Picture it. A book store in Madison, Wisconsin, in the mid-’90s. Quite the unlikely place you’d expect to be exposed to the true history of the Pilgrims being totalitarian religionists, not the freedom-seeking refugees in funny hats, bonnets, and buckled-shoes we hear about in grade school.
This took place at a book signing and lecture, not given by a historian, but rather by LGBT activist Dan Savage, whose syndicated sex-advice column, Savage Love, was a favorite of mine back then. Obviously, I was in the throes of my leftist degeneracy, so I dutifully drank in his half-truths of this seemingly fresh critique.
“Debauchery and Puritanism are two sides of the same coin.”
— Dr. Clyde Wilson
Even though Savage was excoriating the Puritans mostly for their chaste sexual mores, he was also perpetuating the myth that New England history is the whole of American history. You know, “Land of the Pilgrims’ pride” and all that. Savage was simply echoing the increasing mainstream narrative in oh-so puritanical fashion.
Take the all-too-common misbelief that the Pilgrims celebrated the first official Thanksgiving. Yet, this occasion really occurred in 1609 as voyage-weary but grateful English settlers – whose mission it was to expand territory in the already-established Virginia colony, not flee religious persecution – stepped ashore dry Southern land for the first time.
This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s emblematic of the whitewashing of Southern history. It’s an attempt to make the South less important than it was and is. It’s an attempt to overshadow Virginia, and by virtue her sons and daughters and their extraordinary contributions to the making of America. Without the South, there would be no America.
“America was to be New England writ large, complete with the Puritan Thanksgiving,” remarked Dr. Donald W. Livingston, president of the Abbeville Institute, when explaining the “Lincolnian nationalism” with which we’re living today. South = bad. North = good. End of story.
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell
If you discount the Cavalier but constantly laud the Puritan, it becomes much easier to make Southerners seem like they were/are traitors. When New England is pushed as the norm, the plumb line of perfection, saying that Dixie was “rebellious” to American principles becomes a palpable narrative.
And when it’s been propagandized for so long that those principles are “equality” and “tolerance,” it’s much easier to further those infinite abstractions without God, natural rights, the guide of history, and the filter of moral tradition. Rednecks and hillbillies are just too racist to be reformed. Those yahoos just gotta be replaced, don’t ya know?
Leftist academics push a “false theory that human life is forever and only a story of oppressors and oppressed,” says historian Clyde Wilson. “As a result, the Czar’s Cossacks, the Taliban, and the great Virginians are best understood as equivalent oppressors. Such historianship constitutes neither a contribution to knowledge nor a useful teaching for society’s young.”
Revisionist, cherry-picked, and “contextualized” history is such the norm that most people don’t even question discrepancies, outright fallacies, or complete erasure. Many well-informed citizens are clueless of some of the facts and chronologies pointed out in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this series.
Homeschoolers aren’t immune
I was at an Orthodox homeschool conference recently and was chatting with a mom who said that Classical Conversations (the homeschool co-op in which both our families participate) has a “Southern bias” and noted the “Lincoln’s War Between the States” verse from the CC timeline song as evidence. At first I thought she was offended by linking Dishonest Abe with the event itself, as if to blame him (rightly) for the war.
But then I realized she was troubled by the name. She was incensed that it wasn’t merely called “the Civil War,” since that’s the only title of which she had apparently ever heard. Really?!
I, in all my Southern politeness, replied, “Well, you can teach your kids to call the bloody conflict whatever you want, but a civil war it was not.” I then gave her a quickie primer on how that type of struggle has a specific meaning, and as classical home-educators, we should strive for precision in wording and honesty in language. How can we learn from the past and gain wisdom if our verbiage is so askew?
“Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”
— Flannery O’Connor
This was not the first time that I’ve butted heads with “national” CC mamas. Many beyond the South do not like any historical narrative on the War of Northern Aggression, other than the one that has been spoon-fed to them by Lincolnian educrats for nearly a century.
To me, it seems silly to go to the trouble and expense of homeschooling if you’re going to just parrot the conformist propaganda. Classical home-educators should really know better, especially Christian ones, whose breadth of understanding of the faith and defending it against secular wiles is greatly benefited by meticulous study of Church and (by default) political history.
The Bible story is so often set with statism as the backdrop. Context matters. True history matters. After all, “Repentance is a call to the past,” says Aaron D. Woolf, editor of Chronicles Magazine.
Existing in these disunited states is proof in and of itself that the South was right. We’re supposed to be one, yet we’re balkanized. We’re multi-lingual, yet we can’t even speak our minds. We’re “multi-cultural,” yet our traditions are shunned. We foster public ownership and private profit, yet we claim to hate fascism.
We’re about godless “equality,” yet that fantastical notion applies to everyone but us. I mean, “protected classes” were invented to marginalize the Southern man (you know, the white, straight, Christian, toxically masculine kind). We clamor for transcendentalism, yet live in a fallen world. We abhor the African slave trade, yet tolerate modern slavery and don’t even believe in freedom.
We scream for “social justice,” yet promote true injustice as social goods. We clamor for “civil rights,” yet ignore states’ rights and the peacefulness of subsidiarity. We laud the individual, yet seek socialism and globalism. We have local problems, yet seek national and even global solutions.
These are “unstable compounds,” as Livingston describes. Most normal people know it. Even leftists know it, at least the ones who are being eaten by their supposed allies when they no longer meet the constantly changing PC metrics.
As author Michael Malice tweeted, “Progressivism is domesticated imperialism, the attempted conquest of one culture over another ‘inferior’ one.” This was one of the reasons Hitler praised Lincoln in “Mein Kampf.” Dishonest Abe had no tolerance for the roots, resilience, and “otherness” of the South.
Karl Marx was no fan of Dixie either. He regarded the Confederacy’s secession “as a rebellion against progressive German immigrants who somehow were better Americans than the Southern sons of patriots and founders,” explains Wilson.
Interestingly, Lincoln’s radical Republican Party was greatly influenced by these Germans, who were a natural fit to the Puritan mindset. They had fled the failed communist revolutions of 1848 that had occurred throughout Europe, only to become Northern partisans and social-policy activists before, during, and after the War.
Richard Taylor, writer, Confederate general, and son of U.S. President Zachary Taylor, said a German immigrant once vaingloriously instructed him on how to be a proper American. Just give us your land, money, blood, sweat, ingenuity, and eventually hearts and minds, and we’ll let you be a cog in the shallow wheel of “progress.”
“Tradition usually rests upon something which men did know; history is often the manufacture of the mere liar.”
— Jefferson Davis
We’re living with the rotten fruits of Lincoln’s inglorious “union” today. But the sacrifice and bravery of the South’s men and women not only repelled the federal onslaught and its military, political, and spiritual conquest for four years, it beat the tar out of them much of the time – especially before the death of Stonewall Jackson, who together with Robert E. Lee, never lost a battle.
The Confederacy’s valiant efforts were a stopgap to wanton central authoritarianism and the remaking of America that Southerners had been warning about since the 1780s. And its loss became the watershed moment for America.
“The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slave-holders; they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, jacobins on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other,” remarked 19th-century Presbyterian James Henley Thornwell.
“The world is the battleground, Christianity and atheism the combatants, and … humanity is at stake.” The bifurcation was a clash of civilizations. And since to the winner go the spoils, the Lincolnian myth became the foundation upon which modern Americanism was built. Lincoln’s a saint. Lee is Satan. Class dismissed.
Tyranny won over self-determination. Democracy over states’ rights. Post-modernism over Scriptural faith. Nihilism over the sacraments. Modernity over familial customs. Materialism over agrarianism. Existentialism over objective truth. And now all must bow down and pledge allegiance to this “indivisible” nation-state.
Lincoln’s “will of the people” ideology is noticeably similar to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s guiding concept for the French Revolution. “Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will,” Rousseau said, “and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.”
Interestingly, both despots oversaw a murderous reign of terror. Who da thunk?!
“When Christians today decry the use of Federal power to enforce secular humanist views,” penned the Kennedy Twins, “they should be reminded that it was Patrick Henry who warned Southerners what could and would happen in a democracy if one finds himself in the minority status.” In a word, today’s minority enemy is traditionalism.
“Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
— H.L. Mencken
“We are going to have to change our conversation,” Michelle Obama told a hyper-emotional campaign crowd in May 2008. “We’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.”
This “place” isn’t a reinvention, but rather a recycling of the tired old Puritan ethos. The Union coerced us into believing that there can be no law without a legislator. Just regulate “morality.” Force your ideas upon other citizens through the heavy hand of government. Our fictional destination is a secular-progressive Zion, no matter the cost.
The abolitionists, “many of whom stated frankly that if forced to choose between their private beliefs on the one hand, and the Holy Scriptures on the other, they would be compelled to jettison the Bible,” wrote historian Tom Woods. Northern meddlesomeness doesn’t need the Good Book ’cause Yankees are just that doggone smart.
“The American … is beyond all things else, a judge and a policeman,” wrote Mencken in 1917. “He believes firmly that there is a mysterious power in law; he supports and embellishes its operation with a fanatical vigilance.” Just some 50 years after the War, and already the puritanical progressive came to symbolize the U.S. citizen.
Northern women, who had been given roles as teachers and missionaries post-War and into the 20th century, were steeped in the reform movement. Couple their Fundamentalism with female emotionalism, and you’ve now got the makings of feminism.
Pretty soon these Reconstructionists would be comparing the institution of marriage to chattel slavery and challenging familial norms. Change we can believe in, right?
“I believe that somewhere, deep in the innermost recesses of their atrophied souls, Yankees know that they truly have botched things, and truly are plagued with guilt,” claims historian Forrest McDonald.
“That, I think, is the bottom line: the Yankee hates himself, and he hates his heritage. And why does he hate us? Because we do not hate ourselves and we treasure ours.”
While the North became increasingly post-Christian, Dixie still clung to her guns, Bibles, and ancestors. While the Puritans traded their Scriptural traditions for the “social gospel” and then eventually for the “social justice” aims of cultural Marxism, Dixie held on to her faith-heritage and historic traditions.
“Disregard public opinion when it interferes with your duty.”
— Stonewall Jackson
Flannery O’Connor once said that true Southern identity is a “mystery known only to God.” We have our quislings, that’s for sure. But Dixie has more than not been a thorn in the side of the encroaching secular humanism.
“Its esteem for its ancestors and its refusal to denounce them and become a clone of the Northeast is infuriating to the Left,” historian Gail Jarvis succinctly says. We have been and must continue to be the bulwark to replacing the brutality of the present with the beauty of the past.
Break free from the carpetbag
Be proud of who you are. Y’all are in good company. Don’t fear being called hateful names. After all, a Southerner’s mere existence is offense enough to trigger some puritanical-progressives into a tailspin. Laugh it off.
Although Southerners have certainly been victims, don’t be victimized. Be jubilant and joyful ambassadors for the Southern-without-apology movement. Be glad to be an outcast in America’s violent, pornographic, and dead culture.
“You have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.”
— Flannery O’Connor
As author Wendell Berry argues, “we are wholly dependent on pattern … and the understanding of connections seems to me an indispensable part of humanity’s self-defense.” So, pass on the stories of a people and a place of our still-rich Southern culture to your children, your neighbors, anyone.
And “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Delight in home and community. Relish history and tradition. Resist the empire. Embrace your dissidence. Pray without ceasing.
As T.S. Eliot presciently wrote in 1931, “The world is trying to experiment with attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive