Here’s a question for you to think about — and I mean THINK about it, don’t just knee-jerk in your reaction. What happens when the anti-Confederacy revisionism — the (disturbingly successful) efforts being made to ban any display of a Confederate flag, remove Confederate memorials, forbid identitying Confederate soldiers’ graves as such, etc. — the movement to demonize anything and everything that has any connection to the Confederacy because of its perceived ties to the institution of slavery — reaches the point where so little evidence of the Confederacy’s existence remains that people start to ask, “So, what’s the big deal?” where the American Civil War is concerned?
What happens when there’s nothing apart from a handful of museums dedicated to the history of slavery in America, and those museums are dismissed as propaganda because there’s no outside validation of the reality of that experience? What happens when the people who try to maintain the integrity of the narrative are marginalized and ignored because they’re perceived as over-stating their case — because there is no evidence for it apart from their own institutions and archives? “Because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of anything, whether the venue is a court of law or the chronicles of history. So then “It was beyond terrible — because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of the nature of slavery. It’s the outside evidence, evidence which can’t be controlled or manipulated by someone who is trying to shape a narrative, that provides that proof. Remove — don’t just discard, but destroy — that evidence, and the proof vanishes. Fact and opinion become interchangeable, and in the process both become equally meaningless.
There is already a legion of people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened, despite the avalanche of evidence that it did. So tell me, then, what happens when the time comes that someone says, “Dude, you’re just making this up — it couldn’t have been all that bad!” because every trace of the Confederacy’s existence has been wiped away?
Those who know me know that I subscribe to the “states’ rights” interpretation of the origin of the American Civil War, or, as I prefer to call it, The War of Northern Aggression. In my not-at-all-humble opinion, slavery was only one of a list of grievances that existed between the North and South in the mid-19th Century that both sides felt could only be resolved by violence, and not the most important one at that. But the North, in its victory, wrote the narrative of the war and made the (self-) righteous cause of abolishing slavery the shining beacon of the Union’s moral rectitude. But what happens to that narrative, that self-righteous self-congratulation when no one takes it seriously anymore because all evidence that the enemy ever existed has been eradicated?
Am I overstating the issue? Hardly. I’m not inventing this concept or this phenomenon. In 2015 and 2016, there were Second World War historical re-enactments in Great Britain that were cancelled because people were upset by the fact that some of the re-enactors dressed as German soldiers. The “German” re-enactors were actually banned from coming onto the venue if they were in uniform. These people actually thought they could have a re-enactment with only one side being allowed to show up. No, I’m not making this up. If you’re willing to take the time and make the effort, you’ll find the news stories that covered these incidents.
You know, it’s kind of hard to have the Second World War without the Germans in it — without the Germans keeping the French and British occupied in Europe, the Japanse would have been forced to limit their own war to the one they already had with China. No Pearl Harbor, no American involvment, no “bright flashie-big boomie” things over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet that’s what some people tried to pretend they could do — they could have World War Two without any Germans in it. Now THAT is an absurd idea, isn’t it? Without the Germans, aggressive little devils that they are, running around trying to seize everyone else’s lebensraum and sending people with the wrong genetics up the chimney, there’s no cause for a war, is there? But there WAS a war, because the Germans WERE there….
And that is exactly my point. When one side eliminates — obliterates — the institutions and agencies that empowered and enabled the cause it opposed, its own cause suddenly loses validity. When you pretend the other side never existed and then try to erase any evidence that it did, you’re calling into question the legitimacy of your own beliefs and values. It’s an admission that your own motivations are so weak that they can’t even sustain themselves in a confrontation with the past.
Trying to pretend that an ugly chapter of our past never happened by trying to wipe out any evidence that it did is a fool’s errand. Ultimately that’s what these people want to do, however, whether they consciously realize it or not. Because they can’t make the distinction between slavery and the Confederacy, in their attempt to efface anything that proves the existence of the latter, they trivialize the former. You see, it goes like this: Slavery was a big enough deal that nations went to war over it. But wait, to have a war, you have to have an enemy. And if you can’t prove that there WAS an enemy, because you can’t prove that enemy ever existed, well, then, without an enemy, it couldn’t have been much of a war, could it? And if the war wasn’t all that big a deal, well, then, slavery really wasn’t that big a deal after all, was it?
And that is exactly where we’re headed….
And that’s the way it is…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler…and you’re not….