More thoughts on Gettysburg

They knew what they were fighting for.

It seems that the reason you walk into the hail of bullets and canister shot is for the guy next to you; it’s a combination of not being willing to lose respect in his eyes, and feeling like you owe him.   But what makes you go forward into your second battle, after you’ve been through one already?  How can you do that, when you know what it’s like?

It was a time when the notion that there were causes greater than one’s self–to preserve the Union, to free slaves, to defend one’s homeland–wasn’t absurd.

Yes, today there are still those who will risk their lives for a cause, and this is worthy of respect, however misguided–even evil–I might believe that cause to be.  But they’re increasingly rare.

Today, the passion and excitement is coming from people saying, “Why should my tax money go to support people who can’t afford food, housing, and medical care?” followed by endless and increasingly lame justifications that make this position sound moral.  That’s what we hear today: utter selfishness hidden behind a veneer of moral posturing.  It is repulsive; and more than that, it is sad.

A hundred and fifty years ago, the passion and excitement was about actual efforts to make the world better for everyone.

The era has changed.  The culture has changed.  But–

We are still human beings.  Inside of us are still those yearnings and desires that inspired the 1st Minnesota to charge, or the 20th Maine to hold.  Yes, the dominant culture now is as reactionary as the dominant culture in South Carolina was a hundred and fifty years ago.  But I believe we have it in us to fight to make things better, whatever sacrifice that entails.  I believe that we’re going to see that.  I believe we’re going to do things that those boys would be proud of.  I think the culture can change, and I think it will.

When you stand on Little Round Top, or Culp’s Hill, or by the statue erected for the First Minnesota, remember that they knew what they were fighting for.


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67 thoughts on “More thoughts on Gettysburg”

  1. I have been thinking about examining the planks for the Republican Platform and assigning each to one of their motivators: Hatred, Greed, Fear.

    But I don’t have the stomach for it.

    You probably know the story of the 28th Virginia battle flag. Others can see a little video about it here:

    Not surprisingly, the Commonwealth has asked for the flag back, and also not surprisingly, Minnesota has refused. Gov. Ventura was quoted as saying “”Absolutely not. Why? I mean, we won.”

    OK, I got off track. But I agree with you that the noblest and best of humankind and of Americans is not history but the future. What was that MLK quote about the pendulum of history?

  2. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    I agree the average American no longer seems to care about important things anymore, and what this mythical person does care about seems strangely misguided, not to mention completely idiotic at times.

  3. It’s easy, and tempting, to characterize people with whom you disagree as misinformed, stupid, or (if you can’t make either of those work) evil. It’s a handy way to avoid the work of listening and thinking about whether they may have some good points.

    Both sides have their share of people shouting lies at the tops of their voices. It’s amazingly easy to regard the other side’s shouting liars as the whole other side, while recognizing that your own side has a few fanatics as and a large number of thoughtful people. The fanatics are easy to notice because they thrust themselves forward, while the sensible people, you have to seek out.

  4. (So why TF is my Android showing Steve’s last comment, & my quotation comment, at about half the font size of the rest of the text?)

  5. You are romanticing the CW. Understandble, since most Americans do, but it’s not especially accurate. Have you read many letters, diaries, journals or memoirs of the time? A few people most certainly went to war for abstract principles, most notably Sherman, or because it was a job, like Grant, but more, probably most, went to war simply because they were swept up in the moment. Many were already primed by the volunteer movement that had swept ashore from England, some were entranced by hopes of adventure, some joined just because they were forced by the community – gently by being questioned why they weren’t with the others men, or more forcefully, like the southern men were were tossed into ponds.

    Yes, today there are still those who will risk their lives for a cause…But they’re increasingly rare.

    Xenophon complained about the decline in civic pride and morals in Spartan society 2400 years ago, and he probably wasn’t the first to insist the past was so much more glorious than the present. That sentiment has been echoed throughout the ages, including during the Civil War, and is seemingly hardwired into some people’s brains.

    When you talk about the tea party, don’t forget they are a minority, albeit a very vocal one. The dominant culture is currently in favor of same sex marriage by something like a 54-46 margin; it understands the need for welfare and social safety nets; and it is very, very quiet. Quiet, but unrelentingly rolling over the tea party and friends.

    That’s what we hear today: utter selfishness hidden behind a veneer of moral posturing. It is repulsive; and more than that, it is sad.

    And the excuses used to go to war in the 1860’s weren’t? The Northerners never went to war to free the slaves; you can find many letters complaining about having to do that. The southerners didn’t go to war to stand up for abstract principles of self-rule; they demanded complete freedom for white men clever enough to have been born into the right family.

    A hundred and fifty years ago, the passion and excitement was about actual efforts to make the world better for everyone.

    It was for the enrichment of northern merchants, the ego of southerners and young men’s fear of being mocked. Sherman fought for the Constitution, but he introduced methods of warfare that no one can say made the world a better place.

    For most, if it wasn’t for ego it was for defense of home and family. The southerners could be said to have fought for the greater good since they truly did fight for their idea of freedom, no matter how little sympathy we may have for it today; many northerners went in sort of a fit of pique.

    But I believe we have it in us to fight to make things better, whatever sacrifice that entails.

    Rhetoric is easy. What sort of sacrifices do you have in mind to make yourself, and to what specific end?

  6. L. Raymond: Suggested reading: *For Cause and Comrades” by James MacPherson, a brilliant analysis of why civil war soldiers fought. My post was based on his work, as well as, yes, I have read some memoirs and letters.

    In general, you are accepting without question the usual explanations of the semi-enlightened; do a bit more digging. For the mass of union soldiers, it was about preserving the union; for some it was about freeing slaves.

    As for your last sentence, how do I know what I’d be willing to sacrifice until the moment arrives? This comment, making it personal in that way, surprised me; I expected better of you.

  7. “Why should my tax money go to support people who can’t afford food, housing, and medical care?”

    For the mentally incompetent and physically incapable, the answer would be obvious. For those that sacrificed in the defense of our country, the answer is more obvious. For those whose choices led to the situation, the answers are less obvious. Rewarding unsuccessful behavior generates more of the same whether it is bailing out banks, car companies or people who are unwilling to go to where work is, do that work and plan for an uncertain future.

  8. Rod Rubert @11: Got it. You’re a straight white male with a middle-class-or-better background.

    I’m speaking here purely as a moderator who collects patterns of online speech and behavior. One of the most identifiable markers for commenters in your category is arguing that success is determined solely by an individual’s talent and effort. Guys like you, plus a light scattering of women who share your background, plus a few hangers-on who aspire to be you, are pretty much the only commenters who say that.

    Related markers, if you’re interested:

    — Claiming to be a First Amendment absolutist during discussions of hate speech and/or bias-related violence.

    — Saying that no language is hurtful in its own right, and that the hearer has sole responsibility for its emotional impact because that’s how they choose to take it.

    — Claiming to be colorblind about race during discussions of racism.

    — Claiming to be in favor not of women’s rights or men’s rights, but of human rights.

    — Being astonished and upset by, and denying the validity of, any analysis that views the commenter as a representative member of an identifiable class or group, rather than as a unique and fully-rounded individual.

    But I very nearly digress. By all means, let us return to discussing the Civil War.

  9. L. Raymond @9: You’re running counter to known fact.

    Plenty of Union soldiers started out as abolitionists, or came to understand later on that freeing the slaves was inseparably bound up with preserving the Union and defending their own interests. To take just one example, the young men who marched under banners saying “Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln” during the 1859 presidential campaign knew perfectly well that a system built on slave labor devalued their own labor as well.

    This is known.

  10. Teresa@12:I’d be really interested in seeing the patterns you have collected. I recall you mentioning that you were also working on a troll theory–is that related to the pattern gathering?

    And, just so I’m on topic: Yes, many Union soldiers were aware of larger topics.

  11. SKZB: “A hundred and fifty years ago, the passion and excitement was about actual efforts to make the world better for everyone.”

    No, it was NOT.

    The 700000 Northerners that volunteered in 1861 did not do so to free slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was not due for almost 2 years. They volunteered to preserve the Union against the division of the nation. And in 1863, when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, many Northern units considered mutiny and some soldiers deserted. Yes, other units celebrated or embraced the concept, but it was by no means close to a universal truth that the Northern forces were suddenly fighting for freedom for the slaves. In 1863, the celebration of the EP was so popular, that the Union had to institute the draft to bolster its forces: were Steven’s analysis correct, the volunteers would have rushed to the recruitment centers, and they most certainly did not. Drafted soldiers do not fight for causes: they fight because they couldn’t buy their way out (which was allowed at the time) and didn’t want to be killed for desertion. Self-preservation has always been the most noble of causes, hasn’t it?

    While I understand that some want to see the Civil War as a conflict over slavery, the South viewed it as a conflict over the division of power between federal and state legislatures (a problem that even now threatens to divide Canada (see Quebec independence), and were protesting over the majority dictating morality to the minority. The South fought to free themselves from the tyranny of the majority, and since the Civil War would have never have occured had the North not invaded the South, they do get a say in what it was about. Considering the South were grossly outnumbered and out-equipped, and they usually completely outfought the North, the great Cause of the North Steven suggests existed is pure fantasy. The Cause of the South created morale far in excess of the North’s troops, making their cause, by Steven’s standards, the superior one.

    Gettysburg was won because the North finally stood up to the South, in place of superior tactical position, with superior numbers and equipment. It had nothing to do with morale. It was popular in the day to think that morale was the sole requirement for victory, and there is a famous analysis by a British attache that said as much and predicted an overall victory for the South, but that did not happen. Even 40 years before, Lord Wellington had said that the British soldiers beat Napolean because they “fired 3 rounds per minute”, not because of any sense of righteousness. It is professionalism and training that create soldiers, not causes. The machine guns of WW1 were the final word on that subject: morale died in No Man’s Land.

    Why did the North win? It had nothing to do with the righteousness of their cause. Lee did not have to fight, and could have gone arouond to the north in order to force the North to fight elsewhere, but Lee got stupid and he admitted it after the fight. taking full credit for the loss. Gettysburg was not so much the North’s success as the South’s failure of command. Lee thought Meade would not stand and fight: some say Meade did want to run, attributing the North’s sudden backbone to lesser officers, but regardless of who is right on that issue, the North stayed and fought, despite years of losses, putting the lie to Lee’s beliefs about the courage of Northern Officers.

    One documentary concluded with this statement. The North fought the War with one hand tied behind its back, and won anyway, simply from weight of numbers and equipment. (The South was reduced to equipping men with pikes.) Had the North fully mobilized, used the Draft to the level of the South, and turned its full weight of industry into war material, there was no hope for any Southern victory. Modern War is far less about motivation, and far more about equipment, training, and numbers.

    And the lesson now is this: if you would rebel against the modern USA, you must figure out how to kill an M1A2 tank. If your solution is “rely on the morality of the tankers”, you have no justification for armed rebellion: you should be able to convince them of your righteousness, since you and they are both moral. But if the tankers believe you are unrighteous, then their morality is against you, and you have a significant problem, as was demonstrated in Spain almost 100 years ago. And I will remind you of the non-triviality of this issue: an M1A1 in Iraq in 2003 was hit by over 100 military grade RPG rockets during the invasion of Baghdad and suffered only light injuries. The US has still not lost a single M1 to IED’s in Afghanistan (though some needed repair). Armed Rebellion, now, by civilians or militia is a foolish concept.

  12. Kreistor – congrats. Lots of readers will now dismiss you entirely as a Southern apologist.

    I’m not going to respond to any of your comments on south v north or even morale vs firepower, but I will remind you that 9/11/01 showed us that there’s no need to consider anything about tanks when considering rebellion against the United States.

  13. Like Jeff, I have no particular desire to feed trolls, but amid it all, Kreistor threw in the one fallacy that I can never resists puncturing, that the South was somehow fighting an idealistic war against Federal oppression that had nothing to do with slavery.

    What twisted logic! There was nothing abstract about the southern aristocracy’s objection to Federal power. The rights being denied to them, the rules being imposed, the policies being forced down their throats… it was all about free vs. slave labor. They were furious every time a new Free state entered the Union because they lost more power in Congress. They were furious when Federal money was spent on railroads or roads because that favored Northern factories more than southern plantations. And despite Congress bending over backwards to avoid trampling their “right” to hold human beings in bondage and to pursue their victims across state lines, despite obscene policies like the Dred Scott decision from the SCOTUS, they continued to portray themselves as the true victims of an oppressive majority that was trying to dictate morality to them.

    To pretend that States’ right was anything but a euphemism (one being employed yet again today, but now for such lofty causes as cutting spending on education or deciding who is fit to enjoy marriage) is puerile sophistry. Hell, there wouldn’t have been a Republican Party or a Lincoln Presidency except that the Whigs dissolved over precisely that issue and the Democrats split their votes over it, leaving the staunchly anti-slavery Republicans holding the field (again, sad how little they stand for now).

  14. TNH: Quite right. It is also worth mentioning that many of those who had no opinion on slavery one way or the other joined to preserve the Union.

    Wyrdson: Didn’t read Kreistor’s comments (I don’t), but I can say I agree with you entirely.

  15. @12
    So, if I am in favor of excepting hate speech (however broadly or narrowly it is defined by “someone”) from 1st Amendment protection, accept the recent violence in Egypt and Pakistan was reasonable, believe there are differences between the races, insist “rights” be assigned by sex, and define myself as a member of the group my views mostly closely align myself with, based on what criteria someone chooses to use for analysis, then I must be a poor, lesbian WOC?

  16. Steve Halter: If a sketchy and partial map of them will serve for now, try the Onlinemanship wiki.

    Wyrdson: Excellent comment.

    Kreistor: Malarkey, for want of a stronger word. The war was about slavery. The South said so at the time, quite unambiguously. Sometimes they also claimed the war was about states’ rights, but they weren’t particularly defensive about states’ rights in relation to any other issue, and they were willing to blow states’ rights out of the water if doing so was advantageous to slavery — viz., the Fugitive Slave Act.

    Look at the timing of the rebellion. The relationship between state and federal legislatures hadn’t changed, and wasn’t threatened by Lincoln’s election. The South seceded because Southern slaveholders were afraid that Lincoln and the Republicans would limit or abolish slavery.

    Or look at the geographical patterns of support for the war. The Southern Appalachian uplands were far less enthusiastic about it than other areas. This was not because the Appalachians had different notions of the appropriate relationship between state and federal legislatures. It was because their economy wasn’t based on slave labor.

    Hell, look at that most famous of lowly Confederate privates, Sam Watkins of Company Aytch. He damned the conflict as “A rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight,” and did so specifically in reference to who did and didn’t own slaves. When everyone from Sam Watkins to Alexander Stephens and beyond says the war is about slavery, you should consider listening to them.


    Canadians who get into provincial vs. federal powers do so for the same reason that Statesiders argue about states’ rights; i.e., for the assistance it gives to the specific issues they really care about. No one ever laid down their life out of a passionate concern for abstract technical questions about which level of government handles which tasks.


    Libertarian Soldier, I can’t even tell what you’re on about.

  17. It would be interesting to post some kind of faux-socialist apologia for the Confederate position prior to and during the war, to see if there is a knee-jerk reaction in support of federalism, a condemnation of slavery, and praise for the virtues of the Union in suppressing the evils of the South.

    Anyway the whole story of the South from colonization until well into the 20th century is obviously that of slavery and the reverberations of emancipation. The profound economic and social differences between North and South during those years were evidently a flaw in the original concept of union, and from a purely pragmatic point of view, it was often observed from Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries that two countries would make more sense.

    However, the outrageous abomination of slavery certainly justified the war no matter what you may think of the value of the preservation of the Union; in my opinion if there had been two countries from the start, an unprovoked war of conquest would have been justified if it freed the slaves. But in the actual noncounterfactual event, a very great many people in the North felt strongly that slavery should be ended and used this as their motivation to fight.

  18. TNH @20

    I can pretty well guess what Libertarian Soldier was “on about.” Your comment directed at Rod Rubert up at 12 was extremely dismissive of a perfectly valid point of view. The remarks bordered on being ad hominem. You chose to completely write off the commenter’s thoughts based on what you assumed to be his background, and by deciding that this background makes his opinions less important than yours…unless I assume they agree with your opinion.

    For the record, I don’t fit into your tidy little descriptions, but I happen to agree with the ideas that Mr. Rubert put out there. Believe it or not, there are an awful lot of people who do.

    But you wrote an entire post telling why his thoughts were irrelevant. Maybe you know him, and think he’s a troll, but I doubt it.

    Anyway, that’s my take on what was up with Libertarian Soldier’s comment. Feel free to rip me to shreds now too.

  19. Some Dude: Wrong. I didn’t dismiss his point of view. I didn’t discuss it, either. What I did was observe that you can demographically identify certain commenters by their use of that argument. Then I mentioned some other arguments that work the same way. I didn’t discuss the validity of those other arguments either.

    You’re reading a lot into comment #12 that demonstrably is not there. Is this an aberration on your part, or do you do it a lot?

  20. some dude: Um, where in Teresa’s post #12 does it say or imply that his thoughts were irrelevant? She was deducing things about him from his arguments; at no point did she say anything about the validity of those arguments. Nor did she at any point “dismiss” him; she was very clear that this had to do with her work as a moderator, and was not about the present discussion.

    Why do you assume her points would address the relevance of his argument? Do you believe that her conclusions, if correct, mean his argument is invalid? If so, I respectfully disagree with you: the age, sex, sexual preference, race &c of the person making the argument says nothing about the validity of the argument.

  21. @20 I was “on about” wondering how valid your comments were. “The counterfactual conditional is the basis of experimental methods for establishing causality in the natural and social sciences”. I was wondering if there is in fact a cause and effect in your statement” : You’re a straight white male with a middle-class-or-better background… Guys like you, plus a light scattering of women who share your background, plus a few hangers-on who aspire to be you, are pretty much the only commenters who say that”, or whether what you have chosen to decide is that anecdotes=data.
    @24 Oh, remarkable author, you certainly know her well, and I do not know her at all. However, if someone starts a response to a comment by pigeonholing the commentator into a Scalzian purgatory on the basis of a single post, I would indeed consider that someone to be both dismissing the commentator and ” attempting to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it “, i.e. an ad hominem attack.

  22. I doubt if most of those fighters were fighting for anything more than what people fight for now – which usually is “My way is right, therefore your way is wrong”.

    Most evil is done by Righteous people for Righteous causes.

  23. libertarian soldier: I disagree with your position, but you are given a reprieve for making me laugh out loud at “Scalzian purgatory.”

    Howard: With all due respect, this is exactly the sort of thing one ought to study a bit before discussing. Not only are you wrong, you are demonstrably wrong.

    It was not about “my way is right, your way is wrong,” in the sort of idealistic or ideological way you describe; it was about slavery, and the slavocracy, and the destruction of the union; all of which had profound meaning for everyone in the country, slave and free. An hour in the library or six hours on the internet should be enough to convince you; I already listed, above, one excellent source. Also recommended: The diary of Elijah Hunt Rhodes, Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, the histories of the Army of the Potomac by Bruce Catton.

    However, if by “evil” above you are referring to the defense of the Union, then, indeed, we do have something to argue about. Shall I begin?

  24. When I think about the guys at Cold Harbor writing their names on bits of paper and pinning them to their coats so their bodies would be identifiable afterward, morally trivial explanations for why they fought don’t seem adequate.

  25. @27 I think if you read works by John Keegan and SLA Marshall you might want to modify your view on why they fought
    @28 Of course when you walk in, you are handed a red shirt

  26. Usually the purpose of any war is that of the side that started the war. In the case of Civil War the South started it.

    If you read newspapers from the time and the articles of secession you will see it is about either property or they come right and say it is to support slavery. The property in question was slaves so the claim it was about property rights is bogus. As for States rights the South didn’t get upset about the Dredd Scott decision which was a case of the Constitution over the States rights to define what is legal within the states.

    You can find at least four states Articles of Secession on the WEB. Texas is clear that it is about slavery. Right up front about it.

  27. Ethelred,
    The south didn’t get upset about the Dred Scott decision because Dred Scott lost and stayed a slave.

  28. Steve, I think you and ethelred are agreeing. The Dredd Scott decision was pro-slavery but anti-states rights. Thus the fact that the South did not get upset about the Dredd Scott decision showed that “states rights” was not in fact what they were upset about, but slavery. I will add that what they were upset about was not any immediate prospect for the abolition of slavery, but that slavery would not be allowed to continue to expand, and to continue to dominate the United States. The slave aristocrats were happy to be part of the United States so long as they ruled it. Living as equal citizens in the same Union as Free States was intolerable to them.

  29. In all fairness the reason that they were concerned about slavery not being allowed to expand was the balance in the number of slave vs. no slave states meant there was a balance in the number of senators. Their concern was if all new states did not allow slavery then it wouldn’t be long until congress could and would start passing laws limitting and ultimately outlawing slavery. As long as the number of states that allowed slavery matched those that didn’t they could block any such laws.

  30. @Wyrdson: I don’t deny that the plantation owners fought for slavery, but they certainly did not make up the vast numbers of men in that army. The 10% rule applied then as much as now: had the Southern army been made of only slave owners, it would have been 1/10th of the size it was.

    The majority were simple farmers with no slaves. Why would people fight in such to defend “aristocrats”? The answer: they wouldn’t. While some were aristocrats as you claim, they were in the minority, and so carry less weight in judging why the South fought.

    @TNH: You are entirely unclear on Canadian politics. Please review the 1970 October Crisis (when Martial Law was declared) and the two votes on Quebec Separation. A separatist party once again rules Quebec, so the next vote could be on the horizon. This is FAR more severe than any political disagreements in the modern USA. Various counties have already prepared for separating from Quebec if it decides to go.

  31. Kreistor: Oh, nonsense. You’re stretching further and further to defend an initial position that was never defensible.

    The Canadian politics dodge is a good one, and I’ll bet you get a lot of mileage out of it. Too bad for you I’ve lived there, and have followed Canadian politics ever since. The operative word here is fuddle duddle.

  32. You might be interested in my .signature file. It is added to the bottom of every email I send:

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy–the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. –J.K. Galbraith”

  33. Kreistor- I am sure somewhere in that occasionally keen-seeming brain of yours, you realize the spuriousness of that argument. How do elites form in the first place? The majority identify the interests of the elite as their own, even when what is best for that elite is diametrically opposed to what is best for the majority.

    I am not a psychologist, so I can’t tell you what cognitive mechanism is responsible for this unadaptive behavior, whether it is some desire to increase self-worth by identifying as being on the winning side or a delusion that by supporting the structure of power you somehow will be able to ascend it, but no one should have to reach far to find examples in history either distant or current.

    Turn on your TV and watch the legions of middle and lower class citizens in my country lining up for the privilege of supporting a plutocrat with inherited wealth as he promotes the right of the upper class to avoid paying for the enormous benefits they reap from our society. Do they really all believe in Ayn Rand and the Vienna School of Economics? Or are they just hoping that if they just keep making life easier for the 1% they will someday be allowed to join them?

  34. Wyrdson – you are completely right that support for a slave-owning aristocracy was not limited to members of that aristocracy. There are a couple of other data points that go beyond psychology:

    1) In addition to slave owners, a great many others in the South rented slaves, or got most of their income from dealing with slave plantations. The Southern economy was slave based and slave dependent, that dependence went far beyond slave-owners.

    2) Incidentally, slave owners were very over-represented in the Confederate military. A much higher percent of those serving were slave owners than the population as a whole.

  35. This is wandering a little past Gettysburg. But there were strong economic reasons why the South was in such hysterics over losing control of the Union. The unwillingness to see the United States become a place where slavery could not longer expand easily was based on the fact that the particular form of slavery was heavily financialized and dependent on expansion.

    Slave plantations were heavily in debt. They made enough profit to support that debt but never paid it off. Simply rolled it over or increased. Note that corporations do the same with bonds today . This is not a sign that slavery was in trouble – just a basic feature of the system.

    The basis on which they could keep rolling the debt over was possession of assets – land and slaves. However the value of the slaves was based not only on their ability to do work, but on the demand for new slaves as new land was turned into plantations. Part of the value of the land, in turn was its ability to produce an important product – slaves.

    So if slavery loss its ability to expand, the slaves , the slave owners second most valuable asset, lost value. And the land, the s lave owners first most valuable asset, lost value too – because an important product of that land no longer had as much value. So in the heavily financialized slave system, losing the ability to expand meant losing the ability to roll over the entire debt – something deadly to the slave system. I guess for me, this is important because it is an example of human suffering springing from structural and institutional factors. Attempt at secession was an almost inevitable response to any attempt to limit slavery.

    Looking further back, the value of slaves as a speculative product helped prop up slavery and win support for it. Thomas Jefferson is an example of this. He became much more heavily invested in the slave system once he realized how profitable breeding and selling slaves was: . And it was not just individual self-interest. There was a huge cultural investment in slavery, a pro-slavery ideology that developed.

    Incidentally, there are sometimes arguments over whether slavery was a remnant of feudalism or a distorted form of capitalism. The heavy financialization, and dependence on expansion are strong arguments for the “distorted form of capitalism” viewpoint, though of course not conclusive. I know there is a limit to how productive discussion of competing definitions can be, but some definitions are more useful ways of mapping the world than others. OK, wandering off into very obscure territory here …

  36. TNH: I’m sorry that the truth interferes with your worldview. But it is quite simple. The Quebecois want to split Quebec from Canada and go it alone. They have made that abundantly clear. If you don’t believe their rhetoric, that’s your choice, but Canada is my country, and I know how serious this issue is, and no one up here believes as you do. NO ONE OF ANY POLITICAL STRIPE IN CANADA AGREES WITH YOU. Cabinet Ministers have been kidnapped and murdered over Quebec Separation. I take those crimes extremely seriously, and I will frankly call anyone that doesn’t delusional.

    Wyrdson: “The majority identify the interests of the elite as their own, even when what is best for that elite is diametrically opposed to what is best for the majority.”

    Got anything to back that up? Because Unions, PrisonPlanet, etc. all indicate a very large disagreement with “elites”, to the point they think they’re reptilian aliens. Just because someone votes in line with someone else, that doesn’t mean they agree with them, especially when there are only two choices.

    What you’re confused about is called “Hope”. It is a hope for a better future, as identified by the envy and jealousy of those that seem to have that better future. That’s where Communism and Anarchy fall flat on their face. They cannot give everyone better futures, only drag the few that are envied down to the level of everyone else. There is no magic: take everything the “1%” own and split it to everyone equally, and you get about $5000 each. Billions divided by Millions is… thousands.

    “the right of the upper class to avoid paying for the enormous benefits they reap from our society”

    How much should they pay? You see their money grow, but it is obvious that not all of their investments succeed. Companies fail, and each time they do, investors lose. I’ve seen over $30M in investment capital turn to nothing as companies I worked for failed. They both gain and lose, but if you only look at the bottom line, it just looks like constant gain.

    “Do they really all believe in Ayn Rand and the Vienna School of Economics?”

    They’ve never heard of them. Most people do what they do because they don’t understand the alternatives.

    Remember, you are smarter than them.

    How many people can understand Chomsky, and his ideas on Anarchy? Intellectuals with little contact with the Lower and Lower Mid classes do not understand that many of them are there because they could not understand anything more. The idea that any carpenter can learn to spout Communist theory is absurd. We are all equal, but we are not all equally able in all things. I can’t make a cabinet, after all.

    So when you go to them and explain your alternative society, it needs to be simple. For example, Anarchy relies on a culture of goodwill between all members of society, but you’re now trying to explain it to someone that sees theft, muggings, and murder on his streets: his chance of believing that we will all suddenly become kind and reciprocating to each other is absolutely NIL. It’s a nice intellectual exercise, but it flies in the face of his understanding of the reality of how people act. And Communism is the USSR, no matter what Steven and his ilk try to claim — Gulags, International murder, proliferation of nukes to Cuba, the nightmare of Afghanistan, as well as North Korea and its War, China and Tibet, etc. To the masses, its a lot simpler than what you want it to be.

    The 1%? They are HOPE. Take away the hope, and what have you got left?

  37. @13 TNH
    (Sorry to come back late; I was tied up last week)

    You’re running counter to known fact.

    Plenty of Union soldiers started out as abolitionists, or came to understand later on that freeing the slaves was inseparably bound up with preserving the Union and defending their own interests.

    Plenty is not all, or a majority, or even a large percentage. Although I own only a handful of memoirs from which I could quote, I’ve read scores more, plus scattered letters, fragments and so on, but more importantly I’m familiar with the psychology of war as it has been drawn for us in such journals for as long as there have been books written in both east and west.

    Unless you’re arguing that during the years from 1861 to 1865 humanity underwent a profound and sudden change, then went back to normal by 1866, the reasons for the common soldier’s going to war at that time were pretty much the same for going to war in *any* time, and a willingness to give one’s life for abstract principle and the succor of strangers was not high on the list.

    To take just one example, the young men who marched under banners saying “Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln” during the 1859 presidential campaign knew perfectly well that a system built on slave labor devalued their own labor as well.

    I’m not familiar with that handful of people, and so don’t know whether they even supported the abolition of slavery, much less if they saw as abolition as a cause greater than themselves or had “the passion and excitement… to make the world better for everyone” or just wanted a bigger piece of the pie.

  38. In general, you are accepting without question the usual explanations of the semi-enlightened; do a bit more digging. For the mass of union soldiers, it was about preserving the union; for some it was about freeing slaves.

    Semi-enlightened? Without question? While getting my history degree back in ’86, I learned to read four languages just to avoid using possibly biased translations of source material, and I have never accepted anything just because it’s the current big thing. That I disagree with MacPherson doesn’t mean I’ve not studied the matter. I’m looking at the big picture of common soldiers in warfare, while he’s probably focused solely on the CW era, and probably romanticizing it, too. But that’s just a guess, since I’ve not read him.

    Maj. James Connolly’s journal was published as “Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland”. He had a much different take than you do on why soldiers who “know what it’s like” to be in battle didn’t run:

    June 20, ’64 (Kennesaw Mtn)
    A year ago, when our men were marching toward a heavy musketry fire, you could see they felt nervous, and there would be a slight shade of anxiety on most faces; their looks would be turned toward where the fire was heaviest, as if to penetrate the dense forest and see what fate had in store for them; but now our columns more toward the heaviest fire, the men laughing, singing, whistling, making jocular remarks about the Johnnies, nobody straggling, no cheeks blanched; not that our men fear death less than they used to, but they have learned by experience that of the hundreds of thousands of bullets that are fired, very few hit anybody.

    He also has a different take on the common soldier’s view of abolition:

    Nov 20 ’64
    Our stock of Negroes is increasing rapidly, many of them travel on horseback now; they furnish their own, i.e. their masters, horses, saddles and bridles, so they are no expense to Uncle Sam; a great many of our privates are getting Negro servants for themselves; the Negro walks along beside the soldier, with his knapsack and cooking utensils strapped to his back, thus relieving the soldier of his load, and helping him along. What soldier wouldn’t be an abolitionist under such circumstances?

    Two days before this, at the Zachry home, he was amused to have sent the slaves off to fend for themselves since that meant Zachry was poorer by 40 slaves. He enjoyed depriving the father of a southern colonel of his money; that was much more important than freeing slaves.

    As for your last sentence…I expected better of you.

    I have to apologize. I hadn’t even remembered leaving that in. The fact I had a bad week (before and after that) is no excuse to have been rude. I *did* want to ask about specific actions, but I couldn’t think of a tactful way to do so and I meant to delete that reference. (On the bright side, I get to keep my house, yay)

    But if you’ll forget that, I’ll ignore being called “semi-enlightened”, which was equally uncalled for.

  39. Kreistor: I yawn in boredom at your attempts to shift the grounds of the argument.

    Making stupid, unjustifiable claims about Quebec separatism, defining communism as the USSR, and yelling in all-caps doesn’t make you look more impressive.

    L. Raymond @44, 45: It’s a bit odd to have the breadth and depth of one’s reading meet with condescension on the part of someone who’s never heard of the “mudsills and greasy mechanics” episode. It’s hardly obscure.

  40. …and, once again, I will bow out of any further discussion with Kreistor, not because I don’t find the topic interesting, but because the conversant is so annoying. If he chooses to accept this as an admission of defeat on my part, I will accept that as a small price to pay for not having to parse out his blizzards of obfuscations and irrelevancies.

    Gar- excellent point. As soon as I posted, I thought that I was overemphasizing psychology when there were plenty of economic and social explanations as well. Thanks for the background on the debt financing aspect of plantations… I had forgotten all about that and the constant pressure that put on the southern elite. Their culture of honor and its insistence on lavish personal spending didn’t help a bit, either.

    While we are discussing altruism and fighting for a greater good, I think we are failing to mention a huge subset of the Northern army: free soldiers of color. By the end of the war, approximately 200,000 free black men had officially or unofficially aided the Union army, and Colored Troops suffered disproportionate casualties in some of the heaviest fighting, and could expect to be murdered in controvention of the rules of war if captured by Confederates.

    Some might try to argue that they fought from self interest, but these men were already free. Many, like the members of the Corps d’Afrique from New Orleans or the Massachusetts and Connecticut volunteers were born free. All of them had to battle with the racism of their own command structure just to see battle. Is their Abolitionism any less real?

  41. @42: “So if slavery loss its ability to expand… Attempt at secession was an almost inevitable response to any attempt to limit slavery.”
    I am at a loss to understand how the seceded states could possibly have expanded slavery once they were out of the Union. Invade Mexico? Declare war on one or more of the European states to conquer their colonies ?

  42. Libertarian soldier @48: There were several ways the seceded states could have expanded slavery, and they formally or informally tried all of them. One was settling and incorporating some of the lightly settled lands to the west. Those had belonged to the antebellum United States, so the Confederacy could have claimed they had a right to a share of them.

    Invading Mexico in order to extend slavery had already worked once, so I don’t see why it couldn’t have been tried again. Our history textbooks are oddly reticent about this issue, but one of the early Texas settlers’ chief “grievances” against the Mexican government was that it was attempting to limit slavery, and especially the wholesale import of slaves, in that region. The Texas settlers didn’t aspire to be relatively modest farmers raising mixed crops for their own consumption; they wanted to own cotton plantations and get rich. Thus the Mexican-American war.

    That wasn’t the only territory they had their eye on. Southern adventurers made nuisances of themselves in Cuba and Nicaragua, and contemplated settling and taking over those areas in order to open up more land for lucrative plantation-style slave-worked agriculture. They weren’t terribly secretive about their plans, either.

    Gar, Wyrdson, the debt and capitalization angle is interesting. I’d known that slave agriculture was lucrative and had a disproportionately high social status, and that selling supernumerary slaves down the river was one of the Middle South’s cash crops, but I hadn’t realized that the plantation system was a speculative economy.

    No wonder the plantation owners spent so lavishly on houses and hospitality. For them, the appearance of prosperity wasn’t just gratifying; it was essential.

    I agree that that’s distorted capitalism, not feudalism. There would have been law, social order, and a reasonable government in the South whether or not slavery existed. Providing it wasn’t the responsibility of the planter elite, and it wasn’t the basis of their social status.

  43. TNH: “I yawn in boredom at your attempts to shift the grounds of the argument. ”

    And I am entirely amused that you think constant insults are in any way an argument in the first place. You haven’t made a point or reference in your favour in three posts, merely said in glorified ways, “You’re wrong, Neener neener.”

    October Crisis. FLQ. Look them up. Have fun. I have references. You’ve got squat.

  44. L. Raymond:”But if you’ll forget that, I’ll ignore being called “semi-enlightened”, which was equally uncalled for.” Okay,. that’s fair.

    Wyrdson:Valid point about the “negro” regiments.

    Concerning feudalism or distorted capitalism: Interesting. I had thought of it, as, well, as a slave society; the economic form that pre-dates feudalism. I’ve always thought of feudalism as a form in which peasants are tied to land that is owned by a landlord; and capitalism as form based on free labor; and slavocracy as a form based on human beings as property. I admit I may be missing some nuances.

  45. I think a classical slavocracy is one in which slaves are still considered to be humans, for example slavery throughout in ancient Greece and Rome.

    Slavery in the US was rather worse than that, I’d say, and was not so much the predecessor to feudalism, but was instead more of a deadly corrupted offshoot of primitive capitalism.

  46. In terms of distorted capitalism – By the 1860s slavery in the U.S. was an anomaly with a larger world capitalist system. Even within the U.S. it was confided to one (large) region. Because it existed within a larger capitalist and was fundamentally based on capitalistism, subsumed within capitalist institutions one could argue that it was capitalist.

    Looking into the Grundrisse Marx’s analysis could be interpreted either as essentially the above or as contradicting the above : ” “where commercial speculations figure from the start and production is intended for the world market, the capitalist mode of production exists, although only in a formal sense, since the slavery of Negroes precludes free wage-labor, which is the basis of capitalist production. But the business in which slaves are used is conducted by capitalists. The method of production which they introduce has not arisen out of slavery but is grafted on to it. In this case the same person is capitalist and landowner.”

  47. @46 It’s a bit odd to have the breadth and depth of one’s reading meet with condescension on the part of someone who’s never heard of the “mudsills and greasy mechanics” episode. It’s hardly obscure.

    I don’t get why you wrote this. If it’s beneath you to explain your point, just yawn at me as you did Kreistor. If you’re offended my specific historical interests don’t run the same as yours, you’ll need to phrase your objection more clearly so I can respond properly. That you consider it condescension I’m honest enough point out I’m not familiar with the background of a certain incident, and so can’t say whether it addresses the original point of the thread, reflects so poorly on you that I can only hope you’re as embarrassed as I was earlier to realize I had let a rude comment get by me.

  48. L. Raymond @55: You don’t get why I might say that in response to your comments #44-45, where you simultaneously said you were unfamiliar with those terms, and dismissed the people who used them on their banners?

    When Gar and Wyrdson raised a relevant issue I hadn’t previously known about, I acknowledged it, and went and read up on it. I’m guessing you still haven’t done that with my remarks, even though you’re arguing with them.

    The primary reason I chose the example I did was because it isn’t obscure. The phrase “Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln” is (for pete’s sake) the title of the chapter about those issues in James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, which has for some years now been the definitive single-volume Civil War history for general readers. It’s also the best entry-level source on the various reasons the war got fought, which was what we were talking about.

    How non-obscure is it? Here’s Kaplan Educational using it as a question in the California Basic Educational Skills Test. Here are the first pages of results from searching on “mudsills” at and Here are entries noting instances of its use in An American glossary: being an attempt to illustrate certain Americanisms upon historical principles, Volume 2 (1912, American Dialect Society), chronicling its use to describe the wage-earning American working class. Here’s a mention of the use of that term in a contemporary work on the history of the rebellion, another mention of it in the 2008 Metropolis: The American City in Popular Culture (2008), and a 1992 article on the status of the working class from The Baltimore Sun. Here’s a short essay about it from the blog Mudsills. Mechanics. Thinking Bayonets., and a longer, chewier one from Fires Along the Tallgrass.

    You’d said you’d done a lot of reading about the Civil War. It never occurred to me that the term might be unfamiliar to you. However, that’s not the reason for my slightly acerbic tone. I reacted that way because you didn’t bother to look it up before arguing with it.

  49. Diaries of people who had strong enough values to write the diaries does not demonstrate how “most people” behave and believe.

  50. Unfortunately direct recordings of people’s brains are not available. So we have to depend on the written word – diaries, letters, journal entries, published reports. The overwhelming majority of written evidence generated outside the Confederacy, shows that almost all Union troops considered defense of the Union their duty. Early on a substantial minority also considered themselves to be fighting against slavery as well, though it did not take that long for this to turn into a majority.

  51. TNH: “I’m familiar with the October Crisis and the FLQ. Why you think their existence supports your opinions is a mystery.”

    Wow. You need it spelled out? K.

    I said, “the South viewed it as a conflict over the division of power between federal and state legislatures (a problem that even now threatens to divide Canada (see Quebec independence), ”

    Which was only pointing out that we have a movement in Canada that is attempting to divide the country over Federal and Provincial divisions. Those divisions, specifically, are related to the diminishing culture and language of the Quebecois, which they feel is being crushed by a weight of the English Canadian majority’s culture. (Gee, no parallel to “tyranny of the majority” at all, hmm?) You can find their political parties here:

    It is, of course, impossible for any culture to stop its influences on another. Quebec, to defend its culture, needs Laws, and those Laws need to violate certain human rights. While Canada is a signatory to the UDHR, Quebec violates it with its Language Laws, which are also unconstitutional, but a loophole in the agreement that keeps Quebec in Canada permits unconstitutional laws for cultural purposes, solely by Quebec. To protect itself fully, the Quebecois need out of the UDHR in order to suppress all other cultures, though they will never admit that they would or accept that their desired protections could be. Functionally, they already are.

    You will also note that neither page is available in English. They have no intent to serve l’Anglais, or any other language, for that matter. That, at least, should demonstrate their own prejudices. Legally, neither website needs English because Quebec law does not require it. C’est la vie. They just don’t care what you or I think about their policies.

    Beyond the previously mentioned Crisis, two referendums on sovereignty have been held, in 1980 and 1995, when the PQ were the Quebec Majority gov’t. (It is believed a re-election of the PQ in the 2000’s would have caused a third vote.) The second vote was Nay 51-49. 1% from separation, since the separatists were stating a 50% was all they needed. English Canada disagreed, but we’ve never had a say in this issue. (Alberta would probably vote to kick Quebec out, they’re so sick of their whining.)

    Further, county level elections were held in regions bordering Ontario: they came out and stated they would split from Quebec and join Canada if separation did occur. The most important one, though, was the northern Quebec Indian vote, which covers about 75% of Quebec’s landmass. Northern Quebec is not covered by treaty, and so cannot be compelled to stay in Quebec. They voted over 90-10 to stay with Canada. Quebec might pick up a couple heavy French counties of New Brunswick, though. Montreal was discussing becoming a Free City.

    And Northern Quebec is where the violence will occur. The Separatists have clearly stated that they will not accept a division of Quebec: all of its current landmass must separate if the province votes that way. Despite identifying themselves as allowed to separate from a majority, the Separatists will not the same logic against themselves, including a unique culture like the Natives in the north deciding that they want self-determination vs. the European invaders. The similarity here is once again to my “tyranny of the majority”. We have a region where the local majority is in gross disagreement with the larger region’s majority, but that region is a minority in a larger majority that doesn’t want it to leave. It’s a double standard, obviously. And it’s almost impossible to provide references for that: it was all stated during the ’95 election, pre-WWW, and is not available except in newspaper archives.

    So, yes, it is provable that a powerful social and political element in Quebec wants to separate, not just gain a better deal. It now works inside the system: it has before worked outside…

    You said, “Canadians who get into provincial vs. federal powers do so for the same reason that Statesiders argue about states’ rights; i.e., for the assistance it gives to the specific issues they really care about.”

    Which is clearly made false by the FLQ. Here is its Manifesto:

    A snippet: “The Front de libération du Québec wants total independence for
    Quebecers, united in a free society and purged for good of the
    clique of voracious sharks, the patronizing “big bosses” and their
    henchmen who have made Quebec their private hunting ground for
    “cheap labor” and unscrupulous exploitation.”

    That sounds a whole lot like Steven’s favorite Communists to me, and his buddies took control of several countries in the same time frame as the FLQ operated (62-70). So, any belief that this was not an attempt to separate Canada from Quebec and only gain a superior bargaining position must completely ignore both FLQ’s actions and words. (BTW, the FLQ claims about labour were total BS. Most corporate HQ’s were in Montreal, Quebec, so it was Quebecois that were the “big bosses” and exploiting. They started moving out after ’80, but were still #1 in ’90. I believe it’s TO and Calgary at 1 and 2 for corporate HQ’s now.)

    In support of this Manifesto the FLQ did the following:

    1963: Jan – May 31
    Molotov cocktail thrown into radio station
    Incendiary bombs thrown at military bases, 3 more bases attacked later in the year
    Simultaneous bombings of Federal Tax building and two railroad locations. Fourth bomb defused.
    Failed bombing of radio tower
    Bombing RCMP HQ
    10 bombs placed in residential mailboxes (children could have died), but only one bomb tech is injured

    That’s 5 months, and only the potentially lethal attacks. Not even 1/2 a year. And 7 years before the October Crisis in 1970, which led to martial law. You are welcome to hunt down the entire timeline: it’s too long to copy here. Mroe of the same, ending in the Hostage taking and murder of Ministers, as previously mentioned.

    How could you possibly think that this was anything except an attempt to do exactly what their Manifesto states? The means are completely consistent with other revolutions of the era, and some of those were successful. There is no hint at negotiation in the entire FLQ saga. You need that negotiation at some level to prove your position.

    Hayden, the fact is that there is one (entirely disingenuous) way you could argue against me, and this is how I identified your lack of familiarity with Quebec Separatist subject matter. Any English Canadian over 30 years knows this one. You have to go entirely on a technicality, as well as ignore everything prior to 1995. That you cannot actually make this argument means that you have never studied this issue and know nothing about its seriousness. The argument will be made by some Quebecers, because Quebec media did not report on the motivations of the separatists, but no Quebecois would ever make it. They’ll happily tell you the truth as I have presented it. (Oh, a Quebecer is anyone that lives in Quebec. A Quebecois is a French speaking European of French ancestry, typically Roman Catholic. Just in case you don’t know the Quebecois are considered a unique culture.)

    The technical wording of the 1995 referendum was:
    “Do you agree that Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995?”

    You could take those words and say, “Look! They want a better deal!” And that is how a lot of Quebecers voted, according to exit polls: they thought they were just going to try to get a better deal. But the only way to get there is to not pay attention to the words of the Separatists, and that is why the exit polls asked about this specifically. The Separatists clearly stated that they would simply not accept any deal with Canada (by sending an absurd piece of BS to the Feds with no intent to negotiate) and force the vote to the sovereignty clause, but that was only reported in the English probvinces’ media, not in Quebec media (English or French).

    It’s always best when you study both sides of an argument, don’t you think? I’m waiting for evidence that you studied even one.

    Now, Teresa, I have done a lot of work to write this. If you want to play, I expect more than rhetoric. I have clearly demonstrated knowledge and closeness to this subject. I have done exactly as you requested, and shown exactly how you can get from the FLQ, PQ, and BQ to a parallel with other separatist and revolutionary movements. This level of response won’t happen again. People like you, those that demand others “prove” or “research better”, are just trolls: anyone can say that and make themselves feel smart because you don’t think others can construct this level of response. I can. I do. I did.

    Time for you to get to work and prove you’re not a troll. Prove your position the way I did. Your statement of belief is above, copied for your enjoyment, or pick another of reasonable relevance. I’m certain that you have a ton of counter-evidence to demonstrate your position.

    Actually, I know you’ve got squat. You’re just another arrogant American that thinks you can tell everyone else how the world works. Or should work.

  52. @56 I didn’t dismiss any particular people, and certainly no one I’m not familiar with. What I did is point out one cannot say a whole generation of people all went to war for the same reason – some abstract principle of freedom and human dignity. They didn’t. They went to war for a variety of reasons, some of which were entirely selfish, some entirely selfless and some went just for the fun of it.

    No one group or person can be held up as *the* example of why people go to war, but a group or person can be used to puncture the over-reaching generalization that they all fought for the same reason.

    That’s why I threw in quotes form Connolly’s journal, and why I could throw in bits from Sherman’s if I want to bog this all down in minutiae, thus losing sight of the main point, which is that not everyone had the passion and excitement needed to make the world better for everyone.

  53. L. Raymond: I don’t think anyone used the word “all.” Certainly, my original post didn’t. My point was, and remains, that self-sacrifice for a principle was cultural reasonable; today it is culturally unreasonable (though, of course, far from unheard of). And the point of that is not about the “generation” in some abstract sense, but about the relationship between culture in general and the health of a society.

    And, beeteedubs, Sherman was a racist asshole and he sympathized with the South. He nevertheless fought his heart out, because he supported the Union.

  54. @56 I feel the need to point out that simply reading a collection articles isn’t studying an issue, it’s only familiarizing yourself with what others think of one aspect of the matter. A week’s worth of study with full background analysis of all available documentation would be sufficient to grasp the point of the mudsills, or you could have demonstrated your vast learning and simply explained yourself.

    As it is, I had a rough two weeks, I’ve been more honest than tactful, and I apologize to our host for not properly backing up my point before, and for walking off rather than doing so now.

  55. skzb 63: “My point was, and remains, that self-sacrifice for a principle was cultural reasonable; today it is culturally unreasonable (though, of course, far from unheard of).”

    In the West, yes. In the Middle East, no, we have seen a rise in self-sacrifice. Just to drive home the point that this is a localized observation, not an international one.

    I would suggest the cause is the increasing value of human life. People that value human life are less likely to destroy it. Those that feel their lives are worthless are more likely to be willing to kill or die for any reason, even bad ones.

    Ironically, that is the goal of the left wing — to make people feel an increased value in themselves and other humans. And I will suggest that success on the belief system front is exactly why Steven’s Trotskyist belief system is doomed. Even oppressed individuals that value human life are unlikely to put the Banksters and Greedy Corporates up against the Wall for target practice. Oppression is not enough to overcome the belief in the Right to Fair Trial and the other human rights that find violent revolution repugnant.

  56. Kreistor, it’s clear that you’re one of those commenters who has to be right, can’t walk away from an argument, and consequently has to make up increasingly strange and elaborate defenses when he finds he’s in the wrong. Guys like you can be fun to play with for a while, but guys who are you, not so much.

    I fear I’m not impressed by your analyses of Canadian history and politics. It doesn’t help that you’re obviously counting on my not knowing anything about it. Sorry, but I do know about the Quebec separatists. Sorry again, but I also know — as you apparently do not — that the PQ and BQ have been moving toward more complicated and nuanced views of independence. Going in and out of power, holding positions in government, and becoming enmeshed in the innumerable complications of democratic electoral politics tends to do that to radicals.

    Why in the world would I want to argue with you about it?

    Furthermore, I remember that this discussion was about Gettysburg and the Civil War. It looks to me like when you finally realized you were outgunned on that front, you started trying to drag the discussion away from its original subject matter, and onto what is for you the more comfortable ground of loud, oversimplified Québécois politics.

    I’ve been impressed by many of the comments posted here. There are some very thoughtful people in this thread. You aren’t one of them. I might be kinder about this if you weren’t sputtering in rage at my failure to find you impressive or persuasive. Too bad. I don’t give egoboo under duress, and I don’t like people who think that duress is an appropriate way to get it.

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