A visitor to the United States from abroad, ignorant of recent American history, might find himself perplexed by the fact that the further the War Between the States recedes into the past, the larger it looms as the angry obsession of “progressive” Americans—the same people who insist at every turn that the country needs to “move on” from one thing or another (usually something that makes progressives uneasy). The latest round of progressive outrage sparked by the continued presence anywhere of monuments to the late Confederacy suggests that what progressives want is not the total absence of those monuments, or a formal apology (but from whom?) for slavery and the CSA, but a Second Surrender staged at the famous McLean House, perhaps with Attorney General Sessions taking the role of Lee and Loretta Lynch playing the part of Grant.
The progressive crusade to extend a war that concluded 152 years ago into the present (and, no doubt, the future) is probably less an exercise in reimagining and rewriting history to suit the left’s purposes than its tacit, implicit admission that the reality of 21st-century America is an insufficient Mordor to justify their dire indictments of it, an unworthy target on which to train their biggest ideological guns. In other words, progressives have, realistically speaking, no great encompassing Evil to oppose in their day as the Abolitionists of the antebellum period did, no monster to slay at the conclusion of a noble crusade. No imaginable microaggression is a satisfactory substitute for black chattel slavery, nor is the observation by the secretary of health and human services that poverty is (among other things) a state of mind. Though Dr. Carson did not think to mention the fact, poverty in America today is the mental state not just of the material poor, but the ideological poor as well. The urge to refight in the 21st century the war of 1861-65 is explained, first and foremost, by the ideological and political impoverishment of the American left today.