It is so like the Federal Government to bigfoot in and spoil the fun of the
Republican Confederate Party as they celebrate Confederate History Month. I’m sure they’ll blame this on Obama, but it seems that the National Archives is interjecting themselves into the CHM thing by launching an interactive exhibit called “Discovering the Civil War.”
The show proceeds thematically rather than chronologically. It raises large questions — What led to the secession of the South? Were there efforts to avoid war? — and then offers documents that should help visitors form answers. Early in the exhibition, viewers confront what might be called the Southern-apologist listening station, where you can both read, and listen to, a document laying out South Carolina’s reasons for secession. After some boilerplate language about the Constitution comes reason No. 1: The right to property, which for South Carolina included the right to human chattel, had been infringed.
There it is, in black and white, and coming at you through a very 1980s hand-held listening device: Slavery is the cause — the essential, primary, undeniable first and sufficient cause for the war. While much of the exhibition aims at nuance and complexity, this should be sufficient to unmask the old masquerade about what the South was fighting for. Efforts to make it seem problematic and complex are all too often part of a nostalgia game, nostalgia for a time when every white Southern man had a God-given right to be a racist, if he so chose.
Looks like the Civil War Sesquicentennial Celebrations will put CHM to shame and provide endless reasons for
Republican Confederate Party outrage. Should be fun.