My friend Al Benson has recently authored a series of short but critical essays chronicling what has happened and is happening in the Old Dominion State after the radicalized “woke” social justice warriors—flush with campaign cash from George Soros and Michael Bloomberg—now have taken control of that state’s government. Several columns have addressed the incremental attempts by the new Democratically-dominated Virginia House of Deputies and Senate to place onerous restrictions on gun ownership—attempts which produced a major opposition rally of more than 22,000 citizens against those actions on January 20.
One of his columns, “The French Revolution Comes To The Old Dominion” (February 2, 2020), compares what is happening there to the French Revolution and the revolutionaries who instigated it. Opposition to their designs and actions was swept away by violence and the guillotine. “By the time the Illuminists got through with their reign of terror in France, the country was ready for a Napoleon and it got one…. [Governor] Red Ralph Northam and his socialist cohorts in Richmond want to give the Old Dominion an encore.”
Despite the groundswell of rejection, the Virginia legislature is proceeding with an agenda which not only encompasses the first steps in what may prove to be comprehensive gun control, but also a panoply of progressivist measures that range from releasing violent criminals from prison (just as New York state has done, with very bad consequences), to essentially abortion on demand, to placing restrictions on free speech (or, euphemistically, “banning hate speech,” as they call it). And there is more assuredly which will come.
If this sounds like something imported from California, you would be correct. As Benson details, not only Bloomberg and Soros, but California leftist hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has pumped millions into Virginia politics, even as far back as 2017 (“Red Ralph? Then There Are the Gun Nuts,” January 10, 2020). Steyer, of course, is running for president, a long-shot in the upcoming Democratic primaries. An elitist, archetypical Deep State corporate capitalist insider, Steyer has been using his hedge fund lucre to propagate his vision of a utopian socialist America—and the Old Dominion State is just his latest target.
But among other targets—traditionally “red” states and constituencies—Virginia is not alone. Arizona, Texas, Colorado, and, yes, North Carolina all figure in this effort by Leftist billionaires at employing millions of dollars (ill-gotten or otherwise) to sway an unobservant and pliant electorate. Such is, to paraphrase the brilliant essayist Henry Adams a later-day scion of the Adams family, “the degradation of democratic dogma,” the final absurdity of “democracy” reduced to its ultimate lowest common denominator. Or, as Southern Regionalist writer Donald Davidson described it: “Democracy, a fuddled wench/Is bought from tousled bed to bed./Bass voices in white vests defile/The echoes of great voices dead.” (Davidson, “The Tall Men”)
Consider North Carolina: Already initiatives are underway to do in the Tar Heel State what is occurring in neighboring Virginia. Benson recounts (“The Sleeping Giant Is Waking Up In North Carolina,” January 13, 2020) that gun-rights activists have begun to recognize this and organize in some counties and municipalities.
Also, in recent months, several progressivist counties in the state (i.e., Mecklenburg, Wake, Buncombe, Orange, Durham, and Forsyth) have declared themselves to be “sanctuary counties” when it comes to ICE enforcement, and several Democratic sheriffs (notably in Wake and Mecklenburg counties) refuse to recognize Federal illegal immigration detainers.
And just within the past week Judicial Watch documented that “the Guilford and Mecklenburg county boards of elections are in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)”: both counties—both of which are liberal bastions—have far more registered voters than voting-age citizens:
As of January 4, Mecklenburg County had 736,168 voter registrations while Guilford had 358,960. The problem is that the Census Bureau estimates that Mecklenburg County only has about 693,740 voting-age citizens while Guilford County only has about 371,190. In other words, Mecklenburg County has more registered voters than they have voting-age citizens and Guilford County has an improbably high voter registration rate of 97 percent.
North Carolina’s General Assembly currently has a Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate, but repeated activist court decisions regarding voter ID and redistricting, not just on the congressional level but also for state legislative seats, in all likelihood put that in jeopardy in the November 2020 elections. (See, Ray Nothstine, “Judicial activism strikes again over voter ID law, NC Capitol Connection, January 2020, vol. 12, no. 1).
The import of all this clearly is that the frenzied left continues its unceasing and vigorous efforts to use and mold “democracy” and the democratic system in ways that, in effect, destroy it…or demonstrate what in its American manifestation it has in reality become. For the full, desired “democracy” of our social justice warriors is incompatible with true liberty, and as Russell Kirk writes in The Conservative Mind, leads to dictatorship.
Al Benson’s description, “The French Revolution Comes To The Old Dominion”--and to the rest of America--is entirely apposite.
I’m not a “conspiracy nut,” and by that I mean I don’t usually view opponents as gathering clandestinely in a heavily-guarded smoke-filled room in some secluded mountain aerie (a la James Bond) to plot secretly the take-over of the world, or at least not of North Carolina, and, good Heavens, not of Raleigh. I think such supposed summits, whether of “the Elders of Zion,” or maybe of the Bilderbergers, are a bit overblown and now discredited historically.
But palpably there has been and is something going on in the United States and in Europe which, if not a kind of traditional “conspiracy against God and Man,” certainly combines the more salient aspects of such activity, an activity which is more programmed and instinctive, and more general and diffused among its votaries. There is a sharing and commonality of thought and perception, a common use of the same language and the same memes, such that almost every newscaster in every media outlet—and every Democrat (and many a Republican) pol—uses the same expressions and descriptions, distinguishes the same enemies, supports the same “Deep State” administrative policies and positions, and makes certain that “friends” are protected. It is as if thoughts and positions on a multitude of issues are telegraphed telepathically, and every minion of the Progressivist Left somehow “gets it” and understands what to think and say and then do…and the Established Opposition, “conservatism inc.” goes along with the general lineaments and parameters, lest its proponents be thought “extremist.”
And thus a daunting unanimity of view and purpose, an iron phalanx, is born and revealed. You dissent from at it at your own peril.
Let me ask: after dozens of states voted against same sex marriage several years ago by overwhelming majorities (here in North Carolina, for example, the citizens voted against it by a 61% to 39% margin back in 2012), but then the Supreme Court decided to legitimize it nationally by a 5 to 4 vote in its Obergefell v. Hodges decision (June 26, 2014), how many so-called “conservatives” came forth and demanded a constitutional amendment which at a minimum would have returned such decisions to the respective states? Indeed, how many Republicans and Establishment conservatives take seriously the effort to reverse Roe v. Wade (1973), which legalized infant murder in the womb (and maybe outside it, as well, as we now know).
Oh, sure, there are voices demanding the amelioration of its effects and the limitation of abortion in certain cases. But who amongst our supposed political elites stands forthrightly for overturning Roe v. Wade…while for the past half century our news media, our political class, and most egregiously, Hollywood, have done their damnedest to inculcate into us and our children that “abortion is a woman’s right” and that it is completely “natural”? Where are the salient Republican and conservative voices not only demanding reversal but doing something about it?
Prayer in the schools? Remember that issue and the 1962 decision of the Supreme Court, Engel v. Vitale, where the court opined by an 8 to 1 margin essentially decreeing that organized prayer “is largely banned from public elementary, middle and high schools.” I recall when I was working with Dr. Russell Kirk in Michigan (1971-1972) that he wrote about the issue and worked closely with a zealous Catholic priest (whose name I forget) to have the issue put forward in a constitutional amendment allowing it at least on the state level.
It got nowhere, and the supposed voices of opposition to the court’s destruction of constant practice and American tradition—those self-same “conservatives” and Republicans (and a few Democrats)—were soon stilled, retreating on to other questions.
And now the latest issue which confronts us, and bids well to soon become established policy, considered undebatable and beyond legitimate discussion: you know, one of those new foundations of “conservatism inc.”: the rightness and complete acceptance of transgenderism. And thus everywhere, in the workplace, in the armed services, in our churches, and, most ominously, in our schools and colleges, the new transgender dogmatism finds fertile ground. Elementary children are now instructed on the finer points of same sex titillation and “gender fluidity.” After all, say the experts, we should let our children “choose what sex they wish to be.” Natural law be damned.
The sanctity of transgenderism has become the newest “undeniable tenet” not only of Progressivism but also of the Established conservatives. Consider “conservative” youth leader Charlie Kirk embracing prominent transgenders and their cause—fully accepting the latest and most recent Progressivist conquest. With defenders like that, we are lost.
Robert Lewis Dabney, the brilliant post-War Between the States Southern philosopher and essayist, one hundred and forty years ago described this brand of “conservative opposition” to Progressivism:
This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.
What will be the next stage of this “long march” through the fabric of millennia-old Divine Positive Law and Natural Law by the diabolical Progressivists and their bedfellows (no pun actually intended) in the conservative movement? What will be their next assault on Western Christian civilization, indeed, the only civilization we have? You name the most bizarre and extreme project, the most radical idea, and assuredly it has been thought of and is, either now or soon to be, advanced by the well-organized and powerful forces that occupy the positions of authority—and control—in this country and in Western Europe.
And the opposition to this advance? As Dabney declares, Establishment conservatism is nearly worthless, or, to quote a great uncle of mine, about as valuable as “tits on a boar hog.”
In short, Establishment Conservatism—“conservativism inc.”—must be undone and overthrown. It is no real opposition to this attack of the Insaniacs. Donald Trump, whether he intended to or not, opened the door—cracked it open just a wee bit. And now in such fine journals as Chronicles magazine, or via such Web presences as Lew Rockwell, The Agonist, Takimag, Intellectual Takeout, The New English Review, VDare.com, The Dissident Mama, and (for Southerners especially) The Abbeville Institute and Reckonin.com, and other venues, there is real opposition to the Progressivist panzers.
This year 2020, with its impeachment charade and looming national election this coming November, will decide our fate: whether we slide into the morass and slavery of total subjugation by the Progressivist contagion, or whether we in some way continue to fight back. Either way—let me say that again, either way there will be tremendous upheaval and probable violence of one sort or another. And thus our opposition must be forthright and genuine: the faux right which still dominates the “conservative movement” must be displaced.
Our very future is at stake. Keep your powder dry and your guns at the ready.
This piece was previously published at My Corner on January 18, 2020.
As 2020 commences it is perhaps appropriate that we take stock—that we take a look globally at just where we are, politically, culturally, religiously.
All our basic and fundamental social institutions are under tremendous stress, if not outright attack, not just legally and politically, but far more insidiously, in how they are defined and how they affect us. Our very language is altered to reflect this radical transformation: words and phrases are banned, old words are recast and redefined, implicit (and often explicit) speech codes have more effect than anything that the older “less free” society of our grandfathers experienced. And this linguistic terrorism—for that is what it is—is inculcated into our young from the very beginning, in the primary grades, via television and Hollywood, by unthinking parents, by friends.
And the family? Has not our society redefined that also? Any two people who “love” each other for a while and who cohabitate (shack up) for a time, with or without children? No matter what sex, or any “intermediate” sexual orientation. No permanency, and certainly nothing sacred or sacramental. Very little sense of responsibility: if a fetus happens because the necessary birth control didn’t work, very simply abort it. No problem; nothing must stand in the way of the pleasure, the sexually stimulated moment. How many tens of millions of lives has our society, in its lust for pleasure, snuffed out since 1972?
All the nations of Western Europe protest proudly how “democratic” they are. In the United States we never cease talking about how precious “our democracy” is (just witness the ceaseless verbiage spewed forth during the recent impeachment hearings). In the rest of the world no country ever boasts of being an authoritarian state: when was the last time we heard a nation’s leaders waxing eloquent about how totalitarian they were? Even the most autocratic Islamic state now declares itself “democratic.”
Has not that word lost its savor and meaning altogether?
Democracy—the rule by the populace, as defined by the ancient philosophers—does not exist anywhere, save perhaps still in a few Swiss cantons, or on the lowest levels of governance in some faraway communities in Wyoming or Idaho. The rest is fraudulent, bought and paid for by major financial interests and lobbies, and on a supra-national level by the likes of globalists such as George Soros, whose Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) now reach into nearly American city and county of any size, handsomely funding candidates who will do his bidding. Just ask the voters of Virginia.
The established church—at least in America and Western Europe—seems to have surrendered to the most diabolical and anti-Christian forces: the major Protestant denominations have all joined in the mad rush to become more “woke” and more revolutionary, adopting the slogans and platforms of the Progressivists who seek nothing less than the abolition of historic Christianity and the civilization which is based on it.
In large part, the visible Catholic Church—once the stalwart opponent and beacon of Christian counter-revolution against demonic Progressivism—has followed the leftist course mapped out at the Second Vatican Council, with its present supposed head acting as a cheer-leader for revolutionary change on every level. Opposition to his lunacy is rising, but the formal elements of power are now in the hands of Progressivists.
Perhaps only in Eastern Europe and in Russia do we see a coherent resistance, religiously and politically, to the madness that afflicts us. Ironically, it was the separation from America and from Western Europe—the Iron Curtain—that in a way saved those countries from the poisonous infections coming from our nation which was dominated in large part by the victors of 1861-1865, and which had become the “Typhoid Mary” of Progressivism.
For the defeat of the Southern Confederacy on the field of battle was not just a military reverse; it signaled the defeat of a major outpost of Western civilization and its vision of society which was distinctly connected to and annealed by 1,500 years of traditional Christianity. This was the realization of thousands of European volunteers to the Confederate cause—from Naples, from Spain, and from other countries of the old continent. What they saw in the Confederate crusade was a continuation of the struggle against liberalism which raged throughout the nineteenth century. The Southern cause was the cause of legitimacy, of tradition, of the old established order, of the survival of a Christian inheritance vouchsafed to those warriors at Manassas and Gettysburg.
And now, after more than 150 years of subjugation and indoctrination by the scions of the Yankee victors, there is perhaps “a light coming from the East,” a message of resistance telegraphed to the descendants of the heroes of Chancellorsville. Hope exists always as long as there are men standing forthrightly for it, willing to go to battle, willing to teach others, willing to pass it on. As the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno once wrote: “our life is a hope which is continually converting itself into memory and memory in turn begets hope.”
Thus, when the yoke of Communism was lifted in Eastern Europe, it was to the wellsprings of national identity, to national heritage, to pre-Communist religious faith, that many of these nations turned. They had largely escaped the forty-five years of “Americanism”—in the worst cultural sense—that Germany, France, and Italy had experienced.
Yet, it is this same narrative, this same globalist “Americanism” that today’s conservative movement—Neoconservativism—continues to push on the rest of the world, just like their uncomfortable bedfellows a bit further to the Left. Both the Establishment conservatives AND the open Left share the same postulates and objectives, differing only in degree and expression.
As Southerners the lessons we glean, then, may come from Eastern Europe and from Russia, and they remind us of who we were as a people, of the inheritance which in so many cases we have discarded. Those former Eastern Bloc nations, in particular Russia and Hungary, stand as “signs of contradiction,” and offer to us lessons, if we would only examine them.
Despite the Swamp and the Deep State—despite the future technological tyranny which stares at us in the face—despite the assaults in every aspect of our lives—despite it all there is Hope and the vague but very real awareness that we are human, creatures made by God, and that our role is to stay the course, remain true to the faith and to our inheritance.
My favorite Psalm is number 26, in particular these words (vs.3): “Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum. Si exurgat adversum me praelium, in hoc sperabo”: Even if entrenched armies were to stand against me, my heart would not fear. If a battle would rise against me, I would have hope….
A very happy and blessed New Year in the Hope that never dies!
Today, December 19, 2019, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will vote to approve Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump and agree to send them to the U. S. Senate. It will be only the third formal impeachment of a president in American history—the other two being that of President Andrew Johnson in the post-war 1860s and of President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.
As everyone knows by now, the Senate will, after the formality of most likely a brief trial, vote down the two articles, and that will be that.
Or, will it?
Given that almost certain outcome, why, then, have the frenzied denizens of the Left proceeded in this manner, knowing the outcome?
The answers—there are various—have already been widely given, and the major ones are: 1) extreme pressure from the hysterical “social justice warrior” foot soldier base of the Democratic Party which continues to grow in strength and threaten incumbents who do not toe the line; 2) demands by the powerful Mainstream Media, whose ranks are now cluttered by zealously indoctrinated former journalism students whose thinking and outlook were formed in our universities by their teachers—I should say “polluted” by our post-Marxist academic oligarchs (AKA professors); and 3) the certain political use of the issue in the upcoming 2020 election.
Of course, the overarching rubric for all of this is an unrestrained and all-consuming hatred for Donald Trump (and his voters), and the concomitant desire, at all cost and by whatever means, to expel him from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No measure, no tactic, no weapon is out of bounds, and that includes what in effect is the virtual destruction of what is left of the American Constitution, itself.
President Trump, for all his foibles and U-turns, despite some misfires in foreign policy, and despite his major mistake of placing in positions of power around him those—including Republican hacks and those whose loyalty is dubious at best—who wish him to fail and wish him harm…despite that, he has done an immense service to the creaky old American republic. He has pulled the mask off of the “Deep State” administrative and managerial bureaucratic Establishment which has basically governed this country as its own private fiefdom for decades, with utter disdain and condescension for the rest of us…for us “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” to use Hillary Clinton’s oft-quoted language.
In certain ways, President Trump is not the real target here. His role has been far more symbolic and emblematic of something going on, something far more fearful to the elites so accustomed to running this country. It is something that he may be only vaguely aware of; and it is happening not just in the weary old United States, but also in Europe, in Brazil, and elsewhere. It is the rise of a popular reaction—a populist conservatism which rejects both the dominant establishment Left and the “don’t-rock-the-boat” establishment conservative movement (and Republican Party). It is, to paraphrase Gilbert & Sullivan, the rejection of the “tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum” of our politics, and the realization, perhaps only vaguely, that the historic liberties and traditions, the historic moral codes of behavior, and the traditional beliefs upon which our civilization is based have been progressively perverted and decimated by a century of constant and ongoing revolution from the top, extended into every aspect of our lives.
Too many of our fellow citizens believe that all we have to do is tune into Fox News or vote for the GOP candidate to staunch and halt the Revolution. That is not sufficient; in fact, in some cases such devotion only abets and enables the forces of Revolution, as too many newscasters and pundits at Fox and too many Republican politicians are too deeply invested in the Neoconservative wing of the Deep State. Of course, there are exceptions, with Tucker Carlson, in some cases, as it were, getting “outside the box” and speaking truth to power. But even he must mind his “p’s and q’s.”
Thus, “the man with the orange hair” has to be stopped, not so much because of who he is, but because of the extreme danger he symbolizes and means for the future of what can only be called the increasingly totalitarian globalist template. And that template is a dystopian nightmare far more demonic than anything George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four) or Arthur Koestler (Darkness At Noon) ever contemplated in their literary works. Or, by Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov in his chilling cinematic masterpiece about the insanity of Stalinism, Burnt by the Sun (1994).
At base, then, this is what this charade called an impeachment is all about. It is an effort not just against Donald Trump, but against any and everyone who voted for him, against all of those who dissent from the ongoing policies of and control by the Deep State, all those who have realized or begun to realize that what we stare in the face is not the corpulent mass of evil flesh that goes by the name of Jerry Nadler or the beady-eyed evil of an Adam Schiff, but a “rough beast” (to use William Butler Yeats’ term) of satanic proportions, intent on our extinction, and the enthronement of a new false god of Baal, what the late Dr. Sam Francis called the Leviathan—a totalitarian world government, more fierce than anything envisaged by Stalin or Mao, without liberties, without tradition, with morality…and without God.
Yesterday, President Trump sent a fierce, passionate letter regarding impeachment to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In some respects it was one of the finest things he’s ever written (or said). It went beyond his own case, the present political sham, and touched upon issues which profoundly affect the very foundations of our republic. In reading it and re-reading it, it is possible to see the real constitutional and legal issues, the political chicanery, and, yes, the actual threats to what remains of our liberties vouchsafed to us by the Framers and assaulted massively in 1861-1865, and diminished even more since then.
This article was previously published at MyCorner on December 19, 2019.
Early this past summer the historic Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, near the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, closed its doors for good. The church, the second oldest in Mecklenburg County, having been founded in 1760—nearly 259 years ago—by hardy Scots settlers to the region, merged with another Presbyterian Church in the area, Pleasant Hill. The classic 1889 Gothic-revival style brick structure was abandoned, purchased by nearby expanding Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
As late as the early 1970s Steele Creek counted 1,000 members, but the encroaching airport and the constant deafening roar of supersonic jets every moment of the day speeding off to Munich, London, Latin America and all points in between, plus the precipitous decline in the Presbyterian Church USA, which has gone the way of all mainstream Protestant denominations and embraced the liberal social gospel, had brought the membership down to around 350, many of them adults who held on to the memory of a Presbyterianism that once boasted of a Reverend Robert Lewis Dabney…but now could only grasp for scraps from a barren progressivist table.
Next to the historic 1889 building is the Steele Creek Cemetery, one of the more historic burial grounds in Piedmont North Carolina, holding over 1,700 graves, the earliest from 1763, twelve years before the onset of the Revolutionary War [See: The History of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, 1745-1978; Third Edition, Charlotte, 1978]
In that cemetery are laid veterans of every conflict and war that the American nation has engaged in: those who served during the Revolution when the then-tiny hamlet of Charlotte served as an unwelcoming “hornet’s nest” for General Lord Cornwallis; a few who went off later to fight in Mexico or against Britain again in the early Nineteenth Century; many more who joined Confederate ranks to defend the independence and rights of North Carolina in 1861-1865; then, others who fought in the great world wars and conflicts since then. But there are others, also: husbands and wives, and children, of those who had formed up until recently a close-knit, church-oriented farming community like many spread over the Tar Heel State and the South.
Since 1777 over sixty members of my father’s family have been buried in Steele Creek’s sacred ground. Six of them are direct ancestors, including my grandfather and grandmother Cathey, my War Between the States great-grandfather, Henry Cathey (of the 13th North Carolina Regiment), and my eight-greats grandmother, Jean, who was born in County Monaghan, Ulster, in 1692, a descendant of Scots who migrated there from Ayrshire in the early 1600s. As a young boy I recall vividly attending the funeral of my grandfather, Charlton Graham Cathey (1958), in the old sanctuary and the impressive minister Reverend John McAlpine who comforted my grandmother who would pass on four years later in 1962, aged nearly 98.
Those events remain engraved in my memory, even to the point of recalling the hymns sung at granddad’s funeral—“How Firm a Foundation” and “Blessed Assurance,” two of his favorites.
But most of all, I remember that remarkable church, its strong and impressive brick structure, that aura associated with and radiated by it, which deeply connected it to the history of old Mecklenburg County, to North Carolina, and to the land and families who settled nearby, and for which it was the center of their lives for generations.
The cemetery remains in church hands, despite the shrinking congregation having departed. It is too historic, so despite some earlier efforts by the airport authority to have the graves moved, it will remain where it is for the foreseeable future. But the old 1889 structure, its brick walls and interior now silent, is deserted, owned by the airport, serving only as a disappearing memory for those who care to recall what it once meant to so many.
If we compare modern million-person Charlotte and its international airport to the history-haunted walls and ancient graveyard of Steele Creek, we are reminded of what has been lost. For in the bustle of the metropolis and the incessant noise of the jets zooming off to Europe or perhaps to Cancun, there is little memory of who we were as a people, little connection to our rich historic culture. Our modern society is hypnotized by machines, including the most impersonal and inhuman technology, and it has little room for Steele Creek and what it represents.
In the late 1950s, Charlotte, “the Queen City” that I remember as a boy, was where older families yet predominated, where my father’s people were neighbors to the families of Billy Graham and Randolph Scott, where folks could recall the area’s history. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County were still linked strongly to their traditions. Now Charlotte rivals Atlanta as a mega-metropolis, and a soul-less anthill of business, banking and international commerce, with little room for heritage, except as a veneer to attract an occasional tourist not going to a Carolina Panthers game or to some big event at the coliseum.
I forget who said it—perhaps Faulkner, maybe Louis Rubin, I cannot remember—but that if he had known what Atlanta would become today, then he would wish that Sherman had torched it more thoroughly. Given what Charlotte has become, perhaps the same sentiment might be expressed?
The last major portions of farmland out near the Catawba River that had belonged to my dad’s family since 1750 are now sold to developers and strip malls. The pre-Revolutionary War house that my father was born in back in 1908 (the last of his family to do so) is now, thankfully, preserved at the Historic Latta Plantation. But the whole region has changed radically, altered and almost unrecognizable and discordant to my memories of sixty years ago. Hundreds of thousands of transplants (mainly from up North) now make Charlotte and its suburbs home and live—if you wish to call it that—the frenzied life of our tawdry, commercialized age.
I am put in mind of the great Southern Regionalist writer, Donald Davidson, in his epic poem, “The Tall Men”:
There are remnants of the old culture that survive, a few, but they are fast being overtaken by a triumphant “Yankee” culture which Robert Lewis Dabney warned about 140 years ago, the fear that we would, as he said, become like our conquerors of 1865. Dabney, the Old Light Presbyterian divine that he was, declared that his role was like that of Cassandra at Troy, to prophesy and speak truth, but not to be believed until too late.
My mentor Russell Kirk once told me while we were discussing the old South and the changes being inflicted on her from both without and within that “it is hard to love the gasoline station where the honeysuckle used to grow.”
Steele Creek Church and its cemetery remind us who we are and who we have been. Despite being passed by and deserted, those grave stones cry out to those who would listen and take heed.
Perhaps, then, for those who do, our watchword could be from Spanish philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno in his volume, The Tragic Sense of Life: “Our life is a hope which is continually converting itself into memory and memory in its turn begets hope.”
Is this not, then, our challenge, to keep both memory and hope alive?
Many present-day Southerners—indeed, many of those Americans who call themselves “conservatives”—find it difficult to envisage a time when Southern and Confederate traditions (not to mention noble Confederate veterans like “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee) were acknowledged with honor and great respect. Today it would seem so-called “conservative media” (in particular Fox News and the radio talksters) and Republican politicians would rather praise “Father” Abraham Lincoln or the radical black Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass (whose extra-marital liaison with German-born socialist and feminist Ottilie Assing certainly influenced him and should raise eyebrows among contemporary conservatives, but seldom does). These and other revolutionary zealots have been incorporated into the pantheon of “great conservative minds,” dislodging such figures as Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun and John Randolph of Roanoke, all of whom possessed towering intellects and an acute understanding of the history and nature of the American republic which Lincoln, Douglass, and those like them lacked.
It is far too common in 2019 to witness the historical ignorance of a Dinesh D’Souza or the meandering narration of a Brian Kilmeade in the godawful Fox series, “Legends & Lies: The Civil War,” in which he accuses the South of “attempting to rewrite history by denying slavery was the root cause of the Civil War,” and parrots the far Left template on racism.
And what of distinguished Southern writers who defend the South like historians Drs. Clyde Wilson or Brion McClanahan? Or literary luminaries such as James E. Kibler? Or Emory University scholar Don Livingston? When was the last time you saw their byline in the current, Neoconservative-edited National Review, once the “conservative magazine of record” in the land? They are, to use a Stalinist metaphor, “non-persons” among establishment conservatives and the contemporary “conservative movement.” One must not, under any circumstance, mention their names among Neocon intelligentsia circles, lest suspicions of “racism” or “Neo-Confederate tendencies” be exposed.
Perhaps the worst event symbolizing this exile was the unceremonious expulsion—the political defenestration—of arguably the South’s greatest essayist and author of the last quarter of the Twentieth Century, the late Mel Bradford. Tapped originally in 1981 to be President Ronald’s chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bradford was a staunch defender of the original American Constitution, an acerbic and powerful critic of Lincoln and his legacy—and a defender of the South. According to chronicler David Gordon: "Bradford rejected Lincoln because he saw him as a revolutionary, intent on replacing the American Republic established by the Constitution with a centralized and leveling despotism."
Although supported by such notable figures as Russell Kirk, Jeffrey Hart, Peter Stanlis, and Jesse Helms, Bradford was forced to experience an ugly, defamatory and underhanded campaign by the Neocons George Will, the Kristols pere et fils, and others to halt his nomination, in favor of Democrat Neocon, William Bennett. And, tasting blood, the new rulers of the conservative movement were successful.
Yet, it was not always so. A half-century ago Southern writers of distinction, defenders of our traditions and heritage, including of our revered historical figures and champions of the Confederacy, were welcomed in national conservative publications like National Review. And in Russell Kirk’s scholarly quarterly Modern Age, that acknowledged “father of the conservative revival” of the earlier 1950s, dedicated an entire issue to the South and a defense of its traditions, including its Confederate history. Kirk had authored what became in a sense the “Bible” of that revival, The Conservative Mind (1953), and his words carried tremendous weight. That he would publish a whole issue celebrating the history and essential role of the South in America [Modern Age, Fall 1958], right on the cusp of the radical “civil rights” movement of the 1960s, almost in defiance of it, was a measure of the importance older conservatives attached to the Southland and their embrace of Southern traditionalists.
In the prefatory essay to that issue, “Norms, Conventions and the South,” Kirk authored, as only he could, a stirring and profound defense of the traditional South, its virtues, and its critical significance in the survival of the American confederation. In it he declares that the South represents “Permanence”—the “permanent things,” the norms and conventions handed down for generations which moor and have stabilized the American Republic, and without which the country would be adrift and subject to demagoguery, decay and dissolution.
But Kirk also—sixty-one years ago—had a warning and an admonition for Southerners:
How much longer the South will fulfill this function, I do not venture to predict here. I am aware of all those powerful influences, material and intellectual, which are changing the South today. It may be that the South, in the end, will be made homogeneous with all the rest of the nation, and that its peculiar role as conservator of norm and convention will be terminated. But if this comes to pass, the South will have ceased to exist: it will have lost its genius.
What would Kirk, “the Sage of Mecosta,” that superb word-smith and Olympian man-of-letters say today he if were to return to our Southland? What verdict would he cast on those guardians of our heritage and our inheritance…and the actions we and our fathers have taken, or not taken, during the past six decades? How would Kirk—who saw before he passed away in 1994 the poisonous infection of the Neoconservatives—evaluate the willingness of far too many Southern “conservatives” to forego serious investigation into and defense of their history and accept the “mess of stale porridge” offered up by a Brian Kilmeade, or a Dinesh D’Souza, or a Senator Lindsey Graham?
In his essay Kirk employs the great Virginian John Randolph of Roanoke to bring home his message:
…John Randolph is the most interesting man in American political history, his wisdom and eloquence curiously intertwined with vituperation, duels, brandy, agriculture, solitude, and tragedy. Through Calhoun, [Langdon] Cheves, and many others, Randolph’s opinions were stamped indelibly upon the South…. A fervent Christian, a champion of tradition, the principal American expounder of Burke’s conservative politics, Randolph of Roanoke abided by enduring standards in defiance of power, popularity, and the intellectual climate of opinion of his era.
In his oratory in the U.S. Congress and his eloquent speeches to his constituents in Southside Virginia, Kirk continues, Randolph explained that,
There are certain great principles…which we ignore only at our extreme peril; and if those principles are flouted long enough, private character and the social order sink beyond restoration. In this, as in much else, Randolph was the exemplar of the Southern society. For the South has long been the Permanence of the American nation. Strongly attached to Christian belief, bound up with the land and the agricultural interest, skeptical of the visions of Progress and human perfectibility, imbued with the tragic sense of life, the South has not been ashamed to defend convention and continuity in this great, swelling, confusing Republic: to abide by ancient norms of private and public life. The problem of the races informed Southerners that society’s tribulations are not susceptible of simple abstract remedy; the rural life kept the South aware of the vanity of human wishes, the existence of Providential purpose, and the immortal contract of eternal society; the political and literary traditions of the Southern states endured little altered by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century passion for innovation. Military valor, courtesy toward women, and the pieties of community, home, and family persisted in the South despite defeat and poverty and the intellectual ascendancy of the North. So it is that in our time of troubles the South has something to teach the modern world.
And this recognition extended throughout Southern culture, and most especially in the richness and profundity of Southern literature:
…Southern writers still recognize those enduring elements of human nature, including the splendor and tragedy of human existence that are the stuff of which great poetry and prose are made. Belief in normality, and defense of convention, have not lain like lead upon Southern thought and life; on the contrary, these have been the foundations of Southern achievement….In its taste for imaginative literature, similarly, the South has chosen for its favorite authors the champions of norm and convention…. [and] a spirit of courage, of chivalry, of loyalty, an expression of ancient truths, that was congenial to their instincts.
For those on the Left, for those Dr. Kirk calls “doctrinaire liberals, the zealots for Progress and Uniformity,” the South continues to represent all of the worst and most hated aspects in American history: racism, slavery, misogyny, white supremacy, religious fundamentalism and bigotry. But, as Kirk explains, that hostility is rooted in a deeper prejudice that “the South still stands resolute in defense of norms and conventions. To the ritualistic liberal, the South is what [George] Santayana called ‘the voice of a forlorn and dispossessed orthodoxy,’ rudely breaking in upon the equalitarian dreams and terrestrial-paradise schemes.” It is the Left’s own form of poorly concealed bigotry.
For the contemporary post-Marxist revolutionary Millennial, the fanatical indoctrinated student brandishing a “Black Lives Matter” placard, the loony feminist demanding an end to masculine oppression, and the LGBT zealot pushing transgenderism, the South and its traditions are major impediments to the realization of a dreamed of Utopia that is in reality a dystopian nightmare far worse than any vision ever entertained by Comrade Stalin or Chairman Mao.
The convictions and customs of the South perpetually irritate the radical reformer, who is impatient to sweep away every obstacle to the coming of his standardized, regulated, mechanized, unified world, purged of faith, variety, and ancient longings. Permanence he cannot abide; and the South is Permanence. He hungers after a state like a tapioca-pudding, composed of so many identical globules of other-directed men….he flail[s] against the champions of norm and convention, endeavoring in the heat of his assault to forget the disquieting voice of a forlorn and dispossessed orthodoxy that prophesies disaster for men who would be as gods.
And in one of those memorable passages for which Russell Kirk is remembered and celebrated, he closes his essay in striking form—a remarkable tribute to the traditional South, its heritage, and its pivotal role in the creation and sustaining of an America which seems to be passing away now before our eyes:
My argument is this. Without an apprehension of norms, there is no living in society or out of it. Without sound conventions, the civil social order dissolves. Without the South to act as its Permanence, the American Republic would be perilously out of joint. And the South need feel no shame for its defense of beliefs that were not concocted yesterday.
So, I repeat my question: What would that Northern champion of the South and its role of Permanence in our confederation say today? Can that South that Russell Kirk so lauded and defended survive, even in our dark times? And what is our obligation, our solemn obligation to our native land, to our ancestors, and to those who follow us?
In the midst of the present grotesque attempt by the Deep State managerial class to overthrow a president and negate the results of the 2016 elections, some writers and commentators have reached back into American history for precedents. Indeed, there have been instances when one branch of the American government attempted to overawe, subvert, and even displace another branch, and essentially to destroy the precarious balance of powers established in the Constitution.
But the present “silent coup,” with all its zealotry, its prevarication and madness, is unique and unparalleled in many ways. In particular, there is an incredible fanaticism in the present effort to unseat a duly elected president not seen in the United States for well over at least a century, to, as it were, “put the [Trump-inspired] genie that threatens the managerial elites back in the lamp.” Not even during the Clinton impeachment hearings, nor the Watergate crisis—not during the raucous debates over the Vietnam War nor the potential for revolution during the Great Depression—have we witnessed the specter of perhaps one-third, maybe more, of our population wallowing in the real, palpable and often violent lunacy that we see currently.
This state of affairs did not simply spring up like the Greek goddess Athena, from “Zeus’s head, full-grown and clothed in armor.” Those we behold today arrayed against us, those we confront who call themselves variously “progressivists,” “democratic socialists,” “anti-racists,” and so forth, have been carefully groomed and incubated over decades by a pervasively noxious environment. They are the products of an educational system which is rotten through-and-through (especially in higher education), they experience conditioning daily from large and constant doses of media and entertainment which are ideologically driven and geared to support the template, and they live in a poisonous society which confirms and ratifies the views and ideas that have been instilled in them.
At the base of this ongoing process is the triumphant “Idea of Progress” and the identification by the Progressivists with it. It is they, and in particular their academic minions and educators, who have made their causes synonymous with an inevitable and ineluctable “progress.” Anyone opposing their designs and programs is labeled anti-progressive, reactionary, bigoted, and worse. Thus, for the history of the United States (and even before its establishment) there has been a constant struggle between the “forces of reaction” (read here: “Southern slave-holders,” “anti-feminists,” “racists,” “white supremacists,” “male chauvinists,” “anti-gay Christians,” and so on) who have stood in the way of inevitable “Progress,” and those “on the [right] side of history” who represent enlightenment and freedom.
Recently (August 10), The New York Times began its expansive and ongoing 1619 Project to coincide with 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery into the American colonies. With a long range goal of completely revising American history and the Founding, the Times and its stable of historians asserted that real American history must be reconfigured to date from the as yet unexpiated sin of slavery.
The cornerstone of this never-ending Progressivist movement is the magic talisman: egalitarianism. For that, Progressivists cry in loud voice and demand that the “oppressed” receive complete and full “equality.”
Far too many times so-called conservatives and Republicans, and certainly “Movement Conservatives,” buy into this template and join this narrative, and by accepting its fundamental premises and parameters they inevitably lose any debate, and remain, as the Seventeenth Century English essayist Sir Thomas Browne wrote, “prisoners of the errors to which they proclaim their opposition.”
This is particularly true of those denominated “Neoconservatives,” whose genealogy draws heavily from their intellectual history and foundations over on the progressivist Left. During the late 1950s, 1960s and into the 1980s the Neocons, largely but certainly not entirely consisting of socialist and Marxist Jewish intellectuals centered around New York and a few other large Eastern cities, began moving “right.” In part, it was an opposition to Stalinism and Soviet Communism (and the perceived persecution of Russian Jews) that steered important thinkers like former socialists Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol into the ranks of the Conservative movement—and their votaries into the Republican Party. But though they brought their fierce and at times acute critique of Communism with them, they did not relinquish their philosophical commitment to the same “Idea of Progress” which remained at the heart of their belief system and praxis.
Accordingly, American history had to be re-written and re-interpreted ex post facto to be consistent with the narrative of a struggle between the “reactionaries” and those epigones of always-expanding equality and democracy (including in foreign policy). In so doing, the Neocons implicitly accepted the terms of debate, in many cases the very same terminology, as their supposed opponents over on the further Left. And, like those Progressivists, they brought with them an implacable hostility to the Confederate South and its traditions which they considered irredeemably “racist” and bigoted.
Unlike many older conservative writers (e.g. the late Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver) now the Union cause, 1861-1865, and Abraham Lincoln were incorporated as Icons in the new Pantheon of (revised) American Conservatism. The Confederacy—John C. Calhoun and John Randolph of Roanoke (who had been featured in Kirk’s monumental Conservative Mind as a pivotal conservative thinkers)—the superb Southern Agrarian writers—and the brilliant Mel Bradford were exiled, expelled from the “movement.” Just as with the more extreme Left, the Neocons embraced the “Idea of Progress” template and an egalitarian narrative in which there was no room for dissent…even if the entire American founding had to be “re-interpreted” to somehow make it agree with their views.
Thus, Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade’s 2018 mini-series, “Legends & Lies: The Civil War,” in which he canonized “Saint” Abraham Lincoln, who “end[ed] the immoral institution of slavery in America,” while he condemned the “defeated South’s attempts to rewrite history by denying slavery was the root cause of the Civil War.”
Or, the specter of former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove declaring that his favorite historian of the War Between the States and slavery is the Communist historian Eric Foner. Although they may disagree vociferously over how much change or what kind of change is needed, or who should be president or what laws should be enacted, their agreement historically, on the reading of American history, should be extremely troubling—and revealing—for conservatives.
Is it likely that such leaders of the current “Conservative Movement”—who share so much in common with their supposed enemies—can mount a vigorous defense of President Trump? Indeed, where are the Republican opponents of the current farce parading before us: secret Congressional “star chamber” hearings, brazen connivance by the media (including at times Fox News), faked stories, manipulated headlines, items taken out of context or suppressed….? Will they—can they—stand up to the enemies of the Constitution, the Inside-the-Beltway Establishment to which far too many of them belong?
That remains to be seen.
White Southerners, and Americans in general, are by now accustomed to hearing and seeing screeds issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), often quoted by the media as serious news, about how “racist” they are. Despite mounting evidence—now detailed in such journals as The New Yorker—that the SPLC is mostly a giant money-making con operation which uses accusations of “hate” as its vehicle for financial gain, it continues to enjoy an undeserved reputation for revealing “the dark underside of bigotry” that, according to them, appears to be rampant almost everywhere.
But right behind them in the quest to expose the evil souls of our fellow citizens is another professional “hate-monitoring” organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B’nai B’rith. And just recently, the ADL came out with its latest list of “35 hate” symbols and hand signs which must be banned from public use. Ostensibly founded as a “watch-dog” organization to surveil against anti-semitism and anti-semitic behavior, the ADL has become, like the SPLC, little more than a strident, far Left voice for suppression and limitation of free speech.
But even its latest list, rather what is included on that list, caught many observers off guard. In addition to the expected enumeration of pro-Nazi and white supremacist symbols, tattoos, and hand signs, the ADL includes the “okay” hand sign as racist and, thus, verboten.
That is, the traditional “okay” sign, usually made with the thumb and index finger, is dangerously racist, a diabolical signal by one racist to other racists expressing agreement and unity, possibly implying terrible violence against innocent minorities, specifically black folk, Hispanics, and perhaps Jews, as well. Oh, the horror of it all!
Think I’m unserious? The Washington Post (September 26) published a long article on the subject, with a straight journalistic face. And the seriousness of this latest advance of the fanatical left—the lunatic hysteria associated with its advancing agenda—is completely apparent. In addition, the ADL added what it called the “Dylann Roof bowl haircut” and “men with moon shaped heads” to its monitored list.
You see, according to the Post, the “okay” sign apparently is used by Trump supporters who “use the gesture primarily to ‘trigger’ liberals who believe the hand sign serves as a decoder ring to detect secret Nazis.” [I’m not making this up.]
“That was what the OK symbol was literally invented to do: Both serve as a white supremacist symbol and also one that is just ordinary-enough looking that when liberals expressed outrage, the white supremacist could play the victim of liberal hysteria,” Amanda Marcotte, a politics writer for Salon, wrote on Twitter in September 2018.
But it gets worse, as the Post relates:
Prominent figures and private citizens alike have made headlines for making the “okay” gesture in public. Critics accused Republican operative Zina Bash of making the symbol for white power last year when she made the ‘okay’ sign at Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing. A spokesperson for the Senate Judiciary Committee said at the time that Bash was aiming the sign at a staffer who fulfilled a request for the judge — an explanation that aligned with video of the hearing in which Bash is visible.
Not too long ago in this country such accusations would have been seen as exactly what they are: sheer madness, lunacy on public parade. But, no longer; now they pass for solemn mainstream warnings, dire exclamations, very grave and serious charges hurled with furrowed brow against anyone who in any manner should stand in the way of the onrushing wild-eyed progressivist agenda.
And that agenda must not be opposed, for if you do, even in the slightest…and if you make the “okay” sign…why, then, you are positively evil, probably a Nazi, maybe just like Dylann Roof with the bowl haircut. You may call yourself a “conservative” and register Republican, but never fear, the ADL (and SPLC) and The Washington Post (and other mainstream media) have got you all figured out. Unless you recant and recant publicly and profusely like most public figures who forty years ago may have told a non-PC joke or uttered a non-PC word and then were “found out” by zealous Leftie fanatics who researched their high school Yearbooks or quizzed an old girlfriend they may have had back in 1970 for incriminating information—unless you do this, the media and the establishment will come down on you, shame you, cause you to lose your job, in short, expel you from what passes for “civilized society.”
And what is perhaps most egregious in all this is the radical perversion and degradation of our language, the devaluation of our words and phrases and how we communicate with each other…in the name of an agenda that uses accusations of “racism” and “hate” as weapons to gain total power over us.
Most establishment “conservatives” remain clueless when it comes to such issues and such accusations about race and racism. Most readily and fearfully accept the template and narrative put forward by the fanatics. Establishment “conservatives” are consistently on the defensive, always in a disadvantageous response mode to the ever-advancing post-Marxist Left, always beginning any conversation by first fully embracing the goalposts and talking points advanced by it. And that starting point can only lead to surrender and additional conquests by the Left and by the so-called “conservatives” normalizing and legitimizing that latest conquest.
One-hundred and thirty years ago the great Southern author, essayist and acute observer, Robert Lewis Dabney, saw clearly the fatal flaw in the kind of “conservatism” which has dominated in this country since the end of War for Southern Independence. In the debate over women’s suffrage (which Dabney ably and staunchly opposed), he penned words which I have cited previously, but which are entirely apposite in this context:
"It may be inferred again that the present movement for women's rights, will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.
Today’s “conservative movement” has learned nothing since Dabney wrote those words, has learned nothing from voices like those of the late Mel Bradford, Russell Kirk, Sam Francis, Patrick Buchanan, and Paul Gottfried. Too often, like Dabney, these men are as Cassandra at Troy, “destined to prophesy, but not to be believed until too late.” Or, simply ignored, or worse, cast out, even silenced by the so-called “responsible” establishment Neoconservative gate-keepers of movement conservatism.
If there is ever to be a return to sanity, sensibility and rationality in this country, that template will have to be reversed and overthrown, and those gate-keepers displaced. Not an easy task, but one that must be attempted. Our future depends upon it.
Earlier this month Boston-based, amateur historian Kevin M. Levin published a volume titled, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth (University of North Carolina Press), in which, against substantial evidence both contemporary and modern, he maintains that it is simply a myth that Southern blacks, whether slave or free, fought for the Confederacy. In his screed Levin takes aim in particular at North Carolina Museum of History Curator Earl Ijames. Mr. Ijames, who is himself black, has done substantial research on “colored Confederates,” including the production of an acclaimed film on the topic, in which he documents black Confederate soldiers and their participation in Confederate ranks.
An article in The [Raleigh NC] News & Observer (September 12) describes Levin’s approach:
“The ‘black Confederate’ narrative is intended to fundamentally shift the history of the Confederacy,” Levin said in a phone interview with The News & Observer. “It’s an attempt to get the Confederacy right on race relations. That’s its goal. That’s what I was attempting to undercut with the book.” Of Ijames, Levin said, “He is operating under a fundamental misunderstanding of the Confederacy and of the Civil War in history. He has pushed this false narrative.”
Curator Ijames’ 75-minute documentary film, released in 2014, titled “Earl Ijames’ Colored Confederates and U.S. Colored Troops,” offers documentation that blacks aligned with both sides during the Civil War in the hopes of securing their freedom. “It’s just an inconvenient truth for some people” that blacks served as Confederate soldiers, Ijames has stated.
In the same news article, Frank Powell of the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans was quoted in support of Ijames:
“To call him [Levin] an historian is a misnomer. Most of his stuff is wrong. He’s more of an agenda-pusher. We have a real problem nowadays with these people who don’t want to just change our history, but to eradicate it. And not just Confederate, but all of Western history. They want to tear all of that down so they can remake it to their liking…The problem is that, unfortunately, they didn’t keep very good [troop] records. A lot of the records got destroyed at the end of the war. I’ve read accounts about numbers. Some say 50,000 and some say 500,000. You just don’t know because of the lack of records. Five hundred thousand is probably too many. But 50,000 may not be enough.”
Not content to engage in debate, since debate implicitly suggests at least two legitimate sides to an argument, zealous supporters of Levin's position go so far as to suggest that Earl Ijames should be perhaps even dismissed from his position. W. Fitzhugh Brundage, a William Umstead Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina who wrote an endorsement for the jacket of Searching for Black Confederates, has declared that “if the museum in any way allows its name to be associated with, or provide space for, an uncontested description or claim about substantial numbers of black Confederates, I think it’s doing a disservice to North Carolina citizens.”
What emerges with indelible transparency in this debate is that the fanatical Progressivist Left is pushing an agenda, an ideological template. And in that template there is no room for dissent or disagreement. In our present cultural context race and racism have become weaponized, talismanic cudgels for totalitarian Progressivists with which to beat historically-dominant European civilization and “white supremacy” over the head, poisoned arrows in the quiver of the post-Marxist social justice warriors employed to advance their agenda. Jarring and glaring exceptions that interrupt or undermine this narrative must be rejected and condemned at all costs: that blacks, whether slave or free, would have fought for the Confederacy simply cannot be true because it does not serve the ultimate goals of the revolutionary race zealots.
In other words, if history doesn’t confirm my ideology and my bias, well then, just go back and rewrite that history to make it so! And this methodology dominates the craft of the vast majority of current historians and the history tomes that they obediently churn out—ideologically tendentious and shaped to further an agenda.
How does this differ from the intellectual environment of the old Soviet Union, except perhaps that it is more insidious and more pervasive?
From late 1983 until its fitful demise in the early 2000s, I served as a contributing editor, adviser, or just simply a contributor to the old Southern Partisan magazine. Although a last issue came out in 2009, the quarterly had pretty much ceased regular publication a few years before that, largely due to internecine South Carolina politics and personalities. The valiant efforts of former Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander-in-Chief Chris Sullivan, as editor, to keep it alive were, alas, to no avail.
Yet during its nearly three decades of existence the Southern Partisan published some of the finest writing about the South, Southern history, and Southern culture since the Agrarians of Nashville back prior to World War II. Begun originally in 1979 under the aegis of Thomas Fleming and Clyde Wilson, it featured in its pages essays by such luminaries as Mel Bradford, Cleanth Brooks, Eugene Genovese (not a Southerner, but an internationally-recognized historian who developed a sympathetic fascination about the South), Tom Landess, Russell Kirk, Reid Buckley (brother of William), Andrew Lytle, Don Livingston, and many others.
I was privileged and very fortunate to be associated with those giants in a small way; over the years I had around fifteen essays and reviews published by the Partisan on subjects that have continued to interest and fascinate me: historical Southern figures such as Nathaniel Macon and Robert Lewis Dabney, several reviews of books by the late Dr. Russell Kirk (for whom I had served as assistant back in the early 1970s), an appreciation of the Southern-born actor and star of Westerns Randolph Scott, and lastly, reviews of books of Patrick Buchanan (a larger-than-life political figure with deep roots in the Old South and with a rambunctious mixture of Confederate and Irish Catholic ancestry!).
There’s an old maxim that states “you’re known by the enemies you have”; and the Partisan had its share…and for many of us associated with it, that indicated we were having some effect. For much of its existence, it was a veritable bete noire for Morris Dees and his radical Leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In addition to seeing Klansmen under the bed of every “conservative” Southern politician and ferreting out every stench of Southern “racism,” the SPLC simply went apoplectic when the topic of the Partisan came up. They termed it “arguably the most important neo-Confederate periodical”, and thus the most dangerous to their fanatical totalitarian Marxist social justice agenda. The views it reflected were reactionary and anchored in a hateful past, not worthy of serious consideration in modern America.
But the Southern Partisan could not be dismissed so cavalierly. Even The New York Times, the national journalistic flagship for frenzied and inflamed Progressivism, while denouncing the magazine “as one of region’s most right-wing magazines,” also begrudgingly admitted that "Many of [its] articles, however, are more high-minded historical reviews in the tradition of the Southern agrarian movement, which glorified the South's slow-paced traditions of farms and small towns."
Although the Southern Partisan ceased to exist a decade ago, other voices have arisen to fill that void, most notably The Abbeville Institute, its superb summer schools and seminars, and its online review and blog. Clyde Wilson’s daughter Anne has also established a fine site, Reckonin.com, and it offers excellent commentary and reviews. And there are other venues where good writing and essays from a traditional Southern viewpoint appear.
In 1985 I had the opportunity to interview the late historian Eugene Genovese for the Partisan (Fall 1985, volume V, no. 4), and it was the beginning of a close friendship that lasted until his untimely death in 2012. And it was a friendship that forever influenced me and my conception of Southern history and culture. For, beginning as a Vietcong supporter back in the 1960s, through a long and at times difficult evolution into the 1980s, Genovese had subjected the history of the South, the issue of slavery, and the “Southern mind” to the most severe and close examination. And, after it all, he became a stouthearted and brilliant defender of the South and its traditions (his friendship with the late Mel Bradford had undoubtedly assisted in that process).
For Genovese the key to Southern history had been and was its firm foundation in traditional Christianity. It was a form of mostly Calvinist Protestantism, but also in a wider sense which warmly incorporated Catholics and Jews in its midst, but united in an broad consensus on the idea of a Christian society, which he found best expressed in the writings of the brilliant South Carolina Presbyterian theologian, James Henley Thornwell (d. 1862).
Here he is in a passage on the South Carolinian, demonstrating a view that found resonance throughout the South:
Shortly before his death Thornwell…in a “Sermon on National Sins,” preached on the eve of the War, and boldly in a remarkable paper on “Relation of the State to Christ,” prepared for the Presbyterian Church as a memorial to be sent to the Confederate Congress, he called upon the South to dedicate itself to Christ. He criticized the American Founding Fathers for having forgotten God and for having opened the Republic to the will of the majority. “A foundation was thus laid for the worst of all possible forms of government—a democratic absolutism.” To the extent that the state is a moral person, he insisted, “it must needs be under moral obligation, and moral obligation without reference to a superior will is a flat contradiction in terms.” Thornwell demanded that the new Constitution be amended to declare the Confederacy in submission to Jesus, for “to Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth is committed.” Vague recognition of God would not do. The state must recognize the God of the Bible—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
After the war—after Southern military defeat and the destruction of much of Southern society and eventually its culture—Thornwell’s clarion calls were picked up by another Presbyterian divine, Robert Lewis Dabney, who turned his Biblical ire and critical (and prophetic) intellect to the developing “Yankee empire,” religious indifferentism, and to the triumph of globalist capitalism and an imperialist and plutocratic “democratic despotism” (something that the Northern writer Henry Adams, scion of the Adams of New England, also recognized).
In his magnum opus, The Mind of the Master Class (2005), co-authored with his wife Professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Eugene Genovese offered the finest and fullest—certainly the most documented—account and evaluation of a “Southern mind and intellect” that had conserved and illuminated the original, but oh-so-fragile vision of the Framers of the Constitution. Despite, or perhaps because of his earlier interest in Marxist theory, Genovese came to understand well, better than almost all his contemporaries, the extreme dangers inherent in post-War Between the States America.
And that was why my interview with him nearly thirty-five years ago was so eye-opening. (The full lengthy interview published in the Southern Partisan is now reprinted in my recently published book, The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage , chapter 29: “A Partisan Conversation: Interview with Eugene Genovese.”)
I quote below some extensive passages from that interview. Eugene Genovese and the Southern Partisan were incredibly productive and profound in their contribution to the defense, survival, and, even just maybe the reflorescence of Southern heritage. In our perilous times, when our traditions and heritage often seem hanging on by a mere thread, we can do no better than refer to their sturdy intellectual armament.
Here is Genovese from 1985:
This piece was previously published on My Corner on September 8, 2019.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.