Like the Confederates, it's Dangerous to Let the January 6th Losers Rewrite HistoryRoundup
tags: far right, Confederacy, Lost Cause, Capitol Riot
Shira Lurie is an assistant professor of U.S. history at Saint Mary’s University.
On Sept. 18 Trump supporters once again descended on the nation’s capital — albeit this time in far smaller numbers — for “Justice for J6,” a gathering in support of those facing criminal charges for their participation in the January 6 insurrection. About 450 people assembled and police arrested four individuals.
Though a relatively quiet event, the falsehoods animating the demonstration — that the 2020 election was rigged and that the insurrection was a nonviolent protest — continue to permeate GOP politics. In a recent CNN poll, 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said, "'believing that Donald Trump won the 2020 election’ was very or somewhat important to what being a Republican meant to them.”
Yet, the true picture of January 6 is far darker: the event marked the first time the Capitol Building has been invaded by armed enemies since 1814 and the first time in all of American history that the peaceful transfer of executive power has been violently disrupted. Five people were killed in the attack and four Capitol Police officers have since taken their own lives. All without a single shred of evidence to support the claims driving this violence.
Tellingly, one insurgent carried a Confederate flag into the building — a symbolic breach that did not even occur during the Civil War. “A new ‘lost cause’ had stormed into the U.S. Capitol flying the flag of the original Confederate Lost Cause,” observed historian David Blight. Indeed, in the wake of January 6, it seems as though Trump and his supporters are intent on following in the footsteps of the Confederates who lost the Civil War, but largely won the battle to construct a false version of history better suited to their purposes.
Immediately following the Confederate States of America’s defeat, former political and military leaders gave speeches and wrote memoirs that told a false, more flattering narrative of the conflict. Rather than waging a war to protect the institution of slavery, Confederates explained that they had been defending states’ rights from a tyrannical federal government and had fought a defensive war against an invading Northern army. Being outgunned and outmanned, their chances had been doomed from the start — but they had fought honorably in defense of their homeland and there was no shame in eventually capitulating.
And so, the myth of the Lost Cause was born.
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