Friday, September 08, 2006
Waving the Bloody Shirt....
As some of you may know, I was raised in the South and during the time I grew up there was still a substantial resentment of the North (derisively referred to as "Yankees"), and, up until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, Republicans. It should be no surprise then that the term "Waving the Bloody Shirt" was much more well known and commonly used in the south than it was in the North because generations of southerners had resentments of post-Civil War Reconstruction bred into them so deeply that it became almost genetic.
The reason I'm devoting an entire post to the term is because it turns out that the term was a Republican adopted and utilized technique which they found very handy in pushing through punishing, unfair and downright MEAN legislation against the Southern States. Take a look a Wikipedia's definition:
Are you beginning to get the connection?
Every year, for the past four years, we Democrats stand by the sidelines and howl loudly about the Bush Administration "politicizing" 9/11. And we hate it when Bush uses 9/11 to justify everything from illegal wiretapping, to secret prisions to invading Iraq (and now possibly Iran or Syria or both). But we see that the technique is nothing new...it's been used before and the Republicans know it. They know how to pull out the "old playbook" and make it work again.
Take a look at this entry from the blog "Discrininations"
For those of you who are too young to remember Reconstruction and its aftermath, ?waving the bloody shirt? refers to the anti-Southern demagogy Northern Republicans would employ in the latter part of the 19th Century whenever it appeared the Democrats (the party of ?Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion?) were gaining. The ?bloody shirt? referred, of course, to the sacrifices of the Union in the Civil War.
A good example is this bit from Robert Ingersoll, a Union officer and post-war orator of some note:
Every man that denied Union prisoners even the worm-eaten crust of famine, and when some poor emaciated Union patriot, driven to insanity by famine, saw in an insane dream the face of his mother, and she beckoned him and he followed, hoping to press her lips once again against his fevered face, and when he stepped one step beyond the dead line the wretch that put the bullet through his loving, throbbing heart was and is a Democrat. Link here
Democrats, killed that poor, fevered Union Soldier just as, today, Democrats caused 9/11. (It was all Clinton's fault you know.)
Of course it does. It's the same old rhetoric trotted out in new clothes to fit the new era.
And it works.
It worked in the 1870's and it will work again today unless we counter it with our own, effective message. The trouble is that we, as Democrats, have yet to develop a message quite as effective as "The Bloody Shirt" and until we do, Bush and his media cronies will trott out the BRIGHT, SHINEY, 9/11 PONEY (thanks to Blogslut for the work...read her work here.) and it will work, in 2006, 2007 and maybe even 2008. We need the a message with the same emotional impact and the same harmonic resonance that will capture the public imagination.
Perhaps calling out Republicans publicly for "waving the bloody shirt" is a start....maybe it's the start of a new round of public discourse...