The shadow of the Confederacy looms large over the United States.
Confederate symbolism is regarded as a shorthand for white supremacist movements, and in the 11 southern states that seceded in 1861, racial inequality is perceived as even more entrenched than in the northern ones that didn’t.
Yet, the impact of the Confederacy far outweighs the actual length of its existence.
As one Twitter thread is reminding people, the Confederate States of America only existed… for five years.
In case that’s not enough to put it into perspective, Twitter user @cooperstreaming posted a challenge to their followers at the weekend: to name a thing that lasted longer than the Confederacy.
To kick things off, they highlighted the disconnect between the way the Confederacy is discussed (as if it is centuries-old bedrock that modern America is built upon) and the reality (and racist secession that lasted less than a decade).
An attached post read:
Just a reminder that the Confederacy only existed for five years. It’s not Ireland, where centuries of ancestors lived and died. It’s not your heritage.
Nirvana lasted longer than the Confederacy.
My emo phase lasted longer than the Confederacy.
You’re not proud of those five years of your great-great-great-great grandfather’s life. You like the white supremacy. Stop pretending it’s something else.
Their followers quickly obliged; here’s a round-up of 12 things that lasted longer than the Confederate States of America.
1. RuPaul’s Drag Race
Yes, Ru has been entreating queens not to “f**k it up” for over 10 years now. Which is twice as long as Nathan Bedford Forrest and co were in power in the South, presiding over incidents like the massacre of 300 Union troops (mostly black) who had previously surrendered. What a proud legacy.
Believe it or not, the ‘grande’ came into being when the first Starbucks opened in Seattle, in 1971. We’ve been paying through the nose for coffee for nearly 50 years. And no, we will never stop.
3. Birth control
One contributor to the thread pointed out that thanks to the wonders of science, her IUD had been installed for double the time the Confederate generals lasted as heads of state. More effective too, no doubt.
4. Barack Obama’s presidency
No, a black man in the White House didn’t solve racism but we can bet it would have infuriated Confederacy supporters to know that not only was Barack Obama elected president, he served three years longer than the Confederacy lasted.
It certainly didn’t go down well with those who still wave around the Confederate flag in contemporary America.
In 1920, just as other Western countries began their post-war celebrations, America decided to bring the party to an abrupt close with the advent of Prohibition.
All beverages containing more than 0.5 per cent of alcohol were forbidden to be sold. And it remained that way for 14 years. Did America stay dry? Did they hell. There were reportedly 100,000 illegal bars in New York alone.
6. Student loan debt
US students who borrow loans in order to pay for university apparently expect to pay off their debt within six years.
However, a 2019 Cengage survey actually found the average time it takes to clear a student loan is 20 years – that’s if they manage it at all. That’s quadruple the amount of time the Confederacy lasted.
7. Production on the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Production design on the Lord of the Rings started in 1997, and set building began later that year, with costumes following later.
This is because director Peter Jackson decided to shoot all three films simultaneously, with 2,400 crew on set at one point.
Primary filming began in 1999 and finished in late 2000, with additional footage shot up until 2004.
One scene featuring lead actors Elijah Wood and Sean Astin was first shot in 1999 – and then finished a year later. The scene in the final cut of the move features jump shots between the two that Jackson marvelled were “jumping back and forth across a year-long gap”.
8. Sourdough starters
There are sourdough starters on eBay that claim to be 40 years old. That’s longevity. And a lot of delicious, dough-based treats.
MySpace launched in 2003 and, for three years from 2005 was apparently the biggest social networking site in the world.
Believe it or not, an iteration of the platform still exists but there’s a lot more news and far less side-swept fringes. Sob.
10. Elton John’s “final” tour
Legendary musician Elton Johnson announced his first ‘last’ tour a while ago… in 1977. “I’ve made a decision tonight that this is going to be the last show,” Elton said at the time.
'There’s a lot more to me than playing on the road and this is the last one I’m going to do”.
That pledge lasted two years. However, Elton’s 300-date Farewell Tour, announced in 2018 looks set to run until 2022 thanks to the advent of coronavirus. So he might be on the road even longer than he’d initially presumed…
11. Spin Doctors
Lead singer of Spin Doctors, Chris Barron, dropped by to let everyone know that Spin Doctors have lasted longer than the Confederacy. Alexa, play Two Princes.
12. Microsoft Zune
Microsoft Zune was Microsoft’s attempt to crack the music streaming market, with a tied-in portable mp3 player.
Zune ended up being a failed challenger to the iPod, discontinued officially in 2012 after six years of low sales. Some people said it was a truly great bit of kit. Sadly, the rest of us will never know if this was accurate.
And a bonus...
13. Racial inequality
Sadly, this both preceded and outlasted the Confederacy by a good few centuries.
Definitely time to leave it in the past.