Friday, October 2, 2009

The New Confederacy

So I’ve been thinking. (I know, I know. "Danger, Will Robinson.") And it occurs to me that when you lay out the opposing arguments over what’s behind the current roar of anti-Obama rage --

THE LEFT: It’s all about race!
THE RIGHT: It has nothing to do with race at all!

-- it’s just a modern version of the same shoutfest that happens when you bring up the War Between The States:

THE NORTH: It’s all about slavery!
THE SOUTH: It had nothing to do with slavery at all!

It's the "nothing AT ALL" that's the over-the-top giveaway. The South isn't saying "It's not just about slavery," and pointing to state's rights and anti-federalism as the major causes; no, they're taking slavery off the Reasons For Fighting table completely. Same with the anti-Obama tea-party movement. To listen to them, you'd think they didn't have a racial bone in their bodies. And while that might be true, the fact that they will not admit even the possibility that it might be false is what gives them more in common with a South Carolina plantation owner in 1859 than it does a South Carolina senator in 2009. I think we should call these people the New Confederacy. Now let's see how they stack up against the 19th-century version.

OLD CONFEDERACY: It's not about slavery!
NEW CONFEDERACY: It's not about race!

The other thing the New Confederates always say? “Obama’s 50% white!” “He’s not even black, he’s half white!” The implication being, “So how does that make me racist?” But the real message being, “He’s so uppity he’s claiming he’s something he’s not. But I know the real truth.” To which the proper response is, “No, you know a real fact, but the truth is, you wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of it if it really didn’t matter to you.”

NEW CONFEDERATE: It doesn’t matter.
ME: Then why bring it up?
NEW CONFEDERATE: Because you need to know it doesn’t matter!
ME: People don’t keep shouting about things that don’t matter.
NEW CONFEDERATE: They do when no one listens to them.
ME: Oh we can hear you fine. I’m just saying, that’s all we’re hearing. And from personal experience? People yell the loudest when they know they’re in the wrong.
NEW CONFEDERATE: We are not in the wrong!
ME: I hear you. But I don’t think you really believe it.
ME: Because when Glenn Beck says things like: “Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people and white culture,” not a single one of you ever says: “But he’s half-white, Glenn!” Or does that mean you guys are just 50% hypocrite?

Don't hate me because I'm 50% beautiful.

OLD CONFEDERACY: God damn Republicans!
NEW CONFEDERACY: God damn Democrats!

Typical Yankee vs typical Flower of Southern Womanhood
(As Portrayed By A Brit).

Look -- America is a frontier nation. Always has been, always will be. That means two things. There's always a line we have to cross, because frontier means borders, and borders means fighting over what's rightfully ours. And we can't feel good about ourselves unless we have an enemy to fight. How badly do we need that enemy? Well, let's see -- we fought the previous inhabitants of this continent, we went back to the old continent a couple of times to fight against a couple of their countries, and we even went so far as to fight a land war in Asia, which is like the third stupidest thing an army can do (right after trying to invade Russia in winter and setting foot in Afghanistan, period). And whenever there's no obvious enemy out there, we just turn around and start fighting amongst ourselves. Over what?

OLD CONFEDERACY: You won’t conquer our country!
NEW CONFEDERACY: You stole our country!

This has been the New Confederate cry since the Clinton administration, but was never heard once during the administration of the guy who actually did pickpocket the Presidency. And because stealing implies a period of prior legal ownership, the mind-set behind this attitude is to rational thought what the orbit of Pluto is to our solar system. These people actually think they rightfully own the country. The horrible truth is that the upper one percent of them actually do.

OLD CONFEDERACY: No city slicker is going to swindle us.
NEW CONFEDERACY: No government hand-out program is going to swindle us.

According to the New Confederates, there are two classes in this country: the good, productive people with jobs, and the lazy good-for-nothing loafers who want to steal the good peoples’ hard-earned money. Basically, the New Confeds equate freedom with capitalism (which means they treat the Constitution like it’s a set of corporate by-laws), believe that patriotism means correctly answering the question “What have you done to support the free market system?” and preach the gospel of fiscal conservatism by making sure that money is never distributed to those who do not work. Their battle cry is "You can give my money to the Army, but not the homeless Army vet." Their definition of prosperity is not when Main Street is making money, but when Wall Street is.

OLD CONFEDERACY: Your laws are not binding on us!
NEW CONFEDERACY: Your laws are not binding on us!

The South has never forgiven the North for using numbers and resources to defeat passion and a principle. Because they fought for a principle, that made the Old Confederates morally superior to everybody else, which is why they considered themselves beyond the legal jurisdiction of the North. Currently the New Confederates consider themselves beyond the jurisdiction of civility and politeness. Why be polite to someone whom you do not recognize as an authority figure? Why show respect for the office, when the man inhabiting it is anathema to you? The Left did it during the Bush administration, right? Damn right. They went over the line. And they would have carried guns to town hall meetings, too, except that they were too busy getting arrested for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts.

NEW CONFEDERACY: Respect for the office only applies when one of us holds the office. When one of you gets elected? The office is vacant.
TRANSLATION: It’s not a World Series unless the Yankees are in it.

OLD CONFEDERACY: God is on our side!
NEW CONFEDERACY: Satan is on your side!

To the New Confederacy, the world is full of godless Northerners, who raid their homeland like Vikings with Boston accents. But what do you expect from a group of people who think that Jesus wears a T-shirt with WWRRD on it (for “What Would Ronald Reagan Do”)? They prefer the Christ who comes with a sword, and love to quote the time when He said “Suffer!” like He never added the words “the little children to come unto me.” And meanwhile the rest of us have to suffer through the sermons of pastors who pray that God will make the President of the United States die of brain cancer, like, yesterday -- a sentiment echoed by their gun-toting parishioners, who wish Obama would hurry up already and "die and go to hell."

OBAMA: Whatever you do to the least of my citizens, you do it to me.
NEW CONFEDERACY: No! No! A thousand times no! That’s atheistic socialism!
JESUS CHRIST: Actually, it’s the essence of Christianity.

So yes, what's happening Out There is caused by more than racial anger, just like the War Between The States was caused by more than the South's peculiar institution. But on another level it's exactly the same thing, because what's happening Out There is the rising of the New Confederacy, and Obama is their Fort Sumter.

Will there be a war? There already is. Every day you can hear the battle cries of those who feel they have been betrayed, disenfranchised and marginalized. And because they feel that no one is listening to them, their cries are only going to get louder. And as Abbie Hoffman would be the first to agree, volume translates into numbers -- the louder you shout, the more of you there must be. And the more your message gets repeated, the closer it gets to becoming a fact, rather than an opinion.

Will the war ever end? God no. The only thing more satisfying than fighting for a Cause is fighting for a Lost Cause, which is why you can distinctly hear a lot of New Confederates whining about the Lost part. Jefferson said that the tree of liberty needs to be watered with blood every generation or so, to which Aaron Burr is supposed to have remarked, "If you want that particular tree to live longer, then you had better pluck all the sour grapes off it." But no, those sour grapes hang there still, and the loudest shouters on either side cannot utter a word without the smell of them on their breath. They get drunk on them, so drunk that they have no wish to ever be sober again. That's why the war will never end. The anger is so intoxicating that those in the front lines of both sides will continue to drink from this particular cup, and look forward not to victory, because that would end the fighting, but the next battle, because that will fill their cup up to the brim. It's like cancer research -- there's so much money invested in the problem that a solution is unthinkable.

NEW CONFEDERACY: We'd rather fight than win. Winning is like death. We only really feel alive when we're revolting.
THE NEW CONFEDERACY'S MEDIA CONSULTANTS: Will you listen to what you're saying?
NEW CONFEDERACY: And it's not about race. We just don't want this country run by a Muslim.


amanda said...

I'm at work so I only had time to skim, but, as always, I enjoyed your post. I'd be interested to hear how the intelligent right would respond (I hear there's a guy in Des Moines). I also appreciated your accompanying visual aid. However, there should be some forewarning of extremely horrific images. the "I have a dream" pic made me puke on my laptop. I have more to say, but I have to go get the 409.

Phil Dunlap said...

Good piece. There's an interesting column by David Brooks in today's Times that touches on this subject:

A rare conservative voice of reason.