Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ideology and Principles

In my post concerning America as an Empire I referenced a post on Southern Appeal. At the end of the post I mused that I did not really understand what it meant to be a Southern Federalist. Freddie, from Southern Appeal posted me a comment pointing me to information that might alleviate my ignorance in this matter. I always appreciate a furtherance of my education but I must admit I am still stumped on just what it means to be a Southern Federalist.

Of course I know full well what it means to be a federalist. This is an concept that I understand full well. I have pondered much on this matter in the last two days. I wonder how one might be a Southerner and a Federalist. I wonder if the Southern part of that description (the portion that ought to define principles) overrides the Federalist part (that which speaks to ideology).

I suppose that I had no real intention of judging or making a judgment statement about just how “conservative” the folks over at Southern Appeal are or are not. From my observation they are plenty conservative for my tastes. I agree with much of the commentary there and I have begun to make the site a routine read. When I questioned rhetorically what it meant to be a Southern Federalist I was really just wondering aloud how it could be that individuals that share much ideology in common can disagree on basic principles.

Southerners (i.e. people that are inheritors of the values, beliefs, culture and principles that make us what we are) are about as diverse as any other group. In reality it is only our shared history, the nature of our origin, our beliefs and culture that separate us as a distinct group from other Americans. We might sum up the difference as one of principle.

Principles are an interesting thing. They are unlike rigid rules or dogma that might exist in an ideology or belief system. Principles are a higher form or rules; guidelines really. Principles apply to all situations and can be used to form more specific rules to fit particular circumstances. Most importantly principles are applicable when there is no rule to guide a situation. Principles also guide us when the rules run counter to what we believe at our core.

Southerners being a diverse lot ascribe to and believe in many various ideologies. We find this in religion; some of us are Baptist, others Jews, some Presbyterian and others Catholic. The only principle that applies to true Southerners is that there is a God in the Universe; he is the God of Abraham and his word was passed down to us in ways that the groups mentioned above believe.

In politics we also find this diversity. Some of us are Democrats others Republican. Neither of these represents an ideology but rather a persuasion. Most Southerners follow a conservative libertarian (small L) ideology no matter which political party they vote for. This fits best with the principles that make Southerners Southern.

There are of course many in the South that are not Southern at all. This goes deeper than the mere place of birth or state of residence. Being a Southerner (capital S) really means believing in and acting based upon the principles of Southerness, as well as being “from here”, talking like us and all the other things that merely define southern (small S).

Key principles of Southerness are individual freedom and personal responsibility. There are of course several other principles but theses principles drive much of what options of ideology true Southerners might follow. A true Southerner would ever become a socialist or a communist for to do so would require him to renounce his principles.

Another key principle by which Southerners live states that; principles do not change. What is wrong today will be wrong tomorrow; what was right yesterday will be right tomorrow. In matters of principle there is never any room for compromise.

The very notion that all men ought to march to the same drum is offensive to Southerners. We accept diversity in ways that we are seldom given credit for. What we do not tolerate are those that decide to march in different directions. As long as a person lives by the general principles all is well and diversity is accepted.

Thus is the real problem in the Southern Movement; that is to say that there is no movement. Many good and true Southerners express themselves politically in various ways based upon their chosen ideology. Clashes in ideology often result in us tuning out the viewpoint of groups and individuals that march to a different drum. The result is that those precious few that believe in the principles never support or share with each other. Any web search of keywords relating to Southern politics will demonstrate this fact. There are hundreds of pages and sites out there, many of which agree in principle and only disagree on smaller matters.

My original post questioning what a Southern Federalist meant was probably misplaced and ought to be categorized as such. My original intent was to show that those that ascribe to a Federalist ideology and those of us that hold an Anti-Federalist viewpoint still share much in common if we are True Southerners. I looked around on the Southern Appeal site and I did not see any disagreement in principle. That was the point I wanted to make.

Since this issue of the difference of opinions among those that claim the beautiful privilege of being Southern has entered the discussion here I would like to ask a few questions of my Southern brothers and sisters that call themselves Federalist.

1. Believing that a Federal form of government works best is an acceptable point of view to bring to the table. However, why must it be accepted that the Federal government in Washington is the best answer? Is it not also possible to talk of several smaller federalist governments that rule for and by the people? Why would you be opposed to a federalist union of Northeastern, Western or even Southern states if that government more closely reflected the goals and needs of the people it governed?
2. Assuming that Federalist believe that their form of government requires solidarity of the various component states do you believe that there is ever a time that the government may be changed by the people? If so when and how?
3. Do you believe that once a federal form of government is formed that the people and all of their descendants are wed to that government with no hope of divorce?
4. What of a federal government that rules contrary to the principles and beliefs of a particular region or cultural group? Is that government truly ruling by the consent of the people? Is not such a situation really a form of tyranny for those forced to live in such a circumstance?
5. In a federalist system governed more or less democratically how might a small cultural group ever truly express its will? After all 51% of the people will always get what they want and the other 49% will get none of what they want. A small cultural group that comprises 25-30% of the population will always lose in such a circumstance.
6. The Soviet Union was a federal system. Would you propose that the composite republics that made up that empire lost all future claim to sovereignty on the day they were assimilated into the Soviet Union?
7. Should Texas have remained a part of the Mexican political system even though a large percentage of her citizenry wanted independence?
8. Is there ever a time or event that would lead you to say that it would be better to allow the various states of the Union to determine their own course rather than remain in the Union.(this is of course a trick question) It is obvious that I could name several things that a federal government might do that would be immoral and repulsive to freedom minded people. All men that love freedom and recognize that government must live by the contract with the governed must admit that there are times when bad governments must be done away with.

My point is that the divergence between Southerners on matters of political ideology is not as far apart as we might tell ourselves that it is. Every true Southerner knows and believes that much of what has transpired in Washington in the last 140 years is wrong. Our differences are not on what is wrong but how to fix it. Federalist might say the idea of secession in the 21st Century is extreme; secessionist would say that the belief that we can ever hope to influence and change the current federal system is naive. Of course this sort of stone throwing gets us nowhere.

We ought to realize and accept the issues of commonality that we share. If we are each Southerners and share in the inheritance we have been fortunate enough to gain then surely there ought to be some commonality among us. To the federalist I say, more power to you; if you can change the current system great. Until there are secessionist candidates on the ballot I will continue to vote for the least evil option available. In short we ought to accept that we share in a desire to change things as they are. If either of us succeeds we all win. If we each fail we all lose. Our enemy is common and our fates sealed together.

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