Ending A Tragedy Is Not Tragic In Itself

I thought I would post on this in the light of the tendency of Doug Wilson (who gets quoted a great deal on this blog) to get all misty-eyed and nostalgic about the Confederacy. There is a tendency to regard the Civil War as some kind of tragedy – either because one has Confederate sympathies or simply because it did involve a great loss of life. The reality is that for all its brutality the Civil War ended the ongoing horror of slavery, and ending something like that cannot really be considered a tragedy as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out:

“Twenty-two thousand people died in the¬†Revolutionary¬†War, and we celebrate that with hot dogs and hamburgers every year. I’m sure that while Jews feel fairly horrible that the Holocaust happened, very few of them consider the fighting it took in order to liberate the death camps, “tragic.” The Holocaust is tragic. Ending the Holocaust is not.”

In the same post Coates adds a couple money quotes like this one from the State of Mississippi’s declaration of independence from the United States:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

Make no mistake, the desire to preserve slavery as an economic system was at the heart of the reasons why the South chose to succeed from the Union. All the abstract stuff about states’ rights was nothing but justification for the South’s desire to preserve the ownership of other human beings. However reluctant Lincoln was to emancipate the slaves, however racist many Northerners were, they were not the ones who wanted to build an empire of slavery. Why is it though that the fans of the slave-owners tend to feel the most pride in this war? They lost and I think that history has shown that this was for the best.

To the extent that the South has remained one of the more faithfully Christian parts of the United States, I know that lots of Christians want to explain away or soft-pedal at best or celebrate at worst the legacy of the Confederacy, since many of them are culturally Southern. This makes about as much sense as anyone of European descent trying to do the same for the treatment of European Jews in the Middle Ages.