Viking, Scottish, and Irish culture revolved around honor, shame, and violence in response to insult. Honor culture came to America with the Scots-Irish who settled in the Appalachian South. Status rests more on birth and family than individual achievement or guilt. People are expected to know their place. Disrespect is the greatest offense. To appear a loser is worse than to know oneself a sinner.
This helps me make sense of the history I learned in West Virginia public schools long ago. We took pride in the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, born in Clarksburg just up the river, and the legendary freedom of mountaineers. We deplored tobacco plantation field slavery but condoned household slavery as benign. We interpreted the Civil War as a conflict over states’ rights, not slavery.
Nobody likes to lose, but it is worse when losing carries dishonor and shame. From a Northern, guilt-and-atonement viewpoint, the Confederates fought to preserve slavery and lost. From a Southern viewpoint, honor was at stake. Flags and monuments are not about remembering history, but rather about honor and respect. “You lost, get over it” means nothing except as a further insult.
Image: Henry Mosler, The Lost Cause, 1869. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.