The South Shall Deny Again

I’m a snob. If you’re a frequent reader of my column you know this to be stone-cold fact. And the snobbery doesn’t stop with me. I think that there are parts of this country that are just plain smarter, with just plain better people.

I don’t take pride in my snobbery, mind you. But it is what it is. Call a spade a spade. And call the American South delusional.

Did you know that more than four in 10 Southerners don’t think the Civil War was about slavery? According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 42 percent said that slavery wasn’t why the South seceded. Of course, anyone who’s taken a high school United States history class knows this to be false, but some people like to cling to lies like dying breath.

But don’t take my word for it. Refer to the second most famous Civil War speech, the Cornerstone Address; delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens on March 21, 1861, not a month after the Great Emancipator took office.

In his speech, Stephens asserts, “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.” Check and mate.

Then there’s the whole “states’ rights” argument: “Slavery isn’t the only thing they were fighting for!” OK, I’ll give you that, you uneducated rube. But let me pose this scenario for you. Let’s say I’m throwing a party. There’s going to be a fully catered buffet spread. And of course, being a Jaime Carrillo party, you know there’s going to be ’80s karaoke (I call dibs on Phil Collins’ “Don’t Lose My Number”). And last but not least, near the end, we’re going to slaughter a baby lamb as an offering to Galactic Lord Xenu.

Now, I ask you, what is now the focus point of this here imaginary party? Hint: It’s not a bunch of nerdy 20-somethings wailing Pat Benatar’s greatest hits. My point is, slavery may not have been the only thing the South was fighting for, but it sure as heck was the main event.

The problem lies with what is easily my least favorite deadly sin: pride. Heck, America as a whole would be better if people had a little more shame and self-loathing. But ever since the times of Andrew “19th Century Clinton” Jackson, the South was big on honor and pride. It may have been why they were so quick to secede in the first place.

No one likes admitting they’re wrong, especially when it’s on something as monumentally terrible as slavery. But we can’t face the problems of the future if we’re still hung up debating the problems of the past. Why can’t we all just come together as a country over this issue and just admit that I’m right? And I Oughta Know.

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