Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Frank Cocozzelli's Critique of Catholic Neo-Confederate Fantasies: The Pertinence of the Discussion

More indicators come out that libertarian darling and possible presidential contender Rand Paul is more than a little taken with neo-Confederate fantasies. A contestant on "Jeopardy" casually substitutes the Southern-coded term for the phrase which describes  what that war actually was, and gets away with the substitution. The Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act. And a verdict in Florida, one of the former slave states of the old Confederacy, raises nationwide questions all over again about the never-resolved, usually-elided question of racial disparity in American society.

None of this appears to be going away, does it, under the first black president, in our "post-racial" society that has finally gotten over the ugly old issue of race? In some ways, in fact, it's as if we're stuck all over again in some nightmare right out of the 1850s, re-negotiating questions many of us considered that the Civil War had closed forever--as those questions climb right back onto center stage in our political and cultural life when the nation elects an African-American president. 

If nothing else, the events of the last few weeks to which I point above show just how significant, how pertinent, Frank Cocozzelli's critique of the neo-Confederate Catholicism of folks like Thomas E. Woods really is. In May, I discussed (here and here) two of Frank's essays (here and here) about Woods and Woods's infatuation with the idea of secession by right-believing Christians impelled to set up their own theocratic society within the shell of a secular order they consider too corrupt to salvage. 

Now, in a new essay published last week at Talk to Action, Frank Cocozzelli suggests that his critique of Woods has found its mark: Woods recently informed readers of his blog that he's been "yawning" over a series of articles about him he understands that a "left-liberal lawyer" has posted online. And he's just a garden-variety libertarian (like Rand Paul, one assumes) who has nothing in the world to do with racially tinged ideas or neo-Confederate ideology.

Except, as Frank points out, Woods wrote the following back in 1997 in an article entitled "Christendom's Last Stand" in a magazine called The Southern Partisan:

So the War Between the States, far from a conflict over mere material interests, was for the South a struggle against an atheistic individualism and an unrelenting rationalism in politics and religion, in favor of a Christian understanding of authority, social order and theology itself. The intelligent Left knows this, and even the incurably stupid, like [former Democratic Senator from Illinois -- the first African-American woman to be elected as a U.S. Senator] Carol Moseley-Braun, must at least sense it. For all their ignorant blather about slavery and civil rights, what truly enrages most liberals about the Confederate Battle Flag is its message of defiance. They see in it the remnants of a traditional society determined to resist cultural and political homogenization, and refusing to be steamrolled by the forces of progress. 
I have been a Northerner for my entire 24 years. But when we reflect on what was really at stake in the "late unpleasantness," we can join with [Confederate Vice-President] Alexander Stephens in observing that "the cause of the South is the cause of us all."

And for someone who grew up and lives in the American South, one of whose great-grandfathers was a Confederate soldier and all of whose great-grandfathers had brothers who were Confederate soldiers, that passage sounds pretty darned neo-Confederate to me. And I can't think of any point in my years of growing up and living in the American South in which I've ever seen the bloody banner of that battle flag waved about without race, race, and more race being the subtext of the neo-Confederate waving and the neo-Confederate blather.

And as someone who grew up in and still lives in a state of the Old Confederacy, I have this to say about Woods's fantasy that what we Confederates were fighting for in the 19th century, and what the neo-Confederates want to keep fighting for, was "a Christian understanding of authority, social order and theology itself": if our Confederate fantasies represented Christian authority, Christian social order, and Christian theology, then give me a healthy dose of secularism, instead.


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