observations and opinion
The Confederate States of America – the racist slave state of the South – may have lost the Civil War, but lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans from sea to shining sea. The Confederacy Cult endures. For a fuller discussion of how the Republican Party cultivated that cult, and how Trump capitalized on it, go to The Self Pity Vampire.
But today, we have to think about Charlottesville, where the Confederacy killed another American. Her name was Heather.
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I was not supposed to know Heather Heyer.
I was not supposed to hear her name, or see her face. Neither were you.
And we were not supposed to see her die.
She did not grant us that permission.
And truthfully, I don’t really know Heather Heyer. She is pictures on Facebook, words that register. She was 32 years old, had a life, probably loved some people, very likely was loved by people. She was just another stranger. But now she is something else.
Legally, she is a victim – the victim of a crime, run down in the street by a car. If not targeted personally, certainly targeted because of who she stood among and why they were there.
Morally, Heather Heyer is a fallen soldier. She died in battle. Ms. Heyer went to Charlottesville, Virginia to stand up to a swarm of thuggish losers, dressed in camo and Nazi regalia, who proclaim an ethos of racialist hatred that Ms. Heyer knew to be wrong. The enemy – the enemy within – attacked the crowd and Ms. Heyer was killed.
The United States is a great country, but it is cursed with a permanent, roiling, agonizing ugliness. The ugliness of racist ideology. It began with the first slave trapped in Africa, chained to a ship and carried to America in bondage. The America racist state took full flower with the Confederacy, which waged an unsuccessful war to break the union.
The Confederates lost the Civil War, and surrendered to the union, but the spirit of racist ideology did not die. It became segregation, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, economic isolation and the ceaseless efforts of America’s right to suppress the civil and democratic rights of African Americans.
The Confederacy did not die. It simply went from being a country to being a cult. Its millions of adherents have erected statues (like the one of General Robert E Lee, the removal of which animated the white supremacists to march in Charlottesville). The Confederacy cult drapes itself in the “Stars and Bars” – the flag of the slave state which is just as harsh and hateful as any swastika.
Ironically, the Republican party formed by abolitionists, the party led by the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln, has become the de facto party of the Confederacy cult for receptive white American voters. What started as Nixon’s successful “Southern Strategy” in 1968 became a political addiction for the GOP.
The GOP has adopted a relentless pattern of policies and positions aimed to attract the aggrieved Confederate-minded voter, wherever he or she may live. They opposed the Equal Rights Amendment; they have built up an anti-abortion industry which pretends to protect “life” but actually represses women; they have drowned politics in money (Citizens United) and perhaps most effectively, organized an anti-democratic program of vote suppression and gerrymandering which guarantees them power in a majority of states.
And when the Republicans teetered into Trumpism in 2016, that was not a surprise or a change of direction – it was the logical next step in what the party had turned itself into. They elected the second Confederate President. The fact that he is a rich fat cat from New York City is irrelevant – the Confederacy is a country of the mind, a disease of the mind, a true cult. They found their fuehrer in Manhattan, or at least, their fuehrer found them.
Trump’s storm troopers – sons of the Confederate Cult – gathered in Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue erected to Robert E. Lee – a Confederate icon. Lee was to the South what Irwin Rommel was to Nazi Germany, a gentleman general of great guile and class – a reluctant yet brilliant military champion of an evil racist regime.
Lee was revered in the South, but the Union knew him to be the great turbine of murder which keep the slave state alive years longer than it should have endured. In a deliberate act of revenge against Lee, Union Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs chose Lee’s plantation in Arlington, Virginia as the cemetery for the union dead. It was “righteous” he said, to put Lee’s home to such use. If Lee ever dared return to his Arlington home, he could never step outside the house without seeing the graves.
Lee never had the courage to come back.
Statues to Lee, like monuments to other “Glorious Sons of the South” are a daily reminder that the evil Confederacy lives on in the hearts and minds of its modern day adherents. The monuments and the “Stars and Bars” are a slap in the face to every soldier and civilian who died, in the Civil War and in the wars since, to preserve a non-racist United States of America.
Almost three million Union soldiers marched against the Confederacy. Hundreds of thousands died in battle and of disease; hundreds of thousands were wounded. On August 12, 2017 their ranks were joined by a peaceful sister – Heather Heyer, herself a daughter of the Commonwealth of Virginia – who went to Charlottesville in her own march against the Confederacy cult.
And there in Charlottesville, a man – allegedly a right wing racist terrorist – killed Heather Heyer as she marched for the principles defended by Union soldiers 150 years ago.
Heather Heyer died for her country.
The war against the Confederacy cult will take years – maybe centuries – to truly and finally win. May the battle be truly joined. And may the heroes of the Union, past, present and future, be properly recognized.
Ms. Heyer, a civilian, may not qualify to take her rightful place in the ground at Arlington. But perhaps, when Charlottesville tears down that statue of Robert E. Lee, the city can replace it with a statue to Heather Heyer.
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From Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address