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Why the South's Defeat was a Victory for Human Progress

The Confederacy was the Islamic State of Its Time

by JOHN WIGHT

If ever a cause was unworthy, that cause was the US Confederacy. If ever a cause was righteously defeated, it was the cause of the US Confederacy. And if ever a flag was and is an insult to human decency and dignity, it is the US Confederate flag.

The mere fact this is still being debated in the United States, the fact there are those who continue to accord a nobility, valor, and romanticism to the Confederacy – regarded wistfully as the ‘Lost Cause’ by its adherhents – this is evidence of the deep polarization that divides a society yet to fully come to terms with its legacy of slavery, racial oppression, and barbarism.

When white racist fanatic, Dylann Roof, slaughtered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, he unwittingly exposed the truth that the US Civil War remains the defining event in the nation’s history, which still today informs a cultural divide between North and South.

The reason for this lies not so much in the legitimacy of the Confederate/southern cause – indeed, how could a cause defined by the right to keep human beings as slaves ever be considered legitimate? – but in the weakness of progressive forces in succumbing to the mythology that has been ascribed to the Confederacy and to those who fought and died for it. Indeed if ever a society was crying out for the aggressive assertion of human rights, racial equality, and justice, it is the United States.

Racial oppression, whether delivered from the gun of a mass murderer in a South Carolinian church, or the gun of a police officer, has yet to be expunged in the land of the free, even though 150 years have passed since the Confederacy was defeated in battle.

There are historical reasons why this is so, but one in particular: namely the decision of the 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B Hayes, to end Reconstruction as a condition of his entry into the White House with the support of southern Democrats, a tawdry political deal known to history as the Compromise of 1877. It marked the end of a decade in which so-called Radical Republicans (referred to pejoratively as Black Republicans), in control of the US Congress, had driven forward a federal program to promote and uphold the rights of former slaves throughout the South, according them the full civil and political rights that their status as free men and women demanded. This was absolutely necessary immediately upon war’s end, when local politicians assumed control of state legislatures across the South and enacted ‘black codes’ with the objective of keeping the newly freed blacks in as close to a...

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