This article addresses how and why the outrageous conflict caused by partisan politicians in Washington D.C. — which has often been terrible but sharply escalated in 2009 and steadily grew to shocking heights of absurdity — is very much related to the conflict that caused the American Civil War (1861-1865).
That Civil War is one of the most understood wars in history. Disputes over its cause have raged since before it broke out, and they continued and even got worse in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Therefore, since the cause of that war is still disputed even today, and since its cause still has a lingering aftermath that has reached a crisis point, Americans should learn more about it.
Others obviously feel the same way. For example, Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln, released in November 2012 and based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, was very timely. It coincided with the 150th anniversary of the issuance of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves in Union states, and it helps in certain ways to educate viewers about the story behind the Civil War.
It should be understood, however, that the critique in this analysis is directed only at the bigotry, racism and "religious" hypocrisy of those who instigated the Civil War and created the conditions that caused it, and also at those who have perpetuated the conflict even to this day. It is not directed a good people in the South.
It should also be understood that most people in the South are not like the misguided minority, and there are many good Christians in the South who are not proud and militant but are instead humble and meek and abide by the Golden Rule, and they are not bigoted regarding race, religion, or partisan politics.
Unfortunately, because Southern Christians who are good tend to be humble and meek, they unwittingly serve to enable hypocrites who merely masquerade as Christians, because when good people remain silent, demagogues and hatemongers are able to fight to gain political power -- as they have in most Southern states.
After all, it is no coincidence that extreme right wing "Tea Party" members in Texas have proudly thumped their bible as they cause conflict and division and display the Confederate flag in parades and rallies, because it was their counterparts who were responsible for the Civil War. And today they perpetuate the theocratic "Christian" Dominionist example set by the leaders of the "religious right" that rose to political power in the years leading up to the Civil War, and rose again to political power with Ronald Reagan in 1982.
Largely because of that, bigotry regarding race, religion and sexual orientation is insidious in the South. And it's not limited to the South. In fact, as far North as Alaska, right-wing extremists like Sarah Palin exhibit and demonstrate the same kinds of bigotry. And, just as it was in the 1800s, it is “justified” by a distorted idea of Christianity, which has been conspicuously demonstrated in recent time, not only by right-wing politicians, but by right-wing political activists in many other fields.
For example, one television personality popular with people in the South has openly claimed that before the Civil Rights movement black people were “happy.” And another television personality brazenly called black people "Niggers."
Such remarks reveal to what extent many Southerners on the “Christian Right” are in denial and demonstrate an early 19th Century Southern attitude. It’s a typical point of view of Southerners who identify with right-wing “Christian” hypocrites who make a show of being “godly Christians” and act as if they are “holier than thou” while they harbor very un-Christian views and feelings. And while most of them know better than to reveal those views and feelings in public, sometimes they can’t restrain themselves even while on television.
The Shadow Neo-Confederacy
Even though the mainstream commercial media in America would appear oblivious to it, some people in America realize what has happened and is happening in this regard. Some are even calling it the rise of a "Neo-Confederacy," or a "New Dixie Movement."
Later in this article it discusses how it began in the 1970s with a defiant Southern reaction to the widespread criticism of racism and apartheid in the South. That criticism was perhaps best summed up in the great protest song, Southern Man, sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1971. And perhaps the best known defiant reaction to the criticism was a song called Sweet Home Alabama, sung by a Southern rock band in response, as they proudly displayed the Confederate flag.
The "Southern Pride" movement grew from that, and for more than three decades it has developed and expanded into a widespread right-wing "conservative" movement that is anti-government and even anti-Democracy, as you will see in this article. But for now, let's look at what others are saying about it.
Here is now the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines Neo-Confederacy:
“The term neo-Confederacy is used to describe twentieth and twenty-first century revivals of pro-Confederate sentiment in the United States. Strongly nativist and advocating measures to end immigration, neo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned.
“Neo-Confederacy also incorporates advocacy of traditional gender roles, is hostile towards democracy, strongly opposes homosexuality, and exhibits an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy. In many cases, neo-Confederates are openly secessionist.
“Neo-Confederacy has applied to groups including the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the 1920s and those resisting racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. In its most recent iteration, Neo-Confederacy is used by both proponents and critics to describe a belief system that has emerged since the early-1980s in publications like Southern Partisan, Chronicles, and Southern Mercury, and in organizations including the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Overall, it is a reactionary conservative ideology that has made inroads into the Republican Party from the political right, and overlaps with the views of white nationalists and other more radical extremist groups.”
In Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, edited by Euan Hague, Heidi Beirich, and Edward H. Sebesta, the following is expressed:
“An interdisciplinary team examines the mainstreaming of the New Dixie movement, whose calls range from full secession to the racist exaltation of ‘Celtic’ Americans and whose advocates can be found far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“A century and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, the legacy of the Confederate States of America continues to influence national politics in profound ways. Drawing on magazines such as Southern Partisan and publications from the secessionist organization League of the South, as well as DixieNet and additional newsletters and web sites, Neo-Confederacy probes the veneer of this movement to reveal goals far more extensive than a mere celebration of ancestry.
“Incorporating groundbreaking essays on the Neo-Confederacy movement, this eye-opening work encompasses such topics as literature and music; the ethnic and cultural claims of white, Anglo-Celtic southerners; gender and sexuality; the origins and development of the movement and its tenets; and ultimately its nationalization into a far-reaching factor in reactionary conservative politics. The first book-length study of this powerful sociological phenomenon, Neo-Confederacy raises crucial questions about the mainstreaming of an ideology that, founded on notions of white supremacy, has made curiously strong inroads throughout the realms of sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and often ‘orthodox’ Christian populations that would otherwise have no affiliation with the regionality or heritage traditionally associated with Confederate history.”
Now, that said, let us discuss the real causes of the Civil War, because that's what's really behind all this.
The Real Causes of the Civil War
Many Southerners and particularly Southern "Christian" preachers have been saying since before the Civil War began that they were merely fighting for "state's rights" and against "abuse of power by federal government." But, that is really not true.
The truth is that the Southern states just didn't like the U.S. Constitution established in 1787, which gave the federal government needed and necessary powers regarding such things as regulating interstate commerce. Southerners preferred the old Articles of Confederation that the Constitution had replaced, because it had produced a weak federal government and given the states free license to do as they pleased. That, in fact, was why the Constitution was necessary for many reasons, especially to regulate interstate commerce and establish more cohesiveness and integrity to the union.
However, even though the South resented a stronger central government and the national regulations it established, the main cause of the Civil War was slavery. The history from 1619 to 1861 proves that.
There was indeed a secondary cause of the war, though, and it was the rebellious and seceding Southern state's refusal to recognize the central government's power to prevent the expansion Westward of the growing business of the slave trade. Most Americans were against that, and yet Southerners claimed it was a "violation of state's rights" for the federal government to prevent it, and they even claimed that slavery was approved by "The Word of God."
That was confirmed by what the Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander H. Stephens, had said in a speech in 1861 (a month before the South fired on Fort Sumter to start the Civil War). He said that "slavery" was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution.”
Even more telling is that Stephens had the gall to say that unlike the U.S. Constitution, which states that all men are equal, "The Confederacy is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Moral truth? Well, as you can see, that's what the religious and political leaders of the South claimed as they thumped their bible and claimed that "The Word of God" authorized slavery. And obviously Stephens proudly told a lie but claimed it was the truth because Southern "Christian" preachers had been saying that for generations, and therefore he probably believed it.
So, even at the time many Southerners acknowledged that slavery was the cause of the war, and there was no question about that in Abraham Lincoln’s mind. When he delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, at the end of the Civil War, he said that slavery was “the cause of the war."
However, this article doesn’t just discuss the Civil War and its causes that go back to 1619 in Jamestown Colony when slavery was introduced and "legitimized" by the wealthy British Anglican Christian aristocrats who had settled there and established plantations. It’s important that Americans are aware of that, but there’s much more to the story about the vast impact that had on the whole country.
This article also covers all its subsequent consequences following the war and all the way into the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and even to the present day – which are not only about racism but also about the idea that the early Articles of Confederation were superior to the U.S. Constitution that replace them.
That has become very obvious due to the growing number of indicators that racism is still very prevalent in the very same circles of people who feel superior for other reasons as well.
That is why this article also suggests how and why some of the wealthiest few in America still think their wealth entitles them to rule over people they regard as inferior (whether because of race or wealth or religion or ancestral nationality). For the roots of the current partisan political conflict in America, like the roots of racism and other forms of bigotry, go back to the aristocratic traditions established in the original British colonial settlement in Jamestown in the Virginia Territory in 1619.
This article reveals that the American Civil War was really a very long time in the making.
When the Conflict Over Slavery Began
Slavery was the main cause of the Civil Way, but the conflict over slaverly actually originated in 1619 when the first slaves were captured in Africa and brought to Jamestown and the British Virginia Colony to provide a free labor force for plantation owners. And even then many Americans thought it was wrong.
The conflict heated up when, in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the British King "has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere."
Of course, that didn’t make it into the final version of the Declaration due to Southern opposition, specifically at the request of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia. However, a lot of Americans felt like Jefferson, and his brave proposal was the beginning of the "Abolitionist" movement to abolish slavery. (And you can read much more of the real truth about Jefferson's views and actions regarding slavery in the article on Jefferson and Jeffersonian Democracy.)
Abraham Lincoln certainly felt like Jefferson did about it, which is why Lincoln said: “The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society.”
And, when Lincoln won the presidency running of a platform that included preventing the spread and expansion of the institution of slavery Westward, that enraged Southern slave owners who were in the business of selling slaves and expanding the market for them. That is what ignited the fires of the Civil War in 1861, leading to the South’s attack on Fort Sumter right after Abraham Lincoln took office as president.
However, the story of the development of Lincoln's cause and its full scope began long before he campaigned for the presidency. And this is an important issue because, unfortunately, the cause of the Civil War has been disputed since 1861, and there are some Americans today who still dispute the facts. Historical revisionism is rampant today. In fact, some people, for various different reasons, even claim that Abraham Lincoln did not really want to free the slaves.
That's why it is important to understand that Lincoln began his political career in 1849 as a Congressman, proposing a resolution to abolish slavery. However, his proposal was only for the District of Columbia, because at that point he believed that the Constitution did not allow the federal government to order the abolition of slavery in the states. He had not yet recognized that the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution was written to preclude the kind of discriminatory state legislation that had once been permissible. (In fact, the Commerce Clause and the whole U.S. Constitution were written in 1787 because by then it had become necessary to replace the original Articles of Confederation which had proven inadequate and had led to grave conflicts between the states.)
However, by 1858 when he campaigned as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln's stance against slavery had strengthened, and his purpose was mainly to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed slavery to spread and expand Westward, and the Dred Scott case, which wound up ruling that African Americans were not and never could be citizens.
Both of those issues had inflamed the tremendous conflict over the spread and Westward expansion of slavery throughout the 1850s. And, Lincoln was not only against those things. He was also against the institution of slavery and did indeed want to free slaves --- as the full context of his whole political career reveals, and as you will see.
Wealthy plantation owners in the South hated Lincoln for that, because by that time they were not merely in the plantation business. They were in the slave business, and in the business of expanding their plantations, as well as the slave labor for them, Westward. And there was a lot at stake for them, because by 1860 a million tons of cotton were being produced every year in the South, and it was the labor of four million slaves that produced it.
Despite the facts, there were two strategies that Southern aristocrats used to justify themselves. One was for Southern Christian evangelists to try to justify the institution of slavery on biblical grounds, and the other was for Southern politicians to try to justify their opposition to President Lincoln on the grounds that the federal government had no right to interfere with the rights of the states to do as they pleased.
However, they simply ignored the main purpose of the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, and despite the facts and the evil of slavery, Southerners hated Lincoln. And because of the consequences of that hate, many Southerners ever since and even in modern times still hate him and what he stood for.
Public school textbooks don't say much about that these days. But those of us who came of age in the 1960s know that very well. It was painfully obvious in the 1960s when Martin Luther King, Jr. carried on Lincoln's work and led the Civil Rights movement, which caused terribly violent reactions by Southern racists who fought to suppress the movement.
Then in the early 1970s, in response to all the world wide criticism of all the oppressive and violent racist behavior, a defiant Southern racist element in the South initiated a Southern Pride movement, because they deeply resented and wanted to counteract the successes that all the leaders and supporters of the Civil Rights movement had made in the 1950s and '60s.
That Southern defiance was perhaps most demonstrated by Alabama Governor George Wallace and the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynrd, which wrote and performed the song Sweet Home Alabama in 1973 in response to Neil Young's song, Southern Man, which stated: "Southern Man, better keep your head. Don't forget what your good book says. Southern change gonna come at last. Now your crosses are burning fast, Southern Man."
In defiance, the Lynyrd Skynrd band rejected Neil's view and sang Sweet Homy Alabama, which praised Alabama Governor Wallace's racist, apartheid views, and the band proudly displayed the Confederate Flag as a symbol of a new Southern Pride movement.
Since then the Southern Pride Movement has steadily grown since then in a variety of ways, as this article discusses.
This is an important discussion because the consequences and ramifications of the Civil War were felt not merely for the following century and particularly in the 1950s and '60s, and not merely in the 1970s. Its repercussions and ramifications are felt even today, even though some Americans don't notice it, and some would rather ignore it.
In fact, some Americans have been and are trying to distort and revise history in an effort to improve the image of the South by eliminating or lessening the role of slavery as a cause of the Civil War, and instead claiming it was solely about "state's rights." Some are even still trying to restore the Confederate Flag as a symbol of patriotism and independence, not as a symbol for Southern defiance and racism. They would rather forget that in the mid-1800s when the Confederate Flag was created, it was a time when Southern evangelical preachers were trying to defend the institution of slavery on the basis of biblical justification.
A recent example of that was demonstrated by right-wing “Tea Party” Republicans in a Southern state who displayed the confederate flag proudly and prominently in a parade, and there have been a number of other incidences involving that symbol of racism.
Most Americans are not aware of such actions, and many who are aware of them are not aware of the implications of such actions. And it has become increasingly obvious considering the attitude, words and behavior of many Southerners who have become television personalities and celebrities that many Americans in the South would simply like to either not know or forget about certain things in the past.
Many of them are fully invested in the Southern Pride movement, which is very much related to the Christian Dominionist movement of the "Religious Right," as well as the Reaganite Neo-Conservative movement -- all of which have grown and taken on the guise of religiosity and patriotism, which is very much like what happened in the 1860s.
In fact, right-wing Southern evangelists on the "religious right" beginning with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and continuing more recently with right-wing evangelists like David Barton, have even created a revisionist history of the past to justify their misguided theocratic agenda, which is much like the agenda of Theocrats in America between 1800 and 1865 and beyond.
Therefore, learning historic facts and the real lessons of history is more important now than it ever has been.
The Importance of Learning the Lessons of History
Our history, not only as individuals but as a people and as a nation, is a part of us. It is a part of what we are and become as individuals, and it is a part of what we are now as a people and what we will become as a people and as a nation and a world in the future.
We cannot, therefore, simply forget or deny mistakes or offenses of the past. We cannot just sweep them under the rug, nor can we refuse to face facts because it is unpleasant to do so.
We must learn the lessons of history in order to grow, evolve, progress, improve, and advance. And we must accept who we have been and what we are to move on and become what we should be.
Granted, of course, it is better to forgive offenses rather than hold grudges or cling to anger and hate, because forgiveness helps to heal and unite, while anger and hate are self-destructive and divisive. However, forgiving offenses is difficult when the offenders are unrepentant, defiantly proud, and still offensive.
Of course, in public nearly all Americans now agree that slavery and racism are wrong. However, the other factors that caused partisan political conflict between 1799 and 1865 still remain. That is why politicians in Washington, D.C. are so bitterly divided and in conflict, because there are some very wealthy people who still think they are entitled to rule over those they regard as inferior because of their religious beliefs or secular beliefs, or because of nationality. And those who believe they are entitle to rule are offensive.
Therefore, when offenders are unrepentant, defiantly proud and still offensive, we must stand up to them. In fact, they must be exposed and rebuked by righteous judgment in order for truth and justice to prevail.
That's what this is about. It's not about "dredging up things best forgotten." It's not about the people of certain states against the people of certain others states. It's not about politics. It's about right against wrong, and about truth prevailing over misguided, divisive beliefs.
Righteous judgment allows for forgiveness. However, because forgiveness is more easily granted to the repentant and contrite of spirit, and because today there is an epidemic of pride and denial on the part of offenders, we are consequently stymied by a barrier and a stumbling block of defiant anger and hate because of it, and we are plagued and divided by conflict. We can see it in our neighborhoods and cities, and in the halls of government.
Therefore, we need to realize that even though the conflicts we face are over a myriad of issues regarding government, religion, race, social justice and the environment, there are really some basic, underlying false belief systems causing most of the conflicts.
The Basic Conflicts In America
In America it could be said that there are two basic conflicts. One is over the specified powers of the federal government, and that conflict is not much different now than it was in 1787 when it made the U.S. Constitution necessary to specify what those powers should be.
There should be no conflict, though, because Founders like James Madison and George Washington wanted a unified nation with a federal government that addressed the nation's practical needs and quelled the rivalries and conflicts among the states.
Washington wrote, "Thirteen sovereign states pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin to the whole." And before the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Madison told Washington that the states had to be made "subordinately useful."
However, modern right-wing “conservative” propaganda has in effect been a misleading attempt to essentially replace the Constitution and restore the Articles of Confederation, which had governed the new nation since 1777 but was replaced by the Constitution in 1787.
That’s what the “Tea Party” and other right-wing Republicans want -- Articles of Confederation -- despite their claims of fidelity to the Founders and Framers of the Constitution. For the Articles of Confederation had indeed made the states "sovereign" and "independent" and gave little importance to the federal government – which is why the U.S. Constitution became necessary and was established in 1787 in order to specify what the powers of the federal government relative to the states should be, to ensure compatibility and equity in interstate commerce, to preserve the integrity of the union, and to ensure domestic tranquility.
Now, the other main conflict is over religion, because since 1787 “conservative fundamentalist evangelical Christians” in the U.S. have misinterpreted the intent of the Founders and therefore misunderstood what religious freedom actually means.
For example, even back in 1800 they accused Thomas Jefferson of being "anti-Christian" because he insisted that there can be no religious freedom unless government respects all religions, and he clarified that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was intended to "build a wall of separation between church and state."
Right-wing fundamentalist Christian evangelists disagreed then and they still do. And ever since then they have acted as if freedom of religion means the right to impose their religious beliefs upon the whole nation.
That theocratic bent has often been problematic, especially since 1981 as their Dominionist theocratic political action has resulted in a rather widespread idea that a President of the U.S. must be a Christian, despite what Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says about that.
Unfortunately, that conflict has impacted not only America, but the whole world, because the theocratic attitude of right-wing Christian preachers inevitably affected U.S. foreign policy as well. And even though their actions are theocratic and hypocritical, such actions follow a precedent set by the so-called "religious right" and "Moral Majority" founded in 1979 in support of Ronald Reagan for president.
It was nothing new, however. As mentioned, Theocrats have been fighting for political power and ignoring the people's right to religious freedom since 1800 when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s Democratic Republican Party was sharply opposed by right-wing zealots who claimed to be Christian clergy as they indulged in political grandstanding from behind their pulpits.
The same thing happened in the 1860s when good people who wanted to abolish slavery were sharply opposed by pro-slavery Antebellum Southern preachers who thumped their bibles and insisted that slavery was justified by the “Word of God” (the Christian Bible). And in the 1960s Southern preachers were still saying similar things, despite the truly Christian words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1980 they changed their tune, putting the racial issue aside and focusing on making their movement "patriotic and religious" and about "returning God to America." And during the last 30 years, since right-wing Southern preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson rose to political power with Ronald Reagan, the right-wing Southern preachers have risen again.
Today there are many of them on television and radio, preaching their message of “religious” bigotry and hegemonic nationalism, claiming they are justified by the “Word of God.” And that’s much like what Southern preachers did in 1787, 1861 and the 1960s.
Unfortunately, even today right-wing Southern preachers have ignored the lessons of history, and many of them are in fact in denial about it and have been trying to create “revisionist” history claiming that the Founding Fathers wanted the U.S.A. to be an exclusively Christian nation. But in fact, the very Quotes From the Founding Father Regarding Religion prove them wrong.
As is discussed in the article about Why the “Religious Right” Is Wrong, their error is very evident in their partisan political propaganda and rhetoric, evangelical religious proselytizing, hegemonic nationalism and other such efforts to claim superiority of their religious and political beliefs.
The Collusion of Corporations, Banks and the "Religious Right"
Most of them justify themselves with a “Gospel of Prosperity” they claim is Christian, so they think they are righteous. But they have turned Christianity up-side-down and they have been and still are wrong, and the proof is in the results. The terrible state of the nation and world is the proof.
The culture of greed and self-interest they have established enables them to profit at the expense of others by exploiting and taking advantage of them. But, during the last 30 years they were very successful in leading people to believe that it is perfectly alright for a wealthiest few to enjoy hundreds of millions of dollars per year in income, while the working poor cannot afford all the basic necessities of life, even though they work full time for a living.
Having wealth is not the problem, of course, because many wealthy people deserve their wealth due to their hard work, talent and skill. But greed, selfishness, and raking in inequitable and unjust profits and financial gain by exploiting and taking advantage of others are indeed a problem – one of the biggest problems in the world.
That greedy element is of course part of the culture of many nations in the world, which is why so many people around the world are fighting for freedom and justice. But, since that movement has successfully put down by those in power in most countries, and even in America, Americans need to understand the truth so we can progress and advance forward toward a better future for all people.
(Continued in How the Civil War Conflict Is Related To The Current Partisan Political Conflict and Division In America, Part 2, which discusses why the Constitution was necessary, how and why Jefferson and Lincoln were right; the conflicting ideas of Christianity in America; the real cause of the Civil War; how history repeated itself in the 1960s with the violent Southern reaction to the Civil Rights movement; and how the "Southern Pride" movement and revival of the "Rebel spirit" then began in 1973 when the Southern band Lynyrd Skynard wrote and sang Sweet Home Alabama. And it provides further analysis.)