It is such a difficult choice for birthdays today. Last year I wrote about Allen Ginsberg. It’s Memphis Minnie’s birthday, but I’m planning to write about Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley later today. I was seriously considering Chuck Barris who is 85 today. He is such a genius and yet also responsible for so much cultural decay. Then he wrote a really interesting “unauthorized” autobiography in which he added a second life as a CIA assassin, that for some reason, otherwise serious people insist upon pointing out is not true. And then he wrote a very candid book about his troubled daughter who died over an overdose at 36. He is a really interesting man. But I said no to all these fine people and went with a traitor.
On this day in 1808, the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis was born. I am not a vindictive man. Slavery and the Civil War are two great tragedies of our history. But he was a traitor to his country. Even if you accept that the government trying to take away what he considered property (which were even at the time widely considered human beings), and that this indicated that the government had become tyrannical, the government was in fact not taking away his “property” and his treasonous acts were a totally unjustified preemptive strike.
Here’s something you may not know. Today, seven different states celebrate the traitor Davis’ birthday: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. These people are celebrating a traitor. They seem to have forgotten that they are part of the United States of America, not the Confederate States of America, which has not existed for a century and a half. What’s more, in addition to everything else, his mismanagement of the Confederate States caused the starvation of many people he was supposedly serving. So even if you look back fondly on the Civil War as the “war of northern aggression,” he was no hero of the people.
By the start of the Civil War, he owned 113 slaves. And while in the Senate (before becoming a traitor), he was an outspoken advocate for slavery in the US Senate. Even after the Civil War, he never changed his views, although he was quiet publicly—probably because he was afraid of being thrown back in jail. And his vision of the new south was very much what it became: segregation where whites could do just about anything they wanted to blacks, along with prison work camps for blacks that were just slavery by another name.
Most of all, after the Civil War and Davis’ two years in jail—far less than many today get for minor drug “crimes”—he went on to have a very good life filled with acclaim and money. And he lived to be an old man: 81 years. Rich white men can never be allowed to suffer in this country. They are the “right” kind of people. All that silliness about the Civil War and all the death and destruction it caused, well anyone could have made that mistake. Even at the very end, Davis thought the move was constitutional. So he didn’t even have to live with the thought that just maybe he was wrong.
Happy birthday traitor Jefferson Davis!