Monday, May 4, 2009

Dumb slogans II

I am an avid Southern partisan. The more I have studied the issue, the more it seems clear to me that the South was fully within its rights to secede from the Union. I can't see how a nation that owes its existence to breaking away from Great Britain can deny that right to the supposedly sovereign entities that compose it. The usual justification is that the South was evil because it had slaves. Destroying evil institutions is a good thing, but it is dangerous to suggest that the ends justify the means. Legally, constitutionally, what the North did was wrong, and Lincoln did not for a moment justify his actions on the basis of the good that would come from freeing slaves. It is good that slaves were freed, but this was, for contemporaries, an incidental outcome of the war to save the union.

Which makes me all the more frustrated that Southerners today have come to employ a dumb slogan like "Heritage, Not Hate." It's good to have a slogan to get across the point that your motives are not bad like your opponents claim, but why would you want to give your opponents a voice in that very slogan? How can you see "Heritage, Not Hate" and not think about hate? Rationally, you might conclude that the person with the bumper sticker (or other means of display) cares about the South in its positive aspects and is not reflecting an atavistic racism; viscerally, however, you see the word "hate" and associate it with the Confederate battle flag. Compare this to Barack Obama's slogan in the last election. He didn't say, "Share the Weath, Not Socialism." That would just have associated him with socialism all the more. He said, "Yes We Can." If I were trying to come up with a saying in support of Southern heritage, it's message would be, "I love the South, blacks as well as whites." Unfortunately, I have not been able to encapsulate this message in a pithy phrase, but I feel certain that, if one could, it would do far more for the South than thousands of "Heritage, Not Hate" bumper stickers would.

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