For a thought experiment let’s suppose that the present generation in Germany decided that Hitler had nothing but the best of intentions for the German people and they began erecting statues of him and members of his government in public squares, and putting his name on streets, and on grammar schools through higher education buildings. To the average German it would be an acceptable thing, of course. But how would minorities see this development, and the rest of the world many of whom may have been victimized by this brutal regime?
Many of us have been conditioned to think of the Confederacy in terms of enslavement of those of African ancestry, and possibly liberal in all other matters. Of course this view is appalling enough on its own. But when thinking about the Confederacy in these terms, it’s like Carl Sagan’s 1D being’s encounter with a 3D world in the original version of the Cosmos – there’s at least two thirds of the 3D world that is quite far beyond the comprehension of Mr. 1D — because the full-bodied Confederacy was a pre-existing, very dangerous political cartel that congealed into a formal government when it could no longer force cooperation from above the Mason-Dixon line.
What many of us imagine when we think about racial violence in the South, the hoods, the torches, the burning crosses, lynchings and destruction of property in reality was cartel’s standard MO that was applied to all matters of nonconformity and dissent. It wasn’t simply an afterthought of the war as a form of terrorism for former slaves. Through the history of the South, one cooperated with the cartel or had the option of leaving the area under its control on one’s own two feet or in a pine box both before and after the war. If I had to put a description on the Confederacy as a whole, I would say that it was probably the first ever expression of fascism as government in global history and the world lends far too much credit to Hitler for originality.
So what comes to mind when I think about the debate over the statues of figures of the Confederacy is exactly the sort of reaction I would have to a hypothetical situation of the present generation in Germany deciding to decorate the landscape with figures from the 3rd Reich, as the grandchildren of the Confederacy did in the southern US in 1920’s and beyond. Why would anyone want to be reminded of that horrifying and detestable bout with illiberalism where violent terror was used to extract cooperation and conformity?
At least, that is the opinion I arrive at with my self-educated 21st century eyes. It amazes me how blind we are to nonsensical things under our own noses, but we certainly have no problem calling out fascist thuggery for what it really is when it occurs in other parts of the world. Those statues and name plates are completely out of place here, just like there is no place in Germany for honoring figures from the 3rd Reich.
PS: Apparently Steven Mnuchin just married a reincarnation of Marie Antoinette, or something like that. At least Antoinette had the excuse of being in completely over her head rather than being mentally ill.