I find it interesting and illuminating to think of these Bushite times as being a re-enactment of the American Civil War.
It is true that, in some way, the Bushite regime represents the worst of the cultures of both the North and the South. This fascist set of forces includes both the greed and heartlessness that characterized some Yankee capitalists and the false piety and false righteousness that was the underside of the former slave culture.
But predominantly, the Bushite regime is an expression of the culture of the South. (That is at least somewhat suggested by a look at the red-blue maps of the past two presidential elections. And those maps should be read with the fact born in mind that following the Civil War, the patterns of migration and settlement spread a good deal of “the culture of the South” into the new states of the West.)
That culture has its virtues. But it also has a major vulnerability at the level of moral vision. And it is at that level that the conflict going on in America today around this regime recapitulates a core element of the Civil War of a hundred and fifty years ago.
And once again, the South is wrong. Once again, it is fighting for the dark side.
In each of these American crises, the South has fought for a world in which it has the right to dominate others — whether through slavery (at least for the ruling slave-holding class, which is the part of Southern society that wanted the Civil War), or, as in the present crisis, through imperialism or through the lauching of a crusade.
And in each, the Southerners have told themselves that they are on God’s side and God is on theirs.
Every culture has its defects, and every society has had its dark episodes. These two are the biggest instances in which the defects of the South have wrought great destruction.
The South in the 1850s went crazy to the dark side. In its overreaching effort to make America a slave society through and through, the South then tried to overturn the old balances that had kept the peace. The Southerners made this bid for domination through things like the Fugitive Slave Law, the abrogation of the long-standing Missouri Compromise, and the dreadful Dred Scott decision.
They yielded to a dark impulse that ignited the bloody conflagration that previous generations of statesmen from both sides had worked hard to avoid.
And so came the terrible war.
In response to that dark impulse, there swept the North a righteous anger that we here on NSB would recognize: a battle hymn that declared, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He has trampled on the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”
And now the dark side of the spirit of the South has risen up in the form of the Bushite drive to tear down the American structure of democracy and construct –as far as they could take it –a fascist society.
It is the white people of the South who, more than any other demographic group, have embraced these thugs. The support for this regime from Southern whites has been secured through several channels. One source has been the artfulness with which the Bushite leaders have wrapped themselves in the flag and have held high the cross. And this enlistment of the South has been accomplished through the ability of the Bushites to speak in terms that resonate with a culture that organizes value in terms of the concept of “honor.” *
And it has happened because from its inception, the Southern culture of honor was also organized around the matters of race and, in particular, the enslavement of one race by another. This instilled a dark element near the heart of the Southern spirit. The combination of the belief in white supremacy (whose historical place in Southern culture would be difficult to over-estimate) and of the institution of slavery that belief justified, sowed a moral problem at the root of the culture: it involved enshrining, as God’s will, some very thuglike forms of domination.
There is a beauty in the culture of honor, and there is a part of it that works for goodness and virtue. But there is another part of the Southern culture that can too readily mistake the evil for the good.
Every culture, as I said, has its defects. Northern culture, too, has abused its power plenty, in its own ways. Likewise with every other culture: I cannot think of any that has not shown, through the centuries, that it too is among the flawed, among the sinning.
But for the South this present period –this Bushite period of the assault on the rule of law through the use of moral lies– is one of the very darkest moments.
* Regarding the role of the concept of honor in the culture of the South, a useful and insightful study is the book, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, by Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Oxford University Press, 1982.