Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Englishman in Kansas

A most extraordinary text, and this only in the editor's foreward, discussing the nature of the South and its peculiar institution:

I have seen a girl, twelve years old, in a district where, in ten miles, the slave population was fifty to one of the free, stop an old man on the public road, demand to know where he was going, and by what authority, order him to face about and return to his plantation; and enforce her command with turbulent anger, when he hesitated, by threatening that she would him well whipped if he did not instantly obey. The man quailed like a spaniel, and she instantly resumed the manner of a lovely child with me, no more apprehending that she had acted unbecomingly than that her character had been influence by the slave's submission to her caprice of supremacy; no more conscious that she had increased the security of her life by strengthening the habit of the slave to the master race, than is the sleeping seaman that he tightens his clutch of the rigging as the ship meets each new billow.

I do not think I could write such an incident in my fiction, and get away with it. No one would credit it.

The foreward is about the effect the South's reliance upon instant and savage violence has upon its people. living as they did in a permanent "state of siege." I cannot help but see the echo of "a good man with a gun," and this sense that everyone, everywhere must be always armed and prepared to engage the enemy, whether they be thugs, terrorists, or the walking dead.

And this phrase, from later on: "an idolatrous estimate of the virtue of physical courage." Does anything better describe "a good man with a gun?"

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