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Fair Warning

William Thomas Masterworks Series*





 by William Thomas

If ya'll are easily offended, stop here. Don't you read ‘nother word. All you politically prim critics forget, or more likely never bothered to reflect, that good ol' boys talk straight. No matter who takes exception.


The last Confederate flag was hauled down from a Southern courthouse in 2017. And yes, I seen them pictures of Bobby Lee's statue struck down and hauled off to God knows where. (And He's not sayin', 'least fer now.) But anyone who still thinks the War Between the States ended at Appomattox is a damn fool. In a whole lotta minds – more'n you might care to know – those grievances are not settled.


Now me and my friend Henry Grubs ain't sayin' that's right. Let bygones be bygones is what we say. But I can tell you from my own personal sight that the Stars and Bars still hangs proud in rec rooms and dorm rooms and back rooms all across the South. And whether you might care to agree or not, carved into near every desk in the segregated military school I attended in Chattanooga was the words:


The South shall rise again


Well, I wouldn't bet against it. Not with that ignorant, pudgy-palmed imposter who fooled so many, wanderin' empty corridors late at night thinkin' whatever stray mischief he can conjure in that big ol' White House where some say all this trouble started.


My own rebel nature’s in my genes, not some recycled bell-bottom jeans. But just because my forebears fought the “blue bellies” at Chickamauga, only to die of their wounds in the pestilential hell of a Northern prison camp (not Andersonville) – don't mean I'm disrespectin’ their sacrifice. Or takin' their side.


Never has a conflict left so many conflicted and so much unresolved. Even when everybody knows that enslaving four million women, children and men is clearly sinful, evil and wrong! No matter what fancy words some used to dress up such shameful acts, including many Northerners, like Lincoln, who said that slavery weren’t their business. Though imposing ever-higher tariffs on Southern imports was.


Setting out the legal case for invading the newly formed Confederate States of America, in his two war proclamations of 1861 Lincoln declared that the North was compelled to use force because, "Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein."


A minority president lacking control of Congress, Honest Abe had to tread carefully to keep the remaining “Union” intact. Though he and his newfangled Republican party felt slavery unjust because “all men are created equal” in their right to better themselves and be compensated for their labor (but not to vote), in his first inaugural address, America’s new president clarified: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so."


Not when the highest law in the land allowed Southern states to count their slaves in determining federal representation. And not when slave-holding border states might give the South a decisive advantage in the looming fight if driven to secede.


As Lincoln spoke of freeing even American-born captives my aunt called “nigra’s” and sending them “back” to Africa, nearly one-in-four people living in the south were being exploited by one-in-four white Southerners as forced labor. In letters home, half-starved Johnny Rebs who did not have much truck with wealthy plantation owners insisted they were fightin’ for their right to govern themselves. Slavery was one of those choices. Though not for the slaves.


whitewashing-slavery: McGraw-Hill U.S. schoolbook text, 2015

Lincoln said he would leave human bondage alone if it would keep the Union intact. In December 1863, in the face of mounting Northern losses, and after three-days of draft riots in New York City the previous summer (over deferments for the wealthy), Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty would offer the Confederates three months to return to the Union, pay the 40% sales tax states like South Carolina had initially rebelled against – and keep (what a 2015 U.S. schoolbook calls) their “workers from Africa”. There were no takers. 


Southerners rallied around "State's Rights". Many still do. But while anti-federal sentiments might appeal to the rebel in those who don’t care for outside meddling, there’s nothin’ "right" about claiming freedom for yourself and denying it to others. We’re all children of Creation. Or none of us are. That’s the truth of it. And twisting minds with corkscrew words cain’t change that.


But none of this matters when soldiers come to impose Washington’s will. From Virginia to Vietnam, Wounded Knee, Iraq and Afghanistan, as we’ve seen again and again (but never can seem to learn!) moralizing goes away the instant an armed invader sets boots on the soil of your home, country and clan.


As the War Between the States kicked off, eager onlookers rode out 25 miles from Washington, D.C. to consume the spectacle of smartly-wheeling brigades and gaily-streaming regimental colors – only to choke on their picnic lunches overlooking a charnel ground called Manassas.


Battle of Gettysburg Matthew-Brady photo

Gettysburg -Matthew Brady

Fifteen carnage-crammed months after the battle everyone “knew” would decide the outcome of hostilities, the biggest combined Confederate bombardment and charge of the war left the same field once again serenaded by anguished screams for mothers and strewn with thousands of smashed corpses. Even the staunchest Unionists realized that their resolve was matched by a rebellious populace, who looked to America’s last tax war of independence for precedent and inspiration, and were deadly serious about their bonds and their beliefs.


You don’t have to like any of this to acknowledge it. And it won’t change ‘til we do.


All I'm sayin' is, anybody who chooses to ignore Southern memories and mentality is bound to get re-acquainted with both right up close and a lot more personal than they might be prepared to entertain.


Antietam-dead -by Mathew Brady


And it won't be like Antietam or Chancellorsville or Shiloh or Fredericksburg. Or any of a thousand other pitched slaughters and nasty engagements in all those idyllic hellish cr’icks and hills and hamlets where groups of otherwise sensible churchgoin' men with God on their side often stood right out in the open at point-blank range and blasted away at each other in heavy aimed volleys that each time an officer screamed, “Fire!” winnowed the opposite ranks like tossed chaff.

Then those that was still standing looked to their ramrods and cartridges and banged away again. And maybe now the cannons came up and joined in. I used to ponder how anyone that terrified could walk again and again into near-certain death… until I learned in the minefields of Kuwait it’s all about your buddy next to you.

holding-the-fenceline-at-Fredericksburg -Matthew-Brady photo

   'Victorious' Confederate dead at Fredericksburg -Matthew Brady photo

Except for the diseases that filled twice as many graves than ball and grape, that massed musket-fire was the worst, each fat miniball carrying its terrible personal telegram for a country mile. Yet it never crosses your consideration why so many children and parents and elders are still being cut to pieces by Made In The USA weapons spraying similar heavy-calibre rounds – only millions more and much faster – into ruined neighborhoods in places like Mosul and Aleppo.


It started in the American South is why. Where too many people – mostly the ones who weren't there – got to like killing too much.  


Never mind your war porn and lemming-like military parades, which I once marched in myself. In every American conflict since the Second War, we're talking 93+% civilian casualties and the wreckage of lives we’ll never meet, speaking ancient tongues in cultures we do not understand – but who in their love and hopes for their children are no different from us.


‘Cept they ain’t white.


Iraqi child, killed in an air strike Mar 2017 Aris Messinis:AFP

Iraqi child, killed in a US-led air strike, Iraq, Mar 2017 -Aris Messinis/AFP

Most of us love our children. But we don’t seem to mind someone else's daughter or son being killed, maimed or traumatized-for-life – long as someone on our side tells us not to look. That it must be done to keep us safe. Even when, as Gen. Smedley Butler explained, it’s primarily to line blood-soaked pockets. And just the opposite is true.


For all the flag-draped caskets still trickling home, it's mostly other parents' children under the age of 15 getting their arms and legs and heads blowed off by our own bamboozled, broken boys and daughters, who come reeling home haunted by horrors they cannot begin to relate to loved ones over lattes at Starbuck’s – and year-after-ignored-year, take 22 of their own lives every day.


Not to mention all the torture and murder by our ISIS and al Qaeda proxies, and all those other terrorists who's only difference – as experienced by those on the receiving end – is the God that blesses their atrocities, and the banners they wave.


Just remember, ’case you never been told, all this ongoing civilian mayhem in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria and the apartheid West Bank is the hidden flip-side to all that demonic depleted uranium rapid-fired from all those chain-guns tax dollars buy, wafting radioactive dust deep into young mother's blessed wombs until the Earth is consumed by its sun going supernova.

DU-Baby -Dr. Jenan Hassan

Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.7 billion years – that means thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children will suffer for tens of thousands of years to come,” says Dr. Ahmad Hardan,  special scientific adviser to the WHO, the UN and the Iraqi Ministry of Health. “This is what I call terrorism.”

[One of thousands of American DU-babies, Basra, Iraq -Dr. Jenan Hassan]


Others call it genocide. Still others worry about something called karma.

When are we going to see that they are our mothers, and their cruelly-deformed infants are our children, too?


Listen up! I ain’t got much time left. None of us do. The thing is to get the lessons we arrange for ourselves. Nations that sanitize – or romanticize – their less savory past are bound to repeat it. Usually with interest.


All these endlessly profitable "wars" everyone who’s never been bombed or shot at chatter so foolishly about is really the industrial-scale slaughter of innocents. I didn’t see you on that wreckage-littered highway to Basra right after some 10,000 frantic barefoot conscripts and fleeing Pakistani guest workers were turned into “crispy critters” and bulldozed beneath the drifting desert sands.


drone strike victim

Another maimed U.S. drone strike victim

I’m particularly talking to all you collateral cowards remotely piloting terror-drones as robotic as you, to blow apart unsuspecting families going about their daily business half a world away – just so’s you can maybe tag some bad box-score hombre who will be instantly replaced by 10 head-choppers worse’n him – before going on home to hug your wife and kids.


And you wonder why so many other fathers and sons and kin are so mad at us. Have you ever thought to ask?


Bad as those old-time "glorious" bloodfests were, at least in that uncivil conflict between the South and North, the hurting and dying was largely among uniformed believers and draftees waving state battle flags and shouting the same slogans. At least ‘til Sherman began his scorching march to the sea, escalating death by epidemics, gunfire and starvation to one-quarter-million slaves and white civilians. And you best believe that ain't been forgot neither.


If things really get goin' again… and more and more brainwashed loners are made even crazier by all the bedlam spewed 24/7 from their talk-radios, internets, and teevees pumping ‘flammatory rants and images straight into already shaky central nervous systems.


handguns-r-us-NYT Times

 handguns ‘r’ U.S. -NY Times

Such electronically-implanted firebrands cannot be edited or extinguished. Only temporarily silenced by blasting whatever perverse projections can be hit, again and again and – take that bitches! – again with automatic and semi-auto rifles acquired at your local “sporting goods” shop, gun fair or Cracker Jack box.


The thing about flooding the USA with guns, guns and more guns is that just like bulldozers, crayons and fighter jets, firearms want to be used. The current tally is one or more mass shootings (three or morepersons struck) every week – year in, year out – in (recent global polls show) the 7th Greatest Country on Earth.


Behind all the hand-wringing headlines, according to the CDC for the past five years more’n 290 people are being shot every day in the USA. Ninety-three of them die.


For Godssake, do the math.


Does anyone think one innocent life taken is too many? Ask a surviving family member. It does not matter to the bullet who gets kilt or how old they are or how nice everyone says they were, or what they were doing at the time, or who loved them, or what their dreams were, or where they happened to fall. Not when "kill" and "killing" and "kill their families" are the words heard most often from the mouth of a pathological president spitting the venom he pretends to vilify.


All this butchery, of course, is just practice and prelude. Gettin’ everybody used to so much gunfire and torn flesh it's no longer all being nationally reported.


Just wait ‘til all the folks holding grudges get organized. All it’s going to take to set the whole thing off is for the federals to try confiscating 310 million firearms: an average of 89 per 100 people  including infants  according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey.


Or some Oswald-wannabe shooting – or cynical Congress moving to impeach – that whining Washington bully stamping his personal approval on every women-hating, tree-hugger-chainsawing, full-time (but otherwise unemployed) angry white racist American male. Along with a good many women.


Which, for the progenies of some distant black Eve, seems odd. But 4.5% of the world’s population prefers to blame strangers for their own worst propensities, even when the traits they denounce in others always point back at them.


(And not just in the South. Politico’s presidential election tabulations show Trump states with the widest voting margins include Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.)


Just let someone try to take away their Great Leader who, on behalf of the Koch brothers and all the greedy Goldman grifters and slavering chickenhawks on his wrecking-ball crew, keeps distracting his die-hard constituents with tweets and twits and twats – all the while, screwing them blind.


1 in 5 US children on food stamps & living in poverty

What are we leaving the children who are in our care?

Such entertainments work fine. Until they don’t. Once all those gullible ol’ boys and gals catch-on to how they’re bein’ lied to – watch out! You for sure do not want to be around riled up red state sharpshooters when they figure out they’ve been betrayed by another slick-talkin’, service-dodgin’ tycoon who gives his migrant slaves more promises than pay.


War always seems like a grand idea to politicians powerful, protected and deluded enough to be seduced by violent “quick-fixes” history repeatedly teaches are nothing of the kind.


Do Americans living in truly “exceptional” denial really think that any society devoted to all things military, whose chief exports are hungry weapons, urban demolition and the overthrow of elected governments can avoid the fate of Hamburg and Hiroshima, Savanah and Sebastopol, Carthage and Constantinople?


When will we learn that the poisons of war and the revenge it demands spare no one? That wars come home. And even the “winners” lose.



Lincoln’s hoped-for post-war healing was buried with him, leaving today’s South bitterly divided over an unreconstructed story insisting slavery was fun and largely scrubbed of Klan lynchings, black church and school burnings, and the vicious killing of white freedom riders and black leaders “to keep the race terrorized and ‘keep the nigger down’,” as Ida B. Wells wrote to her cost.


The fearless black journalist went on to invert the revisionist myth of some dreamy neo-Confederacy by reminding those who needed it how the Southerner has “never gotten over this resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income.”

Mladem Antonov photo -Getty

Escalating extreme weather events, the despair attending impoverishment, and White House fiscal treachery will only fuel cracker meanness. Next time, the uniforms will all be on one side, as the d.u.-distributing artill’ry, armor and ground attack aircraft so long-deployed in overseas neighborhoods are turned against America’s townships, cities and suburbs, and homegrown insurgents pledging allegiance to nearly 1,400 autonomous armed militias.


Make no mistake. The death-dealing USA is heading for collective suicide welcomed as “the End Times” by 49% of Americans. Across the land, dark memories have been stirred, and even darker forces are bein' whipped up by that maniac up north preaching hate like the anti-Christ (some are already saying) manifested in our midst.



Understand that “U.S” means US. The barking monster everyone likes to point at is not the man, but the mindset he mirrors. The tribulations ‘mericans are bringing unto themselves can only be pumped deep from the pampered shadow-side within each of us.


It all deflates into a puddle washed down the nearest sewer the moment enough of us quit averting our eyes and stop letting bad things happen in our name because we're too busy or too scared or just don’t care enough to stand up and say:


            "Enough!  From the Trail of Tears to the Highway

            to Hell, there have to be better ways to get 

            along on this dying oceanic planet. Until my un-

            American government stops shouting and 

            shooting and starts listening to the grievances

            of those we oppress – I am not going be a part

            of this no more!"


Otherwise, if all Americans don't look behind the myth of divine exceptionalism to face our prejudices and our past – and put them finally to rest within us – those restless ghosts with a Southern drawl won't be goin' back to their graves any time soon.


Or alone.




R. William Thomas

U.S. Navy Reserves (Resigned)

Gulf Environmental Emergency Response Team

Descendent of the Harper clan, Tennessee

June 2017

© William Thomas 2017 




My new Masterworks series will post in-depth “considerations” of issues I’ve been wrestling with for decades, with the aim of articulating and at least beginning to reconcile and address the most pressing "emerging emergencies" of our time. The article above has been on my mind for more than four-decades. It took me over 110 hours to write, revise and post. 

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navigating the Salish Sea

British Columbia, Canada

William Thomas with my solar-electric, outrigged sailing canoe, Electra

-King Anderson photo



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