Bookmark Edward Ball‘s opinion piece from The New York Times.
The next five years will include an all-you-can-eat special of national remembrance. Yet even after 150 years full of grief and pride and anger, we greet the sesquicentennial wondering, why did the South secede?
I can testify about the South under oath. I was born and raised there, and 12 men in my family fought for the Confederacy; two of them were killed. And since I was a boy, the answer I’ve heard to this question, from Virginia to Louisiana (from whites, never from blacks), is this: “The War Between the States was about states’ rights. It was not about slavery.”
I’ve heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn’t let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states’ rights.
But a look through the declaration of causes written by South Carolina and four of the 10 states that followed it out of the Union — which, taken together, paint a kind of self-portrait of the Confederacy — reveals a different story. From Georgia to Texas, each state said the reason it was getting out was that the awful Northern states were threatening to do away with slavery.
David Horsey, the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist for SeattlePI.com, noted the other day:
I doubt if I have ever drawn a cartoon that didn’t upset somebody. It goes with the territory. In fact, some would say it’s part of the job description.
I’ve grown a pretty thick layer of teflon. The daily messages I get telling me I’m an idiot, a shill, a talentless drone and a hack pretty much bounce right off. Sometimes, sick as it may seem, I actually enjoy making people mad.
Apparently, I did that pretty successfully a few days ago with a cartoon that poked fun at the good people of South Carolina. On Wednesday, I got a call from a reporter at a Fox TV news affiliate in the Palmetto State. He asked me what I thought about the controversy my cartoon had stirred up. I had to ask him, “What controversy?” The reporter explained that my image of some non-union South Carolinian Boeing workers surrounded by various symbols of the Bad Old South was not getting many laughs in his part of the world.
The cartoon is something of a doozy, and definitely seems to constitute some form of “fightin’ words”, but this whole Boeing fracas has people’s sensitivities raw.
In the days that followed, I received numerous e-mails that made the displeasure clear. One, from someone who identified himself as a proud descendant of Confederate soldiers, said simply, “Oh, you poor ignorant bigot.” Another called the cartoon “racist,” although I’m not sure how that term could be stretched quite that far. A longer, impassioned missive came from Father Titus Fulcher, the pastor of the Charleston Melkite Greek Catholic Community. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
As a ten year resident of the greater Charleston metropolitan area, I am deeply hurt and disappointed by your cartoon depicting five “non-union South Carolina workers” in a most offensive style and arrangement (the hound dog, Confederate Flag, Moonshine Still and hangman’s noose). It is understandable that the good people of Seattle would be disappointed at Boeing’s decision to build its plant in South Carolina versus Washington State; however, the projection of grossly inappropriate, bigoted and stereotypical images could seemingly only serve one purpose – to cater to a prejudicial view of “Southerners” as ignorant and racist lowlifes.
Father Fulcher concluded with a question: “And does not every State have in its past things it has long since abandoned as inappropriate?“
When I was a high school senior, word came down that we would not be allowed to throw our caps in celebration at the graduation ceremony. This, of course, sent ripples of discontent through the class, and I remember one teacher in particular making the point that graduation was not about us as students. We should stop being so selfish as to think the presentation of our diplomas had anything to do with us.
And while years of perspective would still, probably, call bullshit on that had I bothered to think about it ‘twixt then and now, there is, in the end, a certain merit to the proposition. After all, what did we care? We just walked across the stage, took a blank diploma case, and got a handshake and a hug from a couple of school officials while our parents snapped pictures or, in some cases, wept with joy and relief. And then, a couple weeks later, the school would send us somebody else’s diploma.