The Antidote for Yankee Self-Righteous Delusional Disorder

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The closing days of the sesquicentennial has offered media outlets the chance to reflect on the outcome of the War. The results were to be expected. Both “conservative” and “liberal” websites have lamented that the end of the War did not produce the sweeping political and social revolution that could have been, or in their minds should have been. Three pieces are of note.

The first, authored by Josh Gelernter for the “conservative” National Review, suggests that Southerners should discard their “romance of the Confederacy” for the “better part of its heritage,” namely the thousands (estimated 110,000) of Southerners who resisted secession and fought for the Union. After all, they weren’t traitors. Gelernter offers this advice out of respect for his family, many of whom fought for the Confederacy but ultimately “picked the wrong side.” The Confederacy should be buried along with its cause and its symbols. “[M]ore than one of every ten southerners who fought in the war fought to end slavery and keep the country united. The South ought to be very proud of that,” he writes.

Why, Mr. Gelernter, haven’t Southerners seen the light before? The South should abandon the nearly one million men who wore the gray in favor of 110,000 men who chose the “right side.” I am sure the thousands who were left destitute by the war, who suffered unimaginable hardships in support of the effort—women and children included—and who lost everything at Appomattox would welcome such unsolicited advice. Apparently so, because they spent so much time after the War glorifying their Union brethren. The thousands of monuments in honor of the Confederacy across the South are a testament to that fact.

The second by Brian Beutler at the leftist New Republic is pure vitriolic bile. Beulter cannot hide his disdain for the South, its people, its heritage, and its culture, which Beutler would probably summarize in one word: hate. He would have famous (or infamous) company. The historians Dan Carter and Drew Gilpin Faust have made a lucrative career pushing that cart.

Beutler has a simple agenda: rename, remove, or destroy any vestige of the Confederate past, including the ten United States military installations named for former Confederate soldiers, “the myriad totems to the Confederacy and its leaders that pockmark the South,” or any other public place named after “the Confederates [who] committed treason against the United States in support of a war for slavery.” The federal government could remove the Confederate memorial at Arlington, stop spending money on Confederate headstones and strike any Confederate landmarks from the National Register of Historic Places. Beutler would spare the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after “a vicious white supremacist, who committed treason against the United States as a Confederate general, and later terrorized former slaves as an Alabama Klansman and Democratic Senator,” but only because “the bridge should bear Pettus’s name eternally, with the explicit intent of linking the sins of the Confederacy to the sins of Jim Crow.”

The exclamation point would be making April 9 a national paid holiday labeled “New Birth of Freedom” day, replete with fireworks and grand jubilees designed to denounce treason, secession, and anything Southern. Beutler suggested this would fulfill President Obama’s charge for “each successive generation…to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals.” America would finally be remade.

Beutler uses the word “treason” several times in the piece and reduces a complex war to a single issue. You guessed it, hate (or more historically slavery). I see a theme developing. According to this logic, Americans should scrap Independence Day, remove all references to the founding generation, and eagerly advocate a reunification with the mother country, Great Britain. The British called Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, and Henry “terrorists” guilty of “treason.” Instead of Benjamin Franklin, we should admire his Tory son, William Franklin. Our heroes in the South should consist of Cornwallis and Ferguson rather than Marion, Sumter, and Pickens. The British did insist that the United States was simply fighting to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Maybe they had a point. Slavery was legal in all of the British North American colonies when the war began. Perhaps Americans should rename Brown University or Faneuil Hall, both built with money made in the slave trade. I won’t hold my breath. Liberal hypocrisy would never allow it.

The third piece by “conservative” Richard Brookhiser is nothing less than gushing hero worship of Abraham Lincoln coupled with a patronizing lament about the failures of the “Union’s main goals…the new birth of freedom for black Americans.” “The South,” he wrote, “needed guidance.” Robert E. Lee wouldn’t provide it; Lincoln was food for worms; and thus one of “the worst” presidents and a group of “Lost Cause romantics and bitterend partisans” let the South run to murder and terrorism. The South was only redeemed of its sins one hundred years later.

His sophomoric, simplistic tale of Reconstruction misses the mark entirely, but that should be anticipated from a “Lincoln scholar” who is not familiar with the more complex story of the 1876 election or the intricacies of the Reconstruction period. His tale is pro-Republican propaganda for the masses, an abridged “Reconstruction for Dummies” that would make the communist Eric Foner proud. Andrew Johnson is one of “the worst” presidents because he vetoed unconstitutional legislation, something “conservatives” usually applaud, and Northern propaganda of the Reconstruction period, much of which was refuted both at the time and in the early twentieth century, is considered infallible by this “conservative” historian.  Of course, that is because the “Lost Cause romantics and bitterend partisans” lied.  No Yankee ever stretched the truth.  That is probably why Daniel Boone once said he never wanted to live within 100 miles of a “d—d Yankee.”  They are completely worthy of our trust and admiration.  Brookhiser is a nice example.

Fortunately, there is an antidote for this disease. If you are reading this, you have found it. The Abbeville Institute re-launched our website just over one year ago. In that time, we have published over 300 articles on Southern history, politics, and culture aimed to refute the now prevalent narrative of Southern imbecility, perfidy, and “treason.” Over 100,000 people from all over the globe have explored “what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition.” As long as we continue to publish, Southern culture will not only survive but the principles of 1776 and 1861 will flourish. The South is America. The cultural Marxists and American nationalists on both the left and the right would like to eradicate her history and replace it with a more palatable set of heroes. We cannot let that happen. Please help us in our goal to remember the cause of our fathers and defend a culture that is older than the United States. Both the South and America depend on it.

About Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of six books, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (Regnery History, 2017), 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student. He lives in Alabama with his wife and three daughters. More from Brion McClanahan

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8 thoughts on “The Antidote for Yankee Self-Righteous Delusional Disorder

  1. I enjoy your website. But I have noticed there has always been a South vs North [Yankee] sentiment here on the east coast.

    I am a Yankee but I like the South and its history as much as I like the traditional North up this way. Although I am no fan of Lincoln either. I do however get the feel at times alot of westerners and southerners hate us up this way. Not sure if its due to them thinking we are liberal social justice warriors or what? If so they have us mistaken for the people who live in the cities and the upper classes which pay alot of money to those causes.

    I am no democrat or republican. I wish the north east had more paleolibertarian views as oppose to progressive liberalism.

  2. First, thank you for reading our website. Second, you, sir, are a Northerner, not a Yankee. A Yankee is a particular breed of person who believes that everyone should live as he does and if not he will force you to bend to his will, as you call them “social justice warriors.” There are many fine folks throughout history from up North, Roger Sherman, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Franklin Pierce, etc. Northerners and Southerners have always had much in common, not culturally necessarily but in how they viewed government and society. Yankees are the exception to the rule, and unfortunately they have, since 1865, dominated the way history has been taught.

  3. Brion,

    Great piece, keep up the good work. Does the Institute have a mailing list that one can sign up for and receive these terrific articles? Would like more people to have the opportunity to read them. Many of us are sorely lacking in any words to confront the ‘traitor’ or ‘racist’ moniker and education & information are great fortifications.

  4. Yes, we do. You can provide an email address at the top of the front page. You will receive our weekly newsletter and a free e-book! Thanks for your support.

  5. Brion,
    Thanks for another great article. I gave up reading National Review a long time ago, when I noticed their continued misinterpretation of history and their hatred for the South. Thanks for reminding us that they are still there and still a problem; but also for inspiring us to keep working to get the truth out.

  6. I appreciate the work being done by Abbeville. I’m not surprised that the usual suspects at NR and the likes of Buckley protege Rick Brookhiser are working tirelessly carrying water for the cultural elites by defaming the South. It’s sad that the “conservative movement” prides itself on “historians” and pundits that are identical to the likes of Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin. As Willmoore Kendall aptly responded when he left the Northeast, Yale and National Review, it was to escape the “world of the Buckleys”. It’s good to know that many Northerners are visiting your site. As a native Bostonian, I’m constantly inundated by Yankee meddlesomeness, but have immunity since my parents immigrated from the last bastion of native Irish speakers from Connemara, Ireland. I’m more at home with the novels, stories and poetry of Andrew Lytle, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon or the literary criticism of Marion Montgomery with their appreciation of place and anscestors, the permanent things, than wasting time and brain cells contemplating over the shriveled remains of New England Transcendentalism.

  7. Brion,
    Great article, I am always amazed that I keep finding new reasons to dislike “Yankees” as opposed to “Northerners.” The three “historians” (better described as propagandists for the Federal Empire) you quote are examples of the type of thinking that dominates this “exceptional” nation. Their words are proof enough that “we the people” of the once sovereign states of Dixie should be a free and independent country. Traditional Southern conservatives cannot reason with “those people.” They know no logic, honor, civility or moral principle other than political power and commercial profits. Deo Vindice

  8. Dear Dr McClanahan:

    I commend you, sir, on some very well-written pieces herein.
    Just serendipitously discovered your Website after sitting rather uneasily to-day through C-Span’s predictably one-sided coverage of the War Between the States. Quelle surprise.
    One-hundred-fifty years ago this month, my great-great-grandfather, a 19-year-old Georgia boy, was with Lee’s troops at Appomattox. Accordingly, I joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 2005, soon becoming a chaplain, and I’ve given lectures before SCV groups on many occasions, with topics ranging from the defence of the Lost Cause to the problems of ubiquitous Yankeeism (read “cultural Marxism”) to-day.
    Your short piece about the Kenner Mission is very nice. It serves to reconfirm one of the tertiary points of my book: that the South was soon to dispense with its peculiar institution anyway and thus gain the recognition of Britain and France—a fact too often given short-shrift or ignored alto-gether by federally-sponsored textbooks that are cobbled to-gether rather along the same Stalinist/Maoist lines of the agitprop in the former Soviet Union, China and other such unhappy nations.
    Whilst I agree with the British description of the Founding Fathers cited above and regard 1776 as truly an annus horribilis with terrible global repercussions of destabilisation, relativism and licence, to say nothing of Masonic greed, I do wholeheartedly support the Southern Cause (though perhaps not quite for the same reasons as most of my brethren). I’ve argued for long years that true conservatism is to be found not in liberal republicanism but in altar-and-throne orthodox Catholicism, the socio-religio-politico-cultural paradigm that brought Western civilisation to its zenith. Pope Pius IX, who recognised the South, understood that the War for Southern Independence was a civilisational conflict between industrialism and agrarianism, between the money-worshipping North and the more traditional South.
    (Having said this, I would add that I am a Latin Mass Catholic, completely opposed to the wicked “pope” Francis and his Christophobic Marxism. But that is another jeremiad for another day.)
    But if, as I contend, said traitorous and wicked Founding Fathers were the proto-Marxists of their day, overthrowing God’s own Divine Right of Kings for their own dark, greedy, selfish purposes, then it must follow as the night the day that to secede from such an illegitimate government must be a good thing. Hence my support of the South.
    I further assert that Dixieland is its own nation, de jure if not de facto, and we have been illegally occupied by a foreign power for 150 years. Such are the realities of living under the conquerors of the American Empire.
    As a monarchist, I know that what Almighty God wants is rule by Christian kings, everywhere and all the time. This is easily proven by Scripture and Tradition, which are the sure cures for the mistaken thought of the so-called Enlightenment. To that end, it is interesting to speculate on the possibilities of, in the wake of a theoretical Southern victory, Davis or Lee being made a king; or, even better, having Dixieland brought back into the fold of the glorious British Empire, as Almighty God intended, becoming a kind of Southern version of Canada. Truly a laudable goal.
    Any road, whilst I do not agree with all of your points, you do present, en balance, a needed antidote to the prevailing foul winds of Yankee propaganda. And for that I sincerely thank you.
    By the by: are you by any chance the son of Jim McClanahan of Maxton, NC? Just curious. One is surprised on occasion by how small the world is!
    Hope you and your family are well! God bless you in your endeavours.

    –Yours in the Cause,
    Thomas Lark

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