In the current hysteria to purge all things Confederate from modern America, historian Jamie Malanowski opines that the next logical step is that, “President Obama and the Congress should rename military bases that honor rebels and terrorists.” Malanowski claims that since “about a sixth of our armed forces are people of African-American origin . . . when we dispatch them to fight for freedom from camps named after slaveholders, racists, and terrorists, the irony reaches an offensive level.”
The dictionary defines irony as “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” And that is exactly what the United States did when it chose which Confederate leaders to “honor” when it named new Army bases in the South in the early part of the 20th century.
Consider the wartime records of those eponymous Confederates. Louisiana’s Fort Polk, as Malanowski pointed out, is named for the very “mediocre” Leonidas Polk. North Carolina’s Fort Bragg “honors” Braxton Bragg who, again according to Malanowski, was “vain”, “irascible”, and “indecisive”. John Bell Hood, for whom Fort Hood, Texas is named, was so reckless and foolhardy in his decisions that his subordinate, Nathan Bedford Forrest, reportedly said to his face at the Battle of Franklin, “If you were a whole man [by then Hood had lost an arm and a leg in separate battles], I’d whip you to within an inch of your life.”
Foolhardy was the mark common to most of the Confederate leaders “honored” with names on Army posts across the South. Henry Benning lost half his brigade attacking uphill against snipers hidden in the unforgiving terrain of Gettysburg’s Devil’s Den. (In another ironic twist, Benning, who was a delegate from Muscogee County–home of Fort Benning–addressed the Virginia secession convention saying that he would rather Georgia face “pestilence and famine” than remain in the Union. Thanks to Sherman’s “March to the Sea”, Georgia got both.) With Benning at Gettysburg was John Brown Gordon (Fort Gordon, Georgia). Injured at Malvern Hill, again at Shepherdstown, and four times at Antietam, Gordon too was a foolhardy man more adept at getting shot than he was at winning battles. Virginia’s George Pickett infamously marched his division across a mile-and-a-quarter of open ground against dug in cannon occupying the high ground of Cemetery Ridge.
The one rational Confederate general at Gettybsurg, General James Longstreet, argued to Robert E Lee that Pickett’s Charge was impossible. But the senile and strategically clueless Lee ordered it anyway. Lee, by the way, is “honored” at Fort Lee, Virginia. As for Robert E Lee’s wartime reputation, it is undeservedly earned early in the war, as it came mainly as a result of repeatedly besting George B. McClellan, who perhaps is the worst wartime general in the history of the United States. (Yet another irony is that one of the few Southern posts named for a Union general is Fort McClellan, Alabama.)
Absent among the names of Southern military bases are the Confederacy’s greatest leaders. James Longstreet, who a half-century before World War I understood that modern rifles made Napoleonic tactics obsolete, observed that the South both tactically and strategically benefited from defensive battles in a war of attrition. And when Lee wasn’t around and Longstreet could fight the way he wanted, he usually won. There is no Fort Longstreet. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who understood better than any American cavalrymen prior to Patton how to use mounted forces to overwhelm the enemy with speed and surprise, has no Camp Forrest named for him.* Fort Stewart is named for a Revolutionary War general Daniel Stewart and not for another successful Confederate cavalryman, “Jeb” Stuart. Fort Jackson isn’t in honor of “Stonewall” Jackson, but America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.
Taken as a whole, the names of modern Southern military bases is a list of those Confederate leaders most responsible for the Confederacy’s defeat. So when black Americans today train at Forts Benning, Hood, Polk, and the like, they can console themselves with the knowledge that they are “honoring” those Confederate generals whose greatest contribution to America was that they were in charge, thus ensuring that the Confederacy would lose the Civil War. That’s what irony really looks like.
* There was a Camp Forrest, Tennessee but it was so named only from 1941 to 1946. Incidentally, Maj Gen George S. Patton was among those who trained there.
** These opinions are my own and are not necessarily those of the Department of Defense.
Jim Geraghty pens a controversial piece wherein he opines that liberals are more tolerant of the hypocrisy of other liberals than are conservatives. Before I get to that portion of his argument, I’d like to address his conclusion with an historical analogy. Geraghty writes:
“As long as a particular position or stance lets progressives feel good about themselves, they will embrace it. Thus the measuring stick of Obamacare is not whether it’s actually providing the uninsured with health insurance . . . but whether a liberal feels that it’s a sign that he cares about the uninsured more than other people.
Liberals will deem Obamacare a failure only if it stops making them feel good about themselves.
The original Progressives advanced another misbegotten law that made them “feel good about themselves”, even while it destroyed the country. That law was Prohibition. In 1925, H.L. Mencken observed,
“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
It would be another eight years after what was obvious to Mencken was finally obvious enough to Progressives that Prohibition was repealed. And even then, it was not the obviousness of the chaos created by Prohibition that turned Progressive minds. It was the fact that by 1933 Congress finally got around to re-apportioning districts–a decennial requirement that was purposefully (and unconstitutionally) ignored following the 1920 Census, because Progressives knew that if they counted the nation’s newly arrived Catholics and Jews, that their beloved Prohibition would have gone to an earlier grave.
Still, even after Prohibition died with the 21st Amendment, Progressives consoled themselves with the belief that it was a “noble experiment”.
There was absolutely nothing noble about Prohibition or about its supporters, who employed more dastardly tactics even than just using unconstitutional measures to over-represent the nation’s more rural (dry) areas instead of its burgeoning urban (wet) cities.
Daniel Okrent catalogued just some of the evils that Prohibition’s adherents used to advance their cause. They actively cultivated the support of both flavors of racists, typified by the overtly bigoted Arkansas congressman John Tillman, as well as soft bigoted paternalists like the United Methodist Church which explained in an official publication that “Under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol, consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist its evil effects.” They encouraged anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism, as both religions were associated with alcohol’s manufacture, sale, and consumption. They stirred up nativism, specifically directed against Irish, Italians, and Jews. They not only allied with a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, they made the modern Klan and purposefully harnessed its hatred in order to enjoy the benefits of the fear unleashed by strong arm tactics that closely resembled those of Nazi brownshirts a decade later.
Most unforgivably of all, Progressives attacked all things German as war began on the Continent. A year after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress and claimed that those Americans “born under other flags . . . poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.” The metaphor was well-chosen. While not an avid dry himself, Wilson wanted those supreme executive powers that only war could bestow. If that meant further stoking nativism to bring those zealots closer to his aims, then so be it.
Yes, what I am saying is that early Progressives supported their cause so fervently that entry into World War I–the single most disastrous American political mistake of the last hundred years–became a desirable means of achieving their Prohibitionist ends.
And all of what I just described is the horror that occurred before Prohibition’s enactment. History tells us full well the terror unleashed as a result.
Those early 20th century Progressives are the intellectual forebears of modern Progressivism. Therefore, it should surprise us not that a movement which allegedly supported greater democratization in the form of the Nineteenth Amendment’s extension of the franchise to women, also purposefully blocked blacks from the polls and diminished the value of an urban immigrant’s vote. Women supported prohibition; blacks and immigrants did not. Hypocrisy has a long pedigree in progressive politics.
In an answer to his own question “Why [is it] so hard to make progressives live up to their own rules?” Geraghty comes close to the truth when he says that Progressivism is about making progressives “feel good about themselves”. But even closer to the truth is this oft-quoted observation from C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Progressivism is the belief that they know better than others how others should live their lives. There is nothing that they won’t do, there is no ally so abhorrent, there is no rule so inflexible, that a Progressive won’t embrace the unthinkable to advance their cause. That is because they do so with the approval of their conscience. (As an aside, this is why some strands of “Christian” conservativism have far more in common with Progressives than they do with most conservatives.)
In short, the end justifies the means–even if that end is measurably (as in the case of Prohibition and Obamacare) worse than the beginning. Adherence to means has no meaning in the progressive mind.
Two Boston area immigrants who fell under the spell of a radical ideology that espoused the use of bombs against innocents were allegedly behind the violent April 15 multiple murders.
But it’s not who you think it is. The year was 1920 and the two men were Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Aside from the date and the location, there are other parallels too. And they speak more about us than they do about either Sacco and Vanzetti or the Tsarnaev Brothers.
The nineteen-teens and twenties was a period of great tumult in the United States. After the First World War, which was widely viewed as disastrous mistake for having gotten involved, Americans rejected all things associated with the outside world. The aftermath of the Great War brought upheaval to Europe. Replacing failing empires and monarchies was Russian communism, German socialism, and varying amounts of anarchy seemingly everywhere else.
Today there is the ongoing collapse of the Euro and the demise of Middle Eastern strongmen, and so we fear radical islamism and economic contagion from Cyprus and Greece.
Eight decades ago the end of the war brought economic troubles too. High unemployment, which was widely and mistakenly thought of as a normal post-war adjustment to a lack of military demand and a surplus of returning soldiers, was actually just a result of the post-war continuation of the ongoing de-agriculturalization of the world economy. Regardless of the cause, greater unemployment turned American workers against more recent immigrants who were looking for work too. In 1917 America passed its first immigration restriction laws barring the entry of “idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics . . . ” and Asians. Just a year before, an influential eugenicist wrote The Passing of the Great Race that became widely popular. By 1924 America had its first immigration quotas that attempting to freeze in place the country’s racial composition.
Today unemployment is higher than normal as the world deals with the fallout associated with becoming a post-manufacturing economy. Pat Buchanan hawks The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. Politicians from all sides rail against “illegal” immigration but very often demagogue all immigration.
Both periods were characterized by big fights over petty tangential issues that many prudes insisted contributed to unrest and crime. The Volstead Act passed in the wake of the 18th Amendment gave us Prohibition, while today the President and many Democratic leaders want to outlaw guns. Were those laws to pass, more, not less, crime would be the result, just as more crime was the result of Prohibition too.
Certainly I could carry the parallels further, but let me just conclude with a few questions:
- Was it really necessary to quarantine an entire city to capture a couple criminals whose bombing victims numbered one-one-thousandth of those killed on 9/11?
- Does it not speak volumes about the limits of power and the power of people that the police were unsuccessful during their hours of uninhibited manhunt, but as soon as the house arrest was lifted a citizen found the suspect?
- Is it realistic to expect that among millions of immigrants there won’t be a few criminals, when we have millions of native Americans locked up here at home?
- Is not labeling violence as “terrorism” or “an act of war” just another form of “hate” crime, which attempts to characterize criminals by their thoughts instead of their acts?
- If three dead bombing victims is enough to rescind an American citizen’s constitutional rights, is two? Or one? Or none?
| Category: Race
| Posted at: Sunday, 17 June 2012
Through a commenter, I just learned that Rodney King is dead. Wow. I wonder if this is a metaphor for our times.
| Category: 2012
, 2nd Amendment
, Taxes & Spending
| Posted at: Thursday, 10 May 2012
I suppose I ought to say something about President Obama’s flip-flop on gay marriage. Instead, I’ll tell you what I wish Mitt Romney had said when he was asked about the President’s stance:
“That’s nice; now what about jobs?“
In fact, that should be Mitt Romney’s response every time he is asked about gay marriage, immigration, guns, Trayvon Martin, global warming, eating dogs . . .
Pretty much everything except the economy, taxes, and spending is a distraction from the issues that are really important. Mitt Romney should drive the point home that everything else is secondary and frivolous and that he is not going to allow the debate to come off that point.
P.S. If you’re really interested in what I think about gay marriage, here’s a couple recent posts that shed some light on that. But rather than expect you to read them, here’s a two-word summation: Don’t care.
MORE: Roger Simon concurs and offers a warning:
“The issue is a sideshow intended to distract. If our country goes the way of Greece – and writing this from the City of Los Angeles, it’s not so hard to imagine – you can forget any issue, whatever your favorite one is. You won’t be living in America anymore.”
UPDATE: Thanks to Ed at Insty’s Place for the links. While you’re here, this is a story that’s not directly about jobs, but I bring it around to that point: She deserves pity, not a punch in the throat. (There’s a bonus Blazing Saddles clip at the end.)
| Category: Culture
| Posted at: Tuesday, 8 May 2012
1/32 Indian Elizabeth Warren is also 1/32nd descended from a Tennessee militiaman who marched the Cherokee away on the “Trail of Tears.”
Does this mean that she would have to pay restitution to herself?
Again, this just demonstrates the idiocy of affirmative action. If it is meant to overcome past prejudice at the expense of those who acquired past benefits, then Elizabeth Warren sits on both sides of the equation. That’s true of a lot of Americans, including President Obama. Actually, that’s not even true in his case, as his black half is second-generation African and was never subject to slavery in North America.
If anything good can come from this farce, it is a growing recognition that affirmative action’s days need to end.
I’m one-sixteenth Bastard. Those who know me well would probably claim that it’s a higher percentage. But technically, I’m only one-sixteenth.
That’s because my grandfather’s grandfather was born just a couple short months after his mother’s 1832 wedding to a man who may or may not have been his biological father and shortly before the couple and their infant child beat a hasty exit to the New World.
Why is my lineage relevant? It’s not. Or at least it shouldn’t be. Except that, apparently, if you can trace 1/32nd of your ancestry to somebody who today would enjoy protected status, you too can enjoy that same protection. At least that’s what Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat running for US Senate in Massachusetts, claims. She used her 1/32nd drop of Cherokee Indian blood to bolster her resume so that she could advance through law schools all the way to a tenured post at Harvard as a minority applicant. (Sadly for me, bastards are not a minority.)
Now if this all seems preposterous to you, you’re right. If Elizabeth Warren, by virtue of her great-great-great-grandmother is entitled to protected status, are my children also minorities as a result of their Powhatan Indian ancestry that dates to the 17th century? As my eldest is applying for colleges next year, that would be awesome news! And if her 1/512th Indian ancestry doesn’t qualify, where is the breakpoint? Is it 1/64th? Or 1/128th? Or 1/256th? Exactly how many drops of minority blood makes one a minority?
Mark Twain exposed the folly of this system of racial discrimination in Pudd’nhead Wilson way back in 1893. The story is set in the antebellum South and involves a baby, born (coincidentally) 1/32nd black, but who was white enough that his mother switched the infant with a white baby so that her son could be raised free from the stain of her race. Twain originally started the story as a comedic interpretation of the mixed up social mores of his day, but as his writing continued the story evolved into a tragedy.
That’s how I view the Elizabeth Warren story too: farce that obscures tragedy. The real issue is not Elizabeth Warren’s gaming of the system to her advantage; it is that this system of racial discrimination even exists. Here we are in the 21st century arguing about how many drops of blood makes a white man black. That’s a tragedy.
Mark Twain is mocking us from the grave.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn for the link. While you’re here, please take a look around.
| Category: Culture
| Posted at: Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Disney World may be upstaged by the spectacle to be staged this summer in neighboring Sanford, Florida. The Washington Post is reporting that prosecutor Angela Corey is going to file unspecified charges against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting.
As I mentioned before, I’m going to reserve judgment until all the facts are in. However, it doesn’t take much of a prognosticator to see that this is going to be the latest “trial of the century,” a real media circus. Nor does it take too much clairvoyance to see how this circus could very quickly turn into a stampede.
| Category: Race
| Posted at: Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Whatever became of Blofeld’s cat?
Here’s your answer.
*Sure, I could have written something substantive about the pending resolution, but an inane comment about a chat chapeau was much more consideration than a racist lynch mob deserves.
| Category: Race
| Posted at: Friday, 2 January 2009
This is the headline on Drudge right now:
Dems to physically block access to Senate floor if Burris shows up…
The last time this happened it didn’t work out very well for the blockers:
Ann Althouse sees a similar image.