10 February 2012

Holding Lincoln To A Lower Standard

Update: For a textbook example of incoherent babbling, read Professor Simpson's response to my response to his response here. Incoherency is not new to Professor Simpson. Hmmm, should I respond or ignore him, like he ignores me. ;o) He's now ignored me twice in recent weeks. First, someone tell Professor Simpson what “ignore” means.  As with the last exchange, I didn't start this, he did - I guess while he was busy ignoring me. I will be posting a more lengthy response within the next few days. We'll see if Professor Simpson has the will power to "ignore" me again. ;o)

A reader recently forwarded me a link to Civil War Historian and Professor Brooks Simpson's response to my recent post regarding the proposed Lincoln Day Proclamation Bill resolution. (Which, by the way, has been tabled until next year.) Before reading my response to his response, I'd recommend you read his post here. No need for me to respond to the whole post - it's pretty much the routine stuff and what one would expect. As a matter of fact, the good Professor's remarks do a fair job of simply confirming what I originally wrote. Read it for yourself and see if you disagree. His remarks really did not address my main issue - inconsistency and double standards regarding the reaction (or lack thereof) among the same folks who had a cow over Governor McDonnell's Confederate History Month Proclamation. Simpson's remarks offer up the same tired defenses of Lincoln's attitudes and public record on race, i.e. "he evolved, he grew, he ate fairy dust and morphed into an angel of light, etc, etc." Certainly Lincoln's "growth" on the issues discussed didn't involve political expediency or calculation. Whatever. The same nuanced explanations can be offered regarding the Confederacy and her leaders. It's not that some of these explanations and a discussion of the more complicated issues aren't warranted - *they are. It's just that they always seem to be so one-sided - which was the whole point of my original post.

That being said, I did want to respond to a few choice comments in Professor Simpson's post, to wit:

"once Mr. Williams and I had a few exchanges of our own"

Indeed, we did. And you can read one of those exchanges here.

"I guess Mr. Williams doesn’t read my blog."

Roger that Sparky. I know that must come as a shock. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there's probably a few others on the planet who don't read your blog either. Cruel world, isn't it? But why should I read Professor Simpson's blog? It didn't take too long for me to realize that there is very little diversity of perspective and analysis among establishment, academic historians and bloggers when it comes to the WBTS. Read one and you've pretty much read them all. Kinda like reading the Washington Post and New York Times editorial page and expecting to see diversity of opinion. Ain't gonna happen. They got skin in the game.

"As I wasn’t interested in the bill, I had not read it.  I really didn’t care. Now, had the governor of Virginia actually issued a proclamation, I might have paid more attention.  But a bill does not rise to the level of a proclamation."

You gotta be kiddin' me. That's a rather lame defense, wouldn't you say? So, let's get back to the original point and ignore the distraction - did academic historians and all the other critics raise the same ruckus over the lack of "full disclosure" with Lincoln? No. Why? Are they like the WAPO and NYT? Do they have skin in the game? Actually, it's not a "bill" either. It was a joint resolution. But Simpson is splitting hairs, which is obvious to any objective observer. According to a legal definition: "joint resolutions are commonly used to establish commemorative days." The Lincoln Day joint resolution closes with,

    That the Governor be requested to call upon the citizens of the Commonwealth to commemorate this day with appropriate tributes, programs, and events that honor the memory and legacy of Abraham Lincoln . . .
Gubernatorial proclamations in Virginia are, according to the Governor's website:
    . . . commonly issued in support of Virginia history and/or historical figures from Virginia, public health and safety, education, professions and/or occupations, state government initiatives, and issues the Governor would like be bring to the public’s attention.
So where's the substantive difference?  There is none; other than it's ok to ignore Lincoln's faults and record, but not so much with the Confederacy - or anything connected to it - when it comes to proclamations and commemorations. Simply put, the same critics of the Confederate History Month proclamation are willing to hold the Lincoln Day commemoration to a lower standard. This isn't the first time I've pointed out the double standards. Draw your own conclusions as to why, but it is what it is.

"That said, Mr. Williams argues that the bill’s wording overlooks several aspects of the Lincoln legacy.  Let’s look at his list a bit more closely."

Read: "Allow me to mount a spirited, but hypocritical, hair-splitting, defense."

That's enough. Again, read my original post and the associated documents and read Professor Simpson's response and draw your own conclusions. I have no problem with Lincoln Day proclamations, though one for Virginia is a bit odd, given Lincoln's distant ties and the destruction his army wrought. All I asked for was consistency among those who criticized the Confederate proclamation. Apparently, that's not the goal. I'll trust the objective to come to their own conclusions. I've come to mine.

*But those discussion are not the purpose of proclamations and commemorations - something I've also argued before. These proclamations and commemorations serve the dual purposes of satisfying constituencies as well as tying us to our past in a way that honors that past in a positive way.


13thBama said...

"I guess Mr. Williams doesn’t read my blog."

Neither do I.

There are few WBTS blogs that I read due to the prevailing elitist attitudes. It has even gotten that way in sports blogs. More power to them. I have better things to do.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Precisely. Very cookie-cutter like. Groupthink is rather prevalent among those folks.