Reply to Posting
From: Robert Dotson
Date: Wed 1/3/2007 5:31 PM
Thanks for taking the time to reply. My use of "rant" was, indeed, meant to be complimentary. I have been - and am - accused of ranting from time to time and have simply taken that as a badge of courage in the public forum of electronic discourse that we now enjoy.
You are correct, of course, there are people who would accuse Prof. Chomsky of "ranting", but his detractors seem equally distributed between the political right and left! Use of the terms "conservative" and "liberal" are so problematic today, as the classical meanings have been radically altered by both camps. I increasingly avoid using them. Terms like "neo-con" and "progressive" do seem to be of use at the moment.
I really believe that you are off base in assigning responsibility for our present state of affairs to a "conservative South". The concept that such a block even exists is false, I think - merely a memory of things past. We are, instead, a rather homogenous nation of "Stupid". Our national problems are much bigger than old sectional rivalries. Additionally, I am pessimistic that things can be fixed by tweaking the electoral system. I am afraid that we are too far gone for peaceful, easy solutions. After all, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are obsolete and irrelevant documents following passage of the Patriot Acts. It is The Great Decider and his fellow-travelers who now represent how our government operates under the New Reality of the Unendliche War on Terror.
I have similarly spent decades reading a lot of history. I always enjoyed the subject - even as a young man - but really began to dig deeper about twenty years ago, when I looked about me and began to wonder: "How on earth did we get into this mess?" I was driven to read what turned into hundreds of volumes about what was the watershed war for this country, what you would refer to as the Civil War. Like all such human endeavors, the victors of that terrible conflict have had the luxury of writing the accepted version of the event and, consequently, views such as you express are still the predominant ones in this country, I believe. I do not intend to excuse the barbarisms of the South anymore than I would those of the North.
Slavery was an evil institution and it was proper that it end, but as you well know it was not the main reason for the conflict. I would further argue, that it was not necessary to shed oceans of blood to achieve emancipation or the end of slavery in this country. Obviously, we can never know for sure. Unfortunately, the "success" of the North confirmed and reinforced the Messianic pretensions that have so marked America's dealing with the rest of the world since before and after that war. Even Unitarians came to accept that it was OK to use military might for any "Right Cause!" This militaristic "evangelism" has deep roots in the Puritanism of the Northeast which evolved from the Gospel of Christ into the present Gospel of Mammon.
To authenticate the rightness of our cause du jour, it has now become established that we must shed blood - preferably of poorly armed non-Americans - and lots of it! This has become one of our most enduring sacraments. The massive, centralized, increasingly-totalitarian State that we enjoy today was delivered kicking and screaming near Appomattox in 1865. Our history since that time has been one of the rise of Amerika, Inc., and it continues apace. This creature is a 50-50 blend of Northern and Southern DNA, I assure you.
It is quite easy to create long lists of faults for both sections. The North was and remains as committed to its neo-Puritan exceptionalism as ever. The South still wrestles with many of its old ghosts and demons, but is by and large simply a homogenized North Lite. Were one to drop into any small city in the US now, you would find the same oil-based, unsustainable suburban sprawl that is the hallmark of Amerika, Inc. You will find the same lack of concern for people of color and for the poor and less fortunate. To paraphrase my friend, Jim Kunstler (The Long Emergency), you will find "fast food and strip malls, cheese doodles and Pepsi" everywhere you travel in America. In spite of perceptions, the South was more thoroughly destroyed as a society/culture and, so, its original uniqueness is much more diluted than that of the North. In my area, retired Northerners nearly out-number the natives now!
Not to excuse the many terrible things that you cite about the South, but I believe that they can largely be laid to reaction to an incompetent Reconstruction process - a process which was centered on revenge and exploitation more than humanity - one which went on well into the 20th Century. This country's foreign policy has been an exact duplicate of that begun in the "occupied" South. Even now our great corporatists are busy in far flung lands spreading their vision of "liberty" and "democracy" at the point of a bayonet - or, more disturbingly, a DU round.
I apologize for running on as I have. My intention was - and is - to simply try and get beyond sectional name-calling! As Americans we are all in this together and, unfortunately, the lunatics have been running the asylum for far too long. We need to work together!- Those of who can still generate an independent thought need to try and return sanity to the country - before we are all hauled off to the new Halliburton/KBR Detention Centers!
I appreciate your efforts to advance thoughtful discussion and your help in working to find answers that address the critical questions confronting us.
Be safe as you go...