March 22, 2005

Move Over, Rigoberta

I'm not a Liberal. Really. But few people hack me off as much as Ann Coulter does. This week in Historiography we were examining opposing perspectives on post-Civil War Reconstruction, and as part of this exercise we were required to read an excerpt from The Tragic Era by Claude G. Bowers . . . a very special work indeed.

It was published in 1929, and basically it represents the dixie-centric view of Reconstruction which was dominant throughout the country until the 1960s. If you aren't sure which one I'm talking about, go read Gone With the Wind or watch the movie. Or you could watch Birth of a Nation. Either way, I'm talking about the myth of a maligned Southern aristocracy "literally being put to the torture" by unscrupulous carpetbaggers, traitorous scalawags, and ignorant freedmen in the years after the Civil War ended.

(Note: I don't contest that bad stuff went on during Reconstruction, I simply assert that Southerners understandably have a very skewed view of the period . . . but I don't really want to get into all that right now.)

At the end of class, Dr. Johnson asked for a show of hands from those in the class who claim a Southern heritage. He noted that we are not many generations removed from this perspective (I would say we aren't any generations removed, but I'll get to that in a moment) and for himself (as a Texan), he said he thanks God that he wasn't born earlier and didn't have to deal with being raised in that environment. I had to agree.

As near as I understand my family history, the ancestry runs something like this: My mother's side of the family arrived in New York (New Amsterdam at the time) from Norway sometime during the 1600s. On my dad's side, I have loads of ancestors from England who were in Virginia by the 1650s and following. Over the course of the next few centuries they migrated throughout the South: the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Both sides of my family have elements arriving in Texas as early as the brief window (1846-1861) between Texas statehood and Texas secession. They've been Southerners for centuries.

I'm very proud of my Southern heritage, and I'm proud of my looong American heritage, as well . . . both run pretty deep. However, I'm not carried away by either. I don't get all starry-eyed about America or the South. It's history, and therefore it's cool. That's all.

Anyway, (back on topic) I wasted a great deal of time wandering around the online reviews of The Tragic Era on and then clicking around the infamous "Customers who bought this book also bought:" section. Three degrees of separation (through When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History) brought me directly to Coulter's latest bestselling sludgerag. Included with the book-related info were links to an interview amazon conducted with Ms. Coulter, and her answers to their "Life Quiz." They must be read to be believed.

Anyway, the online community at (one of the largest booksellers in the country) allowed me to draw a very important ideological connection here: Yesterday's Southern white supremacists are today's militantly patriotic Conservatives. These are the people who used to take serious issue with interracial marriage and universal sufferage. Now they consider you a terrorist if you say the Pledge of Allegiance in Russian or malign their precious "Dubya." They used to think our schools and restaurants and public transportation ought to be segregated. Now they think gays are subhuman. They used to lynch blacks. Now they think we should torture A-rabs.

This wasn't exactly what I started out to say, but this is what it turned into: Don't be one of these people . . . don't even look like you might be one of these people. Please. If you do, future generations will hate you just as much as recent generations hate the KKK now.

Posted by Jared at March 22, 2005 05:25 PM | TrackBack