One can easily draw a line between slavery, the Confederacy, the antebellum Southern oligarchy and the organized “open up the economy” protesters who are spreading COVID-19.
After all, contrary to general perception, only about 7 % of Southern families owned slaves. Most Southern white males were indentured servants, tradesmen, poor sharecroppers, barely eking out a living, or perhaps a little more well-off as store owners or involved in the slave trade.
The oligarchy was part of a Southern hierarchy, built upon a Biblical moral order, according to Civil War Talk:
Churches were the center of social and intellectual life in the south. That was where people congregated, where they learned about the world and their place in it, and where they received moral guidance. The clergy comprised the community’s cultural leaders and educators and carried tremendous influence with slaveholders and non-slaveholders alike. What were Southern pastors, preachers, and religious leaders telling their flock?
Southern clergy defended the morality of slavery through an elaborate scriptural defense built on the infallibility of the Bible, which they held up as the universal and objective standard for moral issues. Religious messages from the pulpit and from a growing religious press accounted in large part for the extreme, uncompromising, ideological atmosphere of the time.
Christianity was the pillar that justified slavery, an oligarchy and a “moral order” in which poorer whites accepted their role in the social and economic hierarchy, part of what bolstered their support of an economic system that concentrated wealth (remember that slaves represented the biggest equity value in the South).
In a Washington Monthly 2018 review of a book “From Oligarchy to Republicanism” by political scientist Forrest Nabors, it states “that the problem of plutocracy and the fate of the Confederacy were always deeply intertwined,” according to Nabors. It goes on to cite the author’s chronicling of “the ascendency of oligarchy in the South”:
By oligarchy, Nabors means not merely inequality, but, rather, a system in which a rich minority uses its control over governmental institutions to transform wealth into rank, giving them ironclad control over the levers of political power, the most lucrative economic resources (slaves and land), and even the cultural conventions that justified these special privileges. Southern oligarchs were, of course, slaveholders. Yet for Nabors, the essential fact is that they used their wealth to entrench themselves in power at the expense of both African Americans and the white majority.
Already, we are seeing three parallels to the oligarchical backed Coronavirus shelter-in-place protests - the role of Christianity and Jesus in believing that some protesters are protected from the virus and acceptance of an authoritarian “Christian” order, which includes Trump; the presence of the interests of the oligarchy in sending workers back to fuel the economy, just as slaves were treated as sub-human commodities; and the lack of concern for minorities who are disproportionate victims of COVID-19.
The need for white racists to look down on Blacks, in particular, goes back to how the white oligarchy at times treated them with disdain and abuse.
It is no coincidence that Trump is so interested in wanting to allow church services to resume again. As for the white right-wing protester disdain for the scientifically false belief that the Coronavirus is an “urban problem of infection and death (i.e. mostly infects people of color),” the need for white racists to look down on Blacks, in particular, goes back to how the white oligarchy at times treated them with disdain and abuse.
Indeed, a 2017 History News Network article by Robin Lindley states:
While the Southern abolitionist Hinton Helper abhorred the cruel institution of slavery, he was also appalled by the condition of poor whites in the South of the 1850s who he saw as suffering a “second degree of slavery” under the dominance of the slave-holding ruling class. Wealthy slaveholders brutally enforced the enslavement of blacks while repressing and degrading poor whites who they saw as disaffected pariahs that could upend the rigid hierarchy of the rich white slave-owning class.
A quotation from the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning” vividly illustrates the essence of racism, as exemplified by Trump. The remark was made by an FBI Agent played by Gene Hackman caught up in investigating the white violence during the Civil Rights movement. Raised in the South, the character explains his father’s racism with a blunt anecdote:
You know, when I was a little boy...there was an old Negro farmer lived down the road from us, name of Monroe. And he was.…Well, I guess he was just a little luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. That was a big deal around that town. My daddy hated that mule. His friends kidded him that they saw Monroe ploughin' with his new mule...and Monroe was gonna rent another field now that he had a mule.
One morning that mule just showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that there was never any mention about that mule around my daddy. One time we were drivin' past Monroe's place and we saw it was empty. He'd just packed up and left, I guess. Gone up North or somethin'.
I looked over at my daddy's face...and I knew he'd done it. And he saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and he said..."If you ain't better than a nigger, son, who are you better than?"
As columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote in The Miami Herald, “No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Trump supporters fear a black and brown America.”
Yes, these dangerous protests have their share of militia members, libertarians and InfoWars conspiracists among the crowds. But in their heart, like the Tea Party rallies, they are about a fear that the US may be on the verge of a governmental shift to whites being in the minority — with a boost and prodding from the oligarchs.
Urged on by Fox News, fringe Facebook pages, and newly formed online sites, these groups are part of a diversionary tactic to shift responsibility for the unnecessary pandemic carnage from Trump to claims of infringements on liberty, economic restraints and freedom of movement, but it all, as with the Tea Party, is part of a movement to sustain white power in the US.
What’s more, one can speculate that the oligarchs are most intent on getting low-wage workers back into the workforce making money off their backs, regardless of health risks.
Mike Lofgren wrote a revealing April 21 commentary in Common Dreams, whose headline reveals why protesters are useful tools that benefit the wealthy elites, “Protests against COVID-19 restrictions, like the Tea Party protests, are corporate fronts.” Specifically, Lofgren pins the blame on oligarchical financing of these propaganda front groups, the:
mainstay of AstroTurf movements inspired by the GOP and funded by corporate moguls. These plutocrats operate on the principle attributed to 19th century robber baron Jay Gould: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half…..”
In other comparable circumstances, endangering human life (such as blocking hospital entrances and endangering the health of innocent passersby) in order politically to coerce the government could be treated as an act of terrorism under the U.S. Code and prosecuted accordingly, particularly as the country is under a national emergency. Koch or DeVos could be prosecuted under applicable terrorist funding prohibitions in the Patriot Act…
Republican street theater, maybe even (or perhaps especially) when it threatens public safety or human decency, works like catnip to the mainstream media, who invariably trot out their prefabricated clichés about "economic anxiety."
The “economic anxiety” that backs these protests is being felt by the oligarchs. Many of the organizations funded by the oligarchs are behind this “street theater” to try and give Trump some diversionary shade. As an April 18 Guardian article is headlined, “Thousands of Americans backed by right-wing donors gear up for protests.”
The relationship between oligarchs of the Confederacy and Trumpian oligarchs of 2020 (seeking more tax cuts and profiting off of the COVID-19 workforce being exposed to and dying from unsafe enforced work) should not be lost.
Indeed, FreedomWorks, with funding from a number of oligarchs and mega-corporations, tweeted a photo of one protest moment that, as someone noted, appeared to be a picture from Zombieland:
Meanwhile Coronavirus outbreaks recently have continued. They include more than 600 workers (and 135 or more associated infections) at a Smithfield hog processing plant in South Dakota and 230 call center workers at Charter cable. Thus far, seven infections relate to the GOP “blood on their hands” enforced in-person Wisconsin Primary. Fifteen deaths in the airline industry in nine days are linked to Coronavirus, even though airlines are flying at around only 10% compared to a year earlier. Furthermore, Kentucky reported the highest infection increase after a week of protests to "reopen" the state.
I detail more “essential worker” infections in my April 9 Editor’s Commentary, “If Trump "Opens Up the Economy" on May 1, It Will Close Again by May 15 Due to Reignited COVID-19 Infectious Spread,” which is already outdated by more infection clusters.
As in the Confederacy when slaves and white poor were fodder for the oligarchy reaping in fortunes, today’s oligarchy is using white grievance protesters to ensure that disposable lives will return to maximizing profits for the plutocracy.
If you are in any doubt about the intentions of the super-wealthy backing “suicide” protests, consider their disregard for those who are not wealthy in the intent to re-open the South Dakota hog processing plant, now linked to nearly 900 cases, with the blessings of the CDC and, needless to say, the Trump administration.
How expendable are we to the oligarchs of 2020? Just note that “Smithfield foods blames immigrant workforce for Coronavirus outbreak.” We are just fuel to burn for the oligarchy, just as slaves and many poor whites were in the Confederacy.
And businesses are seeking liability if workers are infected in the workplace, which means people are being forced to their eventual deaths or have no income — and no recourse in the courts if infected in an unsafe workplace, were Congress to make companies immune from liability.