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Two Sides of the Same Cultural Conundrum

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by MattL, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. MattL

    MattL 2nd Lieutenant

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    Two Sides of the Same Cultural Conundrum: The Confederacy and Slavery. I don't mean in the way you might think.

    This is just one excerpt, though such comments are fairly common, both here and outside of this forum.

    Basically why are we still talking about slavery, it died 150+ years ago.

    Of course we also see the same thing said on the other side, along the lines of

    The Confederacy died 150+ years ago, it only lasted 4 years, why are it's symbols still being championed.


    I will admit that at different points in my life I posed each of these questions and truly didn't understand. I think I do now. I believe they are both a bit of a cultural conundrum and two sides to the same coin. Effectively if you understand an answer to one of these you likely should be able to understand the other.

    Maybe both things are events that for their own reasons had such an cultural impact to be ingrained into the very culture itself, to be carried forward as a part of each culture's heritage.

    Slavery was massive in scale and impact. Both driving in horrific fashion the forced migration of one's African ancestor. The condition they and potentially generations lived, every facet of their lives. 200+ years years of slavery in America certainly would have a big enough impact for any of us to understand how it can be ingrained in the culture.

    Likewise the Confederacy and Civil War were basically just 4 years long. A much smaller scale of time, but the scale and intensity of the impact was massive. Impactful in a way unique to the South both due to their boldness in instigating the events to achieve the change they wanted, there's was the dream shattered, as well as in the impact to their region uniquely. I doubt any of us would ever deny have impactful it really was. Why wouldn't that impact the culture carried forward.

    So my question out is thoughts? Also why do we often have blinders on empathizing and affording the same understanding to both sides of these cultures.

    Heritage by definition is something you have that you didn't partake in yourself. Something you inherited. So isn't it really a question of all heritage or no heritage rather than dismissing or trying to disqualify a single type of heritage.
     

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  3. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    Interesting. One problem is the entire topic generally goes up in smoke before anyone can say anything reasonable. Everyone flies to their corner, takes up a defensive stance and that's it. And there's a lot of flux- it's changeable what is intended when speaking of heritage, you know? Could be just one's history, could be something ugly. It's all really complicated, if you think about it.

    But. Having said that it's frequently occurred to me, apart from those with clearly nefarious agenda, this North/South thing would be a whole lot easier if everyone listened to each other. Only sounds simple. Taken from a purely cultural perspective we are different and bound to be- evolved differently for various reasons. It should be an interesting aspect of our country, not divisive. If it were possible to separate out elements which are agenda-driven, could get something done.
     
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  4. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    IMHO thinking is harder than rhetoric. If I wrote a post about the mountains of skulls Temüjin Borjigin left behind, the response would be like high school history class, snoring. Modern politics has made a storm that has not yet passed. Somehow eliminate the passions of the 1960s; Slavery along with the emblems of the Confederacy would be of academic interest and otherwise off the public radar.

    But that means we would not talk about it at all, this site would not exist and we would be fighting on some football or fashion blog.
     
  5. MattL

    MattL 2nd Lieutenant

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    Agreed. I think a good start to listening each other is being fine with disagreement, but not attacking the concept of someone having a heritage at all based on significant historical events.

    Basically if people stopped attacking both of these heritage aspects
    1) Why care about slavery it died 150+ years ago
    2) Why care about the Confederacy, it died 150+ years ago

    Ironically they are people applying the same thing, enfolding in their heritage and culture something that died around the asme time! Yet so many deny the other side of this. Again I myself have been opposed to both sides at one point, so I'm guilty of this silliness.

    If we could just start with the assumption that it's valid for someone else to have a heritage made up of such things, then discuss from there I think we'd go a lot further.
     
  6. DaveBrt

    DaveBrt Sergeant Major

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    Is there anyone on this board who, looking from today and with today's values, would defend slavery for people today? No, I doubt it.

    So, why the constant arguments between the dozen or so participants?

    I think it is because the Southern partisan looks back to the ground of his home section of the country and can imagine the war on his ground. He also see his ggg-pappy standing in the ranks. Now I have a strong attachment to my family, as do most of you, and the Southern partisan cannot see his ggg-pappy having been so wrong as to have fought for the evil of slavery -- there must have been something else driving him to support the Confederacy. Maybe slavery was not so bad, or maybe it was about northern banks, or maybe it was about tariffs, or .....

    Now, when this Confederate partisan takes his pride in family and sees it attacked by the anti-slavery side, he has to rise up and defend ggg-pappy. And the fight starts again and once again reaches no conclusion.

    I agree that the solution to this constant snipping is two fold: the anti-slavery side has got to accept that they were (are) right -- slavery was bad, we are far better off with it gone, and we won -- its over.

    The Confederate partisan must accept that ggg-pappy was not a saint (and neither are we) and its ok to acknowledge that he did things 150 years ago that are repulsive to us today. It is not necessary to rise to his defense -- he lived his own life -- let his actions be his defense. Study him and enjoy his memory, but you can change nothing by this constant bickering with the other side -- its over.
     
  7. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Major Forum Host

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    On the bright side: we have hundreds of threads here on CWT -- whole forums of them, that never get into slavery at all.

    "Secession and Politics," in fact, is the only forum that has to include discussion of slavery regularly, because it is absolutely central to the subject.
     
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  8. JAGwinn

    JAGwinn Sergeant

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    While reading these posts I had a lucid moment and saw this; Hurricane Florence was locally centered in a small part of Brunswick county, South Carolina. Did not last very long.
    However, here we are some little time after the downgrading to Tropical to Low to non-existant, the damage is realized, the affected area larger than anticipated, the effects of flooding increasing. Will it ever stop?
    Now apply those timelines to the Civil War...
     
  9. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Colonel

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    I wish that were true. Unfortunately old political struggles morph into new ones.
    We seem to beleive that after X year a political issue just ends but in reality it's not that simple.
    In other words its a very thin fuzzy line at best between old and modern politics.
    Leftyhunter
     
  10. Pat Answer

    Pat Answer First Sergeant

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    Underscoring the continuing need to listen to each other...
     
  11. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Colonel

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    Heres an example. Slavery did not die after the 13th Amendment. Slavery morphed into convict labor. Nathan Bedford Forrest and former Civil War govenor of Georgia Joe Brown got into that business of convict leasing. Brown made money Forrest not so much.
    Of course share crooping replaced formal slavery and was not much better in terms of living standards.
    Blacks in the South were not allowed to vote in the antebellum era nor where they allowed to vote after Reconstruction for a long time.
    Leftyhunter
     
  12. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    I am not exactly sure of what the OP is trying to say or ask. But, this board is bout the history of the CW, so in that respect, it is what needs to be discussed.

    IMO, our history today flows most directly from the history of the Civil War, i.e., you cannot understand the political, social and economic history of the United States(and the World) without direct reference to the events flowing into and out of the American Civil War.

    As only one instance, I have long believed that the history of the South, and, by that fact, its effect on the entire country, is the result of the South being able to retain the forms of slavery in their society and gov't well into the 20th Century. That the social(and thus political and economic) of the South today, can be traced back the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, that laid dormant for almost the first 80 yrs of their existence and without a close study of the Civil War, one cannot know, why there were those amendments, at all.
     
  13. byron ed

    byron ed First Sergeant

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    In the case of the former, we are not talking so much about historical chattel slavery, but the remaining and unabashed defense of that slavery system today. It can't be left unchallenged because it provides precedent for white supremacy. The Confederacy was built on slavery, that's a truth that must prevail in instructing the youth of america. The Lost Cause is still prevalent, so we should not accept it being swept under the rug as a historical artifact just to provide cover for those that want to promote its ideals without the stigma (unfortunately that's been a bit successful here).

    In the case of the latter, it's necessary to connect historical slavery directly with the historical Confederacy in the face of those that deny that truth today. Again it's our responsibility in instructing the youth of america. So we are not talking so much about the actual connection historically, but the remaining and unabashed attempt to separate the two today.

    I understand that it's tempting, and more comfortable, to take on the professorial, armchair view of an omniscient Human Behaviorist, but doing that tends to trivialize the precepts themselves. This is not a silly or pointless game playing out some 150+ years after the initial significance of these precepts. History does repeat, and slavery, for one, is being repeated.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
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  14. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 Captain

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    I think the OP asks an interesting question. The memory of the CSA was firmly embedded in southern culture by the generation that lived through the war and the one that followed. It certainly left a deep and lasting impression that is still felt today. I think in many ways the flags and symbols of the Confederacy evolved over the years and went from memories of the cause that was lost to simply being "southern pride", which is what I most often associated the flag with while I was growing up. It's not a case of people wanting slavery back, or any sort of racial meaning, or wanting to secede, it's just a pride in the fiercely independent spirit of the south. The sense of pride may not even be that strongly defined in people's minds, but there is the feeling that it's ours, and we have every right to hold tightly to it without being labeled, and there is a resentment when it is attacked.

    I do not think some take into account just how Confederate symbols have evolved over the years, and taken on new meanings. They don't just mean what they did in the 1860s.

    I honestly don't know whether the memory of slavery was embedded into the culture in a similar way. I'll admit that's outside my life experiences and not a question I can really answer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  15. Greywolf

    Greywolf Corporal

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    Only if those people accept that they weren't saints and did things 150-250 years ago that are repulsive to us today, also. :D
     
  16. byron ed

    byron ed First Sergeant

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    No, but there are those here who continue to defend the slave system that existed back then, as if it was right and moral back then, and they continue to defend the Confederacy back then as if it wasn't constructed on slavery but on defending against "invasion." All that to identify with a failed government that couldn't even last even five years, and selected for glorification to spite a much more vast Southern heritage of a couple hundred years before and more than a hundred years after that four-year calamity. Not to mention claiming an entire Southern heritage which in truth would have to include all those in the South of non-Confederate tendency as well -- the other 60 percent of heritage Southerners.

    This is why the OP is pertinent.
     
  17. Pat Answer

    Pat Answer First Sergeant

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    It was embedded into a culture, all right. In deep ways and with just as lasting effect. Now, what the legacy means (it is something to be angry about / it is just history / it is something to pretend never happened / it is something to remember and rise above, etc) is going to be an individual thing. And, as you point out, meanings change for people as time goes on. Again, it boils down to being willing to at least hear other perspectives. I'm still naïve enough to believe that good history, in expanding perspectives, yet "teaches us to hope". :wink:
     
  18. MattL

    MattL 2nd Lieutenant

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    Thanks for sharing. I can definitely see that. It's something I didn't understand for a long time. Looking in at a different culture and seeing how they identify with certain historical events and groups can be challenging. The same thing can mean completely different things to different groups of people.

    The Confederacy and its symbolism is especially challenging since it has conflicting meanings to different people. To some it's "a pride in the fiercely independent spirit of the south", to others the Nation that seceded over slavery, to others the CBF is pro-segegration and blatant racism.

    I've come to believe that each of these are perfectly valid and understandable. Likewise their modern meanings are completely different animals than the actual history of the Confederacy or even our Nation at that time period. None of these require denying the other meanings exist. I think that is the key part. On one end we don't need to attack another in meaning to validate a different meaning, likewise we don't need to feel like our own meanings are attacked every time a different meaning is expressed.


    I can't speak to it fully myself, my own slave ancestors were hidden away and passed for White long before the Civil War. Though in a way that is how slavery embedded in my own culture. I have multiple African immigrant ancestors, though forced that heritage is part of me like any other, like my French wine maker who came to Virginia around 1620/21, or my Swiss ancestors, my English, or Scots-Irish/Ulster Scott ancestors, etc. How slavery was embedded in my own culture was to wipe entire lines from all memory completely. To hide it so completely that 200+ years would go by without any of those ancestors remembered or recognized at all because they were exported as slaves.

    As to African American culture. I can't speak from within, though just like I can observe and recognize that aspects related to the Confederacy embedded itself in the Southern White culture and have some understanding of it I have definitely observed the same with African American culture and slavery. In particular I've founded the genealogy shows interesting when they have an African American and how they face learning of specific slave ancestors etc. It's made a massive impact and seems to carry through with a lot of the culture. Much like how Confederate heritage identifies with it's loss and the steep cost and consequence of that cost after the Civil War, often in expressions along the lines of "**** yankees", I can see the same sort of impact on Black culture and looking back on slavery.

    Like Confederate heritage it seems to be a mix of pride in strengths and achievements, of attempts even if failed, as well as a pride in survival under struggles. I've noticed many Black people on these programs have some knowledge back to at least one line leading to slavery and that generation that was freed (often the dead end in genealogy due to the nature of tracking further) was revered. Someone who lived in both words, born and lived as a slave then persisted free and raised future generations. They are often looked at like many others look at pioneer ancestors, as hardier stock, made of stronger stuff. Made stronger for their struggles. Some might portray that as playing the victims when focusing on the wrongs done and struggles, though is it not basically the same thing as Southern Whites and their "**** yankees" views of the wrong done to them during Reconstruction, rallies against carpetbagger, scaliwags, and the collective memory of many changes being forced on them and the damage done from the war. Imagine if those wrongs were as long and as complete as slavery, would you forget.

    In reality considering how the majority of African American ancestors were slaves at one point and it was a complete and overriding system for centuries, even more than that an all encompassing forced lifestyle, I don't see how it wouldn't have massive impacts for the culture moving forward. I mean one way to look at it might be that if 4 years of the Confederacy can live on in Southern White heritage, why not centuries of slavery for Blacks.

    Additionally slavery persists the heritage of others than just Blacks. It persists in those with Union heritage, not because some noble cause when the war started, but that the result of the war was the Union pushing to ban slavery and protect Black rights. Just like White Southern independence, courage, strength, and survivability is something deemed worthy of folding into White Southern/Confederate heritage/culture... why not Union heritage/culture folding in the best of what happened. Of a great good becoming an organized factor, of the moment of ending slavery being remembered as a victory worthy of pride.

    In that way it's not surprised that Southern White culture might differ from White culture elsewhere in it's heritage and memory. We often fold in the strongest and most positive aspects into our collective memory of heritage, things we look back with on pride. Owning and perpetuating slavery is not one most would see that way (except for a very specific sub-set of extremists of course), so it makes sense (no judgement intended) why White Southerners would de-emphasize it over time and those outside of the South would emphasize and remember the 13th (plus 14th & 15th) amendments as cultural pride regarding slavery.

    That's not a judgement, it's the same sort of thing. Folding the positive aspects or the victorious aspects (including victory in survival and struggle) into a culture of pride and not focusing on the things that aren't deemed worthy of having pride. Any of these cultures aren't unique in doing this.

    Again my view is not to deny either, but I think recognize both. I grew up with neither and have had to try to understand it within others as well as develop my own heritage association on my own, since I have mostly Southern White heritage, including 5 Confederate ancestors, and some Black heritage very far back too. I was never raised with them, but I can see how others are and how events 150+ years ago have folded themselves into different cultures.

    My primary goal would be to encourage people to not challenge why people shouldn't care about things that died 150+ years ago, but to ask why they persisted and so strongly in a group's collective memory. We all gain by gaining further understanding and by trying to understand others and their different perspectives.
     
  19. byron ed

    byron ed First Sergeant

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    "Go along to get along" has its merits. We of course recognize that's the intent of the OP.

    But there is a limit. We none of us should concede that it's "ok" when a modern meaning is different than the actual history. That's the opening the Lost Cause has depended on from its post-war origin, and what "Lost Cause Lite*" depends on today.




    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    * Lost Cause Lite: Justifying Lost Cause precepts without owning them.
     
  20. MattL

    MattL 2nd Lieutenant

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    I don't disagree with your general points, actually we probably agree on most if not all.

    I might just suggest that culture and heritage vs history are different things. The things we fold into our culture are often bad representation of history. I think when we look at the history and even how the history is presented now we should be very careful to not sugar coat it. I do think there are people out there that confuse the history vs heritage and defend their heritage when a form of history is presented they don't like.

    Lost Cause people are a key example, crossing the streams. When they hear about how the South seceded over slavery and formed the Confederacy they think about their heritage. That the Confederacy and gives them a feeling of pride in their independence etc, so that history must be wrong because it conflicts with that heritage so they challenge the history. This is unnecessary though and not representative of everyone. One can have pride in their heritage while facing the hard truths of history, even shameful ones.

    With that said I think that we can reach an understanding ourselves, that history and heritage are different. That we don't need to our defend our heritage when history shows the darker side of it. It's fine, we can embrace and study the history without fear and keep the two separate.

    Likewise if someone is doing that, if they aren't trying to revise history because their positive heritage motivates them to do so, then I think we can respect that heritage and understand why 150+ years ago the Confederacy and everything that surrounded it was a big enough event with a big enough impact to be woven into the culture.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
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  21. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    All human beings see things with 'blinders on' otherwise they are overwhelmed by the flood of information and sensory impulses, bombarding them everyday of their lives.. i.e., it is, I believe, a necessary filtering process through which , belief systems(and, decision making)are produced, i.e., it is a tool, and like all tools, its use must be mastered, if one is to expect any good from it.

    Most peo0le(those who are interested in it all) Read history selectively to confirm and validate thoughts or beliefs(i.e., those most compatible and comfortable), instead of as a means of understanding past events, that are logically reasonable based upon the known facts, gleaned from the study itself.

    To me, from what I have studied of the Civil War, the question recurs, Was he heritage of the South Slavery? Was the 'peculiar institution' of the South, What defined 'The' South?
     

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