Wednesday, April 13, 2011

150 years and one day ago...

...the U.S. Civil War began. The first skirmish at Fort Sumter (just outside the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina) resulted in the U.S. Army's surrendering to Confederate forces--and according to Ken Burns (renown documentarian of all things Civil War related) the only casualty was a Union horse who died during the barrage.

I live in the U.S. South, yet I also live in a liberal college town. And at Southern U. (a very liberal research I state university) there was nary a mention of the beginning of the Civil War. I didn't see it noted in the student newspaper, and I didn't see any evidence among my students that anyone was commemorating this event (in other words, no one was whistling Dixie or wearing confederate flag paraphanalia). But then again, my corner of the U.S. South is not mired in nostalgia for a plantation economy, say in the way that Charleston is.

When Southern Man and I spent a few days on the South Carolina coast in December (part of my post-mastectomy recovery and recuperation), one of the things I was really struck by was how SOUTHERN South Carolina felt--and how the greater Charleston area was living through a Gone with the Wind rosy-romanticized-lens of itself. There were subdivisions named after different characters from that film--and everything was named with either "Magnolia" or "Plantation" (as in a condominium called "Plantation Acres"--now why on EARTH would you want to live in a place called "Plantation Acres"??? How is that at all appealing to be associated with a system of servitude???). I imagine that if we were in Charleston now, just as we had been during the 150th anniversary of Secession (click here for an older post on this event), that we would inundated with various commemorations and celebrations and re-enactments and reminders of a Confederate past that is not really past but very present.

And one of the things that drives me slightly batty when hearing about all these commemorations is the revisionist history that people seem to want to engage in--to re-imagine that the Civil War was fought over reasons other than slavery. Indeed, if you google "cause of Civil War" the first entry you will find is this article in "Top Five Causes of the Civil War" that insinuates that people have falsely believed that slavery was a main cause when in fact there were many other factors that led to the South's secession from the Union.

[Aside: If you have the stomach to go through the comment thread, you will find a very interesting cross-section of America that shows just how divisive this issue continues to be, and how much people are unwilling to look closely at race and specifically the form of institutional racism that slavery was as a leading factor in the divisiveness that was (and continues to be) the Civil War]

On the PBS News Hour last night (click here for the video) they did a segment on the Civil War that included notable historians whose expertise is in the Civil War, such as Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust. Apparently while U.S. historians are united in their agreement that slavery was the leading cause of the Civil War, a majority of Americans believe that the war was fought over "states rights."

Which is true...the right to own slaves.

Finally, let me leave you once again with the words of Larry Wilmore, who reminds us that it's not politically correct to say that the Civil War was fought over slavery, it's CORRECT, correct!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday link round-up

Well, my plans for blogging at least once a week have failed (sigh). But, I suppose it was good to at least have a goal. I could tell you about all the busy things that happened and my current adenovirus (just got diagnosed by my doctors yesterday).

Because my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton (making any original thought of my own nearly impossible--or at least I'm not confident I could articulate anything worthwhile in my state), I've decided that today would be a good day to put out some links to articles and blog posts that should give you ample food for thought:

*The New York Times has an article about how the number of young white Americans are decreasing faster than originally predicted (click here). Apparently the number of white children born in the past decade slipped 10% and it's now projected that by the year 2041 (not 2050 as originally believed) white Americans will be a minority in the U.S. overall.

*The news that white Americans are decreasing as a population may be one reason why Republicans in Mississippi desire a throwback to the days of anti-miscegenation laws. According to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling trying to gauge which candidate Mississippi GOP want to be their next president, a question about inter-racial marriage was thrown into the mix, with these results:
"We asked voters on this poll whether they think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal- 46% of Mississippi Republicans said it should be illegal to just 40% who think it should be legal. For the most part there aren't any huge divides in how voters view the candidates or who they support for the nomination based on their attitudes about interracial marriage but there are a few exceptions."

Click here for the original post on the Public Policy Polling blog and here on the original blog (sent to me courtesy of my brother "C") that led me to the PPP post.

*Of course, perhaps the Mississippi GOP are upset not just because of the decrease in white American births but because evidence of a mixed race America are abundant and apparent in their own backyards, as this New York Times article, titled "Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image" demonstrates--when you click on the article link, be sure to watch the video of the 2 families that the article talks about. They are visual proof that times indeed are changing, despite the 46% of GOP Mississippi-ians who want a return to the good old days of the government interfering in people's lives by telling them who they can and cannot marry. That's really what the Republican are all about, right?

*And now for something a bit lighter (but no less relevant or important), here's a piece by Jeff Yang on the anniversary of Ken's 50th birthday (as in Mattel's boy-doll Ken--Barbie's boyfriend or manfriend or maybe depending on whether your Ken was gay or not, her fabulous next door neighbor). Lamenting the lack of Asian male dolls, Yang imagines what it would be like to take some real life Asian American "Kens" to diversify Barbie's universe (click here). Personally I'd love to see "Poet Ken" -- because Ken Chen, poet and director of the Asian American Writer's Workshop, is an exceptional person--check out both his collection of poems, Juvenilia (which won the Yale Younger poet's award--one of the nation's most prestigious poetry prizes) and the Asian American Writer's Workshop website--if you are in NYC definitely check out some of the cool events they have going on.