committing war crimes. Lincoln's generals proudly proclaimed their commitment to killing civilians and destroying economic resources. General Lee, and many others, were simply patriots, defending their own country (ie, state).

However, it seems in contemporary America, actual history has been consigned to the memory hole and replaced by myths. This myth-making is dangerous. It enables people to commit crime after crime, whilst simultaneously wrapping themselves in a pretended moral superiority. And sociopaths who believe their own moralising rhetoric are truly dangerous, for any act is rendered justified.

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