Thursday, 29 October 2009

Death of a klansman

Coincidentally a week after Nick Griffin defended his relationship with ‘an almost totally non-violent’ leader of the Ku Klux Klan – it is the anniversary today of the death of in 1877 of one of the Klan’s founders, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The original Klan – formed in Tennessee in 1865 in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War – is sometimes contrasted with the modern Klan ‘re-founded' in 1915. It is true that it was only at this later stage that its racism was elevated into the pseudo-philosophical and grandiose belief system of modern white supremacists. The original Klan just had more mundane and practical objectives – primarily intimidating the newly emancipated and enfranchised black electorate in the Southern states, along with their Reconstructionist white supporters.
Forrest’s experience as a brilliant general of cavalry raiders and irregular troops stood him in good steed to lead this campaign of intimidation. The Civil War in the Western theatre had frequently been conducted in a particularly brutal guerrilla-fashion, especially in disputed ‘border’ states such as Forrest’s home state of Tennessee. And Forest’s raiders had been very successful exponents of this – and unusually for a general of the time Forest himself revelled in personal combat and claimed a tally of more than thirty ‘kills’. As a commanding officer he was responsible for the notorious massacre at Fort Pillow in 1864 when surrendered Union troops – significant half of them from a black regiment – were slaughtered.
If the patrician image of General Robert E Lee has come to represent the supposedly chivalrous and benevolent face of the Old South, Forrest without a doubt represents the Confederacy at its ugliest and meanest. Unlike the ‘aristocratic’ Lee who uneasily inherited his estates and slaves and after the war denounced racism and urged reconciliation, Forrest was born into poverty. He went on to become one of the richest men in the pre-war South largely through his involvement in the slave trade - killing his first two men at the age of 20 in a business dispute.
Arguments about the Civil War and the Confederacy still understandably run strong in the ‘states – rather less so over here. But I would suggest that rather than claiming Winston Churchill as a proto-member of the BNP, Griffin could have more appropriately retro-adopted the memory of Bedford Forrest.


Paul said...

Racism begins with our families, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, people we admire, respect and love.

However, as we grow and mature we come to the realization that what we were told by our family when we were children were slanted lies base on their prejudices. We realize that most people are like ourselves and not so different and want the same things, like a home, steady work, a Medicare plan and schools for our children (if you travel you will see this). We realize that most people are of good hearts and goodwill.

This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him.

Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need.

Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his fellow man.

You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before us. The question is not, “If I stop to help our fellow man (immigrant) in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help our fellow man, what will happen to him or her?” That’s the question.

This current climate of blaming others for our woes is not new. We have had this before and we have conquered it.

Remember “Evil flourishes when good men (and women) do nothing”. Raise your voices with those of us who believe we are equal and we can win this battle again.

journeyman said...

I appreciate your anti-racist sentiments but I am not too sure about looking to the 'good book' for inspiration. The bible seems to be full of the very worst kind of racism and racially-inspired violence. The genocide of the Canaanites springs to mind - ethnically cleansed out of the holy land to make way for the chosen people. And the slaughtering of all the Egyptians' first-born children.

A selective reading of the bible can prove just about anything you want - think of the Dutch Reformed Church in S.Africa who found scriptual justification of apartheid.

Dojo Rat said...

I saw that someone from your Blog checked in at Dojo Rat, so I dropped by to take a look. I like your interest in Socialism and it was a good write-up on the Klan, as well as the Green Day Concert.
I have to balence liberal or conspiratorial politics with martial arts on my Blog also, and also just throw in some stuff that I happen to be thinking about that day.
Good luck, I'll check back again!
John @ Dojo Rat