This post really stood out for me in the thread on Heroic Memory:
Thinking on this I want to be sensitive and all, but something has nagged at me so I'm going to risk throwing it out there.
Many white Southerners consider that the North had to end slavery and segregation to be embarrassing. So imagining Lee or whoever as someone who would have been for it dying out is seen as giving them more control over their own fate.
Many Southerners I think really want to believe that they would have become enlightened on their own in time. Being reminded by Lee's embrace of slavery or the Confederacy being about slavery may seem to say "no you wouldn't have, you are unenlightened racists who have to be forced to change by Northerners." White Southerners therefore become the whipping boy of American history, unless they identify with the North.
Much of this is white Southerners own fault of course. Many of the ones who wanted to end slavery or racial segregation were pushed into moving North or were castigated as being "scalawag" agents of the North whether they were or not. Still this sense of being "under siege", of being constantly criticized, is very much in the Southern white psyche. I'm not sure how to deal with that or if this is even going to make sense to anyone. Possibly it's been dealt with before. I do think you make good efforts at trying to get at Southerners who did good and were truly Southern though.
Lotta good stuff here. What I am seeing is that a faction of Southerners are attracted to this stuff because they don't want to bow to the North. In their minds, the Lost Cause is about not conceding to Northern snobbery. I think it's also worth remembering that there was also, at the time, a cult of Southern invincibility. Southerners believed they were hardier then Northerners, and thus destined to win. It is true that the South had a military tradition that wasn't as dominant in the North.
But I think, it also helps to think of the Civil War as having three factions with three different aims:
1) The South which secedes explicitly to protect the institution of slavery and a system of white supremacy, but also feels that its "way of life" is fundamentally different from the North's. It's true that slavery and systemic white supremacy are essential cogs in that "way of life," but they aren't the entirety of it.
2) The North which is interested, primarily, in preserving the Union. If destroying slavery will help in that end, then all the better--but destroying slavery is not the primary goal. This is crucial and I want to clear, because it's easy to conflate this--That the North is primarily motivated by unionism, not emancipation, does not negate the fact the South seceded--primarily and explicitly--to preserve systemic white supremacy. Their own documents tell the tale well. Additionally, the North almost certainly, brings its own cultural baggage and biased judgement on the South's "way of life."
3) African-Americans who explicitly sought the destruction of slavery and the end of systemic white supremacy. The African-American war against slavery began as soon as we got of the boat. In relevance to the Civil War, you can likely trace it back to Denmark Vessey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, and John Brown. But that only counts militant action, and ignores the small everyday acts of resistance (loafing around, breaking equipment, running off for weeks at a time) and individual acts of violence (poisonings, for instance).
At the onset of the War between the North and South, African-Americans immediately attempt to sign up and fight--for both sides. Their basic notion is that they'll fight for whoever will set them free. In the main, they are refused. But they force the issue by running to Union lines and making it very clear to the North that the only way to preserve the Union is to end slavery. The Union initially returns runaway slaves. But by the South's racist logic, this is folly--slaves are property, and part of the economic engine that allows the South to resist. Returning slaves to the rebels is essentially like returning captured horses back to a defeated calvary.
The point I'm trying to make here is that there was, and perhaps always has been, two wars. One was between the North and the South, and it was one based on preserving the Union. The other was between blacks and white supremacy, in the form of the Confederacy. What you see, as the war goes on, is a gradual, and rather amazing, process by which blacks, free and enslaved, force the North to accept the cause of emancipation as their own. The logic of the war makes it unavoidable.
One of the ways in which you see the difference is by looking at the fights between the USCT and Southerners. The casualty rates for the USCT are always astronomical when compared to other regiments. From what I can tell, this reflects a few things. 1) The sheer anger that Southerners felt when confronted with their "property" so armed. To them, they might as well have been fighting a slave rebellion 2) The massacres which sometimes happened after black units surrendered. 3) The sheer ferocity with which some black units fought. If you think about it, more than any other group of soldiers, the USCT had the least to lose.
On that last point, I think of this account of the death of one USCT member, Big Jack Johnson, in Louisiana, fighting at Milliken's Bend. It's worth noting that Milliken's Bend is part of the Vicksburg campaign, a campaign that Pat Buchanan claims was fought entirely "100 percent" by white men. Milliken's Bend is distinctive for two other reasons. First, it's only the second time black troops fight as regiments, after the Emancipation Proclomation. Second, unlike the vast majority of Civil War battles, Milliken's Bend descended into hand to hand combat with bayonets something very rarely happened during the Civil War.
Anyway, Big Jack Jackson was a field hand in either Mississippi or Louisiana, I can't remember which. But he's one of the first to be signed up by white recruiters looking to form black regiments. The white recruiters complain that there having difficulty filling the ranks, in large measure because black women are distrustful of them and won't let the men fight. Here's a terrific account, by one white recruiter, about the trouble they were having:
The first plantation house we came to, there were six or eight eligibles loafing around and we dismounted and proceeded to business. We found them much interested in the subject but could get no decision from them. They would not say they would not go, nor would they say they would.
Frustrated, the recruiter sends Big Jack Jackson to do the job and Jackson simply reaches into the slave quarters and proceeds to line the men up in ranks:
They did not pay much attention to me, but riveted their eyes on Jack, whom they must have thought a brigadier at least...Jack dismounted and proceeded to set these coons up in line with about as much ceremony as he would use if he was setting up so many ten-pins...When the wenches discovered the men were being marched away, they set up a terrible howl. But it did not faze Jack. He kept them going and they were soon out of sight and hearing.
Within weeks, green as hell, they were in combat at Miliken's Bend. You can read a contemporary account of the fight here. On the words of his commanding officer, here's how Big Jack met his fate:
Big Jack Jackson passed me like a rocket. With the fury of a tiger he sprang into that gang and crushed everything before him. There was nothing left of Jack's gun except the barrel and he was smashing everything he could reach. On the other side of the levee, they were yelling "Shoot that big nigger! Shoot that nigger!" while Jack was daring the whole gang to come up and fight him. Then a bullet reached his head and he fell full on the levee.
Jack was fighting for something more than "the Union."
FEMA Director Craig Fugate on why the Katrina response failed, why it’s important to talk about “survivors” instead of “victims,” and why citizens can’t just wait for the government to save them in a huge disaster
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and the forthcoming Between the World and Me.
The man who made computers personal was a genius and a jerk. A new documentary wonders whether his legacy can accommodate both realities.
An iPhone is a machine much like any other: motherboard, modem, microphone, microchip, battery, wires of gold and silver and copper twisting and snaking, the whole assembly arranged under a piece of glass whose surface—coated with an oxide of indium and tin to make it electrically conductive—sparks to life at the touch of a warm-blooded finger. But an iPhone, too, is much more than a machine. The neat ecosystem that hums under its heat-activated glass holds grocery lists and photos and games and jokes and news and books and music and secrets and the voices of loved ones and, quite possibly, every text you’ve ever exchanged with your best friend. Thought, memory, empathy, the stuff we sometimes shorthand as “the soul”: There it all is, zapping through metal whose curves and coils were designed to be held in a human hand.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
In continuing to tinker with the universe she built eight years after it ended, J.K. Rowling might be falling into the same trap as Star Wars’s George Lucas.
September 1st, 2015 marked a curious footnote in Harry Potter marginalia: According to the series’s elaborate timeline, rarely referenced in the books themselves, it was the day James S. Potter, Harry’s eldest son, started school at Hogwarts. It’s not an event directly written about in the books, nor one of particular importance, but their creator, J.K. Rowling, dutifully took to Twitter to announce what amounts to footnote details: that James was sorted into House Gryffindor, just like his father, to the disappointment of Teddy Lupin, Harry’s godson, apparently a Hufflepuff.
It’s not earth-shattering information that Harry’s kid would end up in the same house his father was in, and the Harry Potter series’s insistence on sorting all of its characters into four broad personality quadrants largely based on their family names has always struggled to stand up to scrutiny. Still, Rowling’s tweet prompted much garment-rending among the books’ devoted fans. Can a tweet really amount to a piece of canonical information for a book? There isn’t much harm in Rowling providing these little embellishments years after her books were published, but even idle tinkering can be a dangerous path to take, with the obvious example being the insistent tweaks wrought by George Lucas on his Star Wars series.
According to Franklin, what mattered in business was humility, restraint, and discipline. But today’s Type-A MBAs would find him qualified for little more than a career in middle management.
When he retired from the printing business at the age of 42, Benjamin Franklin set his sights on becoming what he called a “Man of Leisure.” To modern ears, that title might suggest Franklin aimed to spend his autumn years sleeping in or stopping by the tavern, but to colonial contemporaries, it would have intimated aristocratic pretension. A “Man of Leisure” was typically a member of the landed elite, someone who spent his days fox hunting and affecting boredom. He didn’t have to work for a living, and, frankly, he wouldn’t dream of doing so.
Having worked as a successful shopkeeper with a keen eye for investments, Franklin had earned his leisure, but rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, he said, was “time for doing something useful.” Hence, the many activities of Franklin’s retirement: scientist, statesman, and sage, as well as one-man civic society for the city of Philadelphia. His post-employment accomplishments earned him the sobriquet of “The First American” in his own lifetime, and yet, for succeeding generations, the endeavor that was considered his most “useful” was the working life he left behind when he embarked on a life of leisure.
In Beijing, China marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and its role in defeating Japan, by holding an enormous military parade and declaring a new national holiday. The spectacle involved more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware, and 200 aircraft.
In Beijing, China marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and its role in defeating Japan, by holding an enormous military parade and declaring a new national holiday. The spectacle involved more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware, and 200 aircraft of various types, representing what military officials said were the Chinese military's most cutting-edge technology. While the entire event was a show of strength, Chinese officials insisted the message was about peace, with the logo displayed on posters featuring an image of a dove.
Some people see threats even when none are present. Strangely, it can make them more creative.
For much of his life, Isaac Newton seemed like he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In 1693, the collapse finally arrived: After not sleeping for five days straight, Newton sent letters accusing his friends of conspiring against him. He was refraining from publishing books, he said at one point that year, “for fear that disputes and controversies may be raised against me by ignoramuses.”
Newton was, by many accounts, highly neurotic. Brilliant, but neurotic nonetheless. He was prone to depressive jags, mistrust, and angry outbursts.
Unfortunately, his genius might have been rooted in his maladjustments. His mental state led him to brood over past mistakes, and eventually, a breakthrough would dawn. “I keep the subject constantly before me,” he once said, “and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
When Kenneth Jarecke photographed an Iraqi man burned alive, he thought it would change the way Americans saw the Gulf War. But the media wouldn’t run the picture.
The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.
On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.
I traveled to every country on earth. In some cases, the adventure started before I could get there.
Last summer, my Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca landed at Malabo International Airport in Equatorial Guinea, and I completed a 50-year mission: I had officially, and legally, visited every recognized country on earth.
This means 196 countries: the 193 members of the United Nations, plus Taiwan, Vatican City, and Kosovo, which are not members but are, to varying degrees, recognized as independent countries by other international actors.
In five decades of traveling, I’ve crossed countries by rickshaw, pedicab, bus, car, minivan, and bush taxi; a handful by train (Italy, Switzerland, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, and Greece); two by riverboat (Gabon and Germany); Norway by coastal steamer; Gambia and the Amazonian parts of Peru and Ecuador by motorized canoe; and half of Burma by motor scooter. I rode completely around Jamaica on a motorcycle and Nauru on a bicycle. I’ve also crossed three small countries on foot (Vatican City, San Marino, and Liechtenstein), and parts of others by horse, camel, elephant, llama, and donkey. I confess that I have not visited every one of the 7,107 islands in the Philippine archipelago or most of the more than 17,000 islands constituting Indonesia, but I’ve made my share of risky voyages on the rickety inter-island rustbuckets you read about in the back pages of the Times under headlines like “Ship Sinks in Sulu Sea, 400 Presumed Lost.”
Climate change means the end of our world, but the beginning of another—one with a new set of species and ecosystems.
A few years ago in a lab in Panama, Klaus Winter tried to conjure the future. A plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, he planted seedlings of 10 tropical tree species in small, geodesic greenhouses. Some he allowed to grow in the kind of environment they were used to out in the forest, around 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Others, he subjected to uncomfortably high temperatures. Still others, unbearably high temperatures—up to a daily average temperature of 95 degrees and a peak of 102 degrees. That’s about as hot as Earth has ever been.
It’s also the kind of environment tropical trees have a good chance of living in by the end of this century, thanks to climate change. Winter wanted to see how they would do.
A tattooed, profanity-loving Lutheran pastor believes young people are drawn to Jesus, tradition, and brokenness.
“When Christians really critique me for using salty language, I literally don’t give a shit.”
This is what it’s like to talk to Nadia Bolz-Weber, the tattooed Lutheran pastor, former addict, and head of a Denver church that’s 250 members strong. She’s frank and charming, and yes, she tends to cuss—colorful words pepper her new book, Accidental Saints. But she also doesn’t put a lot of stock in her own schtick.
“Oh, here’s this tattooed pastor who is a recovering alcoholic who used to be a stand-up comic—that’s interesting for like five minutes,” she said. “The fact that people want to hear from me—that, I really feel, has less to do with me and more to do with a Zeitgeist issue.”