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May 27 2018

William Tecumseh Sherman

This is what is meant by a “Shermanesque Statement”.

You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop.

You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better. I repeat then that, by the original compact of government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began the war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or tittle of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands and thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success.

War is the remedy our enemies have chosen. Other simple remedies were within their choice. You know it and they know it, but they wanted war, and I say let us give them all they want; not a word of argument, not a sign of let up, no cave in till we are whipped or they are.

If they want eternal war, well and good; we accept the issue, and will dispossess them and put our friends in their place. I know thousands and millions of good people who at simple notice would come to North Alabama and accept the elegant houses and plantations there. If the people of Huntsville think different, let them persist in war three years longer, and then they will not be consulted. Three years ago by a little reflection and patience they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late.

All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can take them, and rightfully, too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence.

War is hell.

Do we really need to ‘understand’ Trump supporters?
By Leonard Pitts Jr., Hiami Herald
May 6, 2018

(Rose) is a nice lady who wrote me a nice email in which she spoke about the need to try to understand Donald Trump’s supporters. As Rose put it, “We need to not close ourselves off to how the other side thinks.”

It’s a sentiment I hear a lot from progressives, and it bespeaks a great generosity of spirit.

But I couldn’t disagree more.

Don’t get me wrong. Thinking people will always try to see past their own ideological blind spots, to put themselves into the shoes of those they disagree with. That’s an admirable trait. In normal times it’s a trait I would applaud with enthusiasm.

But these are not normal times. Indeed, sometimes, I wonder if we appreciate just how abnormal — how fraught with danger — they really are. Under Trump, American laws, news media and mores are under assault, to say nothing of American democracy itself.

And I’m sorry, but I don’t think “understanding” Trump followers will ameliorate — or even address — any of that. Besides which, is there really so much left to “understand”?

Not from where I sit. Long before Trump even existed as a political force, many of us noted with alarm the rise of a backlash among right-wingers deeply angry and profoundly terrified by the writing on the demographic wall. Said writing foretold — and for that matter, still foretells — the declining preeminence of white, Christian America. As several studies now show, a sense of alarmed displacement among white, Christian America is the soil from which the weed of Trumpism grew.

The idea that we must “understand” those folks carries with it an implicit suggestion that in so doing, we might find some ground for compromise. It would be a great idea in normal times. But again, these times are not normal.

No compromise is possible here for a simple reason Trump followers seem to understand better than the rest of us: You can’t compromise with demography, can’t order numbers to stop being what they are and saying what they say about the coming tide of change. But what you can do is seize the levers of power and change the rules of the game in hopes of blunting the force of that tide. That — again, look at the studies — is what Trump supporters elected him to do.

So while, it is admirable to think “understanding” can fix this country, it is also naive. Progressives should ask themselves: When’s the last time you heard any Trump supporters talking about the need to understand you? You haven’t — and that ought to tell you something.

Here’s the thing: The rest of us have the moral high ground here. We see the same demographic writing on the wall that Trump followers see, but where it makes them angry and fearful, it leaves us energized. Many of us are excited to see the nation that will arise from this cauldron of change.

That’s because the idea of change doesn’t threaten us. It will challenge us, yes, but we’re ready for that. We know that this is a big country, big enough for many different kinds of people, many different ways of life. We know what it means to live and let live. And we know that welcoming the stranger, caring for the stranger, is simply what you do as a human being.

I submit that those are core American virtues. And that now would be an excellent time for progressives to exhibit a little courage in their defense. Trump followers see a nation in demographic peril, so they seek a nation where those who frighten them can be regulated into irrelevance. There’s no big mystery about that. There never has been.

So no, they don’t really need to be understood. What they need to be is defeated.

Trump supporters speak
By Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald
May 26, 2018

Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. … Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

“(America) has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

This column is presented as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in this space. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how “disappointed” they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.

I’m sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.

It’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was borne out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down.

I have, however, heard from hundreds like “Matthew,” who worries about “immigrants” and “Gerald,” who thinks people of color have an “alliance” against him. Such people validate the verdict of a growing body of scholarship that says, in the words of a new study by University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley, “The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …”

Look, I get it. That’s a hard pill for those progressives who have kin or friends among Trump supporters. We love who we love, even when they — or we — are small, unkind or disappointing. That’s what family is about. We love who we love, and let no one make you feel compelled to apologize for that.

But at the same time, let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of “A Trumper” who says Trump was needed to “get things back in order” after the “terrible job” done by President Obama?

He wrote: “We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re-elect Trump.”

I have two words for those progressives who think it’s possible to “reason” with that:

You first.