“Neo-Unionists” ???

Posted on November 20, 2008 by


I’m wired-in to a couple mail lists out there and recently I saw the phrase “neo-Unionist” surface. I know why the phrase might be used, but I’m not totally convinced that it’s a valid way to label a select number of folks. Maybe “Won-Causers” might be more appropriate for some folks, but I’m not convinced on the “neo-Unionist” label. Ultimately, at the root of either phrase, I would think that this is representative of a carried-over passion for the Union (at least as Union and U.S. patriotism at the time of the Civil War is perceived in modern “memory.”)

Now, “neo-Confederate,” I think I know what that phrase is getting at, but honestly, I think it’s over-used. It’s a generalization and like a blanket, some spread it across all those who, in some form or fashion, display “something” (maybe a higher-than-average passion) for a Confederate ancestor. To me, “neo-Confederate” defines someone who has gone over the top, so to speak. I’m not sure they can be so narrowly defined, but in some ways, they don’t just “celebrate” their Confederate ancestry (and I’d argue that some might not even know who their Confederate ancestors are or even if they are descended from a Confederate… unknowing Confederate flag-waivers might fit in this group, maybe), they take it to the extreme and you might say this is the same circle in which the “neo-secesh” crowd moves (especially when they focus on the Confederate flag and government as points of reference in their arguments against modern government). Like the layers in the Confederate flag, it is sometimes so blurred that it seems hard to keep the groups from spilling over into each other in some way or another. It’s about as hard as defining sentiment in the actual Confederate soldier. It seems darn near impossible to slap a label on a select number of people and say that they all feel the same way (which leads to, I suppose, a significant number of ways to categorize different levels of enthusiasm for Confederate ancestry and symbology… and again, it cries out for strong efforts to make distinctions between the different groups, especially if one group therein wants to focus on the Confederate ancestor alone).

“Lost-Causers,” on the other hand, now I see a difference between these folks and “neo-Confederates,” and I think it might better define those who have a passion for Confederate ancestry, but don’t take it to the point of expressing their passion (and basing it on “Confederate”) through negative statements about the modern government.  I’ve tinkered with the “phrase-ology” on this one a bit, and think that “new-age Confederate remembrance” might be a better way to define this other select group. Maybe.

But, again, back to “neo-Unionists.” I’m just not sure that I know anybody who takes a view on Civil War-era Union like those within the neo-Confederate crowd who take views on Confederacy. Like I said, in the case of someone who has some higher-than-average passionate tie to a Union ancestry and the causes for which he (or she… yes, it happened) served, I think this might be better defined in “Won-Causer.” (It seems to be an awkward phrase, but about the best I can come up with so far).

For some reason, I just get the idea that the use of “neo-Unionist” as an expression is a reflection of some resentment for somebody that might equate it with being a modern “American Patriot” tinged slightly with the rightousness of the meaning of “Union” as it was perceived by some at the time of the war.

I’m not sure… any thoughts?