Episode 16 – Honesty

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A different kind of show this week — we started out with our usual, but once more serious topics came up, we got pretty real and ended up staying there.

Humor is valuable because it draws back curtains. We had a conversation about humor, art, hard times, old wounds, life-changing events. (Then we tried to figure out what to do with this recording — that’s on there too.)

Also if you haven’t read Mikey’s recent entries that were discussed in this episode, they manage to be funny, sad and haunting at the same time. 1, 2

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59 Responses to Episode 16 – Honesty

  1. Sean says:

    Tonight, on a very special Chainsawsuit Podcast…

    • retron23 says:

      Wow, 80s flashback. Here's how every segment ended on those episodes:

      Dramatic dialog. Parent or guardian leaves room.
      Teenage character looks despondent as silence fills TV studio.
      Live audience member coughs.
      Slow fade to black.
      Loud cheesy music plays over information about fabric softener.

  2. Prior Semblance says:

    I don't have any stories relevant to the second part of the podcast but I'd like to add my thoughts on one of the legitimate mens rights issues. If a woman gets angry for basically any reason, it is relatively acceptable for her to hit you in one of the most fragile parts of your body. If she thinks you are staring at her wrong, she can slap you as hard as she wants. And so on.

    I've never been in a situation where any of that would happen to me luckily but I still think its just wrong that society (and often the law) gives women so much freedom with violence.

    • Sulroko says:

      What you are describing is called "assault" were I come from. It's totally not ok. Like you can do time for an unprovoked kick in the balls. I have to wonder if you are mistaking media for reality.

      • ThomasG says:

        Sul, I do believe it's obvious that there is a different attitude about women hitting men than with men hitting women, and this would likely effect legal proceedings.

        That being said, I can understand why there's a different attitude (what some might paint as a "double standard"), and I don't feel like it's helpful to society to put focus on a slap to the face when the vast majority of serious violence between the sexes is done by men. Yes, there are male victims of violence that is perpetrated by women. No, the pendulum has not swung so far in favor of women that they can beat the shit out of men without repercussions. It would become a "men's rights" issue if we saw more men in the emergency room and morgue because of ladies getting violent. That's just not the case. It sadly is the case for women, still.

    • ludux says:

      That's… not… true? That's never okay. If a woman things you're staring at her wrong, she can /not/ 'slap you as hard as she wants'.

      If she does, you call the police, and she goes to jail, full stop.

    • krisstraub says:

      I am pretty sure those things are illegal and that women can't attack anyone they want for any reason.

      I understand what you're getting at — for example, men can be victims of domestic abuse too — but this is my primary problem with "men's rights activists." Rather than giving us some real world examples with statistics to back them — and they exist! in good quantity! — we get some strawman that "women are allowed to beat up men literally all day, and it's totally legal."

  3. shogunPinata says:

    Thanks for this.
    A few episodes ago I even wanted to request more of the Real Talk. I might even enjoy you two just talking about real things (with a sprinkle of humor) more than, say, a Saw It For You. (aside: For me, SIFY works better in the written medium. It's the serious, imdb-like way the trivia and goofs are presented that make it hit home). (Although I am already looking forward to a Saw It With You).

  4. hitcherland says:

    I'd just like to say I really appreciate this honesty, thanks guys.

  5. CDW says:

    It's interesting that you mention your personal anxieties and issues as being drivers behind your work. I'm just wrapping up five years of architecture school, which was a fucking wringer. Its stripped a lot of that stuff out of my psyche, which is bound to happen; meta-thinking about mindset, process and organisation are all part of that world. But I'm worried it's left me with a …detachment… from the primal stuff that used to drive me, the part of you that can tell a story or explore an idea without quite having to quantify it, examine it under a glass.

    And it worries me. That distance. It's like, having all these tools, techniques, skills, processes… and the thing I find myself casting around looking for something I actually want to say. Something that isn't some disconnected, masturbatory discussion of tools, techniques, skills, processes.

    Ah, fuck. I dunno. It's 1AM here. I should be in bed.

  6. Andrew says:

    Fun fact: The word "soccer" comes from an abbreviation for the term "association football".

    • DangerBag says:

      And the word "football" was created to describe a general class of sports played on foot as opposed to horseback, as the most popular sport in England during the mid-17th century when modern football was rising to prominence was Polo.

      • retron23 says:

        Then Americans used the word to describe a rugby-like game in which feet are barely used. Apparently because Harvard felt it was best to use confusing names for American versions of British sports.

        • DangerBag says:

          The simple fact is that in most places, the most common form of football comes to be called "Football," and all the less common forms come to be referred to by some abbreviation of their formal name. This applies as much for Gridiron/American-rules football as for Canadian-rules football or Austrailian-rules football/Rugby football (depending on where you are in Australia).

          And if feet were barely used in American-rules football, I would imagine players would have a much harder time standing. Which would be hilarious.

  7. Sulroko says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your audio-movie.
    You guys got real, and I can respect that. It was a very different podcast but still very entertaining. Sorry I don't have a story to share or something funny to write. Just wanted to leave an honest comment.

  8. TV's Brent says:

    I've been diagnosed with major depressive disorder since I was 23 (31 now), and I can probably see signs of it all the way back to when I was six.

    It's nearly impossible to describe unless you've experienced it. Like Mikey said, it isn't being sad, or bummed out. It's feeling like you're walking on two broken legs. All of your friends are faking it, you're a failure at everything you try, and any successes are completely undeserved.

    Meanwhile, you've got to plaster on a fake smile and laugh too loud and pretend and go to work so nobody can see inside of you. Eventually I hit a point where I didn't want to die, per se. I just didn't care if I lived anymore. It took a period of years for me to straighten myself back out.

    Even with a good prescription and treatment, these feelings can creep in.

    It's always a boost for me to hear people talk honestly about their experiences with depression. It can feel like you're stranded by yourself, and knowing you aren't always helps.

    • cleverliver says:

      oh my, from your rather accurate (and well-written) description… I just might have similar if not the same thing. In a twisted sort of compassion, Im glad you shared

  9. JPLC says:

    Bravo.

    And I think Kris hit the nail on the head, format-wise: honesty. Do more episodes like these if you want. Just be up-front about it.

  10. ThomasG says:

    GODDAMNIT MIKEY
    Van Gogh was post-Impressionist, not Surrealist! 😛

    A lot of the talk of art's relationship to adversity in life got me thinking of the Dethsiduals episode of Metalocalypse. Pain doesn't necessarily bring good art (I heard Louis CK talk on the radio about some comics who talked about nervous breakdowns on-stage but it fell flat, as opposed to Tig Notaro's masterful approach. And I've seen the shitty comic meltdown before as well and it sucks) but it can definitely help an artist be more hungry I guess? Or have a perspective that we tend to find valuable?

    I can understand why Kris may have wanted to keep it light at first, in that you definitely want to avoid this: http://chainsawsuit.com/2008/12/23/strip-134/

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      Yeah, I even knew that but my head was moving at 100mph during that whole conversation. Apologies for the surrealist mistake.

      • ThomasG says:

        Mikey,

        How dare you not dot your i's when you're spilling your guts to the world.

        The podcast got me thinking about some pretty heavy stuff. Thanks man.

        • MikeyNeumann says:

          I got the Lincoln-Douglas stuff wrong too. You know, I like having people point it out. We can inform!

  11. Dylan F. says:

    Thank you, Kris and Mike.

  12. cresten says:

    I think "Saw it For You" would have been an amazing finish!!

  13. Kris made a point: humor is absolutely the way to get to the difficult stuff, so hearing you guys slide into the heavy topics from the riffing you start out with makes tons of sense. Thanks for deciding to put this up!

    All of that aside, I would genuinely watch a Ken Burns-style documentary on Corn Football.

  14. Matt M says:

    I really enjoy the normal format of the podcast and have been listening since they started, but this one was my favorite. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety since middle school, and was diagnosed as an undergraduate in college, but haven't been on medication for around ten years now, and have been noticing it creep back into my life more and more lately. This podcast made me want to actually address it and try to search for a medication or therapist that will actually help, and I appreciate y'all talking about it, because it helped me realize that it really is beginning to affect my life and relationships in a negative way.

    Oh, also, this is the first time I've commented, so I thought I would add that I've been reading chainsawsuit for a few years now and it is by far my favorite webcomic. My wife and I quote some of the comics like "you have 100 problems" and "it's the best meal," years after we read them, so keep up the excellent work Kris. And I hope you and Mikey continue to make the podcast for quite some time, because you are both very cool people to listen to.

    Oh, also, are Blamimations coming back any time soon?

  15. LMcCJ says:

    The two of you have great instincts. Thanks for rolling with the podcast as only the two of you could. I wouldn't over think it. When things get dark, let 'em go dark. It's fascinating, and scary (actually hearing M say, "Let me tell you a story," gets me gripping the computer).

    M, did your sister use your recent blog revelation to open a dialog with her son, or is she trying to protect him from it? Re: the girlfriend, she handled it poorly. Likely you could have come to the same resolution together, instead she created THIS. It's, sadly, a more common situation than you realize. It became a litmus test for me. If a guy and I couldn't agree how to handle that situation in advance, he was gone.

    K, I'm right there with you, not using a designation because you think your use of it diminishes the "properly" diagnosed, true sufferers. (You could always say you have OC "tendencies.") Also, if your brother is older he might remember some of the childhood pain that you are repressing. (Is it obvious I took notes while I was listening?)

    One last thing, I love the commercials. You'll see if you do them during the livecast that they're a hit (tell the haters to stuff it).

  16. Stephen C says:

    Appreciate this podcast a lot. Good friends many times "get real" with each other and put their trust out there when they open up. It can create lasting connections and friendships throughout life that we all need and desire. We, the listeners, all go through these types of "real" issues in our lives, too, so it was refreshing to hear it coming through on the podcast. Gives us a moment (at least it did for me) to reflect and to remember to be there for our friends and loved ones too, even if it only means to listen when they have something to say.

  17. Luc R. says:

    I really appreciated hearing you guys talk about depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with MDD and GAD eight years ago, and I've only very rarely heard people talk about it like they understand. Thanks.

  18. retron23 says:

    Humor is absolutely therapy and a survival mechanism for many people throughout history. It's incredibly common for comedians (among other artists) to be severely bipolar or have debilitating interpersonal issues; often they can deal with people en masse but not so well one-on-one. Channeling those unstable mental/emotional patterns into behavior that benefits the greater population may even be the reason they exist from a evolutionary standpoint, according to some scientific articles.

    Anyway glad you guys were able to do this super serious podcast and didn't feel obligated to stick to expectations. Sounds like you got some catharsis from it, so more power to you. Only thing I could add is I hope Mikey you don't rely too much on alcohol for this kind of thing; not trying to be preachy at all but it'd be even more impressive if you were able to articulate this heavy emotional stuff without 'having a few'. Especially if there was another 'special episode' in CSSP's future.

    One more thing, this whole discussion reminded me of this cool kickstarter project I backed recently, a documentary called That's Not Funny. I even commented at the time that it should get Ken Burns serious, with slow pans over woodcuts of decapitated jesters, with VO of Lenny Bruce reading his court transcripts on stage, etc… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whathappensne

  19. valan says:

    I like how a lot of Mikey's impressions seem to morph into Bill Cosby

  20. Michael says:

    Not to ignore or minimize what this episode was mostly about, but the Lincoln-Douglas debates were when Lincoln was running for Senate against Stephen Douglas. They have nothing to do with Frederick Douglass.

  21. ionstream says:

    Alright, I know I'm gonna lose plenty of my hard earned upvotes, but I don't feel like this was a very strong way to broach serious topics. It's perfectly fine to talk about this stuff and how it affects you, but the progression of the podcast was civil war jokes -> the latest chainsawsuit -> men's right's -> abortion (!!!!!!) -> depression. This was all fueled by a inebriated Mikey who must think about this stuff a lot, and that's fine, but it's sorta like that friend of mine who broke up with his girlfriend and managed to work that into every conversation he had. It was awkward and forced.

    And this is coming from a guy with a recent diagnosis of MDD and GAD. I'm on Buspar, for the record, whose only negative side effect is tiredness a couple hours after you take it. This just didn't add anything to the "comedy from pain" topic or the depression/anxiety topic and felt more like an impromptu rant instead of a discussion.

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      Hey, man. I just want you to know that I found this comment quite out of line. I wasn't inebriated.

      I painted a room, man. I built a crib and painted a room. It took everything that was within me to even talk about it. I don't need comment snipers trying to build whatever it was you expected out of our podcast.

      I have never talked about the subjects we broached so please, don't try to one-up this. No one needs or wants that. To even pretend that I'm "working it into every conversation" is so fucked up and stupid I'm having difficulty putting together thoughts.

      Thanks for interacting with us, but don't try to create drama because that has no place here.

      • ionstream says:

        I'm sorry, I wanted to put in my 2 cents without sounding insidious but obviously wasn't successful. It was out of line to imply the drinks had anything to do with it, and I didn't mean to say that you were working these topics into every conversation, I was drawing an analogy to someone that did. Perhaps it is a matter of expectations then and I'm unclear as to the purpose of the podcast as a whole, and I'm wrong in thinking that this was a suboptimal vector for talking about it.

        At any rate, I thought the British accents were great.

        • MikeyNeumann says:

          I think we want to have a dialog, but I think the original words were, as you put it, "suboptimal." We don't know what the podcast is … we're feeling that out–so we went way out on the limb on this one. A lot of people seemed to respond to it, and I'm fairly certain you can't just shit all over it like there's a thousand other comedy podcasts on the internet that would allow themselves to have such conversations.

    • Erica says:

      Ionstream, the next time you speak from the heart as Mikey and Kris did, may karma give to you what you just gave. Just being idiotically cruel. May the same come back to you.

      Kris and Mikey, I haven't listened to the whole thing yet (sorry, I was driving!) but as a female commenter I'd like to say to Mikey, I'm sorry for the loss of your child. What she did to you was wrong, and I am so sorry. And speaking a depression sufferer, I've been there for years, and it's a battle that you choose to fight and win every day. Fight cynicism and despair with every tool at your disposal, with life-affirmation and hope-filled art and friends and faith.

      Please pay no attention to subhumans who lack sympathy and throw fits for their toys and keep fighting the good fight.

    • Luc R. says:

      I found the progression organic and fitting. We heard a real conversation, not a lecture. For me, the conversational flow added to the experience. In a way, I feel like it shows how close to the surface these difficult topics can be, and I wish I had friends, like Kris was for Mikey, who would be ok with following the flow of a conversation into that territory.

  22. Loved the podcast, and I always enjoy hearing my favorite creators talk a little more seriously about their inner lives and their process. Having a "very special episode" like this every once in a while would be neat.

    One general gripe: Kris tends to be mixed way too quietly on the show. On most episodes I have to turn my MP3 player literally all the way up to hear him (and he's still fairly quiet much of the time) and then the music and Mikey are ear-splittingly loud.

    • krisstraub says:

      That's my bad — I mix myself low out of habit but here it's not as important. I can come up on it.

  23. RobNichols says:

    This has been a fantastic show. Thanks both of you.

  24. A Silent Fan says:

    I normally don't post comments but I thought I should for this episode.

    As much as I love the commercials and the Saw It For You segments my favorite part of the podcast is when the two of you just talk. Whether it turns into a funny bit on the fly, an intellectual discussion, or an intimate/honest experience, it's always great. Thanks for sharing guys, and don't feel the need to apologize, it was just as good as the other episodes, just in a different way.

  25. Around says:

    Kris, I think a lot of people avoid getting help for the reasons you went into on the podcast. "Will this change me in a way I don't want?" I know I avoided therapy because I was afraid I'd find out that I needed medication that would end up making me choose between "me and broken" or "not me and fixed".

    After having regular panic attacks, it got to the point where I had to do something. I ended up in therapy/counseling after a friend explained to me that medication was entirely optional. She also explained, in great detail, the steps that I'd go through while scheduling an appointment: the phone call, the little interview, the forms, etc.

    After meeting with a professional regularly, I was able to realize how I needed to make some big changes in my life. It involved breaking down a lot of in-grained expectations about myself and others. I ended up moving across country and I've been much happier (and far far less anxious) by being more aware of my own thoughts and feelings.

    Lately, however, I've had a hard time putting my experiences in context. It is the voice that Kris speaks of about "Oh, this isn't a big thing. I don't have a real problem. Other people …" It's a dangerous assumption to put less weight on your own experience based on your perception of others experiences. Certainly, people have worse anxiety that I have, but that doesn't make mine any less real or important.

    I stumbled across a book in the library that I recommend to anyone who wonders about the context for their own fears, anxiety, depression, mania, etc. especially those who describe themselves as "creative".

    Its called "Better Than Normal" by Dr. Dale Archer. It is firmly pop-psychology, and it isn't the Bible. But it gave me a framework to better understand my own motivations. It has a lot of passing anecdotes that serve to better contextualize the framework as well.

    It's light, and you can read the pertinent sections in one sitting, but after reading it I can recognize patterns in my behavior and not feel guilty about them, as I did before. And I think that's an important realization I hadn't made: I have problems/issues, but they don't have to be burdens. I don't have to feel guilty or ashamed of them. In fact, they could be the root of great strength, if properly encouraged.

    This is going to be way down in the list of comments, but it took me 30-odd years to come to this realization. Hopefully it helps some of the people who listened to this podcast and identified with Kris and Mikey.

  26. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing. It's not easy to share those parts of yourself, but I'm glad you're comfortable enough to share with each other, and us listeners. Hopefully it helped to release some of those emotions into the world, and if not then look at all the other comments supporting you and sharing their experiences. You guys are awesome.

  27. pablo says:

    Thank you both, Mike and Kris, i can really relate to your experiences, and hope that you also got something back from talking about such issues on the podcast. The regular podcast is hilarious but i hope that you find the way to take the time every now and then to talk about your lives.

  28. ScubaSteveNZ says:

    Hey guys
    Long time listener first time caller
    Liked this episode, appreciated the honesty
    cheers!

  29. Ed Blair says:

    As a rule I don't comment on the things I read or listen to on the internet because I typically don't have much to add to the conversation and don't want to clutter the real discussions. I wanted to say thanks for this episode gentlemen.

  30. gallmoth says:

    Thank you for going through with posting this; your honesty really helps to hear. (And: would definitely listen in if this became a regular thing.)

    I've dealt with anxiety for ages, which I'm finally finding is helped by meds and (especially) talk therapy. It took me a long time to get here, because like Kris and others my anxiety was mostly self-generated, so I didn't see it as real. The only substantial pain I've had when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when I was 22 (I'm now 26.) Watching a sharp-minded programmer become a shaking husk who doesn't know where she is and can't use the bathroom without help? Not the best.

    What's dumb is it gave me this livejournally urge to tell the world what was happening (um, case in point); unlike anxiety, it was a pain I could point to a reason for, which made me feel more justified in having it. It's still tough to realize I can separate my own anxiety from this other thing, and that both are real and can be addressed individually. Hearing you guys open up here is great, because as artists you both have developed a lot of insight into your experiences, and it's rare to hear it come out in such an unfiltered way.

  31. groklife says:

    Hey, Kris and/or Mikey: unrelated to this podcast, but are you going to record and Youtube a video stream of the Triple Door event? I, for one, would love to be at the show, but live in NC and can't be bothered to drive/travel/teleport to see youse guys in person. A Paypal Portal to viewing you guys would be great for me, though. Thanks and keep up the excellence!

  32. scottyjx says:

    I liked the Real Talk. Good episode.

  33. lonetode says:

    I want to thank you guys, from the bottom of my heart, for doing this podcast.

    To put my comment in context, I've basically torn through all of them in a relatively short period. I've subscribed now, and I'll be listening to you guys each week as long as you're generating output, but I rely on this sort of stuff. I'm someone who needs constant input…and not always because I need to be entertained. I need to be distracted, or engaged. I need to think. Because when I don't have something external coming in, my thoughts go internal, and Things Go Bad.

    Podcasts from people such as yourselves are perfect. I also listen to the Penny Arcade podcasts; they're what started me on the idea of listening to smart geeks chatting as a means to distract myself. When I found those podcasts in particular, I was going through a really tough time, and it was perfect. Exactly what I need to survive.

    Things are better now…I have a great job, I'm engaged, and I'm doing my Masters. All things considered, my life is firing on all cylinders. But that core assertion remains the same…I still need to be distracted. Things still Go Bad.

    Yesterday was, by pure coincidence, one of those days. I have to put with a lot of pain due to what I can only sum up as 'Body Problems'. And I've always been an analytical, anxious guy (though I've yet to see if this is anything that could be diagnosed). So some days are worse than others. Yesterday was a bad one, and this podcast came on, and it was exactly what I needed.

    Like a lot of people in my slice of the world, I'm really good at feeling like I don't fit in. Artefacts like this make me feel like I fit in.

    Thanks again guys. Keep being funny, keep being honest.

  34. D in Dallas says:

    Kris, I really enjoy your humor and the work that you do. I also enjoy when you add "real talk" commentary, like the comments about when your "Jesus dragged me" strip got reposted without credit all over FB. And I liked in this podcast when you mentioned that you were irritated about being dismissed when you were trying to say something serious by saying something funny with the Men's Rights strip. It adds depth and thoughtfulness to the lighthearted entertainment that you provide. The organic nature of its appearance, when it happens to you naturally, instead of being incorporated into a format, makes it even better.

    Mikey, dude, I really relate to your experience as you come across in your essays and even on the podcast. I have bipolar type II, which is different from regular bipolar, in that it doesn't really have mania that is noticeable. It's basically major depressive disorder with periods of heightened energy, focus, ambition, and sociability (which makes the cycle into depression even more painful because new projects are abandoned, new relationships wilt, loss of productivity feels more acutely like failure, etc.) One of the ways it's diagnosed separately from MDD, is that SSRIs tend to make the situation worse. Like when I was on Lexapro, and earlier in life, Zoloft.

    The best thing I ever did for myself, was STOP self-medicating, especially with alcohol. Now I know as you're reading this, you're pissed off now. I noticed that you're defensive about drinking in this podcast and from the (slightly) insensitive comment from the person who didn't really enjoy this episode. But it was obvious to me from the *last* podcast that this is a crutch you are likely increasingly relying on to get you through things. It's true that "I don't know you" or "What you go through" or anything like that. But if you are anything like me, people close to you can tell, but won't bring it up because they know how you'll react. I'd challenge you to ask the people close to you what they think of your drinking habits lately, as an experiment. If you don't like what you hear, try going to a couple meetings at Whiskey and Milk (lovingly referred to as WAM) down off the Tollway and Royal. Just listen to the stories. If you want to hear some serious "Real Talk" and dark humor from a bunch of young hard-lucks, there's no better venue I assure you. Best of luck.

    • MikeyNeumann says:

      I'm not angry and I appreciate you opening up about your own experiences. I might be a little put off that so many people seem to want to diagnose me, but it (mostly) comes from a good place, so I thank everyone for their concern.

      That being said, there's merit there. I think we all go through our periods of depressive coping mechanisms. Alcohol is a crutch I will admit to using from time to time. It's also something that I enjoy socially and keep under control. Between my full time job at Gearbox, coming home on weekdays and diving into many more hours of writing on novels/side projects, there's not a lot of me time. The podcast is a pretty serious commitment on Sunday as well, probably six hours or so. Last Sunday,I was at a soccer game with my family, so I had a few beers with my brother-in-law as we watched FC Dallas take on LA Galaxy. I wasn't drunk, *this* week (as you pointed out.) I haven't had any alcohol since the podcast, either. My self-medication is isolation and creative enterprise (and crying in the bathtub, it makes for great bubbles).

      I think it's amazing that Kris has cultured such an intelligent and supportive community of people.

      I think you're amazing for having the courage to speak so directly to me about it. I would never throw "what I've gone through" in someone's face. That's a shitty way to live your life. I honestly thank you.

      Next week on the CSS podcast: Mikey will not be drinking.

      <3

  35. As I tweeted to you both – this was my favorite episode so far.

  36. jakescheps says:

    I think the thing I identify with most is when Mikey had that thing he wanted to talk about, and he built up to it for ages, and first he had to contextualize why he'd even want to say anything that was thematically on that level by talking about his essays and the soccer game with his nephew, and then he got through that story so painfully slowly, and it all ended so abruptly. And then, immediately, a wave of apologies, and I recognized this all too well. Mikey, I liked hearing about the stuff you've been through, and I don't think you ruined anything when you brought it up. Thanks for being open.

    I also think you're right that civil war history as it is sometimes taught is reductive and creates heroes and villains where they do not exist, but my opinion is that the single concrete issue of slavery outweighs any subtler point of political philosophy or states' rights, and these merely become thin wrappings around the question of slavery. If you look at the acrimony and political maneuvering (as bad as it's ever been in American politics) leading up to the war, there really is only one issue. As new states were admitted to the union, in every case the issue arose of whether it should be slave or free because of the dangers of any imbalance in the senate. Obviously there was a war only because the question had such broader implications to the economics and even self-image of the South, but it is still THE question over which the dispute arose. Of course, were you to ask the common fighting man on either side what it was about, I somehow doubt many would answer either slavery OR states' rights.

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