Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Required Reading

1. "Huck's Free Pass," by Christopher Hitchens.

2. Barack Obama's address to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, yesterday.

**Hat tip: At the Mountains of Madness

12 comments:

Gino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gino said...

hitchens is right on some points, and historically wrong on some others.
the south only fought because the north would not recognize their declared independence. it was an illegal and immoral war on lincoln's part.

the rebel battle flag, a banner deserving of honor and respect, has been taken out of context and abused by racists. its a shame, and sullies the memory of those who fought for hearth and home, not slavery.(slavery was opposed by most southerners as well, including the R.E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, president of CSA.)

Quinn said...

An interesting argument that the south only fought b/c the north would not recognize their independence. But why did they declare independence? Over the issue of slavery and the fear that a Republican administration would stop the growth of slavery into the territories and threaten it where it existed (although Lincoln promised the South that he would not touch slavery where it already existed).

As for the issue of most southerners being opposed to slavery, I would heartily disagree. Most did not own slaves, but slavery was the economic, political, and social ideal in that society, and one that both Lee and Davis participated in.

Gino said...

lee and davis were both opposed to slavery. that is a matter of record. (US Grant,though, was a slave owner).
"We should have freed every slave five minutes before firing on Ft Sumter", or words to that effect, were spoken by Lee. he saw the difficulty it put the south in, and how it allowed the north to use it for propaganda purposes to promote the war as just.

there was separation, a 'two americas' if you will, just like there is today. the common man wasnt fighting for the same 'ideal' that the aristocrat monied class had drafted him for.
just like today, those named Bush and Gore have a lot more self interest in common than those named Gino and Andy.

the strains, both economic and political,'tween north and south were rooted in issues that arouse since before the nation was founded. slavery was a side issue, and emotional wedge the northern industrialists used to combat the southern agriculture interests.
the common man in the south, non rich, non slaveowning, was economically hurt by tariifs imposed on foriegn goods for the benefit of northern industry.

that, and other cultural differences, did more to advance the war than slavery.

altogether, the hipocrasy of lincoln was astounding. he claimed the right to rule over those who did not consent to be ruled, in the name of preserving a Union founded on the ideal of consent of the governed.

northern interests couldnt let the south go, for that would have left no way to get northern goods to market when the upper lakes froze over. (the mississippi is still today a major trade artery to the sea)

Quinn said...

lee and davis were both opposed to slavery. that is a matter of record. (US Grant,though, was a slave owner). "We should have freed every slave five minutes before firing on Ft Sumter", or words to that effect, were spoken by Lee.

Should have, but didn't. I'm not arguing that there was no anti-slavery sentiment in the South. Jefferson notoriously proposed ending it during the Continental Congress's debates over the Dec. of Independence. But Jefferson (and others of a like mind) were too invested -- politically, economically, and at least for Jefferson, socially/sexually? -- in the system to do away with it. Southern legislatures in the years leading up to the Civil War were making it harder and harder for individual southerners to free their slaves, or even to express anything akin to anti-slavery sentiment. This is the elites, but remember: they're elected elites.

there was separation, a 'two americas' if you will, just like there is today.

So should we have a secession movement today? Or is that accepting a failure of democracy when a minority threatens to leave the majority-elected-and-controlled government? Dangerous precedent.

the common man wasnt fighting for the same 'ideal' that the aristocrat monied class had drafted him for.

Agreed. But he was at the same time, still represented by those elites, and did not overthrow them or revolt and go north. Southern abolitionists (I'm thinking particularly of the Grimke sisters) had a tough go, and ended up leaving or silenced. Slavery was defended not just by slaveholders, but by churches, schools, and the popular press. They defended slavery not as a necessary evil (as Jefferson might have) but as a positive good.

slavery was a side issue, and emotional wedge the northern industrialists used to combat the southern agriculture interests.

Here, I disagree again. The north was still largely agrarian as well, and in fact many agricultural interests in the north opposed slavery in the territories because they felt it gave southerners an unfair advantage. (No love for blacks in the free soil movement in places like Oregon, for example.) It devalued free labor, and hurt northerners' ability to competitively bring crops to market.

the common man in the south, non rich, non slaveowning, was economically hurt by tariifs imposed on foriegn goods for the benefit of northern industry.

Yes, dating back to the tariff controversy of the 1820s and 1830s, during which secession reared its ugly head and Pres. Andrew Jackson, slaveowner, threatened to use the army to make SC adhere to federal law. You can't just allow states to do what they want or threaten to leave. Otherwise, the federal government ceases to exist. Many historians have made the argument (rather effectively, I believe) that the tariff controversy was really about slavery even then. If they can outvote us on tariffs, they can outvote us on slavery, the logic went.

altogether, the hipocrasy of lincoln was astounding. he claimed the right to rule over those who did not consent to be ruled

But according to the Constitution, he was legitimately elected! No, he did not appear on the ballot in the South, but he still received the majority of the electoral votes and plurality of the popular vote nationwide. He was ELECTED. So does he not have the right to govern?

Prior to 1862, Lincoln did not touch slavery where it existed. And in fact, the preliminary emancipation proclamation offered Southern states a chance to come back to the union with slavery intact. In fact, I would say it was the slave interests who were impinging upon Northern states' rights to maintain their anti-slavery status in the 1850s: Dred Scott decision, the Fugitive Slave Act being two examples. And of course, the south took the first shot.

Gino said...

we can debate this for years, and others certainly have, and still are.

but are also in agreement that succession is never an option?
if a people dont feel their interests are reprsented, they have no choice but to suck it up and yeild?
i believe secession is legit for anybody who wants it, even if it is a matter of west virginia seceeding from virginia (done) or northern california/southern oregon seceeding(wont happen, but if it does, i may relocate) or even any single state (or group of) forming a separate nation.

kr said...

dunno, quinn, if a huge and very identifiable cohesive block of people are anti-represented, it's hard for me to see how that isn't a failure in democracy in itself, nor why that isn't similar to the only vaguely cohesive group of people who rebelled against non-representative rule in the first place ...

just top of my head. have fun dissecting me ;).

Quinn said...

I guess perhaps the resistance I'm showing to secession is that they seceded over something that was, inherently, anti-democratic. I think I'm willing to consider the notion of secession for less obviously immoral reasons. :)

kr said...

heh :).

But, you know, those human-shaped animals with dark skin weren't really _people_, it said so right there in the Constitution, what could be more American? (BLECH.)

--

At the risk of causing DJRD (and the rest of us) greater digestive upset, I just ran into the lyrics for "Hail to the Chief"

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation, Hail to the Chief! We salute him one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!



SIGH.

Quinn said...

See, and I always thought it was:

Hail to the Chief,
He's the one we all say Hail to.

Gino said...

quinn, you make good points.
one of the most difficult parts of defending the south's right to go away is the slavery issue.
it mucks up the whole intellectual aspect of the debate.

but none of these opponents of mine (on this issue) will go so far as to say texas should be returned to mexico.
texans seceeded for some good reasons, and they also held slaves.
slavery was forbidden by mexico law,but the federal govt looked the other way and let the texans do what they wanted on that issue.

if it was legit,slavery and all, for texas, it was legit for the south to self determine as well.

Andy said...

Behold our new king, the Decider
Laws aren't for him, this divider
He lies with impunity
Flaunts his immunity
While the rift in the country gets wider

(I can't take credit for that.)