Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Why I will vote for Joe Lieberman

The Tennessee primary is next month. Tennessee has an open primary; voters may vote in any party's primary without reference to how they are registered. I am a registered voter, naturally, but have no party affiliation. Both parties have, at one time or another attempted to enlist me in local politics, but I always refuse to affiliate myself openly with any party.

(You will search my site in vain for any endorsement of re-election of President Bush, or the election of another contender. I have been asked more than once to join "Blogs for Bush" but I always decline.)

I'll vote for Lieberman in February's primary. And no, I am not endorsing him for the office of president here. I well recognize that he has no chance of being nominated. I see no point in voting in the Republican primary because I cannot - even on secret ballot - put my stamp of approval on the Bush administration, which is what a vote in the uncontested Republican primary would do.

I will vote for Lieberman to protest both the Bush administration and the un-impressiveness of the rest of the Democratic field. As much as the prospect of a second Bush terms disturbs me, the prospect of any of other party's present frontrunners occupying the White House gives me insomnia.

Take Dennis Kucinich, for example, who was interviewed by Sean Hannity on his radio show as I was driving today. Kucinich accepted Sean's invitation to be on Hannity and Colmes tonight.

  • Kucinich said that we are fighting the Taliban in Iraq.

  • He said last year that President Bush has revoked President Ford's Executive Order 12333, which forbids assassination of heads of state, but when pressed about it by Hannity, Kucinich said he would have to check to see whether it was true. (Maybe he should have checked on it before saying it?)

  • Kucinich said that the US Declaration of Independence obligates a president to defend America but then said that it forbids America from taking the offense against another country, even one that has made war against us.

  • He said that President Bush directed the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan but the only example he could cite was the accidental aerial attack of a wedding party that killed about three dozen people - a tragedy, to be sure, but hardly proof of a presidential order to bomb civilians.

  • When asked forthrightly whether he would have ordered the actions against Afghanistan and al Qaeda the US began in October 2002, Kucinich said that because Osama bin Laden was a "non-state actor" the situation was "complicated," and that instead of the course of action the US took, he would have sought an "international coalition" to track down those responsible for the attack.

  • To his credit, Kucinich unambiguously denounced the idea, broached by his rival Howard Dean, that President Bush was warned in advance by some Saudis about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    Of course, Kucinich isn't a frontrunner, for which the Republic may be eternally thankful.

    Update: John Cole's words resonate with me pretty well:
    ... I refuse to let this administration and Karl Rove treat me the way the Democratic party treats African-American voters. I DO have options. I have a lot in common with moderate to conservative Demorats ...

    ... I feel like I have been sold down the river when it comes to this hideous spending. The Farm Bill? The Education Bill? Medicare prescription drug plan? Marriage Promotion? Drug Testing in Schools? Faith Based Initiatives?

    You know, when Bill Clinton pandered, he at least had the decency to be straight forward about it. And, I might add, Bill Clinton, despite what you may think his role was in the process, did sign a balanced budget at the end of the day. Chew on that, Mr. Delay.
    Yep.
  • Saturday, January 17, 2004

    Brutalities of the Confederate Home Guard

     I never read the book Cold Mountain, so I went to the movie last night with an uncluttered mind, knowing only that the story line was of a Confederate soldier who deserts to make a long trek home to his beloved. This man is named Inman, played by Jude Law. Nicole Kidman plays the heroine, Ada Monroe, who loves Inman and waits faithfully for him to return. The movie opens on July 30, 1864, with the Battle of the Crater at the Union siege of Petersburg, Va., which Cold Mountain accurately presents as an unmitigated disaster for the Union side. 

    As a result of the battle, his own near-death experience from a nasty neck wound, and of Ada's letters explaining how difficult life is for her, Inman deserts to make his way back to Cold Mountain, NC, and Ada. There is a lot to like about the movie and a lot I found to scorn, but this is not a movie review post.

    The dramatic conflict of the movie revolves around the heroine's antagonist, Marshall Teague. Teague heads the local Home Guard, a paramilitary outfit empowered by the state government to deal with Confederate army deserters and civilians who gave them aid, even their family members. Desertion was the huge problem, especially in 1864 and 1865. More than 13,000 North Carolina Confederate soldiers deserted during the war. The privations of the war on the home front put many soldiers' families in truly desperate circumstances. All in all, tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers deserted to care for their loved ones. (Many returned to their units, however, and were generally forgiven once they did.) 

    Teague and his small band of enforcers, chartered by the state, ruthlessly track down deserters. For selfish reasons, Teague leans hard on Ada. At one point Teague and his men saber to death a man in his own front yard for suspicion of harboring deserters. They torture his wife, expose the deserters and shoot them down on the spot. Such killings continue in the movie. 

    I am sort of a stickler for historical accuracy in movies that derive the context from history. I found the Home Guard portrayals very offputting. (Other Home Guard detachments of the state hound Inman as he makes his way home.) I had never read of such brutalities being done by during the war by Confederate states to their own people, and reacted to this part of the move - and a major part it is - with scorn. This, I thought, was a fatal flaw of the story. While I had no doubt that Confederate authorities did try to capture deserters, I dismissed the idea that Home Guard "brownshirts" ever had the authority simply to shoot down deserters on the roadside or savage Southern civilian families. So I Googled "confederate home guard" today. And discovered Cold Mountain is accurate. Consider:

    Allen Lowery was born 1795 in Robeson County, NC. He died 9 Mar 1865 in Robeson County, NC from Shot to Death by the Robeson County Home Guard and was buried in Lowery family cemetery near Pembroke, NC. ... Allen and his son (William) was killed by the Robeson County Confederate Home Guard, because they where believed to have helped Union soldiers during the Civil War.
    According to historian Milton Ready of the University of North Carolina-Asheville,
    To help enforce conscription, find deserters and collect taxes, the "Guard for the Home Defence" was formed. The Home Guard, as it came to be known, is depicted in [Cold Mountain] as a sort of Confederate Gestapo ... "A lot of the people in the Home Guard belonged to extended families and a lot of the people who didn't want to pay or who harbored deserters were in different families," Ready says. "They used the Civil War to settle personal debts that went back years."
    And not just in North Carolina. In the northern Alabama hill country there remained strong pro-Union sentiment throughout the war in . (Not just in Alabama, of course; my own state of Tennessee was highly pro-Union in the east.) With the advent of Confederate conscription in 1862, the men there were subject to arrest by the Home Guard for not responding to the callup. Large numbers fled to the hills, leaving their families behind. But the Home Guard persecuted the families. The family of John Phillips, for example, suffered severely. Phillips related,
    “They commenced robbing my family of the support I had left for them, they drove off my cattle and took my horses and mules, also my corn. They event went so far as to pour what meal my family had out in the floor and fill the sacks with meat. They event took their cups, saucers and plates, not leaving anything for their sustenance.”
    Such brutalities led many of the men to make their way to Union lines and enlist in the Union Army. One such man was named Henry Tucker, who rather foolishly decided when on leave from Union service to visit his family in Alabama.
    Henry Tucker ... was arrested by the Home Guard at his home in Marion County and tortured to death. He was tied to a tree, castrated, his eyes removed and his tongue cut out before he was literally skinned alive. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Ala. But Tucker’s vicious death was avenged. Home Guard leader Stoke Roberts who personally directed the torture of Tucker, was eventually caught by a group of unionists near Winfield. They took a long iron spike and drove it through his mouth and out the back of his head and nailed him to the root of a big oak tree.
    Alabama men who remained hiding in the hills were tracked down and often killed on the spot.
    Three sons of Solomon Curtis were all killed in Winston County. Joel Jackson Curtis was killed in 1862 for refusing to join the confederate army. George Washington Curtis, home on leave from the union army, was killed by the home guard in his yard while his wife and three children watched. Thomas Pink Curtis, the probate judge of Winston County, was arrested near Houston by confederate authorities in 1864 and taken to a bluff on Clear Creek where he was summarily executed with two shots to his right eye.
    This is a repellant aspect of Southern history that is underreported. I wish a competent historian would undertake a disciplined study of the Home Guard. Some historians estimate that 100,000 white Southerners served in the Union Army; with brutalities committed by the Home Guard against many of their families, it seems that the war was a civil war not merely between North and South, but just as much between Southerners.

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