In short order America’s original sin of some four hundred years of slavery became condensed in the agrarian Southern states of the Union. Here men and their families at the top of the social pecking order could live well on vast plantations of sugarcane, tobacco and cotton, but only when multitudes of free labor, black slaves, were applied to the master’s system of production.
But slavery did not come without a cost, and that cost was a society riddled for centuries with violence, violence that flowed out of the conspiracy again the human spirit that was required to maintain the peculiar institution that was slavery. Those rulers at the top of the antebellum South, the planter class, might project an aura of high-class gentility, but the foundation of that communal elegance was hardly placid. Indeed, the meme of Southern hospitality was a thin veneer meant to paper over an ugly reality.
But not only was the Back labor force keep upon the job by the overseer’s whip, most poor Whites, meaning a majority of White folks that were far below the planter class’s standard of living, were treated little better than the Blacks toiling in the fields. Indeed, their status barely registered above the slaves. This infused within the typical poor White a violence born of repressed resentment. Having to kiss up to the planter class for survival drove exploited Whites to take out their loathing and fear upon often-helpless Blacks at every opportunity, especially following the American Civil War when Blacks were technically free.
Moreover, when civil war did threaten the institution of slavery, poor Whites volunteered in droves to fill the ranks of the tattered Rebel armies, not because they loved the plantation system per se, but rather because slavery gave them what little status they possessed. If the South lost the war they might be consider no better than a black man. Alas, humans will often times gladly kill to protect or gain status.
And so when the South did lose the American Civil War in the formal sense; and overt slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution; and many planter empires collapsed into the waiting arms of Yankee carpetbaggers; and Blacks temporarily gained political power in Dixie — Southern violence became a growth industry. By the dawn of the twentieth century, Black lynching had become a major White spectator sport.
There was, however, a sort of upside to all this Southern ingrained violence. During WWI and WWII America’s armed forces became filled with tough Rebel fighters that were only too glad to unleash there decades of conditioned violence on dirty Germans and sneaky Japs. By far some of America’s most effective last century warriors were feisty, White, latter day Rebels.
All this macho white hostility could not be contained to the South. Over the years veins of Southern hostility and violence have fanned out to the rest of the nation. It is these veins of hostility rooted in the old Confederacy of the South that mostly forms the rotten vegetation of Trump country. It is the underpinning of the KKK and White nationalism to which Trump gives a wink and nod. My people, says Trump, are tougher than those wimpy Democrats. So how can I possibly lose? The romance of the lost Rebel cause is seen by “law-abiding” Trump supporters to hopefully be rising up again to form another round of White dominance
Trump followers may think that he is leading them to the promised land, when, really, like he always has done with those who join with him, he will lead them over a cliff — and only he has a parachute.