Death to the General Lee.

It's a beautiful sentiment. We'll just kill the whole damn thing.

Funny thing about this particular aspect. The Dukes of Hazzard was never about the issues of race. It did have a tie back to the postwar Southern mythology, though. Boss Hogg was an emblem for those Democrats, especially like Joseph Emerson Brown, who screwed up the war politically and then profited off its aftermath by aligning themselves with the northern banks ("carpetbaggers") who turned the South into a colonial economy. Enforcing a destructive cotton monoculture, they reduced free farmers into sharecroppers or tenet farmers, and extracted wealth to New York in a manner exactly similar to the colonial economics afflicting much of Latin America at the time. It also destroyed the soil, as cotton is a hugely destructive crop if farmed year after year without a break. But you had to farm it, year after year, to get the loans they would otherwise not offer.

It's not for no reason that Alabama is the home to the only statue ever raised in praise of an insect. The boll weevil did what no human could do in sixty years: it broke the back of cotton monoculture and all its allied evils. It was the beginning of a new birth, after sixty years of incredibly punishing descent into poverty at the hands of the colonial masters.

Once that sort of story was important to the left, but they have forgotten.

Anticolonialism is still a major feature of the same left that is driving this particular moment. They don't see the irony here because they don't know enough about the history to see it. Yet the Duke Boys were far more an expression of authentic American anti-colonialism than ever of racism or -- good Lord -- of "treason."

UPDATE: James Taranto, of all people:

"It does feel a bit like the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1989, although one doesn’t want to overstate the analogy."

Indeed, one wouldn't want to do that.


Cass said...

This kind of idiotic excess rather makes one long for the days when merely questioning someone's patriotism was considered to be a despicable act: completely beyond the pale, so to speak.

Remember when New Hampshire was talking about seceding from the Bu$hReich? TRAITORS!!!! :)

Grim said...

So to speak.

It's funny in a way, especially tied to all those "Clinton-Gore" buttons with a Battle Flag background. It made sense that a Democratic governor in Arkansas would choose that symbolism in 1992, and that reason has to do with the way the economic downturn affected poor people in the South that year. Vote for me, Clinton was saying, and I'll fight the corrupt political system that's economically oppressing you -- a position that was at the heart of not just Democratic but Progressive alliances with poor Southern farmers since the great age of Progessivism.

Jimmy Carter did the same thing. Howard Dean famously said that he wanted the Democratic Party to be the party of guys 'with Confederate flags on their trucks.' Of Democratic presidents in my lifetime, there's actually only one who didn't attach himself to the Confederate Battle Flag.

This has been an amazing display of the passion of the mob, led by allegedly well-educated pundits, elected officials and business leaders rather than the poor and ignorant. These classes are supposed to be the hedge against mob actions, the classes that inject reason, patience, and detachment into our debates.

Assistant Village Idiot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

"It does feel a bit like the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1989, although one doesn’t want to overstate the analogy."

Given the Confederacy was a Democratic project, this could be good. If the Democratic Party would collapse like the Soviet Union in 1991, that wouldn't be a bad thing, although I'd like the analogy to end there. Maybe we could get a decent party going to take on the rotten Republicans.

Grim said...

As for colonialism, Grim, being on the losing side of a war usually doesn't work out well.

Yes: vae victis. And of course there is the damning fact that the Confederacy deserved to lose. I've often thought of the period from 1865-1927 as a kind of divine punishment on a once faithful but wayward people, of the sort we read about so often in the Bible. Yet the fury of the Divine does not last forever; in time, when they return to righteousness, God looks anew upon their faith and forgets about their sins and the sins of their fathers. Perhaps we have begun to reach the hour of mercy.

I imagine that somewhere there are gracious comments from people in the south about the courage or sacrifice or decency of those in the GAR...

Consider Robert E. Lee's remarks on the subject of Grant and his army, when a man chanced to make a disparaging remark about his old opponent:

'Sir, your opinion is a very poor compliment to me. We all thought Richmond, protected as it was by our splendid fortifications and defended by our army of veterans, could not be taken. Yet Grant turned his face to our capital, and never turned it away until we had surrendered. Now, I have carefully searched the military records of both ancient and modern history, and have never found Grant's superior as a general. I doubt if his superior can be found in all history.'" ​

I suppose one could say that Lee was avoiding blame for defeat by praising his opponent so highly, but even so: it is hard to find a more respectful account of an opponent than to say that all of history hasn't produced his better.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I deleted my comment because it contained some truth, but was over-the-top.

As to Lee, he was indeed a profoundly decent man. But one general's compliment to another isn't a cultural trend.

Grim said...

It's true, AVI. I suppose in part it's because it is the victor's business to be magnanimous, and never more than in a civil war with a clear losing side if future peace is to be achieved. Still, among the soldiers who actually fought against each other (and as is often true of war veterans, even bitter ones), respect and honor for one another only grew as time passed. One notable example is the Great Reunion of 1913 at Gettysburg, but it is not the only one. You'll find, if it interests you, a large number of similar events where reunions of soldiers from both sides were held, and kind words spoken.