2007-10-02

Why are American Conservatives such idiots?

From the department of I-am-annoyed-the-South-lost:
Those who want to discredit the United States and to deny our role as history’s most powerful and pre-eminent force for freedom, goodness and human dignity invariably focus on America’s bloody past as a slave-holding nation. Along with the displacement and mistreatment of Native Americans, the enslavement of literally millions of Africans counts as one of our two founding crimes—and an obvious rebuttal to any claims that this Republic truly represents “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” According to America-bashers at home and abroad, open-minded students of our history ought to feel more guilt than pride, and strive for “reparations” or other restitution to overcome the nation’s uniquely cruel, racist and rapacious legacy.

...

1. SLAVERY WAS AN ANCIENT AND UNIVERSAL INSTITUTION, NOT A DISTINCTIVELY AMERICAN INNOVATION.

2. SLAVERY EXISTED ONLY BRIEFLY, AND IN LIMITED LOCALES, IN THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC – INVOLVING ONLY A TINY PERCENTAGE OF THE ANCESTORS OF TODAY’S AMERICANS.

3. THOUGH BRUTAL, SLAVERY WASN’T GENOCIDAL: LIVE SLAVES WERE VALUABLE BUT DEAD CAPTIVES BROUGHT NO PROFIT.

4. IT’S NOT TRUE THAT THE U.S. BECAME A WEALTHY NATION THROUGH THE ABUSE OF SLAVE LABOR: THE MOST PROSPEROUS STATES IN THE COUNTRY WERE THOSE THAT FIRST FREED THEIR SLAVES.

5. WHILE AMERICA DESERVES NO UNIQUE BLAME FOR THE EXISTENCE OF SLAVERY, THE UNITED STATES MERITS SPECIAL CREDIT FOR ITS RAPID ABOLITION.

6. THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT TODAY’S AFRICAN-AMERICANS WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THEIR ANCESTORS HAD REMAINED BEHIND IN AFRICA.
And the response to this?
1. American didn’t invent slavery. Lots of other countries did it too. Yes, but by the mid-19th century the practice had been pretty much run out of Europe, as well as the northern states, for being barbaric and immoral.

2. Slavery existed only briefly – 89 years from the Declaration of Independence to the 13th Amendment. It probably didn’t seem all that brief to the persons who were enslaved. And, of course, it had been going on for some time before the Declaration of Independence. Medved figures that only about 5 percent of today’s Americans are the descendants of slave owners. That may or may not be true, but I’m not sure why it’s relevant to anything.

3. Slavery wasn’t genocidal. Dead slaves brought no profit, Medved says. Of course, about a third of the people captured in Africa to be sold into slavery died in the ship voyage to America, but Medved says the slavers didn’t intend the slaves to die, so it doesn’t count. “And as with their horses and cows, slave owners took pride and care in breeding as many new slaves as possible,” Medved writes. No, really, he actually wrote that. I am not making this up.

4. It is not true that the United States became wealthy through slave labor, Medved says. Many “free soil” states were more prosperous overall than the slave states. That may be true, or not, but those cotton plantations were cash cows for the plantation owners. In 1855 raw cotton amounted to one-half of all U.S. exports, valuing $100 million annually in 1855 dollars. (Source: Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates [Harper & Row, 1987] p. 255.) There was huge income disparity in the slave states; the plantation-owning elite hoarded the wealth.

5. The United States deserves special credit for abolition. Huh?

6. “There is no reason to believe today’s African-Americans would be better off if their ancestors had remained in Africa. ” Actual quote. Who says conservatives are insensitive? Well, me, for one.
Medved once wrote a book about movie flops. Sounds like he needs to write a book about himself.

3 comments:

Ron Lankshear said...

Sad. What on earth makes Michael Medved offer such excuses at this point in history.

BLBeamer said...

Medved figures that only about 5 percent of today’s Americans are the descendants of slave owners. That may or may not be true, but I’m not sure why it’s relevant to anything.

I'm not defending Medved's piece but can tell you why this is relevant, at least in the US. There is a movement in the US for "reparations" the advocates for which believe those harmed by slavery (viz., the descendants of slaves) should receive compensation from those who benefited from slavery (viz, everybody else).

This is actually taken seriously in some quarters. They see nothing absurd about Oprah Winfrey receiving money from some poor white family nor do they see any injustice in situations such as my family (one side of which shed blood in the Union Army fighting to eradicate slavery; the other side didn't even immigate to the US until 1920) forking over money as payment for my race guilt.

BLBeamer said...

UPDATE: the US Supreme Court this week refused to hear a case on slavery reparations.