Time for Every Southerner to Speak

Every year there comes a time for every right thinking southerner to express either in passing or in public a central truth about our history. The Civil War, begun in South Carolina, was a war only incidentally about states rights and instead particularly about Slavery. (I capitalize Slavery because the particular institution as it developed in the United States was a particular type of slavery and while all slavery is evil it can be said that the kind that developed in North America was a special brand of evil) The Civil War was not about States Rights. If it was then the South would not have been so enamored previously of the Fugitive Slave Act, an imposition of federal law on other states whose laws were abrogated by southern legislators desire to make sure that the rights of slave holders where paramount over every other right.

Those that claim innocently that federalism and devolution of power to the states is the best and right way to run a government may at times be excused for their ignorance. But ignorance is only a partial excuse and more often is a willful blindness. The fact is that States Rights is the rallying cry of the elite who wish a smaller playing field and fewer combatants on the political stage. Across the country there are too many groups and interests for one states elite to bend everything to their will. Once you've bought a state legislature it seems a waste to have to try and buy the national one. Most of the time that takes far too much money. So instead you wax rhapsodic about the wonders of Spanish moss and happiness when the federal government didn't do much. That anyone with knowledge of Spanish moss knows that its full of bugs and shouldn't be played with too much is an afterthought. With distance comes myth and a smoothing over of the cracks and crimes.

There are few with the courage anymore to truly defend slavery. Oh they'll elide and obfuscate around the crime and say that slaves where happy with their lot or that many slaves fought for the confederacy, which even if true begs the question of how a slave can fight for or against anything in that context. The entire culture of the South, its class divisions, its violence, its misogyny, was built on slavery. It was built on the backs of men and women who the ruling class decided where not worthy of a voice even to lament their lot. When one did, safe from the whips and chains and hangman's rope, oh boy did they scream. Forget any notion of rights, forget any notion of right, forget any notion of the proper place of federal government, it was time to protect that particular institution. The only right in the south that was respected was the right to own slaves. There was no right to free speech. There was no right to bear arms. There was no right to a jury trial. There was no right that couldn't be superseded by the immediate need to make sure that the rich had their property safe and neutered.

That is the truth of slavery in the south.