I wish I had seen this one years ago, but some surfing pointed me to a production called “Confederate States of America”. It tells a story of what the world might be like if the Confederates (Rebels) had won the Civil War.
Now, of course, some part of it is civil rights macabre humor. And, of course, it isn’t exactly on the mark in terms of “alternate history”—very few alt history projects are. But there is a certain amount of wisdom in what’s being said.
There are some points that seem a bit of a stretch, and others that are brilliant:
1) In the alternate reality, President Lincoln tries to flee to Canada, but he’s caught at the border, along with Harriet Tubman. The Confederates hang Tubman, but they let Lincoln go to Canada in exile, where he lives to a ripe old age of 96.
Lincoln bemoans the supposed fact that he had not made the war about slavery, instead of Union. But practically, I’m not sure he didn’t make the war about slavery under the guise of making it about the Union. He couldn’t make a strong case by saying “we must defeat the Slave System”, but if he said it was about Rule of Law and South could not secede–well, everyone knew the reason they were seceding anyway.
In as much as the term “States’ Rights” was always a cover for slavery and Jim Crow, arguably “Union” and “Rule of Law” were the responses.
2) It’s not clear that Canada would have been wholesale accepting of any refugees from America. Very few black people escaping the South made their way to Canada. I think it’s only in recent history that Canada developed a reputation for being a liberal mecca. During the Second World War, the Prime Minister there wanted to expel Japanese-Canadians as a response to the aggression of the fascist Japanese military state.
3) Science fiction as a genre, it is said, says as much about the current state of affairs as it does present a fantasy world that doesn’t exist. Certainly a lot of Star Trek episodes were like that, and also Ray Bradbury’s work.
In that light, I don’t think enough has been commented on about the sheer brilliance of the several times the movie makes a comment about the dignity of people versus the unpleasant reality that unethical people create.
Two examples – one, in the commercial where they are selling “Confederate Family” insurance, they make a point of suggesting that the black gardener is “property”. However, in a larger sense, the moral is that some people seem to have no problem with treating other people like property. This is done by referring constantly to the “obligations” of the head of the household, and this line, “no matter what they call you . . . ”
If you have ever worked for a big corporation, you’ve seen this. Are you a person, or are you less than a person?
So making this point through the TV commercial was brilliant.
4) The other TV commercial that really stands out for its message was the Contrari (drug) one. This played on the pseudo-science of “draeptomania”–the alleged mental disease that caused slaves to want to flee. In the 21st century, as a result of this false science, the Confederates began to drug slaves with some powerful sedative.
That is the use of science for an evil end, to deny human dignity and create political “illnesses”, which the Soviets did brazenly but was also not unheard of in our own society. As you watch the commercial, you get the feeling that the scum and moral lowlifes behind such thinking must be having a chuckle among themselves. The people who tend to gravitate toward this unacceptable thinking in our world today, however, are no laughing matter.
5) The mockumentary makes other subtle points which are worth appreciating. In the beginning, talking about the Civil War, the Southerners argue that the blacks are their “property” and that they are entitled to their property. But at the end, the Southerner who is a commentator says that the Slave System is a burden that the Confederates were forced by circumstances to shoulder. Well, which is it?
In some ways, it mimics what the wealthy in America have been saying through the Republican Party for the last 30 years. Rather than appreciate their good fortune of being granted so much wealth within our system, they continuously bemoan any attempt to tax them at a justifiable rate. They claim to be the source of America’s bounty—yet it’s everybody else who does the work.
So, in this sense, I wonder if “CSA” is really just saying that America still is a slave society. Or that the South really did, in fact, win the Civil War. Like I’ve been saying lately the famous comment, “the North won the war, but the South won the peace.”