Dust-Up with History Prof over Rebel Flag Continues

Dust-Up with History Prof over Rebel Flag Continues

by DC Dave

This is a continuation of my email exchanges with a history professor who was formerly a colleague of mine in North Carolina. I taught economics. The first four rounds are chronicled in “Johnny Reb and Billy Yank Flag Debate Continues.”

Round 5

The History Professor

Yes, there is some common ground.  I acknowledged the individual right to display the flag early, citing Gov. Haley also. So we agree.  I still believe that the fact that a right exists does not mean it’s proper always to exercise it.  If that is anti-free speech, so be it.

Regarding the state of race relations.  Many white Southerners, some of them Republican politicians, acknowledged the pain of their black compatriots and urged the removal of the flag; this is positive.

On the other hand, here is support for your position:  The other evening I drove highway 97 to a Mudcats game.  I use that road several times a year, but not since the shootings and the flag controversy.  In the past, I have noticed no Confederate flags on display.  This time there were five.  What the motivations of the displayers were, I don’t know.  But most blacks would take it only one way.

Regarding historians:  Of course, the use of phrases like “timorous eunuchs” is polemical.  But one must take the consequences of them nevertheless; people might take them seriously, as I did.  In your latest there are some qualifiers (historians “who have addressed the subjects”), but you still often slander the whole profession.

Yes, some of the ones I named do not address the causes of the War or the Forrestal case.  That’s the point.  Your criticism did not exempt them.  Friedlander studies the Holocaust, Lerner the role of women in the Middle Ages.  I don’t know Engerman’s position on the causes of the War.

Genovese is a wonderful example of my point.  There is Genovese of the ‘70s, and then Genovese of the late ‘80s and ‘90s.  Forgive an anecdote that might help explain his evolution.  In about 1976-7, he and Willie Lee Rose were at dinner at my parents’ house.  Pa invited xxxxx* and me to come.  I remember two things vividly.   First, Genovese was quite a raconteur.  Second, when we were talking about his surprising treatment of slave religion, he became philosophical.  He worried that atheists like himself had no answer to the finality of death, unlike the devoutly religious.  Sometime later, he rejoined the Catholic Church.  Perhaps this was the start of his conservatism.  But which Genovese is the eunuch?

After all is said and done, nothing you’ve said about the origins of the Civil War changes what I, and many others, believe:

–          No slavery, no war

–          No war, no Confederate flag

–          No flag, no flag as present symbol of slavery and racism.

Finally, on Forrestal and others.  I meant “relatively unimportant” in this way:  I believe that the most important question historians ask is, “what caused it, and what did it cause?”  You and others think the death of, for example, Forrestal was caused by either fearful communists or agents of Israel.  If you’re right, then his death was an episode either of the Cold War or the controversy over Israel’s founding.

But what did Forrestal’s death cause?  There were obviously some things – grief for family and friends, for example.  And, perhaps, an example of government lying, of which there have been many.  But I haven’t seen anything that takes it much beyond this.

 

My Reply

I have said my piece on the “Civil War,” which includes, I remind you once again, my 2008 article, “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech.”

I very much appreciate your honesty in reporting what you call the support for my position that you recently witnessed.  You may correct me if I’m wrong, but I take that to mean my position that race relations have worsened rather than improved in the wake of the event in Charleston.  The evidence you present is the sudden blossoming of five Confederate flags upon your rather short route to the local minor league baseball park.   In spite of what you might have picked up from an open-minded reading of B’Man’s “What Does the Stars and Bars Represent?” and from this old friend’s exchanges, whom you say you take seriously, this phenomenon seems to have you puzzled.

Once again I must say that you have to be in a small minority on that one.  Obviously, it’s a conscious reaction to the national campaign, led by the mainstream news media, against the Confederate battle flag.  White Southerners naturally resent having what many have come to regard as a symbol of themselves and their culture and heritage dragged into the mud based upon what one deranged person allegedly did.  What you saw in your little corner of North Carolina was on display in central Florida a couple of weeks ago in the form of an eight-mile-long Confederate flag rally comprised of some 4,500 people.   I don’t think that got a lot of media play, nor did the apparent murder of black Confederate flag supporter Anthony Hervey by fellow blacks in Mississippi, a real sign of deteriorating race relations, which I don’t think the Florida flag caravan or the flag display you witnessed were.

None of these national news organs who, like you, take the aggrieved-black position with respect to the Confederate battle flag are owned and run or in any way controlled by actual black people.  One that is, the Black Muslim Final Call, takes a very different view on the deeper origins of black slavery in the United States than one is likely to find in the mainstream news media or in the approved history books.

I would like to think that you are selling black people short when you say that most of them would take this new flag display only one way.  From what you have written previously, I take it that the “one way” would be as some form of unexplainable recrudescent racism, a celebration of slavery, as a “flag of hate.” No statements to the contrary on the part of the displayers of the flags count for anything.  Empathy must forever be a one-way street.

This is not exactly a blueprint for racial harmony.

Toward the improvement of race relations, the next time you are together with those black folks you frequently meet with you could try to dampen any outrage you might encounter over these new displays of the flag by sharing my views with them, but, as I say, I really think you have underestimated them and that it will not be necessary.

Regarding American historians and my use of H.L. Mencken’s disparaging quote, I am frankly astonished that you would defend the historians in their ongoing cover-up of the obvious assassination in 1949 of America’s first secretary of defense, James Forrestal.  Somehow, I don’t think Mencken would be astonished.  I suppose you would offer the same sort of defense for the historical blackout of the attempted assassination of President Harry Truman in 1947 by the Zionist Stern Gang.

 

* Another former colleague in the history department.

 

David Martin

July 27, 2015

 

Read Round 4 here:

https://buelahman.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/johnny-reb-and-billy-yank-debate-continues/

 

Read Rounds 1 through 3 here:

https://buelahman.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/the-rebel-flag-and-the-civil-war-debated/

 

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Johnny Reb and Billy Yank Flag Debate Continues

Johnny Reb and Billy Yank Flag Debate Continues

by DC Dave

This is a continuation of my email exchanges with a history professor who was a colleague of mine from 1972 to 1978 at a small private college in North Carolina. I taught economics. The first three rounds are chronicled in “The ‘Rebel’ Flag and the ‘Civil War’ Debated.” The controversy begins with B’Man’s article, “What Does the Stars and Bars Represent?” In my concluding paragraph of the previous article I had promised to publish any response to me should it be forthcoming. He did respond, and I responded to him. The ball is in his court once again. First, we have his response:

 

Round 4

I had hoped to be able to accept an apology for your transmitting my messages to B-Man’s site without my permission.  Alas, I found none, though I did find instead another condemnation of my laziness, with others following. Regarding B-Man’s site, I simply don’t want to be associated with it, but that train’s now left the station.  Your opinion of how I should feel about the use of my own words is interesting, but it’s not your place to act on that opinion.

I wanted a conversation with you because I know you and take you seriously.

I can’t help noticing a parallel to the flag controversy:  One party is aggrieved by another’s act and says so.  The other party replies, not with an apology, but by exacerbating the grievance.

If you do nothing else, please address the following questions, which you didn’t do previously.  I’m not accusing you of anything.  My response then was long and this one is also.

Let’s focus on the title of the original message, “The Real Meaning of the Stars and Bars.” You had said you “do not accept” the notion that there is revulsion among “grassroots” blacks about the flag, and this summed up your response to my suggestion of courtesy to the people who felt insulted.  I looked for supporting evidence but found none, and added:

This is anecdotal, but I know and frequently meet with a number of “grassroots” black people, assuming by grassroots you mean wage earners, schoolteachers, preachers, healthcare workers, etc.  They are all offended by the flag, in varying ways.  At least one dismisses it as white folks being white folks; at least two are brought nearly to tears as they discuss it; and another seethes quietly, to take four examples. Poll after poll says that blacks see the flag as a symbol of racism.  For example, CNN: 72% of blacks nationwide, 75% in the South.  I know: this is MSM.  But do you have evidence of your own that removes us from the realm of anecdote?

Do you really believe that there is no reason for black people to be insulted or hurt by the display of the flag?  What evidence supports your belief of little revulsion among blacks?  And, to repeat, why isn’t a courteous response to their grievances appropriate?

Could you also respond to this?

Thus far, it looks to me as though the flag controversy is improving things [i.e., race relations], not worsening them.

One more.  I wrote:

Finally re MSM [“mainstream media”], which is a blanket whose size I don’t know. You and B-Man reject them totally, as near as I can tell.  Another sweeping generalization.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to evaluate them newspaper by newspaper, network by network, pundit by pundit, etc.?  When, for example, in the aftermath of the Charleston murders, a report launches a stereotyped condemnation of Southern racists, chalk it up to the fact that the reporter is a simpleton (as many are) or an idiot (fewer, perhaps, but plenty nonetheless).  Then also note that that many of the same MSM widely publicized moving, humane statements by Paul Thurmond, Mayor Riley, and many other white folks, some ordinary, some not.  They were an eloquent contradiction of the crude, false stereotypes sometimes perpetrated.

Do you have any response to the above?  Is everything from whatever you mean by MSM automatically invalid?

From here on, I’ll try again to defend myself and my profession.   It’s fine with me if you don’t respond, but professional historians’ views of the causes of the Civil War, and thus the meaning of the flag, are an important part of what follows.

No, I can’t cite any historians who have written about Forrestal or Foster. I have read the piece in which you attack three of them, but your contempt seems to result from the fact that at least one doesn’t read the evidence the way you do. He’s therefore a liar.  You focus with unusual intensity on those cases.  Fine.  But are John Hope Franklin, or Eugene Genovese, or Stanley Engerman, or Anne Scott, or Saul Friedlander, or Gerda Lerner, or hosts of others who make up the profession, including yours truly as a lesser member, to be condemned and insulted because they don’t?  This seems so elementary that I’m reluctant even to mention it.

In my opinion and, evidently, in many others’, in the grand scheme of things the Forrestal and Foster cases are relatively unimportant.  True, they may illustrate bad behavior on the part of people in government, but this is no shock.  I’m not surprised that most historians have focused on broader issues, those that help us better understand forces that shape more people’s lives.

I was mistaken to call the JFK assassination controversy “supposed”, but numerous historians have, in fact, focused on it.  I attended a session at the Southern Historical Society Convention in, I think, 1978, and as I recall, all the historians on the panel thought, to differing degrees, that there were flaws in the Warren Report. Their conclusions might not have matched yours, but historians did not ignore or suppress the topic, and continued to write about it.  So did many journalists.  You know this.

My conclusion hasn’t changed:  You condemn a profession that contains thousands of people on the basis of flimsy evidence and analysis.

On slavery as a cause of the Civil War, which is central to how black people feel about the flag:

SC began the fighting. Virtually every historian knows that Lincoln’s goal in responding was to save the Union, not end slavery.  He made this clear in the inaugural (which said some conciliatory, kind things about the South). This has been settled for decades. He may have baited the South into firing the first shot (a matter of debate, as I understand it), but they eagerly bit.

What we should do, however, is to distinguish between immediate causes and long-term, deeper ones, from which we can learn more.  The two most important immediate causes are the secession, and Lincoln’s action in response. The first is more important than the second, which would not have happened without the first. How we view Lincoln’s action depends on one’s view of the importance of maintaining the union, and on assessing the deeper causes of his action.

What are the fundamental causes of secession?  It depends on how far back you want to go, which is a matter of opinion.  You could look at the debates over the Constitution in the 1780s/90s.  The existence of slavery almost caused the union not to exist in the first place.  Isn’t that suggestive.

Or to the time of the Missouri Compromise, 1810s and onward.  Some thought, JQ Adams for example, that there might be war, or some kind of dissolution of the union, if the slave states believed that slavery would be forbidden in the new states/territories.  That ruckus lasted for decades.

The southern economy, and therefore the region’s way of life, was based on slavery. Can you imagine the Southern way of life being remotely similar to what it was, if it had it been based on free, non-racialized labor?  Many factors caused Southerners to fear for slavery’s future, from tariffs, to the abolitionists’ actions, to John Brown’s raid, and many other episodes. (Lincoln’s election should have been the least of their worries.)  All these fed secession and revolve around slavery.  And there are still those pesky Declarations of Secession, whose substance you dismissed.

The reason the Southern states seceded and attacked Ft. Sumter was that they feared they could not maintain slavery.  The reason Lincoln perpetrated war was to nullify secession, which most (but of course not all) of his constituency in the North wanted him to do, not because he was a bloodthirsty warmonger.

The most charitable description of a view that the war was entirely Lincoln’s fault is that it’s superficial.  If I missed something in your response, please set me straight.  I don’t want to insult you.

Professional historians have worked very hard to try to understand these things.  They argue all the time.  Most are neither timorous nor eunuchs, whatever that means (“timorous eunuchs” sounds redundant).  They are often partly or completely wrong, but usually other historians provide a corrective and there is an argument, which is the way scholarship works.

(All italics are in the original.)

 

My Response

Amidst all the mutual verbal fireworks, petulance, and selective responses to score debating points, I have actually detected a little bit of common ground, and there might be more if we work at it.  You may have noticed that I conceded on the point of South Carolina’s display of its flag on its Capitol building on account of the intent behind originally running it up there.  More even than the public funding, the fact that it was put up as a symbol of determined resistance to integration and the civil rights movement suggests that it should have been taken down a long time ago.

I believe you also conceded that what one chooses to do with the Stars and Bars in a private capacity is another matter, entirely, but then you go on to argue that it’s not nice to do it because black people generally take offense at it as a symbol of slavery.  I don’t think you’d get any argument from either B’Man or me that flaunting the Confederate battle flag can be taken that way in the black community which is one reason neither one of us would put one on our vehicles and, up until very recently, neither one of us had ever even owned one.  In the article on the Stars and Bars that you took such strong exception to, initiating this exchange, I don’t see any advocacy on his part for the indiscriminate display of the Confederate flag.  He does take a very strong pro-free speech position, saying that there should be no legal restrictions and that “no matter what a person’s reason for owning the Stars and Bars (even the most vile, racist, hating rationale), it is their freedom to use that emblem as a form of speech.”

Although you don’t state it in such strong terms, it looks to me that his position and your position on the private display of the flag are essentially the same. The 28.32-minute video that requires more time to review than any part of the article (which I gather you must not have watched) takes a very balanced view of the question, and it also quite amply represents the views of blacks and whites of different generations, political persuasions, and political leanings.  You will find well-represented there the views of those blacks that by “getting out,” in contrast to your supposedly cloistered former colleague, you have learned represent the overwhelming majority of the black community (reinforced by the polls you cite). But you will also see support for my position that for the past 30 years or so the Stars and Bars hasn’t been such a big deal to black people.  One really doesn’t have to get out and talk with a lot of black young people to know that there’s no particular reason why they should give a damn one way or the other.  It’s just a white, redneck, Dukes of Hazzard, NASCAR, country music sort of thing for generally lower class Southern white people as they—and most people in our socio-economic group North and South—see it. They have not experienced it as a symbol of oppression, they don’t see the white people that they come in contact with using it as a symbol of oppression, and therefore feel no particular reason to get all worked up over it.  Common sense will tell you that that was the ascendant position in the black community up until the most recent episode, becoming more prevalent with every passing year as the veterans of the civil rights struggle die off.

I have never met him, but from talking to him, exchanging emails with him, and reading his writing, I believe that B’Man would identify most closely with the woman in the video whom one might call a middle to upper middle class liberal Southern white.  For a variety of reasons, including the offense that it might cause to blacks, she doesn’t think that it’s a good idea to display the Confederate battle flag.  That is also my position.  But he and I also have a good deal of sympathy for the Southern whites in the video who apparently very sincerely would show the flag out of pride in their heritage, in their “Southernness,” if you will, and I would proudly display it at a gathering of the descendants of the POWs whose ancestors, like my great grandfather John Henry Martin, were held there at Point Lookout.  Maybe that’s where we begin to part company and on that point have very little common ground.  You give the impression that you are a rather shallow-rooted transplant, particularly into the South’s traditional white community.  I have the distinct impression that you would be a good deal more uncomfortable at a Southern heritage gathering than you would be at an NAACP meeting, for instance.

That one difference hardly explains the virulence behind your short, tart, offensive initial email, though, in which you call B’Man’s piece “nonsense,” say he is making a fool of himself, and express sadness that I should appear to go along with it.

“I wanted a conversation with you because I know you and take you seriously,” you now say. That’s a fine way to start a reasoned discussion!  In the early nineteenth century it would have been nearly sufficient to provoke a challenge to a duel.  Forgive me for taking it at least as a challenge to a duel of words.  And you take me so seriously that, with my record there for all to see  you write that my main interests seem to be the Holocaust and the Confederate flag/Civil War.

You have also insisted that I respond to this statement of yours, “Thus far, it looks to me as though the flag controversy is improving things [i.e., race relations], not worsening them,” so here goes:

I’m used to taking minority positions because I like to think for myself and I care about the truth.  Whatever your motivation might be, I really think you’re in a small minority on that one. Your idea of improved race relations seems to emanate from the notion that the South hasn’t been defeated enough and that the only good white Southerners are the ones who will admit once and for all times that they were the bad guys in the War between the States.

You also ask for specific examples of irresponsible press coverage of the flag issue.  Might I call your attention to an editorial cartoon by Wasserman in the Boston Globe  (it would be) that B’Man reproduces in his June 22 article raising questions about the Charleston event?  A TV reporter is standing in front of a gigantic Confederate flag shown to be flying on the Capitol Building of South Carolina and he is saying, “Officials are still trying to fathom the roots of the shooter’s hatred.”

Flag of hatred,” the web site Chatauqua calls it, the one that B’Man is specifically objecting to in his article, and they liken it to the Nazi flag.  Thus they give encouragement to the race hustlers like Al Sharpton and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who are the George Wallaces and Lester Maddoxes of our day, but from the other side.  No, I really don’t see how green-lighting these race-baiters who demonize the traditional South is improving things.

Now let’s talk about the historians you say that I am maligning.  Certainly, as a group, concerning the issues I know best, they have richly earned my disparagement, present interlocutor included, but more about that later.  Let’s talk about those you say support your case that slavery caused the War Between the States.

I can’t say it enough, but there are two very distinct things at issue, the secession and the war.  I would almost be ready to stipulate, as the lawyers say, that the slavery issue was the primary cause for the secession, and “War of Northern Aggression” would still be a far more apt name for the conflagration than “Civil War.”  There was not a fight over control of the central government.

At least two of the authors you site would be out of their field opining on the cause of the war per se.  Stanley Engerman is an economic historian and expert on the institution of slavery generally, not just in the United States.  Eugene Genovese was a social historian whose essay on how the institution of slavery put its mark on Southern society I once assigned to my economics classes.  I found his economic-based argument for social and political control by the slave owners in the Southern states quite compelling.  It was what my forebears from a non-slaveholding county in North Carolina were up against.  You might remember it from the North Carolina history that we all got in the eighth grade in the public schools.

The really interesting thing about Genovese, though, is that if he were alive today he would be more likely to be on my side of the debate about the Confederate flag than on yours:

As far as I know, although residing in Atlanta at the time, former Marxist historian Eugene D. Genovese did not take a public position in this debate [over the Confederate flag in the 1990s in Georgia]. But if he had, it is not hard to divine the side on which he would have intervened. Much of Genovese’s work in the 1990s has sought explicitly to specify and defend an ideal of “traditional southern culture” against its detractors, to cleanse this ideal of the stigma of slavery and white supremacy, and to offer it up as something that speaks to the modern condition in general and the perceived crisis of the left in particular.  Alex Lichtenstein

Genovese later in life actually went farther in defense of the South’s hierarchical traditional conservative society than a person of my Yadkin County pedigree, in the NC foothills, would care to go.  I have talked about Daddy’s grandfather on his father’s side, John Henry.  His grandfather on his mother’s side, Barton Roscoe Brown, reflecting the sentiment of many people in the county, hid out in the mountains during the war and later became a legislator in the carpetbag government in Raleigh.  His brother, though, did sign up with Lee’s army and died of illness in Virginia.  Yadkin was a very conflicted county, with a far more egalitarian social structure than in the eastern part of the state and with widespread anti-slavery sentiment.   Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln did not receive a single vote for president in Yadkin in the 1860 election.  It’s true that the state government didn’t even have him on the ballot, but there is no record of anyone even having written in his name.  He was a very polarizing figure, seen throughout the South as purely a regional, anti-Southern politician.  When he launched his military assault upon the South it is easy to see why most people would have concluded that that assessment of the man had been correct and that they had to fight to defend their homeland.

It really does all come back to Lincoln, and your grudging concession really says it all: “He may have baited the South into firing the first shot (a matter of debate, as I understand it), but they eagerly bit.”

Later on you write, “The reason the Southern states seceded and attacked Ft. Sumter was that they feared they could not maintain slavery.”

Neither you nor anyone who might wrap himself in the mantle of “historian” is ever going to sell that tale to anyone with any critical faculties.  The South wanted war with the North you are telling us.  They weren’t suicidally crazy.  No, I can’t say it any better than that Lincoln “baited the South” into providing him with his much desired casus belli.  I know it might be painful to come to grips with that reality, something akin to staring directly into the sun, but there it is.  As you have as much as conceded, his first inaugural address shows that he had every intention of reigning in the seceding states militarily, that is, to kill and maim them back into the fold for the greater good, however voluntary the founding fathers might have conceived the union arrangement to be.  Now let all those people who keep pointing to the secession declarations of various Southern states to show their pro-slavery sentiment find something that compares with Lincoln’s speech in showing the Southerners’ desire for war with the North.

But wait.  Right after your sentence conflating the Southerners’ motivation for secession with the motivation for attacking Ft. Sumter you state, “The reason Lincoln perpetrated war was to nullify secession…” Yep.  There you’ve said it.  He might not have liked to think of himself and you and many who have backed him in his endeavor might not like to think of him as a “bloodthirsty warmonger.” Call it nullifying secession if it makes you feel better about it, but the bloodshed and suffering are the same. The Communists in the Soviet Union, in China, and even in the killing fields of Cambodia, justified their barbarities in the highest sounding, idealistic terms.  I believe that there is general agreement that Lincoln and his backers had no idea how great the bloodshed would turn out to be.  They miscalculated, thinking it would be a walkover like the Mexican War of their recent experience.

Actually, upon more thought we really shouldn’t take Lincoln at his word for why he was going to attack the South.  Defending the noble concept of democracy has a much better ring to it than pushing the agenda of the Northern industrialists and railroad companies and preserving the federal revenues from the largest exporting and importing section of the country.  Tariffs, at that time, were virtually the only source of revenue for the federal government.  And if, as Genovese persuasively argued, the economic clout of those in whose hands the primary generators of wealth was concentrated translated into political power in the South, why would it not have worked that way in the North as well?

At this point I must admit that I am not above practicing the baiting ploy myself.  That was part of what I was doing in invoking the Mencken characterization, “the timorous eunuchs who posture as American historians.” Mencken was a master of the writing technique known as “exaggeration for effect.” I applied the quote to a particular event in American history and in this instance I can say from experience and with countless examples—including one of yours to follow—that in this instance it is not even an exaggeration at all.

Here you are in your General P.G.T. Beauregard role:

“No, I can’t cite any historians who have written about Forrestal or Foster. I have read the piece in which you attack three of them, but your contempt seems to result from the fact that at least one doesn’t read the evidence the way you do. He’s therefore a liar.”

The article in question, which you avoid mentioning, is “Letter to a Court Historian about Forrestal’s Death.”

Your old bugaboo has reared its head again.  Once more, it would appear, you have not bothered even to read the article right in front of you all the way through before leveling a demeaning charge.  Here is the article’s concluding paragraph:

As Mencken would have anticipated, [Professor Greg Herken] is in good company.  Douglas Brinkley has brushed me off more than once as have the entire stable of historians at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and a host of others.   Frankly, I don’t know how they live with themselves, or at least how they can refrain from spitting at what they see in the mirror when they shave in the morning.

If you go to all the links you’ll find enough historians to mount a pretty serious assault upon Fort Sumter, a lot more than three.

And about that reading of the evidence, Herken writes of recent secretary of defense James Forrestal spending a restless night copying a poem before jumping out a window.  I show with the transcription entered into evidence at the official hearing and with a number of examples of Forrestal’s handwriting that someone else obviously did the copying.  I also present the testimony of the Navy corpsman overseeing Forrestal’s hospital room during the hours in question in which he says officially that the lights were off in the room and that Forrestal did no reading or writing.

Where is the honest difference of opinion that you would suggest exists here?  Can you read the evidence?  What does it tell you?  What should it tell any honest historian?  Why are they all still lying about Forrestal’s death, when they bother to say anything at all?  And it is also valid to ask exactly the same questions about them with respect to Vincent Foster’s death, the second highest U.S. government official ever to “commit suicide,” with Forrestal being the first.

Then you say this:

“In my opinion and, evidently, in many others’, in the grand scheme of things the Forrestal and Foster cases are relatively unimportant.  True, they may illustrate bad behavior on the part of people in government, but this is no shock.  I’m not surprised that most historians have focused on broader issues, those that help us better understand forces that shape more people’s lives.”

That might cover the ones who have ignored these episodes, but what about the ones that I specifically take to task who have addressed themselves to the subjects but have simply repeated popular lies?  I was going to say “official lies” but in the case of Forrestal’s death the absolutely last official word is simply that he died from a fall from a 16th floor window without offering any opinion as to what might have caused the fall.  Those weighing in dishonestly in the Vincent Foster case I have called “The Moral Midgets of American Academia,” with a detailed explanation.

Now let us consider your rather breathtaking assertion that they are of relative unimportance “in the grand scheme of things,” hardly worthy of the attention of a person carrying the gravitas of your profession.

Let’s stare into the sun again.  The leading opponent in the government—and really in the entire country—of the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine has almost certainly been assassinated according to the best evidence now available, but all the American opinion-molding community has covered it up, calling it a suicide.  Those facts, you would want us to believe, are “relatively unimportant…in the grand scheme of things,” but you get all exercised over someone waving a Confederate flag.  If I were writing things like that I wouldn’t want it splashed all over the Internet, either, whether or not my name was on it.

As for Vincent W. Foster, Jr., the importance of the murder of Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel and its subsequent cover-up should be important to anyone on its face, especially to anyone calling himself a historian.  For those who need a little help I have written “Vince Foster’s Valuable Murder.”

One of the ways the Foster case has been important to me is to be found under my “Welcome” on my home page:

Fool’s Paradise

Welcome to the American aquarium,
Where life can be lived without care.
If you swim only where you’re supposed to,
You won’t even know that you’re there.

But thanks to my curiosity
An upsetting thing came to pass:
I followed the trail of a mystery,
And I discovered the glass.

Yes, I do “get out.” In doing so, I have apparently received quite a different education from the one you have received since we served on the same faculty some 37 years ago.  That different education would explain why I would embrace, while you apparently recoil from B’Man’s article that sets the stage by making the observation, “The MSM is not our friend. They are not truthful. They are pawns used to brainwash you. Period.”

After all, early in my January 2002 article, “Michael Chertoff, Master of the Cover-up,” explaining with examples why I did not believe the official story on 9/11, I wrote, “Recent history has shown that the more important the event, the greater the likelihood [the mainstream media] will lie to you about it.” Much of what I had learned about Chertoff’s treachery I had learned from following his actions in the Foster case.

There is getting out, and then there is getting out.

 

David Martin

July 21, 2015

 

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Letter to a Historian over Foster and the Clintons

Letter to a Historian over Foster and the Clintons

by DC Dave

In my most recent article I take America’s professional historians to task one more time for the mainly propagandistic role they seem to be playing in interpreting what has gone on in the country. In that small verbal match I believe I supported my charge of intellectual laziness quite thoroughly against one very minor member of the profession. Noticing how he shrank away from the major issues that provide the underpinning for the case for skepticism about the current campaign against the Confederate battle flag, a stronger charge of intellectual cowardice might well be in order. And in that quality, I fear that he is representative of his entire profession.

leuchtenburg_william_1

William Leuchtenburg

William Leuchtenburg, with more than a dozen books to his credit, has been a very industrious fellow. Garden-variety laziness is obviously not his problem. As past president of the American Historical Association, the Organizations of American Historians, and the Society of American Historians, he has also been on the very top of the heap, which one might say makes him, in itself, a very representative example of his group. One can be quite certain that he would never have attained those positions had he demonstrated the independence of thought and expression of, say, a Charles A. Beard. Certainly, he doesn’t demonstrate such independence in the matter for which I took him to task in my May 25 letter:

Dear Professor Leuchtenburg:

The two enclosures to this letter are self-explanatory, except for the reason that I address D.G. Martin in my email to him in a familiar tone. We played basketball against one another when I was on the freshman team and he was a senior on the varsity at Davidson College in 1961. I got back in touch with him a few years ago through a colleague of mine at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who is a cousin of D.G.’s. In between, when he ran for Congress in the seat vacated by James Martin in Charlotte he became the only political candidate to whom I have ever contributed money. (Although all three of us Martins have a Davidson connection, we are not related.)

I have heard nothing from D.G. and am proceeding upon the assumption that you are of the generation that has nothing to do with computers. That might also explain why you are so misinformed about the death of Vincent Foster. It is no excuse for writing about the matter based upon that misinformation, however.   To overcome the handicap you might have someone print up my collection of articles to which I link at the end of my latest article (enclosed). The UNC library could also easily obtain and print up for you the letter of the lawyer for Patrick Knowlton, a dissenting witness, which the 3-judge panel that appointed Kenneth Starr ordered to be included with Starr’s report on Foster’s death. It is at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003263302.

Sincerely,

David Martin

Enclosures: May 20 email to D.G. Martin (below); “Is She Onboard with the Cover-Up?

DG Martin

DG Martin

As indicated, you may read the article that was enclosed by clicking on the link. I could hardly enclose all the things I want the good professor emeritus to read on the Foster death case to become qualified to discuss the matter knowledgeably. It is simply a fact of life that in 2015 much of what one must know to be able to discuss public events intelligently is simply not available in the old print medium, unless one uses a computer to print it up.

More than three weeks have passed and I have heard nothing from Professor Leuchtenburg. We’ll see what his book says when it comes out in December, but absent a response from him, I’m not holding out much hope that I will have had any effect.

Below is a copy of the email that I sent to Martin. If Leuchtenburg is highly representative of the American history establishment, Martin is very much a member of the North Carolina Democratic political establishment. He twice lost close races for the U.S. Congress in the 80s and finished second to John Edwards in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator in 1998. He hosts the program, North Carolina Bookwatch, on North Carolina Public Television and has a syndicated column.  As I note in my letter to Leuchtenburg, he had ignored my email for that five-day interim and he continues to ignore it. I guess he considers that the safe course to take, giving him something in common with the American fraternity of historians.

Hi DG,

I see from your column that William Leuchtenburg is coming out with a big book in December entitled The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.  If what you attribute to him in your article is accurate concerning the Whitewater investigation and he has incorporated such an interpretation of events in his book, I trust that it is not too late to make revisions:

The Whitewater investigation never yielded anything. The suicide of Vince Foster was clearly the result of depression in a man who had been tried beyond his capabilities in Washington, who himself said that he should never have left a successful career in Little Rock. That did not stop accusations that Clinton had deliberately concocted his murder.

Bill Clinton was the last member of the two major parties that I have voted for in the presidential race.  That was in 1992.  A major reason for my defection from the mainstream voting ranks was that I looked into the death of the man that I played intramural basketball against for the two years that our time at Davidson overlapped, Vince Foster.  From the statement above, it is evident that Professor Leuchtenburg has not examined the matter in any depth at all.  He can begin to learn what I have learned by reading my latest article, “Is She Onboard with the Cover-up?” and following the links.

The casual reader might think that he speaks with the voice of authority as an eminent scholar on the American presidency, but I’m sure he must admit that the judgment he has rendered on the Foster death is not arrived at by any method that even begins to resemble serious scholarship, that is, of the type that I have done.  And I have never once said or even intimated that Bill Clinton—or Hillary—was behind Foster’s murder.

Unfortunately, with the research skills that I possess, I have not been able to find an email address for Professor Leuchtenburg.  You seem to be in touch with him, though, so I would appreciate it if you would forward this email along to him.  I do see an old-fashioned mailing address for him on the UNC history department site, so I will use that method if you can’t reach him electronically.

Gary David Martin*

p.s.  Professor Leuchtenburg might be interested to know that his colleague George Tindall was on my dissertation committee at UNC.  Robert Gallman, of the economics department, was the committee chairman.

As I look back on my email to Martin, I see that I might have gone a bit too far in saying that I have never even intimated that the Clintons were behind Foster’s murder. Later, I thought of these lines that I had written in the first installment of “America’s Dreyfus Affair: The Case of the Death of Vincent Foster.”

Foster, though a government employee, was said to have been assigned the task of putting the financial property of the Clintons into a blind trust (and who knows what else?). In that capacity he would have known more about the Clinton family finances than any man alive, and his death had rendered him safely beyond any future subpoena.

I suppose that that is something of an intimation that the Clinton’s might have had something to do with his death, but the thrust of my writing and that of all serious researchers in the case has been to establish that Foster was murdered and did not commit suicide. Who did it is another question. My purpose was to contrast my sober examination of the facts surrounding Foster’s death with Leuchtenburg’s flip suggestion that doubters of the official story do so in order to accuse the president of “deliberately concoct[ing] his murder.”

More Shortcomings in the History Profession

What Leuchtenburg has done is to give us a false dichotomy. One might also say that he has dragged a red herring into the discussion. Those familiar with my “Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression” will see that the red herring has been dragged in the spirit of #2 in the techniques, “Wax indignant,” also known as the “How dare you?” gambit.

Seeing Leuchtenburg pull off this verbal stunt while wrapping himself in all his academic authoritativeness, I am forced to add to my charges against American historians, if not all of them, certainly this one. That is the charge of intellectual dishonesty.

Thinking I might get a little more mileage from my letter, I looked up the email addresses of the members of the University of North Carolina’s history department. The idea was that I might send my Leuchtenburg letter to them in the same way that I had shared a Foster-related email with Baylor University’s history department upon the news that Kenneth Starr had been made Baylor’s president. Then, looking over the names and specializations of the 24 teachers of United States history at UNC-Chapel Hill, I made an interesting discovery. None of them seems to be qualified to talk about the subject at hand. I’m sure that various ones of them are assigned to teach about the presidency of the United States from 1900 up to the present and the decisions those presidents have made that effect all of our lives, but there are none who seem to have any sort of a scholarly background in that subject.

There’s nothing close to a Leuchtenburg among them. In fact, none of them seems qualified to address with any degree of knowledge any of the vital topics that I write about on my web site. Somehow, I think that that is not an accident. Writing or speaking the truth on those subjects would not likely be good for a professional historian’s career, so it’s better to steer clear of them and just parrot what’s in the textbook when you have to teach anything about those subjects.

* Note my full name here. D.G. would have known me by my first name. My introduction on my home page explains how I came to go by my middle name for my political writings. Examples of my professional writing using my first name can be found here and here.

David Martin

July 15, 2015

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The “Rebel” Flag and the “Civil War” Debated

The “Rebel” Flag and the “Civil War” Debated

by DC Dave

confed7re+%281%29

Overdoing Learning

Could it be I’ve learned too much?
If charged, I must confess.
My views would be more popular
If I knew much less.

I might vote for Democrats
Or for the GOP
And not have old acquaintances
Almost run from me.

Education’s big with them
And ignorance the foe,
Except for those disturbing things
That they don’t want to know.

You will find the poem above if you click on the “post-doctoral” in my message, “Welcome to the world of post-doctoral politics” on my home page. I have the distinct impression that one such “old acquaintance” has been running from me for quite some time. Actually, he’s a bit more than an acquaintance. I really thought of him as my closest friend at the small college in North Carolina where I taught economics for six years when we were both fresh out of graduate school. He’s the one person there whose email address I have retained and with whom I have remained in touch over a period of some 37 years. I grew up not far from the college and on occasion when I was in the area I would call him or drop in on him and he would bring me up to date on what had transpired since I left. Teaching history there, as it turned out, was not only his first job out of graduate school, but it was his last job as well. He spent his entire career there, retiring a few years ago.

Reflecting now on the relationship, I think that the friendship was a bit one-sided. We got along splendidly as colleagues, but I think a major reason for it at the time was that our political views were so similar. I have summed mine up with a 2002 poem entitled “A Chomsky Dissenter.”

A Chomsky Dissenter

When I trusted Noam Chomsky
I had a cozy home.
With my academic friends
I did not feel alone.

I liked his doughty dissidence;
At least I thought him bold.
And he helped me see beyond
The daily lies we’re told.

Then I saw he stayed away
From major mysteries
Like a student of the woods
Who won’t go near the trees.

Now the trees are falling down
And crushing all we see,
And all the Chomskyites can do
Is run away from me.

Another indicator of the one-sidedness of the friendship is that through the years, now that I think of it, all the emails between us, I believe, have been from me to him, except in the cases where I might have asked a question and a response was required. None, from my recollection, came at his initiative. Most tellingly, since he was on my mailing list and I write about political matters that I think should at least interest him, I have regularly sent him articles that I have written, and I never heard the first peep from him about any of them until this past week.

What did it was a very short email that I sent a couple of weeks ago. I went on two major trips in June and had little time to do any writing of my own, so I sent out a highly topical article by my frequent collaborator on videos who uses the screen name of Buelahman, or B’Man for short. It read simply:

Enjoy

Dave

round1

That finally produced a response from the old friend. It came five days later and here it is:

I do enjoy reading this person, “B-Man”, making a fool of himself.  But I get the impression that you endorse this nonsense.  Sad.

Ahem! I responded immediately this way:

Indeed, I have found practically nothing that this gentleman has written that I disagree with.  I was particularly pleased to see him reference my essay, “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech.”  I would be very interested to know why you think what he has written is nonsense and why you think my endorsement of it is sad.  As Thomas Sowell says he used to write with red pencil on his students’ papers, “Specify, don’t characterize.”

You see that he gives readers an opportunity to comment.  I am placing this exchange on the comment page so all involved can defend what they have written.

I did as I promised and promptly put the exchange up, identifying my interlocutor only as an old academic colleague.

round2

The next day the former colleague did, in fact, “specify” with this response:

Thanks for replying.

I must admit that I did not read all of B-Man’s essay.  It goes on and on, and I didn’t have the endurance.  Here is my response to its central question.

Let’s leave aside some important issues, such as the overwhelming consensus among professional historians about the role of slavery in causing the Civil War, what slavery meant, what “heritage” means, what our white ancestors thought they were fighting for, etc.

Let’s simply address how we should treat fellow citizens.  A large segment of them, mostly black, say they are insulted, humiliated, and in other ways hurt by the sight of the common version of the Confederate flag.  Even if we don’t feel them ourselves, it is not the place of B-Man, or you, or me to deny those emotions in others.  We should assume them to be genuine and acknowledge that there are aspects of the symbolism of the flag that might cause them.

It is a matter of common courtesy and decency to stop doing things that cause our fellow citizens pain.

On the related issue, the right of anyone to fly the flag:  Governor Haley, and most other public officials I’ve heard address the issue, have explicitly affirmed the right of individuals to display the flag on their property.  The problem is its display at official public buildings, supported by taxpayers, including black ones and others offended by the flag.  (I supposed ultimately it could become an issue decided by courts and/or voters in some jurisdictions.)

Just because a right exists, however, is no reason why it should be exercised.

The email came in around the dinner hour, so I didn’t respond in detail until the next day, offering only a short acknowledgment of having received it at the time. Here is my detailed answer:

May I congratulate you for the somewhat improved tone of your follow-up email.  I say “somewhat” because it is still a bit lofty and dismissive concerning Buelahman’s essay, beginning as it does with what I can only take as a confession of intellectual laziness, “I must admit that I did not read all of B-Man’s essay.  It goes on and on, and I didn’t have the endurance.”

That is to say, you admit that you fired off your 23-word insult to your old academic colleague and his frequent collaborator without having bothered to read all of what he (and I?) have written on the matter.  In your short email, I might remind you, you manage to say that he is making “a fool of himself” and that he is writing “nonsense” and that it is “sad” that I should seem to go along with it.

Your opening sally in this follow-up raises an important question.  Have you still not read it?  You’re retired and certainly have the time, but are you still just going, as it appears to me, on emotions and impressions?  And how far did you get with your initial reading?  Did you pitch it aside just as he set the stage?

The MSM is not our friend. They are not truthful. They are pawns used to brainwash you. Period. But I want to focus on one particular subject today: the Stars and Bars…  The people who are embracing the media lies about this flag are the same people who kowtow to the media clowns doing the Empire’s bidding. The same people who are ignorant about WWII. The same people who fall for every conceivable lie meant to divide the races and every other erroneous and fake cause.

Where is the nonsense here?  This looks like horse sense to me.  Are you among those people who believe that Timothy McVeigh masterminded the Oklahoma City bombing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did likewise for 9/11, Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone culprit in the death of JFK, and the Tsarnaev brothers killed the people the MSM say they did in Boston, to mention just four examples of the sort of thing he is talking about?  If so, I can see why your mind might close up tight at that point and you would do no further reading.

Is it also your considered opinion that I have made a fool of myself with “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech,” upon which B’Man draws heavily?  How so?

Now, with not the slightest sense of irony, on the heels of your short, insulting blast, you lecture us in the best New Englander tradition that it all comes down to a matter of civility. Civility!  Many black people, you–and our wonderful news media–tell us, take the Stars and Bars as a symbol of racial superiority and a celebration of slavery and therefore, all of us, but Southerners in particular, should simply have the common courtesy never to display the damned thing.

The worst thing about that argument is its timing.  If we were still in the 60s and Southern hardliners were waving the flag in the face of people at lunch-counter sit-ins, I might say you have a point.  Considering the original motivation behind the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag on the Capitol Building in South Carolina and the fact that it is supported by public funds, I agree with you that the case is strong to take it down there.  But let’s take the sort of cold, clear-eyed look that Buelahman takes in his essay at this obviously orchestrated campaign to mothball the Stars and Bars forever in the wake of the event in Charleston.

For one so putatively concerned about people’s feelings, you should see how this hullabaloo looks to many native Southerners.  At a time when racial harmony in the South has never been greater, the national press is dragging their culture, their history, and the flag that to many is representative of their Southernness into the mud, all because of this truly bizarre and anomalous happening in Charleston.  In a nutshell, it certainly looks like we Southerners are all being blamed for killing a group or righteous black people on account of our endemic and ineradicable racial hatred.  I don’t like that.  It’s easily as insulting as your first email.

I also do not accept the assertion that within the grassroots black community there is any strong revulsion to the Stars and Bars as it has been used for the last thirty years or so.  This current hysteria certainly looks ginned up to me by agents of the Empire, people like Al Sharpton.  The knucklehead successors to Ronnie Van Zant in Lynyrd Skynyrd might have capitulated, but I don’t think the writers and performers of “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” need worry about how their display of the flag is taken by the black community. In my view they should continue to show their pride in their roots with the most recognizable symbol available, and I’m pretty confident that Buelahman would agree with me on that.

Now, briefly, let’s talk about your first point.  You appear not to know to whom you are writing when you invoke “the overwhelming consensus among professional historians about the role of slavery in causing the Civil War.” Just this April I began my essay, “Letter to a Court Historian about Forrestal’s Death” with these lines:  “H.L. Mencken aptly called them ‘the timorous eunuchs who posture as American historians.’”  In 2009 I penned “The Case for Free Inquiry”:

You say they gassed six million Jews.
I ask you how you know.
You say it’s from historians;
They agree that it is so.

But what about the Forrestal death?
They agree on that one, too.
And until I checked it for myself,
I only thought I knew.

I don’t need “professional historians” to do the most elementary thinking for me.  The war in question was, somewhat like our two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a war of choice.  Then it was the choice of Abraham Lincoln and his cohorts to wage a war of aggression against the states that had proclaimed their secession from the Union.  Even Lincoln’s biggest defenders will admit that the Fort Sumter episode was designed by Lincoln to get the South to fire the first shot so that he could claim the moral high ground.

No one could deny that the slavery was an important factor in the secession.  I think that it is debatable as to whether it was the most important factor, though.  The war, itself, is all on Lincoln.  The professional historians that you like to invoke consistently rate this butcher of so many of his fellow Americans as perhaps our greatest president, which is another good reason not to trust them.

I can say with some confidence that my great grandfather, John Henry Martin, who came from a piedmont county in North Carolina that had virtually no slaves, did not fight under Robert E. Lee and spend the last months of the war in the hell hole of the Point Lookout P.O.W. camp to defend the institution of slavery.  He and his fellow Southerners were attacked by the minions of Lincoln’s federal government and they felt that they had no choice but to resist.  What’s going on now has made me want to trek back down to Southern Maryland and plant another Confederate Battle Flag by the monument to John Henry and his fellow victims.  See http://www.plpow.com and http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/lots/point_lookout.asp.

round3

That one got his juices flowing, and his pen. The manifestly unwarranted tone of condescension is still there as best exemplified by the concluding short paragraph with its otherwise puzzling repetition of his supposed sadness, but now one can detect a rather strong admixture of dudgeon:

Thanks for your congratulations.  Now I see what you mean about being “lofty.”  I do enjoy being taken to the woodshed.

I wish you had not posted my first message to you on B-Man’s site without my permission; I hope you didn’t do likewise with my second.

In your latest you either stated or implied that I’ve been brainwashed, “kowtow to media clowns,” and am lazy.  I emphatically reject the first two charges.  On the third, I read enough of B-Man’s rant (much more than you evidently think), with its belaboring of the obvious, sweeping generalizations about his opponents, odd digressions, etc., to get enough of his point.  But life’s too short, and B-Man’s piece is too long; I’ll accept the charge of intellectual laziness in this case.

You apparently accept without qualification Mencken’s belief that professional historians are “timorous eunuchs.”  You certainly make clear your own contempt for them, as does B-Man.

In the cases that seem to bother you most, regarding the very existence of the Holocaust and Lincoln/Civil War causes, it is true that specialists in those topics are almost entirely against you (though many portrayals of Lincoln are complicated).  Apparently you see this as the result of nefarious conspiracies, not research and reflection.  Are there any other topics that cause you to condemn the entire profession?

(I have not examined your Holocaust stuff; I studied and taught the topic and am familiar with the evidence and controversies, at least until 2007.  I have not looked at yours in part because my anguish about the topic itself is profound, and yes, I think deniers’ arguments that I have read are nonsense.  Damn!  Intellectual laziness again.)

On the other supposed controversies that you mention, I prefer not to touch those tar-babies.  If you think I’m hopelessly naïve, so be it.

In paragraph 4 above, I should have said “contempt for us.” I have been a professional historian, by which I mean someone who has gotten paid for teaching and publishing, for many years.  So was my father, far more distinguished than I.  I know many professional historians.  Some are of course charlatans and some incompetent.  But I personally know or knew several who contributed significantly to debates about Southern history and the causes of the Civil War, and they are all (or were, some now being dead) diligent, honest, honorable people, trying hard to get it right, and Pa was one of them.

You and B-man rightly reject sweeping generalizations about Southerners.  Heal thyself.  Blanket rejection of the work of an entire class is silly.

Here’s an anecdote: In the 1950s my father taught early 20th century US history.  When a colleague died suddenly (Charles Sydnor; maybe you remember the name), he added the South as a field and had to get up to speed quickly.  I distinctly remember asking him, when I was trying to do a report in the 7th grade (I think), what caused the Civil War, he said “sectionalism.”  I had no idea what that meant, and he tried to explain it, probably without success.  I was 12.

Some years later he had changed his mind, believing slavery to be the root cause.   I don’t know what caused him to take the new view.  Perhaps he had become more conversant with the primary sources; perhaps he had read new stuff.  Perhaps the profession itself was shifting.  There is a theory that historians, influenced by the tensions of the Cold War in the 1950s, had an unacknowledged tendency to promote national unity, and highlighting the role of slavery in Southern culture might not do that. Things changed as Cold War tensions decreased.  Perhaps.  All good professional historians acknowledge the role of bias in their work, and that the national “mood” helps create it.  The mood is different now.  You and B-Man might agree.

The point is, Truth about the past is elusive, never rigid.  What is accepted now will certainly be modified in the future.  It’s not useful to be stuck in the past about the past.

Having said that, it is still legitimate, I believe, to say that slavery was the root cause of the war, not merely an “important factor.”  More emphatically, it was the “primary cause”, despite B-Man’s belief to the contrary.  Sectional pride, the Southern way of life, and anger at self-righteous Yankee bullies and tariff mongers, etc., become pale imitations of what they actually were if you remove slavery from the mix.

But you needn’t do a thought experiment.  Read the Declarations of Secession of the rebel states.  Of course, defending state sovereignty in general is right there, but what specifically are they defending?  Slavery.  It’s discussed at length at the beginning of the SC, GA, TX, and MS declarations and is virtually the only specific issue mentioned.  As I understand it, only four states produced Declarations wherein they detailed causes of their action, rather than legalistic Ordinances of Secession (which all did).

I had suggested that we lay this thorny problem aside.  We did not.  Fine.  Nevertheless, given all the above, I don’t see how any rational person can deny that black people, particularly those who are descendants of slaves, are entitled to believe that the Civil War, and the flag widely considered to be the symbol of the Southern side, are linked to slavery and therefore racism, even if some say that’s not what they mean when they display it.  An insult can still be an insult despite the intent of the issuer.  “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” is a lame response to criticism.  And others, you’ll acknowledge, do have racist intent by flying the flag.

Now, I must respond to the issue of my New England background, from which I am allegedly lecturing you.  It is true that my father was born in MA.  My mother was born in KA.  I am 70.  I went to school 7 years in MA but have lived 63 years in the South.  I was born in Alexandria VA, but my parents came to NC when I was 13 months.  I decided to come with them.  I went 10 years to segregated NC public schools, and, I’m sorry to say, absorbed and lived a lot of racism, despite my parents’ efforts to resist it.  I agree, however, that my Southernness is tainted; I can’t help it.

However much it comes from a Yankee background, which is actually irrelevant, and however much my concern for others’ feelings is “putative,” the only way you addressed the substance of my call for decency and courtesy to our fellow citizens is to assert that you “do not accept” that there is revulsion for the flag in the “grassroots” black community.  You give no evidence for this.

This is anecdotal, but I know and frequently meet with a number of “grassroots” black people, assuming by grassroots you mean wage earners, schoolteachers, preachers, healthcare workers, etc.  They are all offended by the flag, in varying ways.  At least one dismisses it as white folks being white folks; at least two are brought nearly to tears as they discuss it; and another seethes quietly, to take four examples.  Poll after poll says that blacks see the flag as a symbol of racism.  For example, CNN: 72% of blacks nationwide, 75% in the South.  I know: this is MSM.  But do you have evidence of your own that removes us from the realm of anecdote?

Do you get out much?  The only way I can keep a straight face about your belief that race relations in the South over the past several decades “have never been better” is to note how low the bar was set.  From that standpoint, yes, things have improved, and white and black Southerners deserve credit.  Thus far, it looks to me as though the flag controversy is improving things, not worsening them.

And I still see no reason for rejecting the plea to flag displayers to consider the feelings of their fellow citizens, however much you impeach me, the messenger.  Generosity is a noble trait, well within the best Southern tradition.

Finally re MSM, which is a blanket whose size I don’t know. You and B-Man reject them totally, as near as I can tell.  Another sweeping generalization.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to evaluate them newspaper by newspaper, network by network, pundit by pundit, etc.?  When, for example, in the aftermath of the Charleston murders, a report launches a sweeping, stereotyped condemnation of Southern racists, chalk it up to the fact that the reporter is a simpleton (as many are) or an idiot (fewer, perhaps, but plenty nonetheless).  Then also note that that many of the same MSM widely publicized moving, humane statements by Paul Thurmond, Mayor Riley, and many other white folks, some ordinary, some not.  They were an eloquent contradiction of the crude, false stereotypes sometimes perpetrated.

Anyone in his or her right mind knows that there were and are many honorable Southerners like your great-grandfather (and your father, from what I remember about him).  If MSM or anybody else state or imply otherwise, shame on them.  But there is often a baby in the bathwater.

So ends the lecture.  I apologize for its length.  I remain sad to participate in this.

I must say that that response got my juices flowing, and I responded immediately, which was just yesterday:

Thanks for responding. Concerning some of your main points:

“I wish you had not posted my first message to you on B-Man’s site without my permission; I hope you didn’t do likewise with my second.”

I see what you mean with your confession of intellectual laziness.  How hard would it have been to check the site to see that I did?  What’s the problem?  Are you ashamed of what you have written?  I didn’t identify you after all?  As Buelahman suggests with his comment, it really does look like you have a free speech problem.  You know as well as I do that I would be wasting my time discussing these important topics in private with you.  I think they should be aired.

“In the cases that seem to bother you most, regarding the very existence of the Holocaust and Lincoln/Civil War causes, it is true that specialists in those topics are almost entirely against you (though many portrayals of Lincoln are complicated).”

More intellectual laziness on display, I’m sorry to say.  On the record, it is you, not me, that they seem to bother the most.  I have written relatively very little on either topic, which is not to say that they do not bother me.

“Are there any other topics that cause you to condemn the entire profession?”

I must say that this pretty much takes the cake in the intellectual laziness department.  I name the article in which I invoke H.L. Mencken favorably in his denunciation of American historians and I give its date of April 2015.  Do you know I have a web site?  I have sent you articles from it over and over.  Did you just trash them all?  I guess I have to give you a link:  “Letter to a Court Historian about Forrestal’s Death.”  Were you to have only bothered to read the article to which I referred, you would have discovered that I have written quite a bit about Forrestal’s death and you would have discovered that YOU professional historians have richly earned every bit of the contempt that Mencken and I pour upon y’all, and then some.

A critical reader can also see that the poem in my rejoinder to you, “The Case for Free Inquiry,” is a great deal more about Forrestal and about professional historians–and about the poem’s title, for Pete’s sake–than it is about the gassed six million story.

Your chosen profession also comes in for its share of contempt from me for what it has said or not said about the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster.  See http://ariwatch.com/Links/DCDave.htm#VinceFoster.  See also my poem “Ignoble Historians.”  You will notice that in that third-person web site listing the categories in which I have weighed in there is no mention of the Holocaust or anything having to do with Lincoln or the Civil War.

“You and B-man rightly reject sweeping generalizations about Southerners.  Heal thyself.  Blanket rejection of the work of an entire class is silly.”

Point me to one professional historian who has written anything truthful and worth reading about James Forrestal’s death that takes into account the latest evidence, available to the public since 2004, and I might begin to reconsider my blanket rejection of their work. (Would you like to join me in a joint article for publication?)  Show me one American news organ that reported on the full contents of the Starr Report on Foster’s death, including the part that the 3-judge panel that appointed Kenneth Starr forced him to include, and I might begin to have second thoughts about that entire class, as well.  More recently and closer to home, show me the American news organs that are reporting on the federal case against the nation’s biggest alien smuggler, headquartered in North Carolina.

No, on the record, I would say that accepting as truthful almost anything that these groups tell us about anything that is really serious is not warranted.

“But you needn’t do a thought experiment.  Read the Declarations of Secession of the rebel states.  Of course, defending state sovereignty in general is right there, but what specifically are they defending?  Slavery.”

I do believe you mean the “seceding” states.  Your bias is showing.  You also are talking about those states’ stated reasons for seceding.  Yet, in your first response to me you strongly imply that slavery, which you say your evidence shows was the reason for the secession, caused the Civil War according to a consensus of historians.  Just look at Lincoln’s first inaugural address.  He could hardly make it clearer that he is going to war against the seceding states and that he is doing so for one reason alone, and that is for their act of secession.  It’s almost enough to make one ask not what all those historians have been reading, but what they have been smoking.

“On the other supposed controversies that you mention, I prefer not to touch those tar-babies.  If you think I’m hopelessly naïve, so be it.”

Supposed controversies?  The JFK assassination, 9/11, etc.?  What about the RFK and MLK, Jr. assassinations? Surely you must see why I have a problem with your profession.  You want the public to trust your judgment and your opinions and here in debate (which you would clearly prefer not be open) you virtually confess to hopeless naiveté on the most important subjects of our day.   How can you compartmentalize your thinking like that?  Who’s being silly and who’s being serious?

I have repeated the exchange just as it transpired with links as I had them. Perhaps I should have put them in more freely, because my debating opponent seems to be somewhat cyber-challenged. Buelahman linked to my “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech,” so I didn’t really see the need to do it again, and perhaps that leaves him with an excuse to continue to ignore it, like he ignored my letter to the “court historian.” What strikes me about the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s first inaugural is the great similarity of their arguments. The war is all about the mortal danger to the noble experiment of democracy that the secession represents. Don’t take my word for it. Take Lincoln’s.

I also failed to put in a link to the tribute to all little-known black blues performers everywhere by the quintessentially Southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, either, so here it is: “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”

Call me unfair for putting this exchange up at the point where I have the last word, but stay tuned. Should another response, lachrymose or otherwise, be forthcoming, I shall publish it. In the meantime I have plans afoot to take to task publicly one of the surviving cohorts of my debating opponent’s father for some public utterances of his about the Vince Foster case.

David Martin

July 9, 2015

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