Take down the monuments! An honest conversation

America and Confederacy

An Insight into the multi-ethnic pluralistic ‘democracy’

If ever one is to discern intent, identity, and orientation and broadly, ‘purpose’ of an entity, a community, race or a people, one must look at the subtleties inherent in language; in discourse. A very fundamental music is somehow and somewhat inexplicably embedded within pleasantries, arguments; conversations. Conversations that in essence drive and propel progression and/or change, it then follows that as ‘civilized’ or even, somehow laughably inaccurately, ‘progressive’ societies and nations are it can be argued, rather unjustly expected to adapt to infusing ideas, contradicting and competing philosophies and mounting pressures to keep in check with (their ratified and agreed) regional and international agreements and international law[i]. Universal law is, therefore, for lackeys. Context is for kings.

As we look at how language has evolved or, under a somewhat perverse light, devolved within the US, we come to terms with a few sobering realities: that black is black, white is white and yet, somehow all color seems to be rapidly vanishing[ii]; that opinion, unless privatized carries little to no significance; that inclusion can inexplicably lead to imprisonment and isolation; that the Union must live on, regardless. A revisionist look at the Civil War reveals much and more about the political and social discourse at the time, stark contrasts in societal roles of the dominant and the dominated shed light upon the stratification[iii] that has shaped the new American, and all that remains to be seen is if the new is an abandonment of the past, or an acceptance of it. More insightful trips down memory lane and history books and experiences talk about the violence, and not only physical violence: Economic, social and political suppression of a people saw the rise and prosperity of the other[iv]. If the war was based predominantly on the right to own slaves, and following the argument that the war was ended and won by the Union, the side that denounced slavery and slavers alike, is the post-war American truly free, does he/she have an equal stake in the workings of the state, is there, for lack of a better word, an effective measure of how empowered the average American is; in essence, is the war won and the treachery undone?

Old, arcane, ancient and even prehistoric wounds can grow to surface again if grievances are allowed to remain just that, and the people allowed to adjust to their version of events and realities. A kind of tense calm that descends right after a calamity has ceased, is often accompanied by thoughtful reflection: American Exceptionalism[v], the promise of an American Dream[vi], the fusing of varied cultures, ideas, people, and, during the formative years after the Reconstruction Era, the almost guaranteed right to pursue a very subjective existence molded and remolded by individuals themselves demand that ‘normal rules do not apply here’; reality, it is then proved or at least proved in the Free World, is more person than a collective experience.

 

 

 

 

The high(er) ground

The debate and discourse surrounding the removal of national and historic confederate symbols, have sparked up an excessive use of seemingly fascist rhetoric from the far right, and downright treason from the left[vii]; these competing ideologies have, in turn culminated into riots, violent exhibitions, vandalism, injuries and even death[viii]. These instances of disorder are, in themselves, a consequence of the larger crises that affect this fragile Union; crises that have been brought to light following the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate statues and symbols, pulls on the very delicate thread of the American investment into a multi-ethnic capitalist democracy that threaten unravelling the socioeconomic structure and stature of the US as we know and see today[ix]. As a general feeling of unease grapples the Land of the Free, political and, in essence, socioeconomic ruin looms ever larger and passes as a strong and deeply seated undercurrent in global political and economic trends. Insofar as revolutions go, the exchange surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments cannot as yet be classified as a break away from some otherwise calm, sustained and prosperous status-quo[x]; it has however dragged into broad daylight the prevailing and deeply rooted issues of race, polarity, rapid privatization and politicization of opinion, ideology and identity, and freedom of speech. All this amid an increasingly globalized economy, weakened institutions, divisive information flows and the still elusive promise of the American Dream and to pursue a tailored existence.

There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin… – Mississippi.
War excites people, especially such a war that effectively drives even the most pacifist of citizen to pick a side and hammer away at the other. There is, in the genome of the human experience, information: this information not only relates to an individual’s health footprint, the structure of the jawline, sleep habits but actively dictates (to a certain extent, of course) a person’s willingness to go to war, and the kind of war that is waged[xi]. Fighting for the Western has been more congruent to boxing: A vivid exchange of blows looking towards immediate results. The Eastern cousin however, is more comfortable waging a war that is fought more along the lines of strategy and maneuouvreability and does not involve a ‘stand and deliver’ style as favored by the Western. This is, in essence one of the factors that polarized the American people back when the Civil War had started, up until now: it is important to understand that people at the onset of the War and people at the break of currently unfolding events had a choice to make, it was to reconcile their personal reality with the reality that, to define it narrowly, was available to the public at large. And as ideologies powered actions, actions resulted in victory, in defeat, conflicting versions of history and of the present are rapidly spewed as a political and ideological currency; calling to arms all who will to fight for what they believe is real and what they believe demands respect and acknowledgement. For the Southern White, the reality back in the 1800s was that they had been bestowed by the Almighty, as Christians, humble servants without ambition or intellect, that white equality derives itself from the presence of an inferior race, that states have constitutional rights to break away or dissolve themselves from the Union; that the Southern way of life, that is in the Plantation Era, must at any rate be preserved and upheld. For the Northern White, their urbane perception and their belief that an efficient system of government could not be borne in a state that favors and installs slavery and their different perception of civil rights and equality. For the black on either geographic spectrum, was a mutual reality subject to change only with the movement of blacks to the Southern parts of Virginia and South Carolina, among other states: fundamentally victimized, the black even during and after reconstruction had to, in order to carefully negotiate their position in a capitalist-functionalist society continually strived to manifest into a culture that could first be shared mutually across the black community, and one that would be respected by the American White. This adjustment, this orientation in national attitudes of large communities inside the Union has, coupled with rapidly deteriorating political discourse and there being a lack of common ground wherein to resolve matters, has resulted in maladjustment: it has effectively created a divide which can clearly be seen as one looks at the far right neo fascist movements and the far left antifa movements in the present analyzed, and the quarter of 3 million American lives lost during the first civil war. An identity-crisis engulfs the American people now, as much as it did previously in the 1800s, there is a clear shift away from episodic violence into a more sustained effort by the far right and the far left to project their realities into mainstream politics – in their continual bid to set the pace for the nation as how they see it. If there is any difference between the whites and blacks of today and those of pre-civil war, it is a slight shift away from geographic allegiance due to technological advancements; a predisposition to say, the Southern way of life does not as it did in the past, require you to have lived in a Southern setting or share anything with the Southerners or even broadly, the neo conservative.

 

As a progressive capitalist multi ethnic democracy, the US had and has national and international commitments towards the preservation and promotion of Freedom of Speech. Whatever academics may choose to label it as, increased consumerism and perhaps late capitalism has actively contributed to there being placed more and more political and moral value into opinions: opinions that are subsequently privatized into a number of people that eventually dictate the pace and progression of the opinion, and, ultimately, its political value. Academics have long argued that freedom of speech is an absolute right enjoyed by all communities and individuals equally, however, international humanitarian law has provisions to control and curtail possible excesses in the acquisition of or practice of human rights such as free speech. And, in essence, therein lies the problem: does the exercise of free speech constitute speech that is designed to exploit or condemn the existence of a contradicting idea or people? In trying to look for answers, universities and academic institutions have come under fire as well. The rise of the victimhood culture[xii], a new facet in the American way of life, has effectively brought to halt processes of reconsideration and reevaluation of ground realities in search for more viable on-campus policies conducive to dialogue and not violence. Tracing back to how the African Negro in the 1800s developed his own version of the native language[xiii], in order to have better control over his living conditions and the White contempt for the black pollution of American English counterpoint to the culture of victimhood and socioeconomic impairment that we see festering still today. This is further complemented by the perpetuating of ‘alternative facts’ or simply, misinformation and divisive coverage that serves no other purpose but incite rhetoric and riot. It then becomes a question of how free exactly should free speech be, a considerable majority of students advocate for there being curbs to this freedom in favor of a more ‘inclusive’ peace[xiv]. It is altogether musical that the spirit of enquiry, of academic pursuit and intellectual discourse which is generally supposed to be the point of a university college is shunned in favor of sustaining a massively unbalanced status-quo: this in and of itself serves as a reminder of the student processions, rallies and debates across various institutions not only in pre-war America but the UK and other parts of the World as well.

 

Increasingly, assessing the current status of the Union, it is not difficult to independently arrive towards at least one conclusion: there is little to no consensus within the American people about the outcome of the civil war. Other conclusions one could reach is that there exists an inexplicable interconnection between language, discourse, racial relations, freedom of speech and identity; and that this interconnection is exploited by proponents of violence if the thread interconnecting is too weak. For America, the thread that holds this loosely packed structure is, among other things, capital, capitalism and strong institutions, some of which are already in a state of decline and others even more so. With the thread itself subject to frequent pushes and pulls, the home of the brave remains rather uneasy at the moment and at a reasonably significant risk of unravelling. Once more unto the breach my friend, once more.

 

[i] Hafner-Burton, E.M., Tsutsui, K. & Meyer, J.W., 2008. International Human Rights Law and the Politics of Legitimation. International Sociology, 23(1), pp.115–141

Bradley, C.A., 1962. The United States and Human Rights Treaties: Race Relations, the Cold War, and Constitutionalism. Duke Law Journal, 1962(4), p.582.

Korey, W., 1967. Human Rights Treaties: Why Is the U.S. Stalling? Foreign Affairs, 45(3), p.414. Available at: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1967-04-01/human-rights-treaties-why-us-stalling.

[ii] Marx, October 2003. Tocqueville, and Race in America: The ‘Absolute Democracy’ or ‘Defiled Republic’ (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 17.

Hochschild, J.L., 1998. American Racial and Ethnic Politics in the 21st Century: A Cautious Look Ahead. The Brookings Review, 16(2), p.43.

 

[iii] Anon, Social Stratification in the United States. The New Press. Available at: http://thenewpress.com/books/social-stratification-united-states

 

[iv] Anon, Globalization, the State, and Violence. Google Books

Louis Adamic, 2008. Dynamite the story of class violence in America.

 

[v]

Ian Tyrrell, 1991. American Exceptionalism in an Age of International History.

Koh, H. (2003). On American Exceptionalism. Stanford Law Review, 55(5), 1479-1527

[vi]

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M., 1993. A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 410-422

Jennifer L. Hochschild, 1996. Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation, Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives, 23(4), 1400821738

 

[vii]

Crawford Jarret T., Pilanski, Jane M., 2012. Political Intolerance, Right and Left, Political Psychology, 35: 841–851.

Schultz, Jaime, 2012, Contesting the Master Narrative: The Arthur Ashe Statue and Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Taylor & Francis. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09523367.2011.567775

Dubenko, A., 2017. Right and Left on Removal of Confederate Statues. The New York Times

 

[viii]

Shen, S., 2017. General Robert E. Lee and the Charlottesville riots. EJ Insight

 

[ix]

Dorien, G., 2011. Social Ethics in the Making

 

[x]

Myrdal, G., 2007. An American Dilemma. Google Books

O’hehir, Andrew., 2015. White panic, white denial: The racial prehistory of the McKinney pool party that white America ca… Salon.

 

[xi]

Baird, John, 2017. Our ‘selfish’ genes contain the seeds of our destruction, The Independent

Cheney, Mark, 2016. Is War a Virus or a Gene, The Big Think

[xii]

Taylor, K., 2015. What is a Culture of Victimhood? Philosophy Talk

Campbell, Bradley, 2017. RISE OF VICTIMHOOD CULTURE: microaggressions, safe spaces, and the new culture wars, S.l.: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN

Routledge, C., 2016. The Growth of a Victimhood Culture. Psychology Today

 

[xiii]

Labov, William. 1973. Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English Vernacular

Baugh, John. 2000. Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic pride and racial prejudice, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 [xiv]

Strossen, Nadine, 2016. REGULATING RACIST SPEECH ON CAMPUS: A MODEST PROPOSAL?, Duke Law Journal

Steinmetz, Katy, 2017. The Fight Over Free Speech on Campus Isn’t Just About Free Speech, Time

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander (2010). Encyclopedia of African American History

 

Axios, (2017) Trump seriously considering ending DACA

Baldwin, James (1997) If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?

Campbell, Bradley (2016) Microaggression and Moral Cultures

Coski, John M. The Confederate Battle Flag. (2005) ISBN 0-674-01722-6

 

Dubenko, Ana (2017) Right and Left on Removal of Confederate Statues

 

EDSITEment, (2017) the Growing Crisis of Sectionalism in Antebellum America: A House Dividing

 

Financial Times, (2017) Gary Cohn urges Trump team to do more to condemn neo-Nazis

 

Janney, Caroline E. (2008). Burying the dead but not the past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the lost cause. U of North Carolina P. ISBN 978-0-8078-3176-2. Retrieved January 24, 2012.

Mic.com, (2017) At least 26 Confederate monuments have been removed from public land since Charlottesville

Lartley, Jamiles 2017 Another US agency deletes references to climate change on government website

McPherson, James M. (1997). For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-974105-2.

 

NEUMEISTER, TOM (2017) Violence in Charlottesville leads to soul-searching at ACLU

Orwell, George. (1949) 1984

 

Ricks, (2017) Will we have a 2nd Civil War? You tell me

Southern Poverty Law Centre, (2017) the Year in Hate and Extremism

The Journal of the Civil War, (2017) The Journal

—— (1915). The heritage of the South. Lynchburg, Va., Press of Brown-Morrison co

“Antebellum Period | HistoryNet”. www.historynet.com. Retrieved 2017-02-13.

 

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