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Lincoln Is The Enemy

 
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btownsend
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PostPosted:     Post subject: Lincoln Is The Enemy Reply with quote

On Lincoln in Richmond
by Robert Salyer

In Richmond Virginia, conflict brews over a statue of President Lincoln to be placed near the old Tredegar Iron Works. For some time now, the United States Historical Society has planned to bring a statue of "the Great Emancipator" into the city for permanent memorialization. These designs not surprisingly have drawn the ire of quite a few Virginians for whom Lincoln's presence in their capital would be anathema. However, it is apparently not only the historical society which is interested in bringing Lincoln back to Richmond. Members of government from both Richmond and the Commonwealth, and some of their constituency, are also anxious to draw Lincoln to the Old Dominion.

The Press has had a field day covering this story, for there is certainly nothing that journalists love more than controversy. And resistance to honouring 'Honest Abe' is definitely controversial. Newsmen interviewing both sides ask the antagonists to justify their positions on the statue. Their questions remind one of those asked in the Deep South, as to why, or why not, the Confederate Battle Flag.

Lincoln proponents advanced all the expected justifications for the proposal. They cite the greatness of President Lincoln and the benefit that such a statue would do for the spirit of Richmond. Enlightening native Virginians on his worth, they avow that Lincoln's only goal in coming to Virginia after victory was "To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds." The statue itself so proclaims. He came to the Confederate capital not, "as conqueror, but as a unifier," states the Washington Post editorial page.

Furthermore, the mayor of Richmond believes the returns on the city's investment "would be phenomenal," and would signal "progress in this city." Apparently tourists and well-wishers would flood the capital, seeing "a new birth of freedom" therein, bypassing both the Lincoln Memorial in the Federal City, and Monument Avenue in down town Richmond.

Lincoln's detractors, in contrast, have declared undying opposition to the statue in the city. It seems that the greatness of Lincoln is still in question somewhere. The detractors call the President a murderer, a liar, a Marxist, and a plethora of other things besides. They compare him to Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler as tyrant, and as Jim Crow himself in terms of race-relations. The detractors boil down their opposition to the memorial to three claims upon Lincoln:

One, Lincoln was a war criminal. He deliberately engaged in a kind of warfare that would earn him a place on any list of the indicted at a modern international tribunal.

Two, Lincoln was not the principled person of historical yore, but a hypocritical and self-serving lackey of industrial interest. He is known to have had a generally racist outlook on society, and may just have used abolitionism as a public-relations stunt to further the tariff and big Northern business.

Three, Lincoln was the tyrant scourge of the Constitution. He forcibly converted the Union and Constitution from consent-oriented, State-ratified, legal and moral compacts to mere symbols of a centralized, nationalist, ideological empire. In the process, he laid claim on immense illegal power for the U.S. federal government, and for the U.S. Presidency itself.

These are the arguments of Lincoln's detractors. With these arguments, even to themselves, they justify their opposition and seek to debase the statue. They may even hope that the media and the Richmond city council will see the light, see that it is proper to question Lincoln's nature and forbid his presence.

With respect, and acknowledging the truth contained within these arguments, I believe that these reasons are insufficient and, more importantly, irrelevant.

They are insufficient because, in any controversy such as this, a battle across the lines of the Kulturkampf, matters of historical interpretation will never be decisive. Lincoln's place in history, just like the controversy over what the War was "about," will always be a matter for disputation and near exegetical-style debate. And in this case, there can be no resolution of a debate when the two sides do not agree on the principles with which to resolve the debate. There can be no resolution of interpretation without a common language.

Additionally, while Lincoln's detractors may these days concentrate on the self-serving political positions that he took on numerous occasions, they must realize that charges of self-interest only invite counter-charges, and neither side is swayed. Yes, positions in any controversy are often not disinterested ones, but this does not mean that the clash underneath is any the less sincere. "Ideas have consequences," truly, as Richard Weaver stated. They cannot be, and should not be, dismissed ad hominem, as mere self-serving mental cabal. Such a tact is both unjust, and Marxist. For many on the other side of the Lincoln and the War debate believe, and believe very sincerely.

Some of "Those People" on the other side of Mr. Lincoln's War debate believe, and have always believed, that the Union and the Constitution were embodiments of a New Order above all else, a Novus Ordo Seclorum. It is to this notion that they place their loyalty and faith. Furthermore, they hold that, while not perfect instruments for the New Order at their inception, the Union, the Constitution, and the United States were most fundamentally manifestations of the principles liberty, equality, fraternity.

This applies to the three claims against Lincoln in turn. To Those People, since America is such an ideological place, the United States were of necessity, a unity-- One. The important point was that the aforementioned humanistic principles not be stymied, nor defied, and that they be able to endure, which implies enforceability. Thus, Lincoln could be no tyrant of the Union. These principles-often erroneously associated with the French Republic only-being the saving graces of Mankind, had to be defended by any means available, even if it meant the extermination of the entire population of the Southern Confederacy. Lincoln as such, could never be a war criminal. Whether or not all of the motivations of Lincoln and the Northern men of war were unsullied by pecuniary interest or not is not decisive; the point is that the long-standing sacrament enshrined by the war-the New Order-survived and has prospered. To Those People, any hypocrisy on Lincoln's part is, therefore, immaterial.

To sum up, some people say that the New Order is a good thing. Therefore, Lincoln must have been a good man (even if he were "Forced Into Glory," as Lerone Bennett has put it). This opinion has actually become for all intents and purposes the official one of those that control government, education, and the media. Thus, arguing with Those People over Lincoln's myriad evils and failings will fall on deaf ears at best.

The current arguments to keep the invader out of the city are not only insufficient however. They are irrelevant. This is the more important point.

They are irrelevant because something more is implicated here, something not subject to the argumentation of history. Something here is implicated other than the question of which dead man is likable or despicable and why. A question of loyalty is implicated here. A question of who we are, and who we will not be, appears.

Words like hypocrisy, tyranny, war crimes, are not the appropriate ones here. Rather words like: Collaboration. Occupation. Enemy. These are the words that make sense. Virginia may have taken on the yoke, but she certainly is not obliged to admire the yoke master, nor tolerate those that do.

Lincoln's statue should not be excluded from Richmond on the grounds that President Lincoln was an evil man, whether this be true or not. His statue does not belong in Richmond because he was an enemy-The Enemy-of Richmond and Virginia.

He of course claimed not to be the enemy of the True South. He claimed that he loved the South. He loved it so much that he couldn't be parted with it. Unity, not conquest, was his aim, and so it has been argued.

Yet, this is hardly the point. For the point is that the South, as the South, did not want to be included in his circle of lovers. So he moved on her with force.

Consider other examples in the same context: Statues of George of Hanover-our King George III of Britain-are absent in Boston and New York City, as well as Savannah and Charleston. Why is this? King George in truth was probably not a bad man, even less a bad king. Yet, he is properly not celebrated, neither in Richmond nor in Philadelphia.

Currently, Osama bin-Laden has no fan clubs here either. Yet, there may in fact be Arabs, Arabs with American citizenship, living in Richmond that admire the man, for whatever reason. However, anyone proposing a banquet in honour of Osama today would not be asked first off to debate his virtues and vices; that person would first be questioned about his loyalty, in no uncertain terms one suspects. So too should it be with Lincoln in Virginia.

Now it is true that Virginia, along with the other twelve Confederate States, did lose the war. They were in fact conquered. Southerners are not allowed to forget this, being constantly reminded of it by the North, and the United States government. This has little to do with the question at hand however. Those that assume that it does, that "the war is over and you lost, get over it," do not understand what happened in the Spring of 1865. General Lee surrendered himself and his army during that season. He submitted to the victor yes, but he did not surrender his soul, his soul which was Virginian. He did not cease to be a Virginian. "Those People" became conquerors that day, but they never ceased to be the enemy.

The answer to the journalist who asks, 'why oppose Lincoln's statue in Richmond,' should not be a litany of Lincoln's abuses. The answer should be simply to remind the reporter that one is a Virginian, and that the journalist's question is a stupid one. [The journalist will not be satisfied with that answer of course, for he has been indoctrinated well-- like so many others-- to discount this attitude.]

Faith. Hope. Loyalty. These are not things that can be taught. They cannot be rationalized or debated. I cannot explain to Governor Barnes why he should be loyal, why he should not collaborate against his State of Georgia. He either feels loyalty to it, has allegiance to it, realizes his kinship with it; or he does not. Such realizations are not subject to argument or analysis. Just as one has loyalty-- is bound-- to one's own family in a way not subject to the weights and measures of debate, so it is with one's patriotism.

Being bound to a people, a place, an order, a heritage, is not about an exchange of goods, services, or a contract for a certain quality of life. These material things and the rubrics of their acquisition can be measured and argued. They are subject to scrutability. Loyalty is not.

Loyalty is not something more. It is something else. The distinction between those in the Southern Movement and those devoted to the Novus Ordo Seclorum, is to a great extent that the latter believe loyalty to be only an abstract version of self-interested contracting. The former believe that loyalty is that unilateral bond of service, derived from blood, heritage, culture, and the unquantifiable aspects of nature, that makes one fully human.

The New Order political community offers a certain kind of beneficial freedom and a particular promise of economic opportunity. The New Men accept it, and in exchange offer their ersatz patriotism. Loyalty which is loyalty only in an exchange is really only fidelity to oneself, fidelity to one's own gratification.

Much like to family, real patriotic loyalty is not such a contract, not such a quid pro quo. My father has my loyalty, not in exchange for the goods and services that he has provided me down the years; but because he is my father. I am bound.

Paradoxically then, debating too long with The Enemy, over things like the Lincoln statue, can be counter-productive and self-defeating. Doing so sometimes only cedes ground, making one's position merely a matter for debate, rather than a line in the dust. It does not recognize or respect the foe for what he is. Note that Sa'ad El-Amin and Jesse Jackson don't attempt to convince when they speak. They do not explain or argue. They assert. They declare a position. Their essential position, which they state time after time is simple. "No Confederates."

This is not a difference of opinion.

If theirs is not a difference in opinion, and they care not to convince or explain themselves to Southerners; why do Southerners go to such lengths to explain and justify themselves? For at root, such justifications are by extension made to Jesse Jackson and Sa'ad El-Amin.

What the anti-Confederates of the United States Historical Society and the Richmond City Council have hit upon is not divisiveness, but division. The controversies are not causing division. Division exists. For if you are not for Virginia, Virginia the former Confederate State, then you are not a fellow Virginian. I am not your fellow citizen. I do not want unity with you. If you support Lincoln in Richmond, Lincoln the conqueror, or Lincoln the liberator, which ever, then I am your enemy. I call you traitor, and only force binds us together.

This applies to the Richmond City Council, the administration of Roy Barnes in Georgia, and any other anti-Confederate "Southerner" of any stripe. This is not about racism, States-Rights, Constitutional liberties, or the modern notion of war crimes. There are no issues between us because there is no "us." They are traitors, collaborators. These acrimonious words may seem harsh, but Those People have been using such words for quite some time now.

This is about them, and about us.

They are Those People who believe in the so-called propositional nation. They are Those People who believe that any mention of God and religion in the Forum is imposition, but cite the Rights of Man as a deus ex machina to end all arguments. They are Those People who are morally outraged by Confederates in the closet, but openly support lesbians, even those guilty of sexual harassment, on the courts of the Commonwealth. They are Those People who view the times as one of Progress because personal bonds of fealty and relation, inherited respect and mores, aspiration to some greater good and truth are replaced, replaced by the Republic of Choice, the opportunity for ever greater heights of personal gratification.

And then there are us.

Us, who are well, Virginians & Southerners.

Lincoln is the enemy. He shall not lie in Richmond. Not now. Not ever.
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