Propaganda then and now

In 1861, let’s suppose you were a small plot farmer in South Carolina trying to grow enough to feed your family and maybe trade with a local merchant. The plantation and slave owner nearby seeks your help.

The owner asks you and your teen boys to fight for the right for him to own slaves. You would likely tell him that is not your fight. Instead, if he said we don’t want those northerners telling us how to run things. We want you to fight for our state’s right to govern itself, then you would be more inclined to risk your and your boys’ lives.

That is precisely what happened. It is called propaganda. Ironically, this propaganda version was taught in southern schools even when I attended. Some even called it “the war of Northern Aggression.” Yet, the states’ rights arguments continue even today, as people try to remember a more favorable history.

From the American Battlefields website (see link below), here is excerpted language from early on in the secession documents from Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia:

Georgia: “The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Texas: “She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

Virginia: “…and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.”

Note the particular racist references in the Mississippi document, saying “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.”

I raise these issues as these states seceded from the United States of America, primarily because their assets were threatened – the slaves. The states’ rights touted as the issue was so that slave owners could keep owning slaves. Note the references to commerce in the Mississippi document, as well. The commerce was heightened by not having to pay for labor.

As a result, divided Americans died. How did they die? “Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War. This number comes from an 1889 study of the war performed by William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore.” Yet, I have also seen numbers as high as 750,000.

So, Confederate monuments that honor Civil War commanders need to be questioned and likely removed, as they honor people who rebelled against America. Many were erected long after the Civil War. Some were raised during the heyday of the KKK and their heinous racist movie “A Birth of a Nation.” The same goes for the Confederate battle flag which was used by the KKK during the Jim Crow era. To African-Americans, that flag means hanging, beating, denigration, and disrespect.

When I see a Confederate flag flying, I hate to tell the owner, but I am biased toward thinking the owner is a racist. I am hard pressed to see it any other way. When I see a Confederate flag being flown or displayed next to an American flag, my reaction is “you know that flag represent folks who betrayed the folks flying the other flag.”

But, the monuments, flag and whitewashing of history, all are an affront to our great country and our African-American citizens. From his final book, “A Restless Wave,” Senator John McCain went back to South Carolina after his first failed presidential attempt in 2000 and apologized. Why? He said when he was asked during the campaign about whether the Confederate flag should be flown on state capitol grounds, he answered politically, not what was in his heart. He said with his apology, if a flag is so highly offensive to a portion of your citizens, then you should not fly it.

Senator McCain, who is a war hero, said it well. Finally, others are starting to feel the same.

15 thoughts on “Propaganda then and now

  1. Even one of my own friends told me recently that there is nothing wrong with flying the confederate flag, for it represented innocent boys who went to war because they were fighting for “a way of life”. A way of life … one that included owning and viciously abusing other human beings. I’m pleased that Mississippi is removing the confederate flag from their state flag, and hope that despite Mr. Trump’s decree, more of the hateful statues come down. It galls me that some people still cannot see what an abomination these reminders are, how they are signs of hatred and are keeping this nation far more divided than it needs to be.

    • Jill, the majority of those who fought did not own slaves, so they were fighting for a richer person’s way of life. Plus, the flag was used by the KKK after the war. When African-Americans saw that flag, someone like them was going to die or be punished in a horrible way. Keith

      • Like today … the majority who support Trump have nothing to gain, are fighting to keep a person in office who will only be helping the wealthy. Yes, the flag has a terrible connotation … to me, anybody who would display such a sign of evil is, by extension, evil.

      • Jill, I would say “terribly misguided” rather than evil, although more than a few resemble that term. The sad equation is those who are evil can lure those who are terribly misguided to join in on their evil. Keith

    • Rosaliene, I think it was Eugene Robinson who wrote that Donald Trump is the last president of the Confederacy. Just yesterday, he said Black Lives Matter was a racist term. None of us are perfect, but Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and fixer, said under oath “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con artist and he is a cheat.”

      Thanks for stopping by. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: As we celebrate July 4, flying a Confederate flag on this day, especially, is an insult to our nation. It represents rebellion and later hate and mob rule over people of color.

    Again, this is a free country, so someone is free to fly it; but I am also free to condem those actions as racist and hateful.

  3. This is most interesting. I am reading Chernow’s biography of Washington and it is interesting to see how Washington waffled on the issue of slavery. In his mind he wanted them freed but he knew that his wealth — and that of those he knew in the South — depended on the income they garnered. He finally freed his slaves on his deathbed — leaving his widow without that source of income! But the deep divisions between the North and the South were in evidence during Washington’s tenure as President and there was no doubt but that eventually it would erupt in war. But I certainly agree with you about the Confederate flag — despite the fact that my great-grandfather was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. It makes the wrong kind ion statement.

    • Hugh, no slight intended on your great-grandfather. The loyalty to the state was stronger than the union. He may have followed Lee’s lead in so doing. Thanks for sharing how torn Washington was. The excellent movie “Harriet” about Harriet Tubman drives home the value of the slaves as they fled. Keith

  4. Flags are emotive symbols, they represent in one easy image all a person believes in (or thinks they believe in). And those in comfy and sage surrounding reveal in all the fake romance of the stalwart fellow waving that flag. They don’t think of the next image of his stomach torn open by metal nor him screaming and voiding out, they don’t see the bloated corpse, meal of flies and crows not as his mother would like to see him. They don’t think of the rich back in safety living well and demanding greater sacrifices. They forget how the dirt poor white trash were conned into dying for that wealth because even if they were dirt poor and trash, they still had one level below them.
    And worse those who parade in brown and carry the most hateful of flags, for you one word, one in your blind stupidity you have no answer for

    • Roger, the line from “Troy” needs modifying. The line is “war is old men talking, young men dying.” More often, it is poor young men and women dying. John Fogerty’s “Fortunate son,” comes to mind.

      How this ego-maniacal person could actually win a campaign after saying a man who was captured and beaten by his jailers in Vietnam was ” not a hero because he got captured,” is beyond me. By itself, that statement from this “fortunate son” should have derailed his campaign.


      • That comment from a draft dodger with no military experience did it for me, it was not only an insult to McCain but one to those pilots who took matter in the Rolling Thunder campaign.
        Another instance like the allied WWII bombing campaign over a Germany of a militarily suspect strategy which cost a lot of lives in the air and on the ground for questionable in any gains.

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