I have a fascination with knowledge. Knowledge, for its ability to inform, captivate and clarify. Reading this collection of the Lee letters gave a new look into an old hero. In the South, many have caricatured his memory to that of a hero of State’s rights. However, his life and legacy was and is much more complicated. He was distant to many but incredibly intimate with family. He was a man of his upbringing.
Like the engineer General Lee was, this book is structured from a strong base and expands to give a fuller view of the man. It does not over sentimentalize but humanizes by exposing both his incredible strength and destructive failings. He was an advocate for self-discipline and quality education, but only for white Americans. He was a racist; he was paternalistic with a wicked temper.
In contrast to the fairy tale that the post-war South cultivated and many white supremacists advocated, he was not a state’s rights advocate. The book, Reading the Man by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, eloquently demonstrates how the post-war Lee and others tried belatedly to portray a State’s right agenda outside of their advocacy of the continuation of slavery but his writings have betrayed him.
This is a story in his own words of a man that was ambivalent and racist, who preferred to maintain slavery or dispose of the slaves because like his Virginia peers he thought blacks to be inferior. He was not a righteous warrior. His cause, the cause of the Confederacy was not just.
In the end, he was like many today, indifferent to the suffering of non-white Americans because fundamentally they think us inferior. They believe that keeping us subservient is in our own best interest. The paternalism is clear and is killing us.
Go ahead, read this book and examine our current state of affairs, and you too will realize that our country has not come far enough. Later in his life, General Lee suggests that the struggle was more important than the possibility of victory. Too many of us have not come to that realization.
The struggle is real, and those who choose not to join have chosen the side of indifference and death.
I am often struck by the disconnect in our political life about what our government spends money on. We hear the clamor for reduced spending and the false equivalency to a household budget. The intellectual dishonesty of the argument is clear if only we would look even superficially. The budget of the American State is primarily about moving money from the coasts to the rest of the country. It is about paying off the rich for their service to the entrenched political class. Who is actually getting our money? Look at your representatives in congress to find the answers.
Our political system is a construct where there are three branches of government with supposed equality of power. However, on close inspection it is clear where the real power lies. It lies with the body that controls the purse. The budget of the US federal government is controlled by the congress. They are the holders of the passbook, they alone can authorize the use of funds. The lie that the President of the United States, whomever he is, controls spending is a lie told to the uninformed. Unfortunately the majority of the electorate is among that group and hence getting to the real problem in American government is not possible.
If we recognized the facts of the economics of the federal system the discussion would not be so hollow. First, we have a state welfare system in which the richer states support the poorer ones. This is how the poor southern states got money for new infrastructure while the states in the northeast cannot afford to maintain their own. In principle the richer states helping the poorer to better the circumstances of their citizens is an admirable goal. If we examine the post civil war era called reconstruction we can see where the interests of the south, the primary beneficiary of the federal transfers, lies. The current aversion to anything that would help the working poor comes directly from the language of that era. This disdain for the working poor is not new, the purveyors have just regained power. The south lost the shooting war but has won the long-term economic struggle. My analysis is rough and you may say without merit, but I suggest you take a closer look.
The entrenched political class is the congress of the United States of American. They need to be term limited. No congress person should be able to serve longer than the President of the Republic. The current system disengages the congress from the people they should be representing. The people who get representation are those with the economic ability to buy time with their representative. The resource poor many are left to the vagaries of the market, while the insiders are protected. Term limiting congress persons would be a great place to start in fixing the debacle called American Government.