Farewell Traitors; Hello Liberty et al
May 25, 2022 7:39 AM   Subscribe

 
A symbolic act, to be sure, but an important symbolic act at the moment, and the message could not be clearer.
posted by mhoye at 7:44 AM on May 25 [9 favorites]


I love these sorts of posts, a literal rabbit hole of past American heroes. We need a FPP on just Mary Edwards Walker. Wow, people like that make me feel both simultaneously awesome to be a human being and also that I am wasting my time on planet earf.

Badassery in tails and top hat. Love it.
posted by discardme at 7:44 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


This is good but not naming army bases after traitors seems like a such a low bar to clear.
posted by octothorpe at 7:58 AM on May 25 [24 favorites]


Oh, one never knows. It might pass, but there will be much wailing, gnashing teeth, and rending of garments from the "True 'Murken Patriots" prior.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:00 AM on May 25


The low bar may be one angstrom off the ground, and some will manage to scrape under it.
posted by scolbath at 8:10 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


My son completed basic Training at Ft. Benning; I adopted a dog at the shelter there (Columbus, GA) and called him Benning, shortened to Ben when I learned the facts.

This is past due and I'm so happy they're finally renaming these bases.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]


This is an excellent step and I fully on board with it. While it may not happen right now, as the current political climate can be called "batshit insane with high chance of more crazy," I remain hopeful that it'll happen.

also that I am wasting my time on planet earf

Apologies for being off topic, but please do not get this typo corrected, it's just perfect and very Mefi!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:18 AM on May 25


In addition to not naming military bases after traitors, there should be a base named for George Henry Thomas, who earned the badass nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga" for his role preventing a major disaster at the Battle of Chickamauga.

Like Lee, Thomas was a Virginian who fought in the Mexican-American War and was still in the army at the beginning of the Civil War. Unlike Lee, Thomas kept true to his oath of office. (Fort Thomas, Kentucky, is named after him, but it's not a fort any more.)

Also, the largest base near Atlanta should be named Fort Sherman, and I renew my longstanding suggestion that Fort Bragg be renamed after Billy Bragg.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:26 AM on May 25 [17 favorites]


Instead of zeroing in on the "traitor" moniker, why not be explicit about their deepest misdeed: they were zealous defenders of slavery. The truth is that in the bigger picture, 'betraying' or 'being loyal' to the United States has in and of itself little correspondence to right and wrong.
posted by dusty potato at 9:27 AM on May 25 [8 favorites]


The truth is that in the bigger picture, 'betraying' or 'being loyal' to the United States has in and of itself little correspondence to right and wrong.

I disagree, if only in this specific instance. The naming of a government military facility within this specific context after traitors is a far worse breach of military honor than the breach of basic human honor of them being slavers. Nothing should be named after slavers. Military forts and other facilities especially shouldn't be named after traitors, whatever cause they served.
posted by tclark at 9:39 AM on May 25 [16 favorites]


Instead of zeroing in on the "traitor" moniker, why not be explicit about their deepest misdeed: they were zealous defenders of slavery. The truth is that in the bigger picture, 'betraying' or 'being loyal' to the United States has in and of itself little correspondence to right and wrong.

I was actually discussing this specific issue with someone over the weekend, expressing the thought that while I didn't want anything named after these baddies, a military base of the victorious side of the war in question seemed like the last place which ought to be named after them. Being a slave owner is one reason not to name something after someone; being a slave owner and being a traitor for the purpose of slavery are two reasons not to do it in this particular case.
I definitely would like more pointing out of why they were committing treason, though, as you say.
posted by Whale Oil at 9:58 AM on May 25


This is good but not naming army bases after traitors seems like a such a low bar to clear.

Well, we named our capital after one...
posted by pwnguin at 10:00 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


In my opinion, casting slavery defenders primarily through the lens of "betrayal" has strong revisionist undertones and offers a convenient framework to absolve the United States from its role in a genocide of African and African-American people. From 1776 to 1863, chattel slavery was law in the United States, and during that time it was those working to free enslaved humans from their legal 'owners' who were "traitors" against the governmental order.
posted by dusty potato at 10:06 AM on May 25 [8 favorites]


In my opinion, casting slavery defenders primarily through the lens of "betrayal" has strong revisionist undertones and offers a convenient framework to absolve the United States from its role in a genocide of African and African-American people. From 1776 to 1863, chattel slavery was law in the United States, and during that time it was those working to free enslaved humans from their legal 'owners' who were "traitors" against the governmental order.

I don't disagree with what I take to be your overall point but I think it's possible in some contexts to at least mention the treason thing in advancement of a viewpoint in sympathy with yours. If someone thinks the only reason to dislike the CSA is because of treason, I would definitely disagree strongly with that person.
posted by Whale Oil at 10:25 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


It must have been fun serving on that committee!

Fort Liberty sounds dopey though. I would have gone with Fort Bradley (as in Omar Bradley).
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:25 AM on May 25


Really, we should either number them or name them for a geographical and functional name: e. g., Northwest Georgia army base.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 10:32 AM on May 25 [6 favorites]


Perhaps they should be named after arms manufacturers and contractors. "They're payin' for it — you eat it!"
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:40 AM on May 25


Bee'sWing: Fort Liberty sounds dopey though.

ISWYDT, Disney-wise.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:56 AM on May 25


Well, it's a Mickey Mouse name.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:18 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]


I don't think we want a military that thinks it independently can decide right and wrong, instead of the elected civilian government.
posted by meowzilla at 11:28 AM on May 25


The commission for changing the names was set up by Congress, which needs to approve the changes.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:33 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]


I'm still trying to reconcile that there are a number of bases named after Confederates, but none named after Dwight D. Eisenhower.
posted by briank at 11:40 AM on May 25 [11 favorites]


Meh, just a loggie at heart.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:43 AM on May 25


They should name a Navy base after Robert Smalls.
posted by suelac at 11:44 AM on May 25 [12 favorites]


From 1776 to 1863, chattel slavery was law in the United States, and during that time it was those working to free enslaved humans from their legal 'owners' who were "traitors" against the governmental order.

That defines "treason" so broadly that you might as well call it treason to go to a city council meeting and ask for a stop sign at the end of your block. Advocating for a change in the law is not treason. Civil disobedience of a bad law is not treason. Harboring fugitives is not treason.

Treason is taking up arms against your own government, and not just for a particular cause or action, but to overthrow the entire thing. That's what Lee and Benning and Bragg and Gordon and Hill and Hood and Lee and Pickett and Polk and Rucker did, and you're goddamn right I said Lee twice, because fuck him again.

Now, me, personally, the person who wrote the title of this FPP, I refer to them in this context as "traitors" rather than "slavers" or "slavery defenders" because there's always someone (not here, so far, fortunately) who will come in with an "Aaactuallyyy" about how one of them once wrote "I am the slightest bit personally uncertain about the institution of slavery" in the margins of a book somewhere or Only X percent of Southerners even had slaves and just generally try to drag the whole conversation down. But no one can deny that they were traitors. They took up arms against the duly elected government of the United States of America -- most of them in direct contravention of an oath they had taken to defend said government against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They did treason. They were traitors, and not in a way that requires scare quotes.

I don't use it to absolve anyone of their parts in the American slave regime prior to 1865, nor of the version of it that has existed since under the auspices of the carceral state. My glee at pissing on the metaphorical graves of these nine men doesn't mean I think they're the only nine evil bastards to have ever lived. They're just the ones I get a chance to piss on today.
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on May 25 [21 favorites]


I have a son who was stationed at Benning. Was in Columbus not too many months ago. I asked him yesterday about the suggested change. He said call it Ft Moore or whatever they want meaning he supports the change.

Hal Moore and his wife Julia Moore are very deserving. (pdf) The movie based on the book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young was partially filmed there. My son took me down the streets where Julia Moore took it upon herself to be the one who informed the families of soldiers killed in Vietnam rather than the telegrams handed to them by a taxi driver. Hal Moore lead by example. It may now be a cliché, but he was the first one on the battle field and the last one to leave.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:47 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]


From 1776 to 1863, chattel slavery was law in the United States

In fact, some abolitionists hated the American flag and the Constitution because they represented slavery during that time. On July 4, 1854, William Lloyd Garrison publicly burned a copy of the Constitution, calling it "a Covenant with Death, an Agreement with Hell." There was a 20-star "Abolitionist Flag" version of the American flag that left off the stars (and even some stripes) of slaveholding states.

The naming of a government military facility within this specific context after traitors is a far worse breach of military honor than the breach of basic human honor of them being slavers.

Many Confederate officers, and possibly most or all of the people these places are named after, were or had been officers in the United States Army, and violated their oath of office (in effect 1830-1862):
I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:54 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]




Fort Liberty sounds dopey though.

It does sound like the base in second-tier nineties action movie, or maybe a video game.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:13 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]


From an outsider's point of view I do find it odd to have bases named after people—I'm pretty sure ours are just named after places or functions. Well except for the Navy's which have some extremely great names.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:43 PM on May 25


Re: Fort Liberty

I was in a VA facility at one point, though only briefly. It had 2 towers: Freedom and Liberty. My response at the time was "Oh, for fuck's sake." Going down that naming road seems like an excellent opportunity for synonym-palooza, and lots of confusion.
posted by DebetEsse at 9:30 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Previouslyer.
posted by cidrab at 10:04 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


Instead of zeroing in on the "traitor" moniker, why not be explicit about their deepest misdeed: they were zealous defenders of slavery.

Un-fun fact: Slavery continued in non-Confederate Delaware and Kentucky until December 1865 (13th Amendment) - two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
posted by BWA at 4:50 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Forty McFortface?
posted by DreamerFi at 7:04 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Previouslyer.

posted by cidrab



Holy cow, but that 2013 thread was a steaming pile of Southern apologia. I’m glad that we seem to have moved on a bit from there, and that re-naming these bases is moving forward, along with re-naming geographical features that offensive to First Nations peoples, and removing statues of Southern traitors/slaveholders from city squares.

Noting, too, that treason has a specific Constitutional definition, and what Lee, et al. did does meet the definition. regardless of their other intentions. And that it’s totally unnecessary to choose whether to hate them for their slaveholding or their treason, since they very clearly were engaged in an enterprise that supported both.

Meanwhile, i, too, am stunned that we don’t already have a base named after Eisenhower.
posted by darkstar at 12:24 PM on May 26


Holy cow, but that 2013 thread was a steaming pile of Southern apologia.

Wow, just reading through that now and there's some stunningly bad takes and serious rewriting of history in there.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 AM on May 28


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