Opinion: A Confederate flag at the Capitol summons America’s demons

Over the past four years, many have warned the public about President Donald Trump’s blatant threat to democracy. Wednesday’s failed coup proved that MAGA, or Trumpism, is not over just because Trump lost the 2020 elections to Joe Biden. Deception is far from dead. Instead, it’s their new Lost Cause.

The Lost Cause, also known as the Confederate Lost Cause, is the most successful disinformation campaign in America. It is an a-historical theory that supports the erroneous idea that all white Southerners bravely fought for the Confederacy to save true American values (read: white supremacy). It is based on the misunderstanding that slavery, which was known as a special institution, was often benign and even welcomed by slaves.

This post-war mythology exploded throughout the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Civil War was not a 19th century war through popular cultural means such as the films Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, which claimed it was about protecting the rights of states against an aggressive North or federal government, not about the expansion of slavery and the promise of a new Southern uprising.

In Tuesday’s second round of elections in Georgia, the South actually rose to our historical level and chose two Democrats, who are stirring up the new lost cause, a dangerous misconception about electoral fraud that has been widely disseminated by social media algorithms that have been proven to spread misinformation faster than the facts, Russian robot farms and far-right media.

But the main culprit and beneficiary of this myth is Trump himself, who claimed even before the elections that he would be stolen by fraud, hacked-up voting machines and fraudulent ballot papers. Like the criminals of the Confederates’ Lost Cause, the supporters of the New Lost Cause claim to be patriotic defenders of the real or real (white) America.

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The setting is more reminiscent of the triumphs and difficulties of the historical period that gave rise to the Lost Cause: Rebuilding. Their distorted representations in popular culture, with their radiant beginnings of hope, progressive ideals and attempts at racial justice, have been unbearably replaced by an inexorable, cruel and deadly white reaction that has had and continues to have consequences for domestic terrorists.

On Wednesday, for the first time in American history, white supremacists treacherously raise the Confederate flag within the American Capitol, disrupting the peaceful transfer of American power and evoking confused memories of the civil war in our country.

Living on CNN, Washington, the former police chief said that the National Guard must take back the Capitol, a structure built by bonded workers, making it clear that the foundations of our nation’s legislature are under siege.

Reconstruction is more than just a scoring line

As historian Heather Cox Richardson said Thursday, the executive branch of our government tried to destroy the legislative branch yesterday. Perhaps Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the strongest supporters of Trump, acknowledges that he has finally spoken out against violent retribution against Trump. Referring to the 1876 elections, which essentially put an end to reconstruction, Graham was careful not to say that it was the wrong choice for those looking for a historical guide. As the white senator of the state that started the civil war, he has always distanced himself from the bloody violence and racist terror of his confederate and segregationist ancestors, unlike his reconstruction colleagues.

Senator Ted Cruz, who approves the third option, also listened to the 1876 Compromise, which calls on the Elections Office to investigate allegations of voter fraud, and asked Congress to establish a committee composed of House members, senators and Supreme Court judges to conduct a 10-day emergency investigation.

Like Graham and Cruz, Senator Dick Durbin compared the trumpeters’ objections to the results of the 2020 elections with the results of the 1876 elections. Mr Durbin stressed the disastrous consequences of an early end to reconstruction: It was the committee that killed the reconstruction that Jim Crow created… who rediscovered African-Americans, Durbin said. Referring to the 1876 compromise on modern voter repression, he accused Trump of inciting an attempted coup.

Representative Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat who linked that day’s events to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, tweeted that politicians who supported the coup added their names to the list along with Orval Faubus, George Wallace and Bull Connor. Favb, Wallace and Connor used the Confederate flag as a call to white supremacists to endorse the Lost Cause ideology and support Jim Crow’s segregation.

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While the rioters, incited by the president and with images of a white supremacist, climbed the Capitol, climbed the walls, planted homemade bombs and thrown off the balustrade, the photos and videos were both stunning and disgusting: The bright red Confederate and Nazi flags and matching MAGA hats are symmetrical with the sea of trump flags sold in street shops today, a twisted, raised wooden cross reminiscent of a Klan lynching party, and a sweater that says: Camp Auschwitz. The dividing line between slave separators and modern rebels could not be clearer: Both groups were willing to destroy the union, and both used violence to hijack their own racist fantasies about power and privileges that were beyond their control.

Scene – literally and figuratively – of the birth of a nation.

Many historians have feared the possibility of such a day, and some have warned about it for months, others for years. Trump even campaigned in the style of the white supremacist demagogues of the Jim Crow South, playing with hatred and resentment and using racism and xenophobia.

At the same time as the historic elections for Reverend Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff, who were to become the first black and Jewish senators representing Georgia respectively, white supremacists, armed with perfect hostage-taking equipment, carried out the first real coup by trying to set fire to the electoral college’s votes. Like their confederate predecessors, they angrily rejected the legitimate election results, vowed revenge and incited racist violence.

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The chaos and uncertainty caused by the attempted coup and their evil antics were certainly not unprecedented – the whole scene could have been taken from the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, in which white supremacists were shown. The first major film to be shown at the White House, the epic Dark Faces, riddled with misinformation and Lost Cause sensitivities, is based on the best-selling novel The Klan : A historical novel by the Ku Klux Klan.

Former President Woodrow Wilson, historian and architect of the federal racial segregation, would have considered the Nativity of a Nation as a kind of blitzkrieg history. In one of the most important scenes of this saga, filmed in 1871, the former Confederate slave keepers watched in horror from the Capitol Gallery – the site of the Reps. Jason Crow and Susan Wilde were strapped to the floor under their seats yesterday – watching the newly elected black members of the U.S. Congress and the first (fictional) black Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Just like the domestic terrorists who destroyed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office by shamelessly placing their feet on her desk with the American flag unfolded, the black members of Congress in Birth of a Nation (black-face-white actors) were ordered to remove not their shoes, but their feet from their desks.

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Black congressmen smuggled liquor into the Capitol. They ate fried chicken while making wild gestures in favor of interracial marriage. They waved openly with guns and knives, played games and harassed the white women in the stands. Just like in a silent movie, the title card on the screen explains everything: A defenseless white minority.

Lies from a defenseless white minority

A defenseless white minority.

This simple lie exposes much of America’s suffering and misery. The fear of the right-wing extremist and white supremacists of losing their status, their wealth and above all their political power in the face of a massive turnout of black voters has always been part of what has fuelled racist violence in this country, from riots to lynching and police violence.

It is no coincidence that the infamous scene of the Nativity of a Nation, which perverts and humiliates the black leadership, would take place in 1871, one of the most tumultuous years of the Reconstruction. Hiram Revels, the first black American Senator and a preacher like Warnock, held the post after only a year. The Union army generals formed the National Rifle Association and Congress approved the Ku Klux Klan Act, which prohibits white supremacists from participating in terrorist conspiracies. This law gave the president the power to suspend the habeas corpus order in areas vulnerable to local terrorism.

Despite that act and the formation of black militias and voting blocks throughout the south, white supremacist violence in the region continued unabated for ninety years, and that legacy still haunts us today. Slavery, the failure of Jim Crow, and rebuilding to prosecute treacherous Americans were materialized yesterday – in a cloud of gun smoke on Capitol Hill.

The task of peaceful unification is monumental, but it is imperative that America uphold the Constitution and prosecute those guilty of treason as best it can – for the stability of the nation and the pursuit of democracy. As the radical Republican MP Thaddeus Stevens rightly pointed out, just a few months after the bloody civil war, if we do not honour this great debt, now that we have the power, we will earn and achieve the fulfillment of history and all the centuries to come.

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