Band Of Brothers – Or Clique Of Comrades?

March 11, 2003

Media critics have been

dumping
on the new Civil War movie

Gods and Generals
, based
on the

novel
by Jeff Shaara, in proportion to how
jubilantly they`ve welcomed the HBO series

Six Feet Under
.

The former is depicted as being in
stilted Victorian language and a “shameless apologia
for the Confederacy as a divinely inspired crusade for
faith, home and slave labor,”
according to

Newsday
, “nauseating in its gruesome
sentimentality”
and “eager to whitewash the
Southern cause,”
according to

Jonathan Foreman
in the New York Post, or an
amoral historical narrative, according to NROnline.

But the latter is a
consciousness-raising event. The high point of Six
Feet Under
, we are told, is the sensitive depiction
of the interracial homosexual relation between a
thirtysomething funeral director (who has just practiced
diversity by accepting as a partner a young Hispanic)
and an emotionally tormented black former police
officer. Although Six Feet Under`s meandering
plot manages to touch on every pc cliché, “arts
commentators” are agog over this adult drama.
La
Times feature writer Howard Rosenberg
wrote (March
7, 2003
) that “TV`s other high achievers are
wilted roses measured
against Six Feet Under,
which continues to be heroically smart, tender, and
witty.”

By contrast, the

arts community
–joined by Establishment
conservatives, what Steve Sailer has called the

“righteous Right”
— are

incredulous
that

Ron Maxwell
would script, produce and direct a movie
on the Civil War that does not condemn the Southern side
nonstop. In NROnline, this film, which dares to go on
for four hours, is

contrasted
by M.T. Owens to one of George Will`s
favorites,

Glory
, which presents “a deeper
truth,”
by offering a lesson on racial equality.

I consider Gods and Generals
to be one of the most inspiring and finely-crafted
movies I`ve seen. The figure of Stonewall Jackson as
depicted by Maxwell and actor Stephen Lang is a
Protestant approximation of an Homeric hero.

But I believe the film`s critics
are right to hate it. What it illustrates is telluric
patriotism,—as epitomized by the opening line of the

“Bonnie Blue Flag
:

We
are a band of brothers
And
native to the soil…

Jackson and Lee are not defenders
of slavery; both in the movie express reservations about
it. Moreover, the vast majority of those who fight with
them do not own slaves and treat blacks as least as
decently as do those on the other side. They are
commanding armies against the invaders of their state.
Long before the U.S. became a “propositional
nation
,” conceived in New York and Washington, it
was a collection of provinces, in which long-established
settlers thought exactly like Lee and Jackson.

One cannot restore that world. And
the American globalists who are venting on Maxwell and
his movie would certainly have no desire to do so. But
it is utterly presumptuous for these

propositional globalists
and/or multiculturalists to
pretend they are the

real Americans
—while Robert E. Lee, the

grandson of Martha Washington
and the son of Harry
Lee, who had dedicated his life as an officer to his
country, was morally inferior because he would not take
up arms against his own state. Lee`s family had been
Virginians long before the federal union had been
created.

Another complaint about the film:
blacks are

not shown
rebelling against their condition. Thus
Jackson`s manservant,

Jim Lewis
, although indignant about slavery (which
Jackson, who

taught blacks to read the Bible
, never defends),
stays by his side and refers to himself and Jackson as
“men of Virginia.”

But this reading of history is
justified. After the Emancipation Proclamation, in
January, 1863, there was no wholesale defection of
blacks from Southern farms. If anything testified to the
wrongness of slavery, it was the decent, diligent way
that most Southern blacks stood by their masters and
their by-then defenseless women and children.
[VDARE.COM note:
This was exactly the point made by Booker T. Washington
in his

1895 Atlanta Exposition speech
— famous for outlining
his strategy of black self-help, with his complementary
appeal for

protection
against

immigrant labor market competition
totally forgotten
.]

Gods & Generals depicts this
during the battle of Fredericksburg, where a slave
family stays behind to defend their owner`s house from

looting Union troops
(portrayed with disturbing
frankness). We know that blacks signed up to fight for
the Confederacy, when they were allowed to, in return
for their freedom.

As

Gene Genovese
underlines in his

works
on master-slave relations in the antebellum
South, there was often a strong social bond between the
planter class and their “servants,” which survived even
the obvious abuses of the slave system.

It is also not clear to me, unless
one assumes that plantations were precursors of
Auschwitz, why Southern blacks would have chosen to side
with those who were invading and pillaging the South. It
might have seemed better to go on serving those whom
they knew and to try to use the war situation to improve
their status.

A last point: why the Southern
commanders keep referring to their struggle as “our
second war of independence.” Neoconservative critics are
prompt to respond that this was not a second revolution
because it was not really
conceived in liberty.” It defended slavery, whereas
the original revolution was dedicated to universal
propositions contained in the

Declaration of Independence
.

The problem here is that too much
is being made of a particular passage drawn from a
particular text that at the time was used as
propaganda—to justify the resistance to British
authority by thirteen North American colonies. What
fueled this uprising were

specific grievances
, like paying what were
considered onerous taxes to the British government and
having Southern plantations burnt down by British
Hessian mercenaries.

For most Southerners, who entered
the rebellion only after the British began to pillage
them, their resistance was indeed that of a “band of
brothers and native to the soil.”
They were not
fighting for global democracy in 1777—any more than they
would be in 1861. And as far  I can recall, slavery
existed in the rebelling colonies at least as widely as
it did in the antebellum South.

Moreover, having to pay about 80 %
of the tariffs that the federal government was then
collecting, as

Thomas DiLorenzo
and

Charles Adams
both note in relevant works, left
Southerners feeling at least as oppressed as had those
who launched the first War of Independence.

In my opinion, what our cultural
elite finds most offensive about Maxwell`s art is that
it portrays white,

Christian
gentry and their loyal black servants
fighting for ancestral land, against an armed
progressive creed.

I`m not sure that those who are
booing the Confederates would like Abraham Lincoln`s
WASP nation-state any better. But at least it is
something out of which they can imagine that their own
global (non-nation) nation evolved.

Because the Union crushed those
Southern secessionists, we are led to believe, it became
possible to move on to the world of the Wall Street
Journal
and to that of the politically correct HBO
series.

The

Whig historical view
lives on—even among yuppies.



Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of


After Liberalism
,

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
, and
Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A Secular Theocracy.