Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why is the ‘Gunfighter Nation’ not the ‘Christian Nation’?

Neither “Jesus” nor “Christianity” appears in the index to Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America. On the contrary, the word “vigilantism” has 30 mentions in the book. “Lynchings” has 10 references and “violence” a whopping 67. The subject of the book is the influence of the frontier myth on popular culture: dime novels, stage melodramas, Wild West shows, movies, paperbacks and TV miniseries (p. 25 1998 U. of Oklahoma Press ed). My question  is why does violence figure so strongly in America’s pop culture of “The Western Frontier” and Christianity, apparently, not at all? Slotkin’s “Gunfighter Nation” is the definitive history of the impact of the frontier on American pop culture. To be fair, there is absolutely no reference to “suicide” in his book.


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God Given Right to Own a Gun?

Has anyone seen a problem with the claim of a “God-given right to own a gun”? First of all, which God? Yahweh? Jesus? Allah? Now I can imagine a very pissed-off Yahweh letting loose with a giant Bushmaster, spraying down the masses of Sodom and Gomorrah. And lest we become too smug, I can see him using the same weapon against us individual sinners who break his Covenant. But to allow human beings to control a weapon with such God-like powers? No way would he give that away. And then there’s Jesus and his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the little children but mow ’em down like cornstalks with your AK-15!” Now if the Holy Ghost is the God you’re talking about, I get it. I understand. Because such weapons make holey ghosts of human beings, put lots and lots and lots of holes in them. Now that makes sense, doesn’t it?

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What if Abraham Lincoln Had Never Been Assassinated?

What if Abraham Lincoln Had Never Been Assassinated?

Historians are not supposed to play the “what if?” game. But we can always wonder! Given the above hypothetical, I propose that Reconstruction would have turned out better than it did. First off, Lincoln was a sublime politician. If anyone could have healed the wounds of war, it would have been him. In his second inaugural address he said those famous words regarding the Confederates, “with malice towards none, with charity for all.” Soon after his speech he was assassinated and Andrew Johnson– a man overflowing with malice for Southern aristocrats and their freed slaves–took over.

Johnson hated Southern plantation owners because he was jealous of their success. As a Southerner himself, he had not fared very well.  But Johnson hated one group even more, free Blacks. With his desire for punitive vengeance against the South, his transparent racism and his refusal to cooperate with the Republican reformers in Congress, the frustrated Representatives impeached him. He escaped conviction by one vote in the Senate.

Reconstruction proved a disaster. The Southern “Redemption” movement took over and the clock was turned back.  The promise of freedom vaporized as former slaves suffered the expansion of vagrancy laws and widespread KKK terror the federal government could not stop.  Without being given land of their own, freed slaves faced another kind of bondage, sharecropping.  But it got worse, much worse.  We know from recent research, the vagrancy laws themselves put many free Blacks into a horrible system of “neoslavery.”*  To pay off their fines for various forms of “vagrancy,” they were forced to labor in the most hazardous and unhealthy mines and factories of   corporations like U.S. Steel.  In these Southern ‘ death camps’ they died by the hundreds and were buried out back in shallow, mass graves. *   By 1877 Reconstruction was officially over and an abject failure, in this humble historian’s opinion.

If Lincoln had lived, significant parts of this tragic story would have turned out otherwise.

“The Untold Story of Post-Civil War Neoslavery”

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