Eminent Domain aside, things were quite different in the North where I grew up than they were in the contemporary South. Because I lived in the North, I had considerably less exposure to the South, except for annual visits either to Texas to visit my grandparents, or to Virginia to visit my Aunt Polly. But however sparse the exposure, it was just enough to paint a few clear, yet vitally distinct cultural differences.
For example, whereas in Texas a man could carry a firearm in a holster and it would also be considered justifiable homicide if he killed another man for cheating with his wife; this Prairie Justice cultural heritage had somehow never really formed the foundation of the legal code in New York State, where even thinking about owning a firearm is illegal.
In the aforesaid circumstance a Texas judge would probably rule it justifiable to kill the cheating wife as well, whereas in New York, the angry husband would likely wind up doing life without parole or possibly then find his way to the electric chair.
As an anecdotal truth, when my Texan Uncle Pete caught his wife in bed with another man and then shot him in the knee, the judge let him go without as much as a single a harsh word.
- Yes judge. I do admit to shooting him. But only to teach him a lesson.
- I know, son. But why didn’t you shoot her too?
- ‘Cause judge, you know I still love her, and I just can’t live without her.
- This must be a terrible emotional strain for you, son, but don’t worry. Everything is going to be A-O.K. Here is my sentence: Take her back to church and square it up with Jesus; get your woman righteous again, then pray to the Lord that the next time your aim is better, and you don’t miss that cheatin’ bastard’s sinful heart.
All my cousins owned small arsenals. My Aunt Louise’s third husband owned a small hand tooled, highly illegal, double barreled short shot gun he dubbed “The Snake Charmer,” which he kept under the front seat of his car.
- It’s a deterrent, you know. All you have to do is point, click and shoot. Mostly just click. It’s the click that’s the real deterrent. Just hearing that little click will make any felonious Jackass skedaddle for the hills.
One of my great uncle’s, who in his eighties successfully aborted an attempted mugging by a sixteen-year-old black thug, did so by pulling out a .22 gauge derringer when the kid came up behind him. He was tottering along when the teenager came up shouting:
- Hey you, stinkin’ old man. You stop there now.
- When my frail old uncle failed to stop, the kid became outraged, caught up to him, and then grabbed his coat to spin him around, only to face the small double-barreled equalizer.
- Hey you stinkin’ old man. I told you to stop. You stop now or I’ll beat the shit out of yo’ stinkin’ old white-trash body.
- Not so fast, son. Because right now I’m gonna give you just one chance to save your own stinkin’ life by lettin’ you run away just as fast as your stinkin’ little black ass can go.
Well into the 1960s, Texas also still had segregated schools, bathrooms and water fountains; whereas at that point in time three of my best High School friends were Black. In truth, none of us even thought about race. However, this residual post-Civil War bias against Blacks in the south was not even veiled.
For example, when one of my Redneck step-cousins showed me his chrome plated .44 caliber pistol, he nonchalantly editorialized by stating that the reflecting chrome plating was especially good because when waved around at night it scared the hell out of the “niggers**.” What could I say to that? “Don’t shoot me. I’m just a Melungeon?”
When I was about eight years old, I recall my Aunt Thelma Jean screaming at me in a supermarket to get away from the “Colored” fountain, as though somehow, I would be irrevocably contaminated or poisoned by its contents. She may also have been horribly embarrassed by the fact that a child in her custody, in such a public venue, did not yet know the rules of “polite society.” I naively thought nothing of walking up to it for a drink. Taking the sign at literal face value my childish instinctive thought was how nifty it would be to see exactly what color this other water might be, and how different it might taste from the plain, ordinary clear “White” stuff. I was hoping for raspberry Kool-Aid or Coca-Cola.
She tried her best to explain the difference to me, but I could never grasp the concept.
Historically, the South in general was more homogenous was the North and was more insulated from the flood of foreign immigrants that came in during the era of the great European out-migrations. The North was urban, cosmopolitan and industrialized, while the South was rural, insular and agrarian. The South also maintained an antiquated social hierarchy in which every person knew his place and station, whereas the North facilitated more in the way of upward social mobility.
There are two sides to every story. But when it comes to War, the only thing that really counts is who wins.
The Civil War was as much about the South’s struggle to maintain its integrity, its lifestyle, its culture and independent State’s Rights; as it was about the North’s ambition to abort a split in the Union over valuable and onerous Federal tariffs accrued on Southern plantation cotton and sugar productivity. In fact, 90% of the Federal income was generated by these lopsided tariffs, an income the Federal Government could not risk losing. Slavery was merely a side issue; especially because 95% of Southern slaves were owned by only 5% of the Southern population; which also happened to include a few wealthy Blacks.
This was essentially a war of cultural economics, a tax revolt and a bid by the North to gain validated independence for centralized government control; centralized banking; mercantilism; and genocidal “manifest destiny” Western expansion; all of which culminated in a far too powerful Federal Government that in this modern era has simply run amok. The real crux of the matter is that the war was fought over Alexander Hamilton’s and Thomas Jefferson’s opposite philosophies of republican Democracy.
The issue of slavery was a matter of political expedience that came late to the forefront in the thinking of an ambivalent Abraham Lincoln. He did believe that slavery should be abolished. This is not rocket science. But he stopped short of making the case for black citizenship; and he certainly did not believe in racial equality or integration. He also wanted to send freed slaves out of the country after the Civil War, but interestingly enough; post war Black leaders refused to embrace the concept. Another no-brainer. Why go back to the land of the “brothers” who sold you into bondage in the first place?
Additionally, although there was a great push by Abolitionists to end slavery, at the personal level, racial bias was still a problem in the North in the 1800s. Massachusetts, the original hub of U.S. slave trading via the infamous Triangular Trade, Rhode Island, and New York all continued to condone and harbor slavery. Boston, New York and Philadelphia also held slave auctions. Northern white factory workers refused to work next to Blacks and did not want them integrated into their neighborhoods. There were several anti-black social riots. Abolitionists also specifically shied away from addressing the exploitation of impoverished slum-dwelling white children working 70 hours a week in Northern factory sweat-shops for mere pennies, under the yoke of greedy mercantile Capitalists.
The Emancipation Proclamation itself specifically excluded and exempted freeing slaves from all federally controlled states or territories. It was designed with the intent to incite an internal Southern slave rebellion that either never materialized or ironically put the newly freed blacks into positions of menial servitude for the Northern Army. Slopping shit and peeling potatoes, it was back to the square-one that then persisted for them until the 1960s: and beyond.
Why is the tale not told of the Northern city anti-black murder and lynching riots or the fact that northern soldiers wanted to dessert in droves when they were told their mission included freeing the blacks, whom they derided as being nothing better than cannon fodder?
A parallel concept about satellite issues was elucidated when a Polish Resistance fighter was interviewed after World War II; only to be severely chastised for not doing more to help the Jews in the Concentration Camps. In a startled reply he explained that for Poland, the Jews were nothing more than a relatively minor or inconsequential side issue, adding that nobody had really given them a second thought because the real point of the exercise was solely to regain his country’s freedom. He also pointed out that approximately 2.5 million of his own non-combatant Polish countrymen had been killed by Hitler’s war machine; so why the big fuss over the Jews? Everything is relative.
My uncle Oakley, who was born and raised in West Virginia, in thinking it might be an unusual ocular condition, used to ask my father: “So what exactly is an “Eye-talian?”
For most of his life, my Texan uncle Bobby honestly and truly did not know what Jewish was, much less any other minority than the Blacks. In his mind he discounted this unknown religious minority as a non-entity, or at least of one of no real importance that had no impact whatsoever on his life. He thought that anti-Semitism was an arthritis treatment.
When I was in college in Durham North Carolina, a local movie theater showed a nostalgic version of ‘Gone with the Wind.’ A couple in the row in front of me was having a conversation and agreeably debating the fact that people in the North simply did not know what it was like to be “burned off their land.” It is beyond me how they happened to know what it was like to be subjected to Sherman’s Northern Army sweeping through, then literally incinerating the South and tearing up the lifeblood of its railways. But they talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday to themselves; rather than being conveyed in the family stories that accompanied hand me down clothing and a few surviving heirlooms.
In truth, most history books ignore the unnecessary brutality the Northern Army visited on the South as it murdered, hung, tortured, and raped local White civilian populations, then looted and burned their homes; topping it off by killing all their livestock and burning their crops. Entire towns were destroyed; only to be memorialized by a stone slab or a house chimney, known as “Sherman’s sentinels.” It is also not widely publicized that Union troops often stole from the slaves they had just liberated; or put them to work in menial subservient jobs.
This is then not to mention the arbitrary martial law that a despotic Abraham Lincoln* imposed not only on the South; but also on many aspects of life in the North; such as suppression of the free press and incarceration of the Maryland and Delaware legislators who were not sympathetic to fomenting a Civil War.
People in the South literally saw things more in terms of black and white. Slavery was a cultural norm that dated back to the earliest settlement in Jamestown. In fact, slavery was an evil, but ordinary unquestioned social norm and an accepted partner of ancient civilization dating back before the ancient Greek and Roman world conquests. Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations were built on the backs of its slaves.
In Western European’s global expansion, between 1450 and 1850 it is estimated that 12 million African slaves were exported like chattel. These people, who were the captured spoils of internecine conflicts and sold into bondage by other Africans, were brought to both North and South America to work everything from Colonial American farms to Spanish silver mines. As such, southerners had to accept the concept of and racial diversity or equality at such a very late historical stage, that some of them, brainwashed and still licking their Grandparent’s wounds, had a difficult time getting over it. After all, they did lose the war, and like what happened to Germany in 1918 that wound runs deep, then smolders, and unfortunately in some areas still festers.
The resentment that gave rise to the likes of the Ku Klux Klan; among other undesirable attitudes and racial hostilities had nothing to do with slavery. It was a reaction to scorched earth policies and sanctioned civilian murder, followed by devastating southern exploitation by Carpet baggers and Scallywags.
To its credit though, some elements of the old South to this very day retain its former gentility and charm, is still a place where people have manners, where children are raised to have respect, to address their elders as “Sir” and “Ma’am” and where adults still tend to say “please,” “thank you,” and “how do you do.”
However, many impoverished southern communities, both Black and White alike, will never recover from the scorched earth policies of the Federal Armies and the post-Civil War economic repression imposed on the South by the Federal Government
Take a ride though any Southern White trailer park or a miserably pathetic east Virginia Black shanty-town where unemployment is rampant; ironically often adjacent to large mechanized soybean or tobacco plantations, and it will be easy to see that if nothing else, rural poverty in the South does not discriminate against the color of one’s skin.
*The Real Lincoln: Perhaps not so Lily White? (Quotations of Abraham Lincoln)
“I will say, then, that I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. That I am not in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races that prevents them from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” (1858)
“It was a war for a great national idea…the Union, and General Freemont should never have dragged the Negro into it.”
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.”
“The Emancipation Proclamation has no Constitutional or legal justification except as a war measure. Slaves not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation should be freed gradually over a 37 year period of time to be completed by January 1, 1900.Slave owners should be compensated for the loss of their slave property. The government should transport freed Blacks, at government expense, out of the country and relocate them in Latin America and Africa.” (1862)
I was taught in high school in the 1960s that using the term “nigger” was demeaning to blacks and was anathema. But for people like my mother, who grew up in Texas in the 1930s, it was considered part of normal vocabulary. Thus, due to an almost involuntary habit, and especially after she became demented; she would occasionally blurt it out.
It seems ironic to me then that while polite society castigates the use of the word, or punishes those who use it as a Federal hate crime; modern Black hip-hop culture bandies the word repetitively in songs as well as in ordinary street jargon. The word now seems now to be a proprietary black cultural badge of honor.
It is also interesting that modern day American Blacks lionize the same Lincoln who only thought of them as being a disposable inferior race; and to a country that lionizes a man who purposefully manipulated the start of a war that killed over 600,000 of his fellow countrymen; or 2% of the existing U.S. population.
Lincoln repeatedly refused to meet with Southern delegations that sued for a separate peace before the war began; then provoked the attack at Fort Sumpter.
This is not to mention the 400,000 wounded, 60,000 amputees; the several hundred thousand dead Southern civilians and the 1.2 million military dead horses and mules.
As a perspective, the U.S. lost a “mere” 400,000 soldiers in World War II.
Think of it more simply. America declared war on itself 84 years after it successfully seceded from England; then proceeded to cannibalize its defeated polarized half. The generals who fought against each other were roommates at West Point who fought side by side against Mexico in1846. It was so inbred, Abraham Lincoln even asked Robert E. Lee to head up the Union army. The fact that it was not so much a War Between the States as it was a War of National Disgrace is something that none of us can take any pride in. Brother against, brother, cousins, uncles and even small towns tearing each other to pieces. Nothing more that an indelible black smudge in American history.
Unfortunately, Lincoln was not visionary enough to realize that the discovery of oil, the farm combine as well as modern agricultural techniques or natural evolutionary social forces would have intuitively and automatically put slavery out of business. This is the same moot economic force that has taken modern American workers off assembly lines; only to be replaced by robots or overseas Chinese, who work in sweat shops for slave wages. It is nothing more than a lateral arabesque maneuver for residual worldwide slavery.
It is also likely that left unto itself; the country would have been forced to reunite anyway: if nothing else possibly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lincoln was visionary enough however to recognize that the U.S. required “lebensraum”
After the South had been decimated; he instructed Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Makenzie to go out West and implement Sheridan’s concept of a valid “final solution” to the Native American “problem.”
Yes indeed, after 1865 slavery would be officially ended by the 13th Amendment; and from then on, the only good Indian would now be a dead Indian.
It wasn’t called Reconstruction for nothing
What is a man
Deep down inside
But a raging beast
With nothing to hide
(Passenger: The Grateful Dead)