The Bushite Era as a Re-Enactment of the American Civil War

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.

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19 Responses to “The Bushite Era as a Re-Enactment of the American Civil War”

  1. Paul Archibald Says:


    I wish I could disagree with you, Andy, but I don’t. I have been thinking for some time that granting Texas and the Slave States retroactive secession might not be a bad thing.

    Another element of Southern culture is militarism. Is that telling, or what?

    I would expect you will get some flak on this. It does have the sound of one of those “high and mighty” Northerners bad-mouthing those “Johnny Rebs”.

    Perhaps you could elaborate a bit on the failings of the North? That might help balance the issue.

  2. Dr. Gadsden Says:

    Wow. I never thought you’d go this far out on what may for you be a limb of sorts.

    Just a couple of weeks ago a white woman from Maryland (the northern part of the south) started up a conversation in our group with the liberal conspiracy claim. I told her she needed to stop it because the south had won the war. It took them over a hundred years, I told her, but they won it and they needed to stop complaining.

    She tried to argue me out of it, with a mixed racial group of mostly whites looking on, but she couldn’t deny any of the facts I threw her way, where most of our recent presidents came, that now most whites in the country feel about blacks the way the south always has, that they have the market cornered on religion’s popularity, that most southern states have the fastest growing populations, etc.

    I may have over-reached with some of my statements, but she got the message and backed down. What it was that really bothered her, she said was that she felt northerners think they are better than southerners…that they think southerners are ignorant and stupid. I let that go, ending the conversation with this: “Well,” I said, “I can’t say anything about that, because I’m from New York City and we think we’re smarter and better than everybody. But then, what do we know?”

  3. jOHN cOCHRANE Says:

    On Friday, Bill Moyers reports on Katrina. His newsletter describing the program has the following preamble:Friday, August 17, 2007

    “To call it a natural disaster is to avoid all of the manmade elements of it. The ways in which racial injustice allowed for environmental injustice, allowed for sort of policies to be made because we saw poor people and southern people and black people as less valuable to the nation, and therefore made a whole set of development choices that had these enormous environmental consequences.”
    -Melissa Harris-Lacewell

    Maybe none of us ever really learn the lessons of history so we repeat them over and over again. Isn’t it about time we developed real reverence for life?All life!

  4. James Says:

    For a re-enactment to take place, a man like no other would be needed and, there is none. “the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with Blood.”[ John Brown] Brown played a major role in starting the war, believing that the slaves would rise up and revolt: there are no slaves now to revolt and, Americans spend most of their time shopping!

  5. Gerrit Says:

    I can’t help but think that there is a virus involved that infects the brains of some people and the fact that it does seem to happen in certain groups and locales would reinforce that possibility. Like most other infections it is definitely destructive and if it were not for a hopefully larger pool of surrounding brains that are still healthy and able to keep a check on this malignancy, we would all succomb. Certainly, if all those who are infected were isolated,say on an island, their population would implode on itself.
    Okay, this may be an oversimplification but if I were going for a Doctorates’ I would try for a grant on the serious possibility that the behavior we are witnessing with this administration is viral.

  6. paul quinlan Says:

    horrifying truth. if csa had won civil war would things be that much different? question worth pondering. xenophobia and racism are becoming popular again. it goes even deeper; look at bush’s rhetoric around islam. are we the instrument of god to fight the anti christ aka anything foreign to us; practically everything.

  7. Granni G Says:

    “One source has been the artfulness with which the Bushite leaders have WRAPPED THEMSELVES IN THE FLAG and have HELD HIGH THE CROSS”.

    The precise method of another venerable Southern institution -THE KLU KLUX KLAN.

    Granni G

  8. Thyagarajan Says:

    when any group believes and propagates the idea that, THAT THEY and THEY ALONE are on God’s side and God is on theirs,
    that is the beginning of self-destruction of this human society….

  9. Violet Visions Says:

    The Civil War as not about Slavery. That was the hype to get the natives restless. Propaganda.

    The Civil War was about Federal rule v State rule. If the South had won, we would not be in the politico jungle we are today.

    A Yankee by birth.

  10. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    I believe you are mistaken, Violet VIsions. And in saying this I draw upon the eminent Civil War historian, James McPherson of Princeton.

    In an article some years back in the New York Review of Books, McPherson describes how the South –which focused on the issue of slavery on the way into the war– started re-writing the history beginning immediately after the war, making the issue out to be states rights.

    He goes on to show how hollow and hypocritical that argument was. After all, as he demonstrates, the South had dominated American politics up until the election of 1860. And when they held the upper hand, the Southerners were happy to steamroller over “states rights”– as the major political crises of that era demonstrated all too clearly.

    What concern had the SOuth about “states rights” when they shoved the Fugitive Slave Law down the throat of the North, so that federal troops could go into Massachusetts and seize escaped slaves and bring them back to their owners?

    What concern had the South about “states rights” when the Supreme Court, of which seven of the nine justices were from slave states, compelled Dred Scott to be returned to his owner, though he’d been in a free state?

    Only when the power of the federal government ceased, with Lincoln’s election, to be an extension of the will of the slave states did the South object to the use of federal power to overrule the will of the States. And only after the war had been lost, and slavery abolished, did the South advance the idea that what they were fighting for was not the preservation and extension of slavery but the right of states to be free of federal domination.

    No, the states rights argument would seem to be a fiction, indeed a fig leaf, to hide the truth that the conflict that had been brewing, and that the South’s overreaching brought to a head during the 1850s, was about slavery, and about the insistence of the South that no barriers to its spread be erected in any of the new parts of the nation.

  11. Dr. Gadsden Says:


    Nice ending.

    We know the south won the war, even after it was fought in blood, sweat and tears, because their revisionist version has prevailed. Prevailed to such an extent that even blacks, the experiencers of slavery have had that experience kicked to the curb and a more sanitized version of that experience sold to it, and bought by the general public.

    It isn’t just native southerners who’ve conceded this war to the south, though. Each and every subsequent immigrant group has done so for a variety of reasons, e.g., lack of education about American History, self-serving notions of being offered or (in the case of the Irish of the 1800s) fighting to take away from blacks what were then considered ‘nigger’ mill jobs held by mostly black women and children. Then (and now?) immmigrants accepting the higher status of “being willing to take what ever work was available” comparing thenmselves to freed slaves who wouldn’t take those jobs… etc. It’s an old story, a southern history that we’ve all come to know, love and by which to judge the current superfluousness of blacks (and American Indians).

    It’s just that in a main and very deep way, we don’t know it. As much as southerners have been anti people of color, their elites, as we know even now, have always been for cheap labor. If it can’t be free, at least the cheaper the better. Which means that after emancipation, there was and apparently will always be cheaper labor which too many of those who provide it will hail those who demand it of them.

    What else can I say? This oppression and outright distruction of human potential is not even banal; it’s a pity.

  12. Gerrit Says:

    General Grant and then president Grant stated several times his view that the conflict was about slavery more than it was about any other argument.

  13. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    A couple of people here have indicated that I might have done something risky in posting this. I myself thought about that during the week between my writing it and my posting it; then I decided that I should just state the truth as I see it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    I also have had some concern that my words here might exacerbate hostilities between groups and regions. And this I do not wish to do. The truth, I am hoping, can be confronted without rancor.

    “With malice toward none.”

    Dr. Gadsen, I appreciate your support here. At the same time, I do not join with you in your assertion that “now most whites in the country feel about blacks the way the south always has.” I realize that there is racism among whites –and blacks, too, for that matter– in all parts of the country. It’s also true that there was plenty of racism among whites in the North prior to the Civil War. But I do not believe that the intense racism that characterized the South during the slave period, and indeed up into living memory is now general among whites in America. Indeed, I think there’s good reason to believe that the culture of the South is much less profoundly racist than it was, even just forty years ago.

    I realize that I, as a white man, might have a different awareness regarding such matters from yours, as a black woman. But I do not regard myself as disqualified on that basis from having an informed opinion. And I did not want to just leave that bleak statement of yours standing, unaddressed. The depth of racism that characterized, for example, the Jim Crow South just does not seem to me to be pervasive today in America.

  14. Dr. Gadsden Says:

    All I can say, Andy, is that we each have our own opinions. Just because things are manifested differently doesn’t mean their source are different. My mother, born in Mississippi in 1920 has said frequently that in many ways things are much worse for blacks today.

    Keep in mind, you changed your position on impeachment….

  15. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:

    I’d like to hear more about what your mother has in mind –what she’s experienced, what she’s observed– when she says that in many ways things are much worse for blacks today (in Mississippi?).

  16. kim Says:

    Gerritt — an alternate explanation to a virus is presented in a short book called The Sociopath Next Door. I recommend it to you.
    It says that one out of 25 people in the USA are sociopaths, that is, people with no conscience at all. She discusses briefly why they become leaders and what happens when they do.
    I suspect that a fairly large percentage of the Bushites are sociopaths.

  17. Sam Gruen Says:

    Great post and excellent comments from readers. We can never deal with racism in this country without telling the truth about the South and why the Republicans continue to employ their “Southern Strategy.”

  18. Kitty Hegemann Says:

    I’ll go back and read the responses in a minute. I’m from the south, and Andy is spot on about southern culture. I was born and raised in southeastern North Carolina. I now live in northeast Tennessee. The whole authoritarian, racist, bigoted, narrow mindedness is alive and well. Hell, these folks still think Nixon was wronged. Southerners are still fighting the Civil War.

  19. Robin Pettit Says:

    Unfortunately, my only experience in living in the South was in Arkansas in the 1960’s and of course my current place of abode here in Northern Virginia from the mid 80’s on, of which many would not consider a hotbed of the deep south. There was racism in public back in the 60’s and I was the recipient myself of that bigotry as I am part Asian in descent. I do not see overt racism here in Northern Virginia however, I would be willing to bet that a more insidious under the cover type of racism does exist here. It is not pervasive, in the sense that not all participate but it is there nonetheless. It is embodied for some in the separation they see from the District of Columbia, which is still a majority black city.

    I cannot speak to it directly, as it manifests as opinions, and in isolation is not obvious but can be seen when those opinions are linked with other opinions from the same people. I do believe that in some communities in the south, integration has led to increased acceptance and understanding, but not in all.

    In so far as the authoritarian mindset in indicative, it does exist here in the South overtly and in the North a bit less overtly. That, at least, is my opinion. Else why this blind acceptance of the authoritary of this Administration whilst constant disbelief of statements from the prior Administration. What is Bush but a friend made rich man and a friend to most who amass large sums of money but makes constant attacks against the poor and middle class in this country.

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