OPED by Ben Windom: The “Lost Cause” is Real Now
September 8, 2017 Share

OPED by Ben Windom: The “Lost Cause” is Real Now

PHOTO: A Confederate Monument stands in the city park in Fort Payne. Ben Windom gives his perspective on the media narrative of the South and the Civil War. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

Contributed by Ben Windom

The recent events in the news have rekindled the common narrative that Southerners have told for over one hundred years, that the South was fighting an unwinnable war to preserve state sovereignty with the mention of slavery only being put forth in the most palatable ways possible. The national press has called this, “the national myth” or “the Southern mythology” in recent weeks.

I do not argue that this story is often told in a more positive manner than the truth of history, especially in regards to slavery, but the core of the tale is not false. Certainly no more false than most simplified versions of history on various topics, but that is not why I write.

Even if the “Lost Cause” was never close to the truth of history, it is the truth that many Southerners have chosen to believe, and that makes it real. That makes it a real ideology and political philosophy.

This should not feel as heavy a loss to those that cringe at the idea of what they view as a false history. Southerners are and have been choosing to paint the Civil War in the most anti-slavery ways they possibly can for over a century and with an ever-increasing effort by the day.

It is the very evidence that a person would hope to find proving that the South continues to evolve past a history of slavery. Is it solely a negative thing that pro-Confederate believers attempt to reject slavery in their arguments for the South? It should also be said that they are not necessarily doing this from a motive of political correctness, but from a genuine love of the South and an ethical distaste of slavery, and by extension, racism. That is progress.

We must also ask ourselves why Southerners feel a need to not let go of the Civil War and the, “Lost Cause?” It is largely because the state sovereignty portion of the narrative has been continually relevant since the war ended in 1865.

The South has continually fought political battles against the federal government and lost. The South lost on Reconstruction, Civil Rights, abortion, gay marriage, and now the monuments. The Lost Cause is told because it is a story by historical extension that is as relevant today as it was upon the day of secession.

To be sure we could go even deeper into the subconscious of the South and look at the Scotch-Irish relationship with England that most certainly left a fear of foreign authority in the minds of the mass of the Southern population, who are descended from the Scotch-Irish, but I will save that for the book.

The South therefore is constituted of a people that have been on the losing side of a battle for political autonomy for a hundred plus years, if not a thousand years. It is only natural that they will tell the “Lost Cause” because their “cause”—namely the cause of autonomy—is in a very real way lost.

Benjamin Windom is a resident of Valley Head, and teaches Government/Economics at Coosa High School in Rome, Georgia. 

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