Friday, December 10, 2010

Hey, didn't you guys lose?

Back at the centennial of the Civil War, South Carolina, which one might think had a lot to answer for in the first place, got things off to a rousing start by holding the opening conference of the national centennial commission at a segregated hotel in Charleston, which meant the black member of New Jersey's delegation could not stay there. (After the intervention of the President of the United States, the meeting was moved to the nearby U.S. Navy base — which, as Federal property, was not subject to the state's segregation laws.)

It was a small symbolic point but it spoke to the larger fiasco of the entire centennial, which was imbued with the kind of mindless military pageantry, unstated but reactionary politics, and shallow antiquarianism masquerading as history that you can still see on display any weekend of the year where Civil War reenactors congregate. 

This time around there is no national commission to honor the 150th anniversary of the war, which is probably just as well. Still, South Carolina is getting things off on its usual moonlight-and-magnolias foot with a hundred-bucks-a-head "Secession Ball" on December 20, sponsored by the Confederate Heritage Trust (mission: "to present the true history of the South").

This "event of a lifetime" promises dinner, dancing, open bar, and no shortage of bozos dressed in period attire, plus this special bonus:
The wonderful news is that the ORIGINAL Ordinance of Secession will be available for viewing by our guests. This is not a lithograph, but the ACTUAL document which has been protected for years in the vault and hasn’t been seen in years. Those sponsoring tables will be able to have a group photograph with all Sponsors made with the ORIGINAL ORDINANCE
I guess they won't be having their picture taken with the ORIGINAL Declaration of the Causes of Secession, which was adopted along with the ordinance and which enumerated the justifications for South Carolina's decision to secede:
 • "the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery"
• "the increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery"
  • "the action of the non-slaveholding States," which "assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions," "have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution," "have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery," and "have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States."
Yes, that's a "heritage" we can all celebrate, isn't it? Rejecting democracy, denouncing free speech, and upholding the sacred right, guaranteed by the Constitution itself, to keep other human beings as property.