Going to let my Dad, Lou Kritz, man the stump for this one.
Were the Southerners Duped? By Lou Kritz
Every once in a while, the Universe lines up events that open a window, sometimes on the present, and often on the past. In the past two weeks, the planets aligned with the Paula Deen catastrophe, the reenactment, on the 150th anniversary, of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, and the Supreme Court’s trampling of the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the George Zimmerman trial got underway, as he tries to claim self-defense in the killing of a black teenager, denying the truth that this was, in fact, a racial crime.
These seemingly unrelated events, when taken together, and bounced off my experience of having lived in the South for quite a number of years, sparked an insight. That insight is that the average citizens of the Confederacy were duped by their feeble government into believing that the Civil War was fought for their benefit.
Historians’ arguments today about the cause of the Civil War have generally cast aside the economic issues, and laid the blame explicitly on slavery. It is too great a simplification. Slavery was a key issue, but not because of the superiority of the white race over the black one. Slavery, at that time, was an economic issue in the minds of the small percent of the population that owned other human beings as chattel.
The agrarian economy of the South was based on very cheap labor; i.e., slaves. Eliminating this practice would cause the large, wealthy landowners to use paid labor, thus raising their production costs significantly. And, as in every case where business and government work hand in hand for the benefit of both, the chattering classes cannot be allowed to see the truth.
Southern citizens of the day were led to believe that they were part of the superior class. It was easy to turn public opinion against those “dirty white Northerners, led by that devil, Lincoln.” When the time came to take up arms, the general citizenry were fervent in their desire to protect their own society.
So, we had a war between two factions of the country. This was a war that claimed 625 thousand casualties, fully 2% of the total US population in 1860. This was more than the casualties from our country’s top four war efforts. World War II, World War I, Viet Nam, and Korea, taken collectively accounted for 616 thousand casualties, 9 thousand short of the Civil War.
If you look at the Southern dead, you see that they were mostly farm boys, laborers, uneducated workers. That is, lower class cannon fodder. Sadly, this is the case in all our wars. In present day Afghanistan, how often do you hear about the Senator’s son, one of Jack Welch’s nephews, or any CEO’s offspring coming home in a box, or still alive with a limb or two missing?
The southern populace wasn’t told that there were 3.9 million slaves in the South in 1860. They weren’t told that there were 3.9 million jobs that were unavailable to the young people trying to make it in a tough economy. They just knew that they were poor, and that’s how it was supposed to be. I have never heard of one southerner question why the southern leaders, both business and political ones, allowed their land to be torched and destroyed to preserve an economic system that placed many of them on the unemployment rolls.
So now we have Paula Deen, who handled a thoughtless mistake that should have been a small blip on the screen by blowing it up to major proportions. Of course, she’s used the N-word. She was a child before the civil rights movement began to change our culture. She could have said that she probably did utter the dreaded world early in life, but realized it was demeaning and hurtful, and has worked hard to erase remembrance of it from her mind. Instead, she took out her other pistol and fired one into what was left of her good foot.
In Gettysburg, citizens got together to celebrate the beauty of a conflict that was so bloody it took years for the soil to be cleansed. Again, commoners doing the dirty bidding of the oligarchy. Then, our top nine helped us regress further by saying that any efforts to restrict voting, especially that of minorities and the less fortunate, would be tolerated.
The sad killing of Trayvon Martin by a proven liar, who is simply a cop-wannabe, is painful to watch. Our society is debating this in the courts as an exercise in validating the State of Florida and their efforts to allow citizens to take the law into their own hands.
It’s common to see people below the Mason-Dixon Line proudly displaying the Confederate flag. Doesn’t this validate their ‘loser’ status? Should they also have a banner that says, “We’re 0-for-1”? But what is really the point is that those elements that were able to goad our populace, both from the North and the South, are still in control. The Civil War was a long, sad chapter in our history that denigrated all the virtuous promises of a supposedly great new society.
So, today we’re still fighting that war, and getting no further as a society, than we did in the 1860’s. But now, instead of names like Lincoln, Davis, Lee, Grant, et al., being those we listen to, we have Paula Deen and George Zimmerman carrying on the fight.
The oligarchs have won?