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."
The Republican Party laid the groundwork for dysfunction long before Donald Trump was elected president.
President Trump’s approach to governance is unlike that of his recent predecessors, but it is also not without antecedents. The groundwork for some of this dysfunction was laid in the decades before Trump’s emergence as a political figure. Nowhere is that more true than in the disappearance of the norms of American politics.
Norms are defined as “a standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.” They are how a person is supposed to behave in a given social setting. We don’t fully appreciate the power of norms until they are violated on a regular basis. And the breaching of norms often produces a cascading effect: As one person breaks with tradition and expectation, behavior previously considered inappropriate is normalized and taken up by others. Donald Trump is the Normless President, and his ascendancy threatens to inspire a new wave of norm-breaking.
The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.
It is insufficient to statethe obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
The right’s old guard faces an existential threat in populism. But it isn’t yet clear that they understand the stakes or possess the confidence to fight back.
Donald Trump’s rise to power put National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the sorts of journalists who work there in a distressing bind. Neither the president nor the #MAGA loyalists who staff his White House adhere to conservative principles. Yet many donors, subscribers, and readers who sustain their publications prefer Trump’s blustering, bombastic project, massively shifting the center of gravity on the right.
Tribalist populism is ascendant––and conservative publications no longer thereby benefit, in part because newer magazines and web sites are more closely aligned with it.
During the 1950s, when the postwar governing establishment presumed a liberal consensus and the right was as internally divided as it is now, William F. Buckley built a competing coalition in part by winning converts on the right to conservatism, famously declaring himself to be standing athwart history yelling, “Stop!”
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
The first modern market crash, in 1987, reflected lasting changes in how Wall Street works. Regulators still haven’t adjusted.
Veterans of the stock market insist that the four most dangerous words on Wall Street are “this time is different.”
It rarely is. In the autumn of 1929, Irving Fisher, a prominent economist at Yale, assured Americans that stock prices had reached “what looks like a permanently high plateau.” That was on October 15, just days before the opening stumble in an epic crash that, by its nadir in 1931, would cut the American stock market’s value by almost 90 percent. In early 2000, exuberant tech analysts argued that revenues and profits were no longer the metrics that mattered in the internet age. Then the dot-com bubble burst and the technology-laden Nasdaq Composite Index fell almost 80 percent between March 2000 and October 2002. Clearly, when the market is soaring, it can be ruinous to believe that its highs are the mark of some fundamental financial shift.
What was it like inside the brain of an ancient prophet?
James Kugel has been spent his entire scholarly career studying the Bible, but some very basic questions about it still obsess him. What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? Were the biblical prophets literally hearing voices and seeing visions, understanding themselves to be transmitting God’s own exact words? If so, why did such direct encounters with God become rarer over time?
In his new and final book, The Great Shift, Kugel investigates these questions through the lens of neuroscientific findings. (The approach is reminiscent of other recent books, like Kabbalah: A Neurocognitive Approach to Mystical Experiences, co-written by a neurologist and a mysticism scholar.) First, Kugel uses biblical research to show that ancient people had a “sense of self” that was fundamentally different from the one modern Westerners have—and that this enabled them to experience and interpret prophecy differently than we do. Then he uses scientific research to show that we shouldn’t assume their view was wrong. If anything, our modern Western notion of the bounded, individual self is the anomaly; most human beings throughout history conceived of the self as a porous entity open to intrusions. In fact, much of the rest of the world today still does.
Sooner or later, the company will be forced to take on the responsibilities that come with being the world's dominant news distributor.
Nine months after Donald Trump won the presidency by unexpectedly swinging key states in the upper Midwest by slim margins, Facebook’s role in the 2016 election is still not clear.
Just in the last week, Facebook’s advertising has come under new scrutiny. Friday evening, The Wall Street Journal reported and CNN confirmed that special prosecutor Robert Mueller served the company with a search warrant to gather information on Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said purchased $150,000 worth of ads on the platform.
A historian looks at the legacy of racism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So many recent events in American life have been a call for the country to grapple with its legacy of racism and white supremacy, including the violence in Charlottesville and even the 2016 election. These events have created turmoil among some conservative Christian groups, who have tried—in fits and starts—to confront their own racial divisions.
One group, however, has taken a slightly different path: Mormons. While a majority of Mormons voted for Trump in the 2016 election, he fared far worse than previous Republican presidential candidates among the minority religious group. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, many in Mormon-heavy Utah doubted the president’s moral character and strength as a role model.
It’s the rare interesting work by a politician—and it offers an important critique of the press.
Most books by politicians are bad. They’re bad because they are cautious, or pious, or boring, or some even-worse combination of all three.
They’re cautious because over the years politicians learn they have more to lose than gain by taking “interesting” or edgy stands. (Something I learned when working as a campaign and White House speechwriter: In “normal” writing, your goal is to make your meaning as clear as possible, ideally in a memorable way. For a politician, the goal is to make the meaning just clear enough that most people will still agree with you. Clearer than that, and you’re in trouble.)
They’re pious because in one way or another the “revealing” stories about the authors are really campaign ads—for future elections by politicians who have a big race still ahead of them, or for history’s esteem by senior figures looking back. Thus politicians’ biographies fall into the general categories of humble-brag (most of them) or braggy-brag (Trump’s).
How the militant group will fumble into the next Middle Eastern war.
Two weeks ago, James Mattis, the U.S. secretary of defense, attempted to justify the provision of U.S. arms to Ukraine. “Defensive arms,” he said, “are not provocative unless you are the aggressor.” The claim was as banal as it was wrong.
Secretary Mattis’s statement made for good politics, and it also makes a degree of intuitive sense. But three generations of students of conflict who have studied “the security dilemma” know it is not, in fact, the case. All too often, nations act in such a way—building up big armies or navies—that they assume will better protect them from their adversaries. What they fail to realize is that sometimes their adversaries will view these “preventive” or “defensive” actions as quite aggressive, in fact, and will make conflict more, not less, likely.