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Monday, December 5, 2016

Politically speaking, we live by caricature. Particularly in the age of satellite TV news and Internet fulmination, the temptation is to melodrama. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to read a recent article in the online magazine Salon arguing that “even though it’s a truism of American public discourse that the Civil War never ended, it’s also literally true.”

Never mind that author Andrew O’Hehir appears to be one of those overheated writers who use the adverb “literally” as an all-purpose intensifier meaning “figuratively.” Salon supposedly has editors. Elsewhere, O’Hehir concedes that the imagined conflict won’t “involve pitched battles in the meadows of Pennsylvania, or hundreds of thousands of dead.”

So it won’t be a war at all then. As a Yankee long resident in the South, maybe I should be grateful for that. O’Hehir also acknowledges that while today’s “fights over abortion and gays and God and guns have a profound moral dimension,” they “don’t quite have the world-historical weight of the slavery question.”

Um, not quite, no.

But then as O’Hehir also categorizes Michigan as a “border state” for the sin of having a Republican governor, it’s hard to know what Democrats there should do. I suppose fleeing across the border into Ontario would be an option.

Is it possible to publish anything more half-baked and foolish? Oh, absolutely. Here in Arkansas, we had more than our share of cartoon-think before the 2012 election. Three would-be Republican state legislators wrote manifestoes in favor of the old Confederacy.

One Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro delivered himself of a self-published book arguing that “the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise.”

Fellow GOP candidate Charles Fuqua of Batesville—like Jonesboro, a college town—self-produced an e-book entitled God’s Law: The Only Political Solution. In it, he not only called for expelling all Muslims from the United States, but returning to the Biblical practice of stoning disobedient children to death.

Not many stonings, Fuqua thought, would be necessary to restore sexual morality and good table manners among American youth.

Then there was Rep. Loy Mauch of Bismarck. An ardent secessionist, Mauch had written a series of letters to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette arguing that since Jesus never condemned slavery, it had Biblical sanction.

Mauch also condemned Abraham Lincoln as a “fake neurotic Northern war criminal,” frequently likened him to Hitler, and deemed the rebel flag “a symbol of Christian liberty vs. the new world order.”

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