Oh, the irony of being called “historically illiterate” by Dinesh D’Souza. It’s enough to drive a sane person to drink.
This bit of sheer unadulterated nonsense came across my Facebook feed today while I was innocently searching for news of my friends’ lives.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the characterization of Robert E. Lee presented herein is accurate. That he was a man of “unimpeachable integrity” and that he opposed both secession and slavery. That he was a man of sufficient military skill that Lincoln wanted him to command the Union Army. Sure. Why not. The job offer is objectively true, after all. Let’s just start with that.
Here is the great lesson that Mr. D’Souza, a man whose own integrity is thoroughly impeachable, is trying to have you ignore with that little rant of his:
You are what you do when it matters.
Your opinions, your beliefs, your previous record, are all irrelevant when it comes to crunch time. You can say you oppose things, you can say you have integrity, you can wear all kinds of ribbons and medals and trinkets on your chest, you can be offered whatever job by whomever is offering, but the bottom line is that you are what you do when it matters, not what you say when it doesn’t and not what others say about you at any time.
Lee had a clear choice. He could follow through on his supposed beliefs that slavery and secession were wrong. He could uphold the oath he took as a military officer in the United States Army “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, [and] bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” He could act with “unimpeachable integrity” and defend what he said he valued.
Or he could commit treason in the name of upholding human slavery.
The record is clear.
Lee, like so many of his southern fellow-travelers, chose treason. He chose to support a pretender nation whose sole purpose was the perpetuation of human slavery (and if anyone is here tempted to give me the failed “states’ rights” argument for secession, please be advised that I am in fact professionally historically literate – malevolently so – and I will not be polite in dismissing your hallucinatory views as the revisionist trash that they are). He chose to take up arms against the United States, to invade its territory, and to kill its citizens.
And he did so knowing full well what it meant.
It is the historically illiterate who refuse to see this, who choose to whitewash this crime and insist that Lee is somehow a figure to be honored by patriotic Americans. Treason is not honorable, and all the slavering nonsense spilled in its defense can’t change that.
You are what you do when it matters, and Lee chose slavery and secession.
To say otherwise is historically illiterate.