I believe my ideas about how Southern culture is implicated in this dark Bushite era are both true and important. I nonetheless have reservations about publicly articulating such ideas.
It is not my intention to inflame antagonisms between the regions of America, and I can see that this is one of the quite possible consequences. When my article “The Bushite Era as a Re-Enactment of the American Civil War” appeared the other day on smirkingchimp, it elicited a good deal of the kind of Southern hostility toward the North that I became familiar with when I lived below the Mason-Dixon line. And some of those who have welcomed my thesis have shown a corresponding hostility toward the South. Such reactions are understandable, but I’m not sure they help move things forward.
My hope in discussing some of these regional and cultural dimensions of the rise of the Bushites is not to exacerbate our divisions. It is, rather, that through some sort of soul-searching there might arise some insight and ultimately, through such insight, some valuable transformation.
I am inspired by what the German people seem to have accomplished in this respect in the generations from the Nazi era through to the present: a people whose capacity for arrogance and cruelty brought a nightmare to all of Europe and much of the rest of the world has changed, it seems, into one animated by a very different, much sweeter spirit.
This Bushite era should require ALL Americans to undergo a similar process of examining our society’s dark side and of repenting of our collective defects. This is true for America as a whole. But I believe it to be especially true of the American South, which has shown an especial proclivity for looking upon this Bushite evil and thinking it to be an embodiment of the good.
With the Germans, the impetus toward transformation was certainly bolstered by the fact that the nation had been defeated and devastated by an all-out war, that its defeat brought it under the occupation of its former enemies, and that all its neighbors were prepared to remind them continually of the monstrosity that it had become during the time of the Third Reich.
Although America is paying a very great price for its giving power to evil, this price is not nearly so large as that paid by the Germans for its still greater fall into the clutches of evil; nor is America likely to have so much leverage applied to it from the outside to compel it to look deeply into its soul as a nation and to repent.
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Add to that the fact that even in the case of the Germans, it took a generation before the opaque covering of denial began significantly to be removed, and many more years for the transformation to be truly accomplished – largely through the dying out of the old and their replacement by the young – and one gets an idea of how uphill is the struggle for repentance and redemption for a nation.
But still the effort should be made. And essential to that effort is to lay out the truth, as best one can apprehend and depict it, with the hope that it may over time contribute to some such process of healing.
Most of my discussions of the sources of this evil over the past several years have dealt with America as a whole, not in terms of regional differences. But the regional aspect is, in my view, an important one. And so I will offer here now a second foray into how I see the historic culture of the South as having made it vulnerable in our times to being harnessed by evil.
Thinking in the Language of Blood and Honor
Any characterization of a culture is an over-simplification. Nonetheless, cultures have their distinctive characters.
The weight of reason has been greater in the culture of the American North; that of blood and soil and honor greater in the South.
The religion of the Puritans was characterized by a kind of discipline. A charismatic experience of being born again was a stronger current in the religion of the South.
Abstract principle and the rule of law are stronger in Northern culture, while loyalty to the particular power that stands above one is greater in the South.
The emphasis on the bonds of loyalty carries with it a characteristic vulnerability: while loyalty to the good makes loyalty a good, the danger arises if the particular embodiment of power to which one is loyal is a moral fraud.
The discovery of the fraud requires the ability to wield abstract principle in a disciplined way, to see how the values and beliefs being held aloft for one’s allegiance do not stand up to reason.
In other words, one lacking enough of that required ability might see the particular power as good when it is really aligned with evil.
Loyalty is a virtue, particularly in a world organized along military lines: Semper Fi! But fidelity to powers that act in bad faith does not serve the good.
In the Bushite era, the virtue of loyalty – so strong in the culture of the South – has been exploited by evil. And the weakness in the realm of abstraction – a characteristic defect in the South – has been exploited as well.
To see clearly the evil in the Bushite regime, one should look to the abstraction that is called a pattern. That pattern discloses the ruling principle, the underlying spirit.
There is, with this regime, a pattern of lying – like nothing America has ever seen.
There is a pattern of indifference to law – like nothing America has ever seen.
There is a pattern of usurpation – the arrogating of power – like nothing America has ever seen.
Yet millions of Americans – especially those whose ways of thinking and of seeing are shaped by the culture of the South – have been unable to see these patterns, nor see the evil that is the pattern larger still.
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