published Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

David Cook: The God who loves Slavery

Had you been a member of Congress in 1865, would you have voted to outlaw slavery?

An easy question today, 147 years later. Looking into our moral mirror, we would like to think that yes, unquestionably yes, we would have fallen on the right side of the slavery crisis.

(Of course, this is also a question for a white audience, as I can’t imagine being black in 19th century America without also being an abolitionist.)

The new Spielberg film “Lincoln” is beautiful, masterful art, mainly because of Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Lincoln in his last few months, as he devotes himself to the passage of the slavery-outlawing 13th Amendment.

The most frightening part of the film comes when those who oppose abolition explain so eloquently and expertly their reasons for doing so.

States’ rights. The Southern economy. God, who did not make all races equal.

It is both nauseating and fascinating at the same time, hearing the passionate defense for slavery.

How does one become so blind to the moral landscape as to honestly and genuinely fight for the promotion of a system that enslaves others?

How does one get so lost?

Several months ago, Abraham Lincoln appeared on the big screen as a vampire-fighting president. Based on the fictitious “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’’ (it’s actually a pretty good book), the film of the same name follows the president as he hunts and kills vampires.

Who are actually slave holders.

It’s interesting psychology, linking vampirism to the slave-owning hegemony of the Southern states. Both are half-dead. Vampires, for obvious reasons.

Slave owners and slavery supporters lose parts of their humanity by supporting such violence. One cannot remain fully human while participating in the destruction of others.

Vampires and zombies have become normative in the pop culture landscape of today. (Consider the multiple films and books like “Twilight” and “The Walking Dead” — the popular AMC show that serves as partial inspiration for this Tuesday online-only column.)

Vampires and zombies help us amplify the role of villain in order to let us better see ourselves. Vampire and zombie fiction hold up a mirror: Through the other-ness of zombies, we are better able to evaluate human behavior, to see how humans can and should behave when your fall-guy is a zombie.

So it’s easy, in 2012, to equate bloodsuckers with slave owners.

But as “Lincoln’’ demonstrates so movingly, the 13th Amendment barely passed. Tooth and nail, the opposition fought. And with great sincerity, they all believed they were doing what’s right.

In God’s name. For home and country. For future generations.

Looking back, we see through the lazy, violent folly of such arguments. But let’s stop looking back. And instead look straight at 2012.

Here is the question I’m chewing on:

What is the modern-day equivalent of slavery? What is the moral issue so urgent that your grandchildren will look back and wonder why we wavered and wandered from its resolution?

What is the slavery of today?

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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AndrewLohr said...

Murdering unborn babies?

Claiming to be generous by spending other people's money?

Claiming to be generous by making decisions for other people, e.g. about health insurance?

Denying that evil people are still people?

November 20, 2012 at 5:43 a.m.
conservative said...

"What is the slavery of today?"

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves SERVANTS to obey, his SERVANTS ye are to whom ye obey ; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Romans 6:16 KJV.

November 20, 2012 at 7:32 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Who are the slaves today? The same slaves that have existed throughout history.

Belief in literal gods (Allah, Jesus, Popes, Billy Graham, L. Ron Hubbard, Pat Roberson, Zionists, name your poisons), a literal and inerrant divine book (Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, Dianetics) and the literal interpretation of the dogma presented within.

Those who see gods as literal and historical beings rather than metaphors are slaves. Those who preach such dogmas, and practice the tenants of such with attempts to coerce behavior of individuals through government or threat of physical authority are slavers.

A slave's obligation is to seek personal freedom, while a slaver's duty is to prevent free thought.

Reason, science, and real education break those chains and the slaver's dogmatic hold on the slave's greatest asset, his ability to be his own master.

November 20, 2012 at 8:08 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Whoops, ya done stirred up the churchies with that one!

It's a veritable fool fest (by biblical definitions of course) with Andy and Cony here together.

Why don't you two guys go visit a perfect theocracy somewhere nice like Pakistan. You would absolutely love it! They put folks to death for the crime of "blasphemy".

November 20, 2012 at 8:11 a.m.
jesse said...

Well i had me a big ole spiel ready to go and darwin done went and said it all!

BTW"David, if you had lived in those times and in the south how do you know what your opinion would have been!

November 20, 2012 at 8:50 a.m.

AndrewLohr, you mean:

Making decisions for the bodies (and lives) of others, for your own purposes?

Claiming to be for freedom by taking other people's money for your own personal gain at those people's cost, not gain?

Claiming to be for freedom by supporting those who only want the freedom to make decisions for other people's health care, for reasons that has no medical basis?

Denying that people behaving evil are doing evil, but instead coming up with some convoluted explanation that the suffering imposed is character building?

jesse, the start of his editorial was asking that question. Did you miss it?

November 20, 2012 at 10:05 a.m.
jesse said...

Bulbs ,you just gotta be one of the most ANAL humans on the planet!!

November 20, 2012 at 11:37 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Admittedly it's a stretch to equate the stubborn denial of the reality of global warming with slavery, but it is indeed a sort of slavery of the mind, imposed on a willfully ignorant people by the propaganda dissmenitated by the moneyed interests and those who worship the moneyed interests. And whether or not it can rightfully be considered akin to slavery, it's definitely a moral issue of the highest order, one about which our grandkids will hold us accountable.

I have no doubt that the people who are still alive when our planet becomes unlivable, or so ecologically unbalanced that life as we've known it becomes freakishly altered, will wonder how we could have just sat on our butts and done nothing but go on polluting and fiddling while Rome was burning all around us. They will question our very sanity and our priorities, wondering how we could have been so self-absorbed and stupid as not to see face reality while we still had time to do something to prevent our own self-destruction.

November 20, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
jen1972 said...

I'm pretty sure my future grandchildren will wonder why people were so adamant that allowing gay people to marry would end the institution of marriage altogether. In the same manner that we now accept interracial marriage (well, those of us who actually do, and are not secretly being horrid racists), I hope the same will be said about marriage equality.

November 20, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Conservatives have no problem embracing liberal or revolutionary thought once it becomes so established in the culture that no one questions it any longer. Some examples of beliefs that conservatives finally had to abandon, once the truth hit them over the head enough times: that the earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around it; that witches deserve to be burned at the stake; that black people were condemned by God and therefore deserved enslavement; that long hair on men is un-Godly and un-American and only dirty hippies wear long hair; that women should not wear pants or vote or work in the workplace alongside men; that the Bible is the literal word of God (hmm...too many conservatives are still doggedly hanging on to that one!).

I will gladly take my label as a "liberal" or a "progressive" and wear it proudly. I would rather stand on the side of those who changed the world for the better and still strive to do so, than those who just accepted and defended, and still today try to defend, the status quo.

November 20, 2012 at 2:10 p.m.
VisaDiva said...

Marriage equality, unquestionably. My kid, a 30-year-old American Studies graduate, professes this now - that the next generation will wonder why this issue was so polarizing and so divisive.

November 20, 2012 at 7:44 p.m.
jesse said...

Hey rickaroo! You don't have to be a LIBERAL to be a REALIST! I see my self as conservative on fiscal issues and some what lib. on social matters! BUT i think about it before i get locked in! I went thru the Bible 6 or 7 time before deciding it was utter B/S> THEN i read the TAO and thought "now here's a way to live"w/o. gittin a GOD all involved! While i carry on a lot of b/s/ on here i TRY not to be judgemental on beliefs but on demenor and azholeness i git in an uproar! You have a tendency to be on a par w/nooga ,which happins to be the biggest azzhole i have run into in my brief tenure on the web.

November 20, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.
VisaDiva said...

Or maybe equal rights for women. That amendment was never ratified, you know.

November 20, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.
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