24 February 2013

Trace Adkins Supports Gettysburg Commemoration & Gets Unfairly Criticized - Again

By historians who erect a straw man.

Kevin Levin and the boys are all puckered up over Gettysburg National Military Park inviting Trace Adkins to sing the National Anthem at this year's 150th commemoration coming up in July. Apparently, unless you tow the correct political line regarding certain perspectives and interpretations involving the WBTS, you're not welcome at these types of events - at least not on stage. Intentional or not, this is a prime example of political correctness - shut down opposing views by attempting to marginalize their opinions and perspectives.

But Kevin starts his criticism with what I believe is a false premise - that Adkins should be disqualified from appearing because of his "casual flirt with secession." Kevin points to Adkins's remarks in this video as evidence of this flirtation with secession. Listen carefully to what Adkins says:

What's interesting to me is that Adkins seems to actually be taking the exact opposite position for which Kevin and the gang are criticizing him. He explicitly says he agrees that the Civil War resolved the "issues" of slavery and secession. That hardly sounds like a "casual flirt with secession." That is quite a stretch in my opinion. I listened to what Adkins said three times - again. (You can see that I chimed in on a previous and related post at Kevin's blog here.)

What Adkins does correctly point out is that the ongoing interpretation of the 10th amendment, a.k.a. "states' rights" issue has not been resolved. The federal courts quite frequently decide cases surrounding 10th amendment issues and interpretations. For those of us who are familiar with this topic, including very recent history, Adkins could not be more correct. (See here for just one recent example.) Scores more could be listed.

The retort that follows is that states' rights cannot be discussed separately from slavery. That argument is absurd on its face, since the courts continue to decide cases which center around the 10th amendment today - separate from slavery, of  course.

And beyond that, despite what Kevin and those commenting would like everyone to believe, Adkins' position on causation is a mainstream opinion embraced by almost half the country and a substantially higher number than those who believe the WBTS it was all about slavery:

A new poll from the Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of Americans identify states’ rights as the primary cause of the Civil War. This is a remarkable finding, because virtually all American textbooks and prominent historians emphasize slavery, as they have for decades. Even more striking, the poll shows young people put more stock in the states’ rights explanation than older people. The 38 percent of Americans who believe slavery was mainly to blame find themselves losing ground. More here.

While Kevin's point seems to be that Adkins's views are on the fringe and outside of the mainstream, and that the GNMP should distance themselves from him and not give him a "platform", it would appear that it is actually Kevin's position on causation (as well as those commenting) who are the ones in the minority of what most Americans believe about causation and the WBTS. Why do professional and academic historians want to exclude and attempt to marginalize other points of view on perspective and analysis? What do they fear? Perhaps they're motivated by the fact that, not only is their view in the minority, they also "find themselves losing ground."

(Pew Research 2010)

Adkins opines that the issue of states' rights has not been settled because, if it were, "we wouldn't still be arguing about it today." Apparently, David Blight, the guru of many professional historians, has come to a similar conclusion, though from a politically different perspective:

Today, states’ rights claims are advanced by many governors and Republican-majority legislatures in the very language of “secession” and “nullification” made so infamous in antebellum America. . . The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost. (Source)

Read more here: http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/civil-war-150-past-present/#storylink=cpy

That sure sounds like Blight doesn't believe this issue is settled either. Logic would then dictate, and consistency demand, that Kevin and his readers would feel the same way about Professor Blight appearing on stage at the same event.

Of course, we know that's not the case. Could that be due to the fact that Blight takes the correct political stance and Adkins doesn't? Just asking. It would appear that some of these folks want to silence Adkins and shut him out from these types of events. 

Maybe what really upsets some professional historians is the fact that, despite decades of efforts to convince the American public that slavery was THE cause of the Civil War, more Americans than not have rejected that view. Seems like Adkins is more successful at communicating historical perspectives than are his critics.


ropelight said...

Kevin Levin firmly embraces the old Yankee blood libel: conflating slavery with secession. It's dead wrong, history proves it, but Levin will never acknowledge it, he can't, he's already all-in.

Looking down his nose helps assuage his guilt and it pays in Peoria.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Kevin is a disciple of David Blight. That's the focus of just about everything they write. Even acknowledging that, this issue with Adkins is pure hyperbole. But the more he writes, the stranger it gets. In one of Kevin's follow up comments he says: "What I am tired of is the talk about states’ rights and secession as not having been settled by the Civil War."

He actually believes that the WBTS settled states' rights issues? That's stunning.

Ralph Steel said...

So just curious, when the Southern Secession Commissioners tell us that slavery was the cause of secession who is that wrong history?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Ralph - I know you folks love to hang your hat on that. I assume you also accept the reason we went to war in Iraq was to get all those WMD's, right? Not sure who the question is for - who said slavery wasn't the cause for some? Before you make assumptions, my recommendation is for you to spend some time reading a couple of the articles under my Must Reads tab, particularly Clyde Wilson's piece, as well as Doug Harper's.

Beyond that, please stay on topic. I'm not going to spend time discussing the causes of the WBTS - we've done that here before. I've made my position clear.

ropelight said...

Anyone approaching David Blight's linked article, The Civil War at 150: The Past in the Present? expecting to read the work of a distinguished academic historian will be dismayed and disappointed.

The article is nothing less than the naked dirty work of a partisian political hack determined to equate the Old South's "slaveholding secessionists" with today's TEA Party activists, in other words, it's a smear job masquerading as insight into the 150th year commemoration.

Blight's prejudice is palpable, he writes, "Indeed, yesterday's secessionists and today's nullifiers have much in common." So, just who are these awful nullifiers? Why, they're TEA Party Patriots, that's who.

For the great crime of peacefully objecting to excessive taxation by an extravagantly wasteful federal government, the TEA Party gets smeared with Blight's broad propaganda brush. To Blight they're all just a noisy dangerous common pack of unrepentant, anti-government, slaveholding, secessionist nuffifiers.

He says that while the secessionists "acted in revolution to save a slaveholder's republic; the (TEA Party Nullifiers) seem determined to render modern federal government all but obsolete for any purpose but national defense."

Get that?

Blight smears, calls names, and significantly distorts TEA Party aims in order to confuse and inflame readers. He purposely misrepresent facts in service to a violently anti-American leftist political agenda.

The TEA Party message is simple: if, as the Founders intended, government can be limited to the enumerated powers spelled out in the Constitution there would be no need for an ever expanding federal bureaucracy ravenously clamoring for an ever larger chunk of your paycheck while at the same time seeking to usurp the cherished rights of citizens listed in the first 10 Amendments. That's the message David Blight doesn't want you to hear.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


"The article is nothing less than the naked dirty work of a partisian political hack determined to equate the Old South's "slaveholding secessionists" with today's TEA Party activists, in other words, it's a smear job masquerading as insight into the 150th year commemoration."

Precisely. Yet he is the guru to many Civil War historians. Bottom line, they use this perspective to bash modern day conservatives and libertarians under the guise of "objectivity" and analysis.

Thanks for the comment. Spot on.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

One Amazon reviewer of Race & Reunion puts it this way:

"The reason to read this book is to understand how many in the academic world always look for the worst in American society. In many ways it is not about the history of the reunion of the North and South after the Civil War. It is a deep seated view that America is permanently tainted by racism and other deep flaws of character. Unfortunately, many have taken this book as a "bible" of sorts to interpret the Civil War and the brave men both North and South who fought it and then tried to make America whole again."

That is the view of many CW historians. Just take a stroll through the academic CW blogosphere and you'll pick that up rather quickly. It's also why so many academic historians endorsed Barack Obama. He also thinks America is permanently tainted, which is why he wants to "fundamentally transform" America. Just connect the dots.

Anonymous said...

Surely it would be more fitting to have someone with a Union-affilication sing that song. Wouldn't it? A Confederate would never sing the National Anthem of the very country he seceeded from. It just doesn't make sense.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon - I'm not sure what you're talking about. Do you mean an ancestor?

"A Confederate would never sing the National Anthem of the very country he seceeded from."

That statement has no support in the historical record. While I'm sure there were some, many, mnay ex-Confederates became loyal Americans after the war.

But I would assume that you would also believe that only those with a "Confederate affiliation" should sing/speak on Southern battlefields, correct?

Thanks for the comment.

ropelight said...

This might be a difficult concept for brain-dead bigots to grasp but it's long past time for it to find full expression, and I'm pointing the finger straight at the likes of Blight and Levin, and their ilk.

Withdrawing from the Union and forming the Confederacy was an act of loyalty to America, it was the Northern aggressors who were guilty of turning their backs on the American system of Constitutional government and who illegally resorted to armed violence to enforce their illegal usurpations.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

While I believe that many Southerners felt exactly that way, I also believe there were Northerners who were every bit as patriotic but held a different perspective than those in the South for a whole host of reasons far beyond the scope of this blog post.

I've never claimed slavery was not central to the issues which led to war, but it's very misleading to suggest it was THE cause of the WBTS.

Regardless, the issue of the scope and reach of states' rights was not settled by the war and to suggest that is ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is to suggest anyone who believes that is "flirting with secession."

ropelight said...

Well said. You express reasoned tolerance in the face of such aggressively provocative intolerance. That's impressive.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, amazing isn't it? Those who constantly demand tolerance and "diversity" from others are, very often, quite intolerant and in lockstep themselves. 1984.