The differences between the North and South in 1861 must have been great indeed to have led to the destruction of half the country and a death toll that may have approached a million people (in a population of 30 million) if you include death by combat, disease, famine and massive economic dislocation, as well as Reconstruction. But in spite of the serious cultural divide and economic conflicts that separated the North and the South of that day, both peoples nonetheless shared the same basic morality. Most believed in the Christian, Trinitarian God and agreed on the origin of man, and from that basis there was general agreement on man’s purpose, on right and wrong, and on how society ought to be ordered. The ancient institution of slavery and the new industrial order notwithstanding.
The great Left-Right divide of today does not have that common ground as the two sides now agree on nothing whatsoever. We all speak English but we hardly agree on what words mean anymore, much less on the origin of man, his purpose, his nature, or how he ought to organise himself. The divide that separates us in America today has grown, in living memory, from a great crack to a yawning chasm.
I’ll join any critique of the Northern soldiers who burnt Dixie to the ground and killed us by the tens of thousands, but there are a few things that you cannot say about them. Gay marriage never crossed their minds. Neither were they championing abortion rights, no-fault divorce, birth out of wedlock, or just hedonism generally.
Yet in the intervening years, the fabric of society has been so radically altered that now a notion as irrational and disturbing as homosexual marriage can enter the mainstream dialogue and even be sanctioned by law. How did it come to this? A simple but accurate answer is that in 1865 New England won that cataclysmic struggle and has set the pace ever since. Why else do Southerners sing about jingle bells and sleigh rides over Christmas, or watch the big ball drop in the Big Apple on New Year’s Eve, or accept the founding of Plymouth as the founding myth of the nation?
After 1865 the history of New England became the history of the reborn unitary nation-state. The worldview of New England rose to prominence. Whatever trends were dominant in New England prior to the war, be they economic, political or philosophical, came to dominate the whole country once the massive obstacle that was the South had been broken down. New England would interpret the Constitution, write the history, and lead in every way. New England has been the font of history from the post-war Gilded Age of the Robber Barons to the socialist victories of the 1930s to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. The South has been at best an obstacle or pawn. A big obstacle or pawn albeit.
How the cultural descendants of the Pilgrim zealots have morphed over time into the modern Left is a good question, but it cannot be denied that they have, and I contend that two such radically opposed worldviews as we have today between them and regular Americans cannot be reconciled. One looks backwards and outward for guidance and inspiration; the other looks forward and inward. One accepts the bounds of human nature and would tame it; the other would redefine human nature and free it. One is mystical and submissive; the other is materialist, sensual and aggressive. One is God-centric; the other man-centric.
After 1865, Northerners and Southerners were able to mend fences because not all Northerners were New Englanders, and the New Englanders themselves were not yet collectively so far down the path of the new Enlightenment worldview. But they and their cultural descendants are pretty far down the path now and, quite frankly, off the reservation. So far off that modern Progressives are declaring that we, man (aka god), may redefine marriage to include the union of two men. That’s hubris! Might as well redefine the colour red or the direction of up.
That wouldn’t be the end of the world for the South because there is a lot of nonsense in the world that we can safely ignore. The problem is that we are institutionally bound by mighty chains to the densely populated Liberal parts of the country, and thus are being dragged down the path with them. The stakes could not be higher as Progressivism seeks nothing less than the radical transformation not just of America, but of humanity itself.
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