Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America


Aided by his foreign allies, Lee triumphs at Gettysburg and soon sweeps into Washington. Lincoln flees, disguised as a Negro, but is soon captured. (DW Griffith makes a movie about it, shows the cowardly Lincoln singing spirituals to prove he’s really a darkie. “What kind of white man are you, suh?”) Later, on film in 1905, exiled in Canada, Abe bitterly regrets he didn’t take the slavery problem more seriously. (“If I could save the Union and not free a single slave, I would do it.”) All this and much more is presented as a documentary by the British, seen uncensored in the CSA for the first time, as part of a new, feeble, tentative neo-abolitionist movement …

You’d like to think the peculiar institution could not have survived into the 21st Century in any way, shape or form. This has to be a nightmare or a joke, right? Well, of course it is a nightmare, but it is no joke. Nothing in it struck me as completely implausible. The writer/director, Kevin Willmott, has given it all a lot of thought, and comes up with reasonable and logical sequences whereby it is possible to believe that the defeated North might come to embrace slavery. One thing not mentioned often in history books is that Negroes were not much liked in the North, not even after emancipation. Hell, look at the busing riots in South Boston in the 1970s if you don’t believe me. In fact, many if not most abolitionists themselves considered Africans an inferior race; they just objected to chattel slavery, they didn’t want them to marry their daughters, or even leave their rightful “place,” which was below whites. An appeal to cupidity, that is, an economic incentive to own at least one slave in the form of a generous tax break from President Davis, would probably have gone down quite well.

We already know the outcome of the history, because the program is frequently interrupted for commercials for products like Niggerhair tobacco (a real product) and restaurants like the Coon Chicken Inn and Sambo’s. Or how about little blue pills (with a zillion side effects, including death) to keep your “servants” happy and docile? Or shock bracelets to keep them from straying? It all makes you squirm, it’s funny but you can’t laugh. Damn it, could it have happened?

In 1999 I might have laughed it off, but we’ve seen a lot since then. We Americans have a stubborn streak in us, some might say boneheaded. A huge number of us practice a religious fundamentalism you’d have to go to Afghanistan to equal. These folks deny evolution, condemn homosexuality (it’s in the Bible!), believe in some horseshit called “The Rapture.” We are prepared to go it alone, morally, secure in the belief that we are right and all the rest of the civilized world is wrong. Capital punishment is a good example. Restrictive laws on stem cell research. I’m sure you can think of many others where only Americans seem to believe America is on the right course. Lately, it’s the “War on Terror.” Everybody else in the world sees we’re creating many more terrorists than we’re killing, but Americans can be bamboozled by bumper-sticker politics like “Stay the course!” and “Don’t cut and run!”

In the face of world condemnation of American slavery, wouldn’t Americans just dig in? I think they would. So, in 1935 Hitler could have been our ally, as in this movie. Our sole objection to his plans for Jewish genocide would be “Don’t kill ’em; enslave ’em. They’re a useful resource!”

Still don’t believe me? Well, it’s in the Bible, goddam it, and we know that anything that’s in the Bible must be true:

Ephesians 6: 5-8
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

I rest my case.