Saturday, November 23, 2013

The “Present Legacies” of Reconstruction

I recently read Hodding Carter’s The Angry Scar, an easy-to-read overview of Reconstruction written by a moderate Southerner with a knowledge of history and obviously possessed with an interest in the “whys” of what happened—particularly after Reconstruction—and into the twentieth century. I’ve had the book for several years, but about to delve into the sequel to my most recent novel, Camellia Creek, I finally took time to sit down and read it. One book in THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICA SERIES published back in the 1950s, the entire set sweeps American history from the discovery of the New World up to, well, the 1950s. I intend to ferret out other books in the series to see if they are as good as this one. Then again, perhaps it is simply Hodding Carter’s writing I like.

An editor of the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi), Carter wrote a slew of books. This particular work comes replete with an extensive bibliography for further reading. Yes, I like older works, written before the revisionist has polluted the record by the mores and values of his present day (and yes, I know that same revisionist would argue the older works are polluted by the heat and passions of times too close to events). But it is the heat and passions and truths, such as the people living during those times perceived them to be, that I’m trying to capture in my insignificant works of escape fiction.

Hodding Carter ends the forward of The Angry Scar thus: “...; and my overriding purposes have been to separate truth from myth and to link significant past events with the present legacies of those events. In attempting to do these things I have become convinced that it has been almost as unfortunate for our nation that the North has remembered so little of Reconstruction as that the South has remembered so much.”

Today, so much of the myth is irrelevant to where the focus of the argument should lie, and spouting it undermines the rightness of the South’s cause. It simply is not needed; substantiated truth more than fulfills that goal. For all the right reasons the South was right, and in my opinion the “present legacies” prove it.

During my pre-teen years, through high-school, college, and even into my early days in the Navy, I was a football fan. One might even say that football was the man in my life. (Bear with me here. I do have a point.) In late summer, I could “smell” football in the air and see it in the changing blue of the sky. Yeah, it was really the approach of fall, but to me it was football. The demands of the Navy interrupted my weekend-long sojourns in front of the television. Then I got married and had a real man in my life, followed by his children. My interest in football, if not the unrequited love, faded away. Occasionally, when talking with my oldest son, I’ll slip and place the Colts in Baltimore. Hell, Johnny U is still the quarterback.
Now, to my point:

In the last chapter of The Angry Scar, Carter highlights all the old “myths” I grew up with regarding the South’s fight for independence and the degradation and humiliation of Reconstruction and the justification for all that came after. It’s easy to read between the lines and suspect he’s putting forth those old arguments tongue-in-cheek, as if maybe he doesn’t quite believe them himself, or more likely that he does and they simply don’t matter anymore (the book was published in 1959 at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, and he was a Kennedy man). When I read those arguments, as real to me today as when I learned them growing up, I ask myself, “Are you in as big a time warp on this subject as you are in regards to the Baltimore Colts?”

Maybe, but I really do know that the Colts are in Indianapolis and Johnny Unitas is a football legend passed on to Glory. I’ve been out of the Navy and back home now for as long as I was in. I don’t live in a vacuum. I’m very much aware of the party that controls the White House and who or what controls the Congress of the United States; of universal suffrage and an electorate that votes into office corrupt men and women who pilfer the earnings of working Americans to feed their dissolute government handout programs and perpetuate the cycle of non-working recipients voting them back into office; of costs driven so high by the perverse injection of tax-payers’ dollars and federal regulations into private programs such as healthcare and higher education that even younger, working tax-payers are forced to accept government support in order to make ends meet.

I heard it said not long ago that public memory was around five years. So, theoretically, in five years people will struggle under the onerous weight of Obamacare as if it’s always been part of us, just like the huge socialist programs and federal interference enacted by LBJ fifty some odd years ago have “always” been part of us as has the misinterpreted “retirement plan” known as Social Security inacted under FDR and the income tax under Woodrow Wilson. Those programs are all twentieth- and, now, twenty-first-century Constitutional violations attributed to democrats, but the republicans have done nothing to eliminate them. This huge expansion of Federal control links directly to the South’s defeat a century and a half ago. That concept is regarded as a joke these days, yet things just keep getting worser and worser.

This brings me back to Hodding Carter’s forward—the North’s remembering so little, the South’s so much. It’s good to remember for the sake not only of the South but even more so for the Republic. As critical as the delegation of powers between the three branches of the Federal government, so too was the delineation of powers between the federal government, clearly limited by the Constitution, and that of the States—broadly interpreted by the Tenth Amendment and insisted upon by the states upon ratification of the Constitution. No, I do not believe the War was over slavery. I do believe people use such lofty arguments to excuse the things they do, but I do not believe populations kill and sacrifice their lives for philanthropic purposes. Economic self-interest, offensive or defensive, couched as such, yes. I do believe the South seceded to protect its economic interests in the face of a hate-filled section of the nation that enacted repeated threats to Dixie’s interests (not to mention darker, more nefarious threats to her people) for the betterment of its own. And yes, I do believe the South had a right to secede to protect its interests, its way of life, and its people. No, I do not believe the South started the War, despite the provocation at Sumter—Lincoln, not Jefferson Davis, chose war. And yes, I do accept Lincoln prosecuted the War better than did Davis (oh duh).

And finally, yes, I do have lofty dreams, which any of you who know the history of then and of the time since can understand, if not necessarily appreciate. Those are no less than the nullification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the striking of paragraph 2 from the Fifteenth, and repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment. That should put the correct powers back into the states where they belong, end that “anchor baby” bullshit, and cut off the exorbitant capital the Federals require to fund their give-away programs and the corresponding bureaucracy to operate them, while at the same time holding the States hostage for taxpayers’ dollars. Of course, to be on the safe side, the sixteenth amendment should probably be replaced with something else clarifying that income tax is not apportioned—it wasn’t in 1789 and it isn’t today—to keep Congress from continuing to pilfer the working man’s dollars by perverting Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. And just another little point regarding the sixteenth amendment—the controversies regarding the actions of way too many state legislatures reported to have ratified that thing makes it, in my humble opinion, worthy of nullification vice repeal—can states nullify what they passed in violation of their own constitutions? I don't know the answer.

Good luck with all that, right? Tongue-in-cheek aside, I wonder what Hodding Carter would think of the looming power of the Federal government, fueled by a corrupt democracy, today?
Yep, those “present legacies” just keep getting worser and worser.