Recently, I’ve come across a wonderful website on Southern history and culture called the Abbeville Institute. I heartily recommend this site for its unique vision of America. It acts as a corrective both to the very anti-Southern history we were taught and to the Progressive vision of America in general. One of the best things this organization does is to undercut so many of the assumptions Progressive philosophy has caused us to believe.
The Abbeville Institute highlights that the South’s tradition is so much more than poor race relations and slavery. After all, the South gave us George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Monroe, and so many other figures who shaped our nation. Without George Washington, the Revolutionary Army would have been ineffective and disbanded before Patriot victory. Many of the other Southern Founders were responsible for giving the Federal government a more federal character and less of one powerful central government–as men like Alexander Hamilton wished it to have. (I firmly believe that the Constitution benefited from both impulses, the central and the local, and we would live in a far different country without both political schools.) In many ways, much of the best in American heritage has its roots in the South.
Americanism is an interesting concept: one form is a heresy, while the other just refers to the native genius of America. Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae about these two forms: “certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and…your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed…” or 2) “…the confounding of license and liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, [and] the assumed right to hold whatever opinion one pleases on any subject and to set them forth in print to the world…” Delighting in the first is not only lawful but necessary for any red-blooded American. The second describes the malaise of our times: nothing is sacred and everything is permitted.
Pope Leo XIII
To the wrongheaded Americanism, I might also add the confounding of America’s will with God’s will. We are right to think that God has especially blessed this country; but, we are only blessed to the extent to which we adhere to God’s will. We can and have erred in our history. Our particular endowments, characteristics, and political conditions do not count as the universal human standard.
I recently discovered that the term “new KKK” has been applied to Black Lives Matter. That’s a valid jibe against an organization which has instigated riots, but the term could more aptly apply to Anti-Fascist Action and the other violent protesters of recent weeks. After all, Antifa goes around wearing black clothing and masks. How would they look if they wore white instead? Perhaps a change of color would help the Democratic party understand the viciousness and illegitimacy of Anti-Fascist Action–despite its noble sounding name. (Sort of like how all the most oppressive countries refer to themselves as “Democratic People’s Republics.”)
One has not heard more than a peep from liberals condemning the protests at UC Berkeley. (That peep comes from Peter Beinart of The Atlantic.) One cannot help but be reminded of the silence and denials of Southern Democrats concerning the KKK during Reconstruction. Antifa deserves to be called “the Invisible Empire” every bit as much as the KKK. Worse, we’ve experienced riots and violent protests from the left frequently over the past three years; yet the Democratic hierarchy and their Leftist media are more than willing to justify groups like Black Lives Matter and Anti-Fascism Action and to place the blame on the Alt-Right or conservatives for expressing their opinions. After a similar length of time, the hierarchy of the Old South had become disturbed with the KKK and been convinced that it was a liability. And so, Nathan Bedford Forrest disbanded the KKK in Tennessee (the organization’s birthplace) during the fall of 1869 with other states following suit over the next several years. It would not rise again until Woodrow Wilson’s administration, and this time in a more prejudiced and sinister form.
Much has been written about U-Boat warfare in the Atlantic during WWII and the convoys of ships that kept Britain supplied, but The Mathews Men is the first book I’ve encountered that tells the story of the U.S. Merchant Mariners who sailed the ships that carried the supplies that kept the Allied war effort in Europe going and weathered the wrath of the German U-Boat force assigned to stop them.
The book focuses not on a seafaring family named Mathews, as the subtitle might be read to imply, but on the residents of Mathews County, Virginia, a small county with a long history of supplying sailors, mates, and captains to U.S. merchant ships. It sets the stage in Mathews County by introducing the reader to the Hodges family, the source of the seven brothers featured in the book’s subtitle, then goes on to tell the tales of the Mathews men who sailed during WWII and the women they left behind.
Recently, my reading has revolved somewhat around the topic of Word War II. All the Gallant Men is one of those books, and I’d recommend it to anybody interested in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much has been written about Pearl Harbor, but All the Gallant Men stands out as an first-hand account from Donald Stratton, a sailor from the U.S.S. Arizona who survived the attack even though his ship did not.
Stratton seeks to provide some context to Pearl Harbor, to go beyond the statistics and give the reader a glimpse of the lives lost and the men who weathered the storm of Japanese bullets and bombs. He tells of his childhood growing up in small-town Nebraska during the Great Depression. He explains why he joined the Navy, reminisces about boot camp, and describes life aboard the Arizona, both at sea and at anchor. He talks about the ship’s band, well on its way to earning the distinction of being one of the best of all the bands from the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. He describes the night of December 6, 1941. And of course, December 7, 1941. He chronicles the chaos of the attack and memorializes the actions of a sailor on another ship, who disobeyed orders in order to save Stratton and a group of survivors from the Arizona.
The more I think about my vote for Trump, the more I realize that my vote is less for the man Trump than against the Democratic or Progressive ideology. In this two party system we have here in America, where only a vote for a Democrat or a Republican truly matters, I find myself stuck on the Republican side, even though I do not have that much respect for the Republican party. I have respect for particular Republicans, but not the stupid and cowardly Republican politician who is the staple figure within it. Most Republican candidates merely want to keep their jobs and do so by trying to appeal to the right and as many independents as possible. They can never be counted to stand on principle and are all too willing to compromise in ways they should not. When it comes to standing on principle, Democratic politicians are often more admirable.
My political persuasion is determined by my Catholic faith and desire to preserve American liberty. The Democrats, like the Socialists and Communists who are their brothers in arms, have a deep disdain and hatred for the Catholic faith. States like California have tried to imitate Socialists in other countries by declaring parts of Catholic doctrine “hate speech.” I cannot abide a party whose platform endorses abortion, euthanasia, and gender insanity. (God created two biological sexes. Sure, people differ in degree as to masculinity and femininity, but an effeminate man is no more a woman than a tomboy is a man.) I verily believe that Progressive intellectuals and political leaders are more motivated by hatred of of Christ and of God’s laws than by any other cause.
The most popular arguments about the Civil War concern who started it and for what cause. Americans generally accept that the North held the right causes: union and the abolition of slavery. On the other hand, they claim that important Southerners wished to expand slavery and duped their compatriots into believing the conflict to be about States’ Rights. (A common rebuttal is “Yeah, States’ Rights for slavery!”) Yet, in these days, the corrupt federal government and the undue interference from that body into the lives of ordinary Americans make people look at the American Civil War with fresh eyes. They ask questions like: “What evidence is there for a right to secede? Did the South really fight for slavery or was there general disapprobation of the institution? Which side really started the war, i.e. is there any truth to the appellation ‘War of Northern Aggression’?”
Two books of interest to those who wish to look into these questions and to defend the Cause of the South are John S. Tilley’s Facts the Historians Leave Out: a Confederate Primer and The Confederate Cause and Conduct in the War between the States by Dr. Hunter McGuire and George L. Christian. Both works reinforce one another; yet, one gets the impression that Tilley’s work relies heavily upon the work of McGuire and Christian. Those latter two individuals served in the Army of Northern Virginia and wrote their reports in the year 1900, when they discovered how much the Confederate cause had been abused in modern history textbooks.