Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Potpourri

Let's start off with a photo:

I was out walking earlier, chasing down photos for tomorrow's Theme Thursday post, and I decided to integrate that into a harbor walk. I know, I know, you've seen the fishing docks on the State Pier many times before here, but I can never resist this scene. Especially today - why are there so many boats at home and not out on the water, especially in the middle of the week?

Last week Citizen K did a post on the myth of the poor, mistreated South during the Reconstruction. He focused on three books on that post, and I was so impressed that I looked them up at my local public library. One of them was in the stacks, but I had to request the other two from other libraries in Rhode Island. Yesterday one of those books arrived: The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox, by Stephen Budiansky. It's a fascinating read so far, but there was a particular point made in the Prologue which resonated very loudly with me. Budiansky was talking about the myth (much like what we'd call an "urban legend" now) of the "bloody shirt", based on the actual beating of a northerner serving as superintendent of schools for a county in Mississippi in 1871 (he had the gall to institute integrated classes in the public schools) during the Reconstruction, but embellished by certain southern vested interests to make the actual victim into the bully (they accused his allies of waving his bloody shirt on the floor of Congress in accusation, an incident which in fact never occurred). And Budiansky related that to the beating of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor by South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks in 1857. All to make this point:
A footnote, but a telling one: To white conservative Southerners, the outrage was never the acts they committed, only the effrontery of having these acts held against them. The outrage was never the manly inflicting of well-deserved punishment on poltroons, only the craven and sniveling whines of the recipients of their wrath. And the outrage was never the violent defense of "honor" by the aristocrat, only the vulgar rabble-rousing by his social inferior. "The only article the North can retain for herself is that white feather which she has won in every skirmish," declared one Southerner, speaking of the Sumner-Brooks affair. Only a coward would revel in a token of his own defeat.

The Bloody Shirt perfectly captured the inversion of truth that would characterize the distorted memories of Reconstruction the nation would hold for generations after. The way it made a victim of the bully and a bully of the victim, turned the very act of Southern white violence into wounded Southern innocence, turned the very blood of their African American victims into an affront against Southern white decency; the way it suggested that the real story was not the atrocities white Southerners committed but only the attempt by their political enemies to make political hay out of these atrocities. The merest hint that a partisan motive lay behind the telling of these tales was enough to satisfy most white Southerners that the events never happened, or were exaggerated, or even that they had been conspiratorially engineered by the victims themselves to gain sympathy or political advantage. (p. 5)
These two paragraphs stopped me in my tracks, because you see, the descendants of these same people are still using the same passive-aggressive tactics now. Evangelicals and other conservative Christians who have chosen to declare a "culture war" on our Constitutionally secular society use the same tactics when accusing the rest of us of "persecuting Christians", depriving them of their First Amendment rights. How are we doing that? By passing laws that prevent these people from imposing their internal religious laws on those of us who don't share their beliefs by making those laws the law of the land. By passing laws that prevent these people from persecuting others who don't share their beliefs or who don't admit the validity of their laws outside the purview of their own churches. So if I lobby for an equal employment law that ensures that gays and lesbians be granted the same benefits and inheritance rights that I enjoy, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Don Wildmon and their minions claim that I'm persecuting them because I won't let them persecute others, that I'm depriving them of their freedom of religion.

This twisting of the truth goes on all the time. If you can stomach it, listen to Glenn Beck, and Steve Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, and Bob McDonnell, and Sarah Palin, and their ilk. They all indulge in this passive-aggressive tactic of blaming the victim and claiming victim-hood for themselves by twisting the logic so much that a pretzel would look straight in comparison. That's the real cultural inheritance the world of Gone With the Wind has left us. So much for "Southern gentility"!

Since tomorrow's post will be taken up with Theme Thursday, I'll celebrate the traditional meaning of tomorrow's date, April 15, in finishing up today's post. Have fun with this Beatles song!

Photo & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger. Quotation from The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox © 2008 by Stephen Budiansky


  1. Well Said Roy!
    "......Only a coward would revel in a token of his own defeat....." is a chilling observation...........Echoes throughout History.

  2. You hit the nail on the head, Roy. Any legislation that they don't like is automatically a violation of their rights and therefore unconstitutional. The hypocrisy aggrieved attitude these people have is exceeded only by their ability to rationalize. And they want to run the country!

    Always great to hear George whine about money and play the guitar!

    Thanks for the plug.

  3. Yep, that "absolutely whangs the nail over the crumpet," as Death Bredon sez. The hypocrisy is all the more stunning when you consider they don't even SEE it.

  4. very well done roy!

    i know it's sometimes 'good' to listen to the other side .....but i can't stomach listening to the cast of characters you list....not good for my blood pressure.

  5. I think that's quite insightful and the brouhaha comparing the effort to legalize gay marriage with waging a war on families is an excellent example.


    It's extremely frustrating that so many truly crappy, oppressive, self-serving perspective appear to have such good PR organizations, but then peddling hatred is generally easier than peddling understanding.

    It's nauseating for those of us who think. It's painful for those of us who care about more than just our own welfare.

  6. Sorry, "pity" should have shown up after the second paragraph.

    (Technical difficulties)

  7. Informative post. You've piqued my interest in the book and I made the same connections as did you before I got to the Palin, Beck, etc etc part. They wave OUR flag and tell us they are "better Americans" than us.