Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

In response to some recent articles that I wrote in defense of honoring the memory of the Confederacy and such distinguished Confederate and American heroes as Robert E. Lee, I received some telling comments from readers who are, presumably, “conservative.”

These readers, some of whom explicitly claimed to agree with most of what I usually write, took unequivocal exception to my position on Confederate monuments. Their argument ultimately boiled down to this:

(1)The Confederates fought in defense of slavery.

(2)Slavery is immoral.

(3)Therefore, via (1) and (2), the Confederates were immoral.

(4) The immoral should never be publicly honored.

(5) Thus, by way of (3) and (4), Confederates should not be publically honored.

As I have observed, while the War Between the States did indeed have something to do with slavery, (1) is simply incorrect.  Most Confederate soldiers, as well as several prominent generals—including, most notably, Robert E. Lee—did not own slaves by the time that the war was raging.  To claim that the mass of soldiers without whom the South never could have so much as thought of fighting sacrificed their lives and those of their family members for the sake of defending the right of a minority of wealthy aristocrats to own slaves is preposterous on its face. It is no less preposterous than the proposition that young lower and middle-class American men today would be willing to risk limb and life so that the “one-percent” can continue to get tax write offs or contracts with foreign businesses.

Besides this, there is no topic in perhaps the history of the entire world that has had more ink spilt over it than that of this war.  That is, in more serious times, people, both the laity and scholars, realized that the complexity of this tragedy defied all attempts to reduce it to such simple-minded, one-dimensional caricatures of the sort advanced by those who would attribute to Confederates a single, nefarious motive: the love for slavery.

But I have already addressed this last point, and, at any rate, the first premise is false. 

The second premise that asserts the immorality of slavery is true. Yet it is also irrelevant, for without (1), it is not possible to get to (3), and since the immorality of the Confederates cannot be established through (1) and (2), (3) cannot be combined with (4) to arrive at (5).

This argument fails.

However, an even larger problem with the anti-Confederate position is its profound inconsistency.

Let’s just assume (counterfactually) for the time being that the anti-Confederates are correct and that every single Southern man and woman that took up the cause of secession was committed to perpetuating the institution of slavery.  Let us suppose that, as their most outspoken enemies assure us, Confederate symbols are monuments to “White Supremacy.”  If Confederate symbols deserve to go the way of the dinosaur on the assumption that these claims are true, then so too do virtually all of the signs and symbols of Western civilization generally and America specifically deserve to be purged from public.

The roots of what today is recognized as Western civilization are to be found in ancient Greece.  Though they weren’t the first of the West’s philosophers, Plato and Aristotle enjoy the distinction of being among their greatest.  Indeed, Western philosophy and even Christian theology would be inconceivable without these two men.  Yet even Plato’s ideal Republic included slaves and Aristotle articulated a defense of “natural slavery”—the enslavement of those who by nature were suited to be slaves.

Since slavery is immoral, then the reasoning of the anti-Confederates demands that Plato and Aristotle be given the same treatment as General Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and every other Confederate.  They should no longer be honored with pride of place in philosophy texts and courses.  Neither should The School of Athens, the famous fresco painting of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, any longer be extolled as great art. The original should be removed from the Apostolic Palace, in the Vatican, where it has hung for centuries, and the numerous copies that decorate art galleries around the world should be expunged as well.  After all, it is a tribute to Greek philosophy and features, at its center, Plato and Aristotle.

Since slavery is immoral, the Bible should be jettisoned.  It most certainly can’t be revered or respected.  Neither in the Old nor the New Testaments is slavery per se condemned by any Jewish or Christian heroes—including Jesus.  The latter invokes the imagery of slavery in various parables.  Not only does He not condemn it.  Jesus even implies that masters are justified in beating disobedient slaves, in turn implying that slaves have an obligation to obey their masters. Saint Paul expressly admonishes slaves to obey their masters, thus establishing that, from his perspective, the relationship between the two is legitimate.

Since slavery is immoral, all public commemorations of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison, and a whole lot of other Founding Fathers involved with slavery are as well immoral. Of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention, nearly half of them either owned slaves or in some capacity facilitated the slave trade (e.g. Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania, owned a slave ship and invested in slave plantations).

States, cities, schools, streets, and parks named after the Founders should be renamed.  Statues and other monuments (like Mount Rushmore, which features the faces of Washington and Jefferson), must be toppled.

The United States Constitution, revered by many Americans, including those “conservatives” who now side with the left against Confederate monuments, must be divested of its honor.  Like the statues of Lee and Jefferson Davis, it should be hidden out of sight and possibly scrapped altogether, for it was authored by a slave owner and ratified by many slave holders.

The Declaration of Independence, authored by a slave-owner, should also be relegated to the dustbin of history along with monuments to the Confederacy.

Since it is “White Supremacy” that is the real target of the anti-Confederates, the name of America itself must be retired.  America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a European explorer.  Vespucci helped to inaugurate the European invasion of the New World, thus resulting in the exploitation, displacement, and killing of the indigenous peoples.

This list of candidates that, by the lights of the cultural cleansers, deserve at least much as the Confederates to be expelled from the public could continue ad infinitum.

And this is because the war against monuments to the Confederacy is no such war at all.  It is, rather, a war against the history of Western or European civilization, a history that its enemies deem is too “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” comprehensively, too white, Christian, heterosexual, and male.

Those “conservatives” who fail to recognize this are willfully blind. They are also helping to expedite the “fundamental transformation” of America and the West in aiding and abetting their nemeses’ against General Lee and the brave American soldiers who he led.

 

The movement is underway to erase from the public square all remnants of the Confederacy. The most recent victory on this score occurred in New Orleans this past weekend when a statue of General Robert E. Lee, the last of four monuments that the city razed over the last couple of weeks, was brought down.

As I have written in a previous article, the campaign against all public monuments to the Confederacy is a campaign against the West.  It is a campaign against the European heritage of Western peoples.  Confederate veterans and sympathizers like Lee are the easiest marks at the moment, but the logic of the crusade to demonize Confederate heroes points inescapably toward the cleansing from the Western world of all white figures from our past who fail to satisfy the left’s contemporary “progressivist” litmus test.

And this would include virtually every white historical personage.

Every patriotic American who is in the least concerned with protecting Western civilization generally and American history specifically from those who want to “fundamentally transform” them should be fighting tooth and nail to safeguard public symbols of the Confederacy. It is a disgrace that those “conservative” pundits with national profiles have failed to do so.

However, that the movement against public remnants of the Confederacy promises to lead to a slippery slope is only one reason that decent people everywhere should resist it mightily.  More importantly, it is an effort to rid the world of monuments of genuinely good people.  Robert E. Lee emblematizes this.

Personally and professionally, privately and publically—by all accounts, Lee must be among the finest human beings that has ever walked the Earth.  And for the longest time, until relatively recently, he was recognized as such by Southerner and Northerner alike.

General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced on national television that a portrait of Lee was among four portraits that he had hanging in his office.  When challenged as to why he honored a rebel, Ike responded swiftly and unequivocally.  Lee, he said, was “one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation,” “selfless almost to a fault,” “noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied….”  Continuing, Eisenhower remarked: “From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.” He concluded by adding that Americans, as a country, would be “strengthened and our love of freedom sustained” just insofar as “present-day American youth” aspired to “emulate” Lee’s “rare qualities [.]”

President Theodore Roosevelt lauded Lee as “the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth.” Lee’s gracious example in defeat helped to “build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared Lee “one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.”

Still others praised Lee:

Winston Churchill said that “Lee was the noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war” (emphasis added).

Harry Truman referred to Lee a “great man.” He gave his mother a portrait of Lee and committed one of Lee’s prayers to memory.

President John F. Kennedy’s comments on Lee are especially insightful inasmuch as they remind us of Lee’s stellar cultural pedigree.  Kennedy said that as “a New Englander, I recognize that the South is still the land of Washington, who made our Nation—of Jefferson, who shaped its direction—and of Robert E. Lee who, after gallant failure, urged those who had followed him in bravery to reunite America in purpose and courage.”

Upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson invoked Lee in an attempt to reassure Southerners that he was not trying to undermine their states’ rights.  “If we are to heal our history and make this Nation whole, prosperity must know no Mason-Dixon line and opportunity must know no color line.  Robert E. Lee, a great son of the South, a great leader of the South—and I assume no modern day leader would question him or challenge him—Robert E. Lee counseled us well when he told us to cast off our animosities and raise our sons to be Americans.”

President Ford too celebrated Lee: “As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy.  As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty.  As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.”

Ford concluded: “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”

President Carter said of Lee that “he was a soldier whose affection for his home and family called him to a life of service that often meant hardship, loneliness, and long separation from those he loved and even from the Nation which he most loved.”

President Reagan described Lee as “this southerner who criticized secession and called slavery a great moral wrong” and who “would become himself an American legend [.]”  Reagan held up Lee as a symbol of hope, for following “the dissolution of his cause, he would work to bind up the Nation’s wounds.”

Lee wasn’t just a great public figure. He was close to unique among famous Americans insofar as he combined in his character the most beautiful of public and personal excellences.

In his anthology, What is a Man? Professor Waller Newell—no friend of the Confederacy and an admirer of Lincoln—notes that the 16th President and Lee supply “a fascinating study in contrasts.”

Unlike Lincoln, who “was a troubled husband and a distracted father,” Lee was “a model gentleman, father, and leader of youth in his private and post-war life.” He was as “warm and loving” a father as he was “firm.”  He was “idolized” by his children.  Newell mentions that Lee’s “fatherly care extended from his own children to the young men at Washington College, where he ended his life as a much loved president.”

A country that permits a magnificent man like Robert E. Lee to be demonized is a country that is on the road to ruin.

 

 

A statue of Robert E. Lee is the last of four statues commemorating the Confederacy that leftist activists in New Orleans succeeded in bringing down this past weekend.

All Confederate symbols are monuments to “white supremacy,” the left assures us.  This is the justification for the campaign to erase them from public view.

Pro-Confederate Southerners, however, have always maintained that they have never been interested in memorializing “supremacy” of any kind.  Rather, their symbols are expressions of a rich and storied cultural history.  Statues such as those of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee that were just razed in the Big Easy are monuments to patriots and heroes who were willing to forego all in order to conserve that culture for future generations.

“Heritage, not Hate,” is how the pro-Confederate South has been putting it for decades now.

And while the account standardly offered by heritage-affirming Southerners is true as far as it goes, the reality is that it does not go nearly far enough.

The truth is that the attack on Southern cultural symbols is an attack on American symbols.

Let’s be clear: Though the movement to eradicate all open, public commemorations of Southerners who fought for the Confederacy is anti-Confederacy, it is not, ultimately, an anti-Confederate movement.  And though it most certainly is anti-Southern, it is not, ultimately, anti-Southern.

In the last resort, the movement to strip the public consciousness of any and all affection for the Confederate heroes that sought to secede from the Union is an anti-American movement.

Southern secessionists repudiated the Union.  They never repudiated America.  More specifically, they repudiated the presumed authority of a central government that, they were confident, had exceeded anything permitted to it by the Constitution.

But those Southerners who sided with the Confederacy never rejected America.  Quite the contrary, for they saw in themselves the spirit of their ancestors come alive again: Just as such estimable Southerners as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison, and many more sacrificed all so that Americans could secede from the oppressive government of England, so too did their posterity below the Mason-Dixon line “mutually pledge” to one another their “Lives,” “Fortunes,” and “Sacred Honor” so that they could secede from an oppressive federal government.

Those who fought for the Confederate States of America, like the act of secession itself, are as American as the proverbial apple pie.  Confederate soldiers are American soldiers. From at least the time of the late 19th century, beginning at the close of the Spanish-American War (in which, as in all American wars, Southerners fought with distinction), Confederate veterans began receiving recognition that they were American veterans.  A few decades later, through an act of Congress, they were endowed with the same status as Union soldiers. By the 1930’s, they were eligible to receive pension benefits from the United States government, and in the 1950s, the spouses and children of Confederate veterans became just as eligible to receive these benefits as their Union counterparts.

The demonization of Confederate veterans is nothing more or less than the demonization of American veterans.

The Confederates were American patriots.  Never has there been a group of Americans that so embodied the Spirit of ’76, the love for liberty exemplified by the country’s Founders.   That there were some Southern secessionists that had an interest invested in preserving slavery is certain.  That they constituted, in the words of one Confederate soldier whose letters were recovered, “a very small minority” is equally certain.  Indeed, the vast majority of Confederate warriors, like the majority of Southerners, did not own slaves.

In fact, a number of eminent Confederate generals, like, for example, General Lee, did not own slaves.  Lee had inherited seven or so slaves, but he freed them long before the War Between the States erupted.

Not only, though, did neither Lee nor most of his compatriots in Dixie care to defend slavery; they didn’t even want to secede.  Yet they viewed secession as a “necessity,” as Jefferson Davis characterized it in his inaugural address to the newly formed confederacy, the only means available for escaping the compact that the Northern states, via the central government, had violated.  Lee, for one, remarked that unless the individual states retained their sovereignty, their Constitutional rights, “free government” itself would be no more and the American government would become “aggressive abroad and despotic at home.”

It is nothing short of a national disgrace that American patriots have permitted the most arrogant of activist-ideologues to wage a cultural-cleansing campaign against the South.  Mainstream “conservative” talking heads and scribblers have said little to nothing.  Doubtless, their neglect of this issue has something to do with their belief that it is only Southerners who the left seeks to demoralize and culturally-destroy.

But as I have tried showing, they couldn’t be more wrong.  The left knows this, even if Yankee “conservative” commentators choose to ignore it.  The attack on Southern heritage is an attack on American heritage.  Lee, Davis, and other gallant men that hailed from the South and who fought in the Confederacy are easy targets at the present moment precisely because both Southern and Northern “conservatives” have failed miserably in making this point.

Actually, even I—a white, Christian, heterosexual man in his mid-40s who was born, raised, and continues to reside in New Jersey—understates the nature of the left’s campaign.  The latter is indeed an assault upon American heritage, but America—or “AmeriKKKa,” as the enemies of all things Confederacy have been calling it for 50 years—is despised by the left precisely and only insofar as they view it as the emblem par excellence of all that they despise in Western civilization itself.

The campaign against the “white supremacy” of the Confederacy is a campaign, ultimately, against the “white supremacy” of Western civilization.  It is a war against the West.  Attacks against statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are no more attacks against Southerners than are attacks against statues of Christopher Columbus exclusive attacks against Italians.

From the standpoint of the left, the history of the whole Western world is a history of “racism,” “white supremacy,” “sexism,” “colonialism,” “imperialism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” “Islamophobia,” and any and every other “ism” or “phobia” in the leftist’s litany of cardinal moral offenses.

The militant left’s assault on the Confederacy is one battle in a much larger war against the West.  From within its frame of reference, the only difference between Southern Confederates and the rest of the West is that the Confederate heroes are currently more vulnerable prey. The logic of the left’s vision is inexorable: All historical figures of European ancestry who the cultural cleansers deem insufficiently “progressive” must be, as best possible, scrubbed from public memory.

Both Northern and Southern patriots alike had better realize this.

 

 

The country is in a new era.

Unfortunately, far too many of those who have grown comfortable as prominent spokespersons of the “conservative” media either don’t or won’t notice this.

These self-avowed “conservatives”—they have been on radio and television airwaves for years—continue to prattle on as if it was 1994.  They continually mock their political opponents, leftists, as “snowflakes” and the like.

Recently—I swear that I never could have imagined just a year ago that I would be writing this today—I had an epiphany: It isn’t the left that consists of whiny, nagging snowflakes.

It is precisely the foregoing “conservatives” who enjoy this distinction.

After all, while it is true that leftist activists are insufferable, the truth is that they do not just bitch and moan.  Leftists fight. 

And they fight like hell, as if their lives and those of generations yet unborn (those who they will abort) depended upon their prevailing over their enemies.

Said a friend and distinguished writer, George Soros is more “admirable” than many GOP-friendly “conservatives” with deep pockets, for at least Soros puts his money where his “filthy mind” is.

It is hard to argue with this reasoning.  Back in October of 2016, the Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and followed by their fellow travelers in the media, besieged then-candidate Donald Trump for saying, in advance of the election, that he would not automatically accept the results for fear that the election could be “rigged” to favor Clinton.  The latter described her opponent’s position as “horrifying,” a repudiation of “democracy,” and a choice for “dictatorship” over “leadership.” We were treated to lectures by politicians, like the 44th POTUS, for whom the Constitution has always been an impediment to their designs, on the honorable and noble American tradition that Trump allegedly threatened to undermine with his remarks.

Yet since Trump and the over 60 million Deplorables who voted for him defied all of the smart people, it is the Democrats who have insisted that the election outcome was “rigged” via an act of “collusion” between Vladimir Putin and Trump.

It is the Democrats who have been laboring diligently to undermine “democracy.”

It is the Democrats who have chosen their own “dictatorship” over “leadership.”

Democrats have been actively engaged in subverting the will of the American voter and the Constitution of these United States. In both respects, they have indeed assumed the persona of the Anti-American Party.

Not unlike totalitarians in other times and places, the Democrats have their equivalent of a Ministry of Propaganda, the misnamed, “mainstream media.” These are the purveyors of Fake News.  And they have their foot soldiers, the Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and other groups that Democrats fund to administer terroristic activities against American citizens that refuse to vote for them.

The Democrat Party, we can say, has become a state-sponsor of sorts of terrorism.

How can any American patriot any longer imagine that peaceful and free co-existence is possible with these people?  Particularly given their antics since Trump became the President, how can any lover of liberty even remotely fathom living under Democrat rule ever again?

These, however, are not the questions that we hear asked on our daily “conservative” talk radio and television shows.  To hear the hosts tell it, one could be forgiven for thinking that nothing especially significant has changed since Trump defeated his enemies:

Along with Republicans in D.C., GOP-friendly media personalities are continually on defense, while the Democrats are continually on offense.

Democrats and their billionaires, like Soros, expend enormous resources into organizing and subsidizing massive numbers of grunts to take the battle for their causes to the streets. Meanwhile, our prominent “conservatives,” possessing as they do hundreds of millions of dollars and exerting an influence extending over millions of people, whine about the fact that the Democrats are actually walking the walk as opposed to just talking the talk.

As for those grassroots patriots who, having grown impatient with stories of Trump supporters getting beaten up by leftist thugs solely for being Trump supporters, have assembled protective organizations in defense of the property and person of innocents, our “conservatives” don’t so much as mention them on the air, let alone contribute a penny to aiding them.

Doubtless, as a general rule it’s safe to say that the objects of my criticism, like most Republican conservative voters, are genuinely better human beings than their counterparts on the left.  More than anything else, they believe in the old rule of “live and let live.” They just want to be able to build safe, peaceful, and decent communities for themselves and their families. With all of their country’s faults, they nevertheless love and are thankful for it.  Unlike the last American President and his devotees, they don’t desire its “fundamental transformation.”

I get this.  I am this.  So too was my grandfather and his cohorts when, in the early 1940s, they left their communities, traveled across the ocean, and defeated Nazism and Imperial Japan.

So too were most of the members of America’s founding generation subscribers to the principle of “live and let live”—even as they fought against and defeated the mighty British.

The point by now should be obvious.  Most Democrats are not on the streets using physical violence against their opponents, but no high-profile Democrats anywhere have unequivocally renounced the violence, much less depict its merchants as the domestic terrorists that they are.  And this is because the latter are their terrorists, co-members of “the Resistance.”

Unless “conservatives” and Republicans are willing to fight the left on the latter’s own terms; unless they are willing to “out-Alinsky” and “out-Soros” the Alinskyites and Sorosians, they ought to abandon the political war, for it is now painfully obvious to some of us that anything less than this is tantamount to surrender.

Unless one has the same tenacity as one’s opponent, one is bound to lose.