No, it is not “erasing history”
Infidel 753 writes at his own site of the same name. From time to time in the past he has put up several of Angry Bear’s posts on Crooks and Liars. This post (of his), I find interesting as he discusses the history and legitimacy of statues honoring Confederates and US military bases named after Confederate military leaders.
History needs to be recorded and remembered, regardless of how we today judge the events and people of the past. What happened is what happened, even when the truth is painful. But historical memory does not require that we preserve monuments explicitly meant to honor criminals and insult black Americans.
Most of the Confederate monuments now scattered across the country were not built right after the Civil War but between 1895 and 1920, when the post-war progress on civil rights had been mostly reversed and the grinding down and terrorization of blacks reached an apex. They were less commemoration of history than assertion and celebration of the resurgence of white supremacy.
This is perhaps fitting given that that was the cause for which the Confederates fought. The Civil War was entirely about slavery — the Confederacy was created solely to preserve slavery. The declarations of secession passed by the Southern states at the time make this clear. Any assertion to the contrary is simply a lie. Yet it’s the people who claim to be concerned about preserving history who keep repeating this fundamental lie about it.
In every other case, the difference between remembering history and honoring its villains does not seem to confuse anybody. Germany preserves the history of the Third Reich with grim determination, lest forgetting the horrors of the past make it easier to repeat them someday, but it has no statues commemorating Hitler or Himmler.
Arguments about honoring “Southern heritage” don’t hold water either. The South as a distinct cultural region is at least two centuries old. Why focus on the four-year period of shame? The South has produced many great figures before and after that time, including military heroes who fought for the United States rather than against it. Again, Germans can take pride in centuries of achievement in many fields without defending the twelve years of Nazi atrocities.
It is sometimes said that if Confederate statues are removed, we would need to get rid of commemorations of other past figures who owned slaves or did other things which would be considered immoral today. It is a valid point that almost any powerful figure from more than a couple of generations ago probably did or believed things which we today would judge abhorrent — and never forget that we do not know how people a few generations in the future will judge things considered normative in our own time.
But there are differences in degree. Owning slaves in 1800, when slavery was almost universally accepted and had been for millennia, is not the same thing as fighting to preserve slavery in 1861 after it had emerged as the central morally-contentious issue of the day. Columbus lived in a brutal age, but his atrocities as governor of the Indies were shocking even for that age, and led to his being removed from his position and briefly imprisoned. Some degree of racism was normative in the 1940s, but Auschwitz was not.
And the Confederate case is unique because these men fought a war against the United States. That makes it absurd that the country is dotted with statues honoring them, and even more absurd that American military bases are named after them. I’m aware of the argument that they should not be considered traitors because in those days loyalty was felt more to individual states than to the whole country. But even if you buy that (I don’t), they were still enemies of the United States and fought a war to break it up. Admiral Yamamoto was not a traitor to his own country, but we don’t name American military bases after him.
It’s not just that these statues are offensive and degrading to black Americans; it’s that they were intended to be so. If they deserve preservation at all, it should be in museums, as relics not of the Confederacy but of the age of resurgent racial oppression two generations later, which built them as assertions of its own triumph. The bases should be renamed, honoring the country’s heroes rather than its enemies. And as for that stupid flag, the First Amendment protects individuals’ right to display it, but we all know what it really stood for — and it still does.
Isoroku Yamamoto Naval Air Station has a nice ring to it.
I have spent little time in the South. Almost the only place I saw the flag was on ‘Dukes of Hazard’. I honestly don’t think I came to understand “what it really stood for” until I watched ‘Selma’.
Run, I almost always agree with you but can often find something to nitpick about. I find myself in total agreement with this post and will even concede I could not have said it better or even as well.
The monuments kept being put up well into the 1920s, which may have been the peak of Lost Cause white supremacy, with the racist anti-immigration bill passed in 1924 and the KKK holding a public march in Washington in 1925 attended by 35,000, just about all of them in their white sheets.
The now infamous and much contested statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA was put up in 1922. What that was all about is obvious from photos of its inauguration then, where about half the audience was in KKK white sheets.
BTW, I live about an hour from Charlottesville and was over there this afternoon. Checked it out, and the R.E. Lee statue is still in place in its park off the mall dowwntown. The city has been trying remove it, and the legislature did undo the law that forbade municipalities from moving such statues off their property, but the matter seems to be hung up still in the courts, and the statue remains where it was put in 1922 for now.
Most of those statues don’t even have any artistic merit. They were mass produced kitch that was peddled from town to town with images of anonymous Confederate soldiers. So they don’t even deserve to be kept as museum pieces. I could be persuaded that some statues of famous Confederates should be kept at Civil War battlefields as markers for important actions. For example, Stonewall Jackson at Bull Run. We don’t want to glorify or honor Jackson, but having statues can be a useful visual aid in understanding the battle. One Confederate general who should be memorialized would be Longstreet, who eventually turned his back on the “Lost Cause” myth and became a good Reconstruction Republican. There’s always a place for redemption.
We tore down Junipero Serra, the founding father of California, the inventor of Hispanic. We burned down the 485 year old Franciscan chapel, we are wiping out traces of Franciscan Law and culture. For over 200 years the Franciscans ran one of the most advanced colonial empires in California. They be gone, and much of out politics depended on this culture and law.
Excellent and necessary writing.
Actually the two big Lee statues still standing in Richmond and Charlottesville are pretty impressive, not mass produuced kitsch. But they both need to be moved somewhere.
How can they be white supremacy when whites were indentured??? The planters were globalists, served the de Rothschild banking dynasty and hated America. It’s a large part of the reason why Russia lent its naval force to the US during the war. Much like blacks made up little of the actual US population until the 70’s, history tells a different story.
Most of the statues were driven by daughters of the confederacy. Who of course financed them????? bhahahahaha. It wasn’t about race, but that “they” still controlled the US. If course 1929 changed that. Race is a commodity to the elite. Many “white nationalists” forget that. Many planters wanted less black and more ” Saxon” as slaves, as they came from norman descent.
The 1924 law is frankly overrated. It didn’t change much in terms of immigration. The Great Depression and WWII was a far larger issue as it dried up much of the immigration from Europe, which accounted for 90% of total inflows.
The 1924 law is historically driven propa 70 years after the fact. Similiarly, the 1960’s law gets far to much credit in starting the system immigration boom.
The blight on this blog continues.
[OK, difficult to disagree, but yet…]
“…The Civil War was entirely about slavery — the Confederacy was created solely to preserve slavery…”
[OK, except that entirely is often too much of a stretch when cast broadly. You might correctly say that Secession was entirely about slavery, but it takes two to tango and two to make war. The best evidence of Republican intent was that in 1877, just 12 years after the end of the Civil War and after the Republican Party had securely established unequivocal US political system dominance, they abandoned Reconstruction and black America to Jim Crow. It might be worth recalling that many Republicans, including honest Abe himself, had originally envisioned deporting blacks to colonies in Africa or Latin America. OTOH, taking down Confederate statues is definitely not erasing history. History was erased decades before the Confederate statues were erected.]
Keep America safe for democracy
The president’s assertion of executive power poses a threat to the November elections.
Boston Globe – Gary Hart, Joel McCleary, Mark Medish, and Timothy E. Wirth – July 13
As the republic with the oldest written constitution still in use, the United States is the world’s beacon of democracy. These days the beacon has been dimming. Freedom House, a respected global democracy watchdog group, recently sounded alarms about the integrity of primary elections in Wisconsin and Georgia.
The outlook for a free and fair national election in November is cloudy, not least because President Trump himself has predicted mass-scale voter fraud and because of foreign interference. His son-in-law has even questioned whether the election would be held on schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic or another crisis.
It is not hard to imagine another round of large-scale social unrest such as the weeks-long protests over the killing of George Floyd, on May 26, by Minneapolis police. Given the tense situation in the country, it would take only a spark, whether spontaneous or deliberate, to ignite a social conflagration in key cities before the Nov. 3 election.
A number of legal and political commenters have sounded an alarm that over the years Congress has entrusted to the president a large and poorly bounded set of “emergency powers,” numbering over 100, according to the Brennan Center.
Moreover, it is asserted by some — including Trump — that the president possesses additional secret powers and “total authority” by virtue of his inherent executive authority in Article 2 of the Constitution.
In the same vein, Attorney General William Barr has asserted that “the illimitable nature of the President’s law enforcement discretion stems not just from the Constitution’s plenary grant of those powers to the President but also from the unitary character of the Executive Branch itself.” Barr sees the presidency as essentially monarchical, arguing that the Founders were more troubled by an “overweening parliament” than by King George’s tyranny.
Our country has worried about the question of an imperial presidency and secret emergency powers before. In the early 1970s, in the shadow of the Vietnam War and Watergate, Congress flexed its oversight muscle to force a stock-taking of the president’s claims of special powers through a series of historic hearings.
According to the late Senator Frank Church, who cochaired the Special Committee on National Emergencies, those powers “were like a loaded gun lying around the house ready to be fired by any trigger-happy president who might come along.” It appears that such a president has come along.
The alarm is serious, the law is muddled, and there is little confidence that one can rely on this president to take a restrained view of his powers as have presidents in the past. Nor can one rely on the current attorney general to curb those powers, including any use of the US military to carry out the president’s orders. Indeed, if the attorney general were to say, after a presidential emergency declaration, that a president’s order is lawful, what uniformed officer or enlisted man or woman could refuse it as unlawful?
If the chief executive is unreliable as now, there are three main lines of defense in the constitutional structure against threats to a free and fair election in November: Congress, the states, and the courts.
First, Congress has unique oversight duties and authority to act urgently in the public interest to check the notion of unlimited executive power. On the theory that sunshine is the best disinfectant, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should immediately call for systematic hearings on emergency powers before they can be abused to obstruct the election.
A second line of defense resides with state officials because elections are conducted at the state and county levels. It is imperative for state officials to take concrete steps to protect the equal right of all eligible voters to a free and fair election.
The national associations of governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state should coordinate on best practices to ensure the integrity of the voting process. The array of preparatory measures includes absentee voting, mail-in voting, crowd management, and physical safety at polling stations, as well as the security of ballots and digital voting machines, and the training of staff. Equally important will be the prompt certification of canvased votes and the appointment of electors.
Third, in the context of a declared emergency, the Supreme Court can reach down and take immediate jurisdiction of a legal challenge to the president’s action and stay its implementation, pending a valid showing of cause. The stay of the president’s order may be difficult or impossible to enforce, but at least the military may gain some protection against an order to take illegitimate action in the homeland to deprive our citizens of civil liberties.
The legal process may be a slender reed to hang onto in the event the president’s actions take place mere days before, or in the immediate aftermath of, a close or contested election. And this will be especially so if it is the president himself acting in bad faith who creates the circumstances that threaten the election process or outcomes. …
(A quaint Canadian perspective on America,
from McClean’s magazine, a year ago,
before Covid-19 Even Happened.)
(Note: BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in
response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer.)
Something has gone wrong with America
America’s pride in itself just hit a new low, according to a new survey. On this July 4th, it’s not hard to see why.
Scott Gilmore – July 4, 2019
I am in New York right now, and the other day I watched a local cable news anchor cry on television. She was reading from her teleprompter, about a leaked report drafted by inspectors from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It revealed migrant children are being detained without their parents, without blankets, without warm meals, without even soap. Eight-year olds are looking after two-year olds. Halfway through the segment, the anchor’s voice cracked. Her eyes teared up. As she composed herself, the producers cut to a reporter, live on location.
There’s a surprising new Gallup poll out (*). It reports that America’s pride in itself has, for the second year in a row, reached a new historic low. Some of this is partisan. The data shows Republicans are far more proud of their country than Democrats are. But Americans of both stripes have experienced a gradual and mostly continual decline for the last 15 years.
Perhaps more telling, the poll shows a dramatic difference between younger and older Americans. While 60 per cent of seniors are proud to be American, less than a quarter of millennials are willing to say the same thing.
Why has the United States lost its self-confidence? In many ways this remains a red, white, and blue world. In the fields of science, the arts and business, American voices continue to dominate. And the great and the good from far and wide are still more likely to migrate to New York than to London or Beijing.
English remains the global lingua franca thanks more to Lady Gaga than to Her Britannic Majesty. There is a seat reserved for Washington at every diplomatic conference table. The United States military, deployed in over 150 countries, stands utterly unrivalled. And more patents are filed in the U.S. than anywhere else.
Domestically, crime rates have been falling for 30 years. The stock markets have been climbing straight up for a decade. And unemployment rates haven’t been this low since the 1960s.
And, Americans, according to Gallup, recognize much of this. Over 90 per cent take pride in their nation’s scientific achievements. The military and arts and culture are equally valued. But, that faith falters in regard to its health care system and its politics, which score only 37 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.
It is easy to understand why these two issues should weigh so heavily on the American mind. In spite of the Obamacare reforms, 28 million Americans still have no health insurance. Legislation proposed by the Republican Party, but stalled repeatedly in Congress and in the courts, could increase that number by another 21 million.
As unlikely as it seems to outsiders, in the United States even something as simple as a broken arm can bankrupt a family. Another Gallup poll late last year reported 70 per cent of Americans believe the health care system has “major problems” or is in a “state of crisis,” and 30 per cent are foregoing medical treatment because of the cost.
And it is not just the cost of health care that has American’s worried, the quality is also a problem. Life expectancy rates already lag behind most of the western nations and is actually falling. In the past two decades maternal mortality rates have doubled—mothers are now more than three times more likely to die during birth in the United States than in Canada. And the OECD calculates that the U.S. has some of the worst rates of medical, medication and lab errors; and its “disease burden,” a measure of the number of years lost to disability and premature death, is significantly higher than any other comparable country. In other words, if you live in the U.S. you are far more likely to live sick and die young.
But it is unquestionably the political system that weighs heaviest on American minds. The partisan polarization of American legislative bodies and the public is well documented. The Pew Research Center has carefully tracked this growing ideological divide, which has pitted citizen against citizen, and in many cases, families against each other. One-third of Republicans and Democrats believe members of the other party are “a threat to the nation’s well being.”
This polarization is vividly present this July 4 holiday in Washington. The Republican president has organized something akin to an election rally on the National Mall, with private stands, his own fireworks display, and a few tanks for show. Democrats are predictably outraged and the news is filled with op-eds about “creeping fascism” in America.
Perhaps this crisis of pride and national identity should be no surprise. I don’t know if America has lost its way, but I do know that most Americans believe it has. Which, you could argue, means it objectively has. If your nation is split, if the holidays have become battles, if federal policies reduce news anchors to tears, something has gone wrong. …
US National Pride Falls to Record Low
Gallup – June 15, 2020
42% “extremely,” and 21% “very,” proud to be an American
Republicans’ pride is down sharply in the past year
First time extreme pride among whites
below 50%; nonwhites’ is now 24%
WASHINGTON, D.C. — American pride has continued its downward trajectory reaching the lowest point in the two decades of Gallup measurement. The new low comes at a time when the U.S. faces public health and economic crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Although a majority of adults in the U.S. still say they are “extremely proud” (42%) or “very proud” (21%) to be American, both readings are the lowest they have been since Gallup’s initial measurement in 2001. …
as someone who marched for civil rights in the 60s, my sense has been that tearing down those monuments is all that will come of the recent protests…the underlying racism will live on…
Perish the thought!</b?
What Could Trump Do or Not Do in a Second Term?
NY Times – Eric Posner – July 13
Back when Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, Republican leaders claimed to believe that, as president, Mr. Trump would respect the rule of law. “I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” Senator John McCain said. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.”
Romania is looking pretty good these days. Freedom House, an organization that monitors political freedoms in countries around the world, has downgraded the United States to a score of 86 out of 100, just three points higher than Romania, and far below America’s erstwhile democratic peers like Britain and Germany. (The United States received a score of 94 in 2010.) Mr. Trump has both benefited from, and contributed to, this alarming decline.
But to give Mr. McCain his due, the president has not yet in a clear sense violated the laws or Constitution of the United States. He has blustered and threatened to break the law but always pulled back at the last minute in the most important cases. The president’s damage to the country has come through his poisoning of the public discourse with lies and insults; his efforts, largely unsuccessful, to direct criminal investigations against his enemies; his politically motivated manipulation of his office to enhance his standing at the expense of American foreign policy and the broader public interest; his appointment of hacks to high positions in government; and his terrible policy choices, including his neglect of the coronavirus pandemic. All of this was legal, alas, with the ambiguous exception of his (mostly unsuccessful) obstruction of criminal investigations of his aides.
All of which raises the question: What will happen if Mr. Trump is re-elected? John Bolton, hardly a member of the “Resistance,” has called his former boss a “danger for the republic” if re-elected. Will Mr. Trump in a second term finally burst the bounds of the Constitution as so many critics have predicted since he entered office in 2017?
The answer is most likely no, and for two reasons. First, American institutions, while damaged, remain robust. They have mostly pushed back when Mr. Trump tried to push them aside. The courts have frequently ruled against, and even condemned, Mr. Trump. The press has been unfazed by Mr. Trump’s harassment of journalists. The states ignored Mr. Trump’s orders to lift their Covid-19 lockdowns or to suppress protests against police brutality. The military balked when Mr. Trump threatened to send personnel against protesters. While wobbly, the Justice Department has mostly followed through on investigations of Trump allies — with the withdrawal of the prosecution of Michael Flynn a rare exception.
Second, and surprisingly for some, Mr. Trump has not tried to expand his powers. There is a long history in other countries of democratically elected leaders seizing dictatorial powers in an emergency, and Mr. Trump’s critics expected the same from him. But when an authentic crisis struck the United States in the form of the pandemic, Mr. Trump was conspicuously uninterested in seizing power or even using the powers he already possessed. By contrast, Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary, followed the demagogue’s playbook by demanding and obtaining near-dictatorial powers from the legislature.
The brute political fact that distinguishes Mr. Trump and Mr. Orban is that Mr. Trump is exceedingly unpopular and widely distrusted — and has been since his election in 2016. He lacks political support for any authoritarian ambitions he may harbor. Americans, with a long if fraying tradition of democracy that countries like Hungary lack, still seem uninterested in a king.
All this is not to argue for complacency in case the president is re-elected but to suggest that we focus on the damage that Mr. Trump is likely to do rather than worst-case scenarios that are unlikely to occur.
As long as Republicans remain in power in the Senate, Mr. Trump will continue to have a free hand to appoint loyalists like Attorney General Bill Barr, who has increasingly shielded Mr. Trump and his allies from investigations and prosecution. Angered by adverse rulings by Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump will probably seek to appoint a lackey if a vacancy opens up.
Mr. Trump has compiled an astonishing record of failure for his regulatory agencies — according to one count, courts have blocked agency actions (including deregulatory actions craved by Mr. Trump’s business allies) almost 90 percent of the time. We can expect further mismanagement of U.S. agencies during a second term. Many civil servants are demoralized by the administration’s hostility to regulation; others resent political pressure from above. Many of these people, who represent a deep well of expertise on everything from nuclear power to epidemiology, may quit rather than endure four more years of contempt and harassment.
Mr. Trump has used many legal resources at his disposal to block foreigners from working and taking refuge in the United States and to disrupt foreign trade. Expect more of the same, with further damage to America’s economy and its relationships with its allies.
Expect Mr. Trump to continue to abuse the presidency’s powers over foreign affairs to the detriment of American foreign policy. Mr. Trump may finally indulge his impulse to withdraw the United States from NATO. Disgusted with Mr. Trump’s penchant for cozying up to dictators and offering concessions in return for support for his electoral interests, Western democracies will continue to distance themselves from the United States. Unconstrained by the prospect of electoral backlash, Mr. Trump will use his pardon power even more flagrantly than he already has to reward political allies who broke the law.
At the same time, if Mr. Trump remains unpopular even after winning re-election, it seems likely that the courts, the agencies and Congress will continue to hem him in, preventing him from acting forcefully even when he should. A weakened presidency, whoever occupies the office, will be unable to address significant domestic problems — including the continuing risks from the pandemic and the growing unease about policing — and will embolden dangerous foes, from Russia to Iran.
If Donald Trump is a danger to democracy, it is not because he will overthrow the Constitution. It is because his contempt for American values and institutions, and his ineptitude as a leader, may persuade Americans, by his example if nothing else, that democracy just does not work. While we still seem to be a long way from that point, four more years of Mr. Trump will bring us that much closer.
(Apparently, some retain shreds of weird optimism,
if imagining a 2nd Trump term can be called that)
The Census published an historical survey of the Black population in America in September 1993, however for a reason I do not understand the census data cannot be copied:
The Black population though was 14% of the total population in 1860, as the Civil War began. There were 4.4 million in all, with 488,000 free.
Brilliant review and book:
October 4, 2014
A Brutal Process
By ERIC FONER
THE HALF HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD
Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
By Edward E. Baptist
Thank you for these posts. Just a wealth of information in them. I will read them and make them my own.
The Immigration Act of 1924, including the Asian Exclusion Act and National Origins Act, was a United States federal law that prevented immigration from Asia, set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, and provided funding and an enforcement mechanism to carry out the longstanding ban on other immigrants.
The 1924 act supplanted earlier acts to effectively ban all immigration from Asia and set a total immigration quota of 165,000 for countries outside the Western Hemisphere, an 80% reduction from the pre-World War I average. Quotas for specific countries were based on 2% of the U.S. population from that country as recorded in 1890. As a result, populations poorly represented in 1890 were prevented from immigrating in proportionate numbers—especially affecting Italians, Eastern European Jews, Greeks, Poles and other Slavs. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, the purpose of the act was “to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.” Congressional opposition was minimal.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. The act followed the Angell Treaty of 1880, a set of revisions to the U.S.–China Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that allowed the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration. The act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed in 1892 with the Geary Act and made permanent in 1902. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It was repealed by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943.
The Act also affected the Chinese who had already settled in the United States. Any Chinese who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry, and the Act made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S. citizenship. After the Act’s passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new abodes.
Rjs – ditto Dude.
[from up thread]
July 13, 2020 1:01 pm
as someone who marched for civil rights in the 60s, my sense has been that tearing down those monuments is all that will come of the recent protests…the underlying racism will live on…
[Yep. it is local school boards rather than stupid statues that are the fountainhead of systemic racism in the US.]
When one learns hatred and mistrust at an early enough age, then it just seems natural.