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February 15, 2024 79 mins

Robert and Prop discuss Robert E. Lee's career in the army, and his horrific violence towards the enslaved workers on his father-in-laws plantation.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Also media. What's inheriting wealth my southern landed gentry. I
don't know.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
I don't know.

Speaker 1 (00:12):
That's not a great not a great intro. But anyway,
Harry prop welcome back. How are we feeling.

Speaker 2 (00:20):
Feeling good man? Third cup of coffee. We're back in
the game.

Speaker 1 (00:23):
Yeah, ready to ride.

Speaker 2 (00:24):
Got some banana chips?

Speaker 1 (00:26):
Yeah, a little plantain that'll make everybody forget my dog
shit introduction for this. Speaking of dog shit, you know
what college is? Dog shit? Prop?

Speaker 2 (00:36):
Well, college is dogshit.

Speaker 1 (00:38):
West Point Man just a whole pile of better kaka.
I mean, I don't know, I don't know much about
the actual objective.

Speaker 2 (00:48):
I'm sure. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:49):
The only thing I know about West Point is like
what's in the movies? Yes, yeah, exactly, Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:54):
Army College. It's a you know, it's important to note
like the reputation it has today is largely formed by
they call it the class the Stars fell on. It
was the west Point graduating class that had like Patent
and Omar Bradley and I think Eisenhower, like all these
guys who are like real big world dub dub dose
fell us like we're in the same class.

Speaker 2 (01:14):
Now.

Speaker 1 (01:15):
It's one of those things where like West Point today
it's the place where the US military trains, it's most promising,
or if you talk to enlisted men, it's most frustrating officers.
Right in the early eighteen hundreds, when young Bobby Lee
became a cadet, West Point was a lot smaller, and like,
the country's not very old, so it doesn't have a
huge proud history, and it is extremely focused on one

(01:37):
narrow sort of education engineering. Right, it is probably the
best engineering school in the country. So when you think
about West Point of Robert E. Lee's day, it's closer
to Mit than the way we think about West Point now, right,
And this makes a lot of sense if you understand
nineteenth century warfare today, a huge amount of modern warfighting
is like small unit tactics, right, Infantry clears buildings and

(02:01):
like engages in firefights. Does all this stuff because with
modern equipment and weaponry all the different the wide variety,
everything from drones and rocket launchers to like standard small arms,
there's a lot for small units to do, and a
lot of shit revolves around that. So that's going to
be a significant amount of training for any army officer
back in this day, especially when Lee's in it, it's

(02:23):
pretty much all smooth bores, right, So it's these muskets
that they only really are very effective when you have
a bunch of people all like marching and firing in unison.
So there's not a lot for you to teach someone about,
like other than how to reload quickly, about like how
to be a trooper in a formation beyond like marching
and stuff.

Speaker 2 (02:41):
So do you want to want to be that way?
Gone that way? Yeah, if you're.

Speaker 1 (02:44):
Teaching people to be an officer, though, you want to
teach them a lot about engineering and mathematics, about like
the way in which things move, about physics. You want
to be so that they can both know how artillery
would work, where to position them, how to fire them,
how to how to wield these blocks of men and
have them like fire in ways that's going to be effective.

(03:04):
Like that's all engineering is kind of the US makes
this decision pretty early on that like engineering is what's
going to make our officers effective. And this is actually
historically a good bet. You know, people the Roman Empire,
people talk a lot about, you know, every aspect but
this but like the reason the Rome became an empire
was not because its soldiers were like great individual fighters.

(03:27):
It's because every soldier in the Roman legions was a
combat engineer, and like, that's fucking useful. You know, they
made roads and bridges. Like the scrubway to fight a
war is stabbing another dude. The smart way to fight
a war is building a wall around him and starving
him to death. Yeah, a dude.

Speaker 3 (03:44):
That a dude that gets to like a lake or
river and thinks, man, how are we going to get
across that?

Speaker 2 (03:49):
And then dude, it's like, we're gonna build a bridge,
all right.

Speaker 1 (03:52):
And build a fucking bridge across.

Speaker 3 (03:53):
So you just build a bridge, Like, yeah, not just
knocking down a tree and walking over the plane.

Speaker 2 (03:58):
No, We're going to build a bridge.

Speaker 1 (04:00):
And the US at this point is an infant empire
and it sees itself very much cut in the image
of the old Roman Republic, which is another reason why
all of these guys are engineers. Right, So yeah, that's
that's gonna be the shit that like Lee does. He's
going to Army Nerds school and he does really well there.
He's a great student. He's not the best in his class,
but he's very close to it. He's also the most

(04:22):
boring boy in the whole school. He didn't drink, he
didn't gamble, he didn't like have fun. He graduates second
from his class, and he's one of only six students
in his graduating class that never receives a demerit. He
gets the nickname the marble Model as a resistance perfe Zach.
He gets an attendance award and he gets called marble

(04:46):
model a lot. And what they're saying there is that
like this is both like, yeah, it's kind of he's
kind of like exhausting and boring, but also like he
is a good soldier. He's a reliable guy. So like
people find him like make fun of him a little bit,
but he also is generally liked because you can you
can trust Lee to do his job.

Speaker 3 (05:05):
Yeah, he's he's he's a he's definitely a hall monitor.
But yeah, we were stuck outside. You want him with
him because Nigga can follow directions and.

Speaker 1 (05:12):
Yes, yes, and he's he's competent. He knows like how
to do shit right. Yeah. The mother of one of
his peers found herself surprised that after meeting him, he
was very human, is what she describes, So that should
give you some insight into how his classmates wrote home
about him to their family. Fun Yeah, that I don't

(05:33):
think he would breathe.

Speaker 2 (05:36):
Oh gosh, how much shade is it when your the homies.

Speaker 3 (05:40):
Mama like is like, oh no, I thought he's a
little Weirdough it turns out like you're regular kid.

Speaker 1 (05:45):
Hey, he's a nice enough guy. I didn't expect that.

Speaker 2 (05:47):
Yeah, that's so funny. Yeah, your mom.

Speaker 1 (05:53):
Later in life, one friend of the Lee family would
state that she knew Robert's brother Smith Lee. Well, but
she writes quote and anybody say they know his brother,
I doubt it. He looks so cold and quiet and grand,
And that's very common from people talking about Bobby Lee.

Speaker 3 (06:10):
Right.

Speaker 1 (06:10):
He is perfectly polite. He has impeccable manners. He is
the studious embodiment of Southern gentility, and he plays his
emotions so close to the chest that nobody people don't
really everyone's kind of confused, is like, is he just
hiding his true self for polar tests or is there
nothing inside of him? Really?

Speaker 2 (06:31):
Yeah?

Speaker 3 (06:31):
Right, Like, I know I know some street dudes like that,
Like I have a friend who even his closest friends
like we've sat down, like at a bar or something
and been like, yeah, I don't actually know him, and
they're like we've we met in middle school and they're like,
I honestly are I'm like, I'm not sure I know him. Yeah,

(06:54):
like just they just keep Yeah, they play their cards close.

Speaker 1 (06:57):
You know, this man twenty years and I can't say
anything but that he's always on time. Yes, Yeah, that's
that's kind of how people talk about Robert E.

Speaker 2 (07:05):
Lee now.

Speaker 1 (07:05):
They also very frequently will call him hot. He is
repeatedly described as fine as looking. One family friend called
him on the whole, the handsomest young man I ever saw.

Speaker 3 (07:17):
He probably like you know, he ain't he like like
road warn because he don't drink.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
So he probably got that skin. You know what I'm saying.
He's not doing drugs or ain't got no wrinkles. You
feel me. He had all his stress when he was
a child. Yeah, like I'm done with his stress.

Speaker 1 (07:30):
Yeah, he's the only man in the eighteen hundreds who
ages like someone from the twenty first century. Yeah, it
is noted that, like he doesn't go gray until the
Civil War.

Speaker 2 (07:40):
Yeah, now he got some stress.

Speaker 1 (07:41):
Now he's got some stress. Yeah. So when you read
through different bits of the multiple books about Lee. As
I have, you encounter repeatedly people talking about how hot
he wasn't it. It's sort of like how Kissinger's a
sex symbol, and that's well known at the time, but
then in modern days because he's like this old goblin
of a man, like you don't really real it's surprising

(08:01):
when you read it. And this paragraph from Smithsonian Magazine
summarizes the phenomenon of hot Lee well. His hair was
eban and abundant, as his doting biography Douglas Freeman puts it,
with a wave that a woman might have envied, a
robust black mustache, a strong full mouth and chin unobscured
by any beard, and dark mercurial brows. He was not

(08:23):
one to hide his looks under a bushel. His heart,
on the other hand, the heart he kept locked away,
as Stephen Vincent Binet proclaimed in John Brown's Body, from
all the picklocks of biographers, such a horny way to
describe this.

Speaker 2 (08:37):
He was just so hot, mysterious. He was so mysterious,
you know, you don't know what's going.

Speaker 1 (08:42):
On, putting it on a little straw.

Speaker 3 (08:44):
And a boy, and a boy got a baby face
like zid wouldn't hidden by a beard, and that helps,
you know, I'm saying, why you're looking around. Everybody else
looked like a silver backed gorillas, you know. Yeah, here
yet here with a baby face, you know.

Speaker 1 (08:56):
Yeah. So when he he finally does Mary, and he
does like flirt or pursue anybody, at least not on record,
he is very chaste. He marries right after graduation, a
woman named Mary Custis. They had been sweetheart not even sweethearts,
but they had known each other basically their whole lives
since childhood. I don't know if he was really in
love with her the whole time, or if it was

(09:18):
more that he was in love with her family legacy,
because she is the great granddaughter of Martha Washington, so
she's descended from or related to, George Washington. Right and
Lee again, George Washington is like the guy he idealizes,
particularly compared to his shameful father. Right. His father is

(09:38):
like the warning sign. Washington is the model he wants
to follow, And so you get the feeling. Part of
why he marries Mary Custis is like he wants that
Washington legacy to be a part of him, right, maybe
to wipe away some of his father's shame. In the
nineteen sixty nine Lost Call history book Meet Robert E. Lee,

(10:02):
it rather humorously stated Robert E. Lee was the last
great man of Old Virginia. In many ways, he was
closer to his hero George Washington than he was to
the men of his own time in literal because he
basically wants to fuck George Washington, right, Like that's what's
going on here. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (10:18):
Yeah, like I'm gonna change my legacy, Like I don't
want the legacy to.

Speaker 2 (10:21):
Be all, oh, no money. You know what I'm saying,
broke ass Lee exactly. I'm with Disney, Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1 (10:28):
So they had known each other since they yeah, since
they were kids. The one thing I'll say for him,
they're like the same age. They're born the same year,
which is pretty good for high society marriages of this period.
So congratulations, Robert E.

Speaker 2 (10:41):
Lee.

Speaker 1 (10:41):
You get the coveted behind the bastards not a pedophile award. Yeah, yeah,
that's a proud honor, very rarely handed out. Yeah, we
are mailing your last descendant a gold medallion with the
words I Don't diddle kids written on it, So go,
you know, congratulations that's a real honor for the family. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (11:02):
Yeah, So that's big.

Speaker 1 (11:05):
That's it's huge.

Speaker 3 (11:06):
Ye, that's really big, man, because there's a lot of listen,
there's a lot of things we can say about you,
and we will, but you do like them, y'all.

Speaker 1 (11:14):
Yeah, not a childsterious. That's so good for you, Robert. Yes,
So the Custis family were significantly wealthier than the Lee's,
and Mary's father is understandably he never really trusts Robert E.
Lee in his whole life, not because Lee does anything wrong,
but because of how bad his father was, which not

(11:34):
necessarily an irresponsible decision. Right yeah, no, I yeah, now
that said George Washington Park Custis, Mary's dad is also
a huge piece of shit. For one thing, he owns
some two hundred enslaved people, and he's like Thomas Jefferson,
he's one of these guys who's who is vocally anti

(11:54):
slavery while owning a bunch of people, And like Thomas Jefferson,
he has children with a lot of his slave people. Right, yeah,
this is rape, right, Like that's the only way to
look at this. Alan Guelzo writes, the elder Custis burdened
with his own private guilt over slavery, had been quote
an easy going master, requiring little of his slaves, especially

(12:16):
because it was rumored that over the years he had
fathered fifteen of them.

Speaker 2 (12:20):
Good God, here's the thing, man, Look.

Speaker 3 (12:24):
I don't know if there's anything I hate more besides
like just the institution of slavery, but the defense that like.

Speaker 2 (12:33):
But he was like a nice one though. Yeah, he
was kind of.

Speaker 3 (12:37):
Nice to his Like, I don't know if I don't
know if anything makes me want to like flip a
table more than that answer.

Speaker 1 (12:43):
Yeah, I think you know, it's worth understanding the difference
between quote unquote nice and mean slave owners, for understanding
the lives of slaves, but not for making a moral
decision about those slave owners. It's under It's actually very
similar to like when you read Hullo cost memoirs from
survivors of Auschwitz, they will talk about like, well, these guys,

(13:05):
these remember, this particular member of the SS was polite
to us. He treated me relative, and I was able
to get stuff out of him to help. I was
able to get food or whatnot out of him. Yeah,
that doesn't mean that guy was he was still a
concentration understand, Like, yeah, okay.

Speaker 3 (13:20):
You know, I appreciate you pulling the fly out of
the rat poison you're about to feed me.

Speaker 2 (13:27):
I appreciate.

Speaker 1 (13:27):
Yeah, it's worth understanding because again, if you want to
understand the lives of these enslaved people, sure, if you're
if you're with a guy like this who is like
less like violent and shitty, then like you can maybe
work a better get more freedom, get more personal liberty.
But like that does not reflect still on.

Speaker 2 (13:47):
The very much.

Speaker 3 (13:48):
I might have got a little here, but I wasn't cheating,
you know, which is like in one of the upcoming
Hill Politics episodes, like we're talking about the International Court
for Justice and like that's like bb net and yah,
who's like argument to where it's like, well, I don't
know if it's like genocide genocide, you know, or it's
like maybe it's not like air quotes genocide, Like yeah.

Speaker 1 (14:10):
It's a little bit of hit.

Speaker 2 (14:12):
You know. I wasn't really cheating.

Speaker 1 (14:13):
It's like Fama, it's only genocide if it comes from
the genocide region of France. Otherwise it's just a sparkling massacre,
right exactly, Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 2 (14:22):
Yeah, So yeah, I was like, well you know what though,
But we didn't really like.

Speaker 3 (14:25):
Beat our slaves. Yeah, so it's a little different.

Speaker 2 (14:30):
Yeah, No, I'm good.

Speaker 1 (14:32):
Yeah these people. So he is eventually kind of is
won over by Robert E. Lee, although never entirely. Lee
takes an absence, a brief absence from his time as
a lieutenant to have his honeymoon. And then he sent
to Hampton Roads, which is a port on the Virginia coast,
and they'd had a bunch of fortifications but they looked
like shit, and he's going to like renovate the fortifications

(14:54):
on his honeymoon. No right after right.

Speaker 3 (14:57):
Oh, I was like, I was hoping that this train
of I thought wasn't going to lead to its sexual prowess.

Speaker 1 (15:02):
No, no, nothing about that. I assume he was bad at.

Speaker 2 (15:06):
Sex, Haley Louiah, Yeah, thank you, Gez.

Speaker 1 (15:08):
He spends the first four years of his career like
reinforcing these fortifications at Hampton Roads, and the only interesting
thing that happens in that period is that there's an
insurrection by enslaved Americans in Southampton. This is the Nat
Turner Rebellion. Right, let's go. No, he's not involved in it,
but it happens near enough. And it's it's relevant because

(15:30):
he again doesn't do anything in this, but he writes
about it to his mother in law, and the single
paragraph we get of him writing about Nat Turner's rebellion
is one of the bleakest and most infuriating things I've
ever read. And I'm going to read this to you now.
Prop It is ascertained that they use their religious assemblies,
which ought to have been devoted to better purposes, for
forming and maturing their plans, and that their preachers were

(15:53):
the leading men. And first off, I'll say, I don't know,
just remembering the Old Testament, I feel like slaves using
their religious service to plan rebellion is actually very biblical.

Speaker 2 (16:02):
I was like, I don't know, man, Like, if you're
actually reading the book, that's pretty all part.

Speaker 1 (16:07):
Feel like that happens a couple tis yeah, he continues.
A man belonging to a Missus Whitehead, and one of
their preachers was the chief under the title of Major Nelson,
and his first act was to kill his mistress, five
children and one grandchild. However, there are many instances of
their defending their masters, and one poor fellow from the
inconsiderate and almost unwarrantable haste of the whites was sadly rewarded.

(16:31):
He belonged to a mister Blunt, and himself and two others,
assisted by his master and his son Nobody, fought with
them against twenty of the blacks. After beating them off
and running in great haste after horses for them to
escape on, a party of white suddenly came up and,
thinking the horses were for other purposes, shot him dead.
So he's talking about here that some of the enslaved

(16:53):
black people fought alongside their white masters against this slave uprising,
and he's like, and then they got killed by white
people who just like shot first and asked questions later
because they were spooked and killing every black person they saw,
which you would think might cause a man to consider
like the overall evil of the system that he looked made.
But lead does not lead is not.

Speaker 3 (17:13):
Yeah, yeah, it's just because gravity works the way gravity works,
So like, yeah, I get it. I as a funny
side note, in junior high, I left La went to
a middle school in the suburbs and the Inland Empire,
and then my parents split and I went back to LA.

Speaker 2 (17:32):
But anyway, but.

Speaker 3 (17:34):
In middle school, I was in the Burbs, like and
it was probably the most like concentrated amount of white
people I've ever seen in my life, like you know,
And and I'm saying this like like strictly from a
like anthropological perspective, like not even a not even a
statement on its culture, because I just I just wasn't

(17:55):
familiar with white culture at the time, you know what
I'm saying, Like, I just didn't.

Speaker 2 (17:58):
It just wasn't my world.

Speaker 3 (17:59):
I just who I went to this to this middle school,
and we had to do a.

Speaker 2 (18:05):
Historical person's report. I did it on that Turner.

Speaker 1 (18:09):
Oh shit.

Speaker 3 (18:09):
And at no point did it cross my mind that
this world of white people would have an issue of.

Speaker 2 (18:18):
That, Like, I just I never thought about it.

Speaker 3 (18:21):
Now as an adult, I'm like, dude, I can imagine,
like I'm putting myself in like poor old you know,
misdorsed my seventh grade history teacher. I walk in with
this with this book report on Nat Turner, and she
looking at me at like one of seven black people
in a fifty mile radius.

Speaker 2 (18:43):
And I walk in with this report on a slave rebellion.

Speaker 3 (18:47):
How she I just wonder what was going through her
head at the time that everybody else is doing book
reports on normal stuff, but I did it on that turner,
and now as an adult, I'm like, I would have
loved that if I would to this Bourbon school and
his little boy walking well report on Net's owner. Was
just no concept that anyone else would view this as

(19:10):
any different than I and my.

Speaker 2 (19:12):
Family view it. I'm like, what are you talk about
this guy zero?

Speaker 1 (19:15):
You know, yes, yeah, it's one of those things obviously,
like you know what Lee says, there is not wrong,
like the like children were killed during the uprising, and
my stance on this it's similar to how I feel
about the killing of the czar and his family. Children
never deserve to be murdered. That is not their fault.
The children of slave owners and tzars are not guilty.

(19:36):
But I put the blame for their deaths on the
adult slave owners and the adult czar and his wife,
not on the enslaved people who felt like they had
no other option.

Speaker 3 (19:46):
Yes, right, yeah, you have institutionally put your children in
danger by allowing and upholding this institution that will, invariably,
like you said, cause a person to respond the way
they have.

Speaker 1 (19:58):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you know we can talk more
like the czar's situation is obviously more complicated. There is
some blame you can give to some of the other
people in that. But like in the case of Nat Turner,
what else? What else was he option?

Speaker 2 (20:11):
Yeah?

Speaker 1 (20:12):
And so after this, Lee is sent to work in
d C, which enables him to live in Arlington for
the first time. This is basically the first time in
his pre war adult life that he spends any time
at this Arlington. This like plantation that he gets, you know,
with his wife is like, this is a huge part
of the Lee myth that this was, This was what

(20:34):
in his bones, this was his home. Like this he
had such a deep connection. He barely spends any fucking
time there in ar Yeah, in Arlington. Like basically, this
period of time where he's working in d C is
one of the only times in his adult life where
he spends significant periods of time at Arlington. Now this
is handy. He spends some time like commuting to work

(20:54):
in d C by carriage. It's helpful because he's close.
While his mom is sick she probably has tuberculosis, because
that's what kills everybody in the olden days, Lee reverts
to being her caretaker. He mixes her medicine. He's a
dedicated good boy, right.

Speaker 2 (21:09):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (21:10):
The story is somewhat less heartwarming when you learn that
Anne spends her last days revising her will, in which
she gives away several human beings, including children, her daughter
also named Anne inherited quote, my maid servant Charlotte and
her child, along with Keziah, William and Betsy, along with
my set of white tea china, my wardrobe, two of

(21:32):
my best tablecloths, and one half of my family napkins
and wearing apparel.

Speaker 2 (21:36):
So again in the same sins.

Speaker 1 (21:38):
Yeah, yeah, children, adults and a china set all the same.

Speaker 2 (21:42):
Type of thing to them on the same level.

Speaker 1 (21:45):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (21:45):
Also, I think Virginia as a West coaster, you know,
and my mom's from DC, so like as I viewed
like Virginia is like it honestly feels like two different states.
And I'm not meaning like Virginia and West Virginia. I
mean Virginia itself. Because there's the Virginia that's basically just

(22:06):
southern Washington, DC, and then there's the Virginia that had plantations,
like and it's it's still like shakes my brain because
I'm like, I still see Virginia as east coast rather
than southern because yeah, when you say, like Alexandria Richmond,
I'm like Ronald Reagan's airport is in Virginia.

Speaker 1 (22:28):
It's it's interesting because like you get a lot of
there's people will argue very strenuously that like, yeah, Virginia
is part of the South, but Texas really isn't you know,
It's it's like the thing or it's part of the West,
and like there's actually some validity behind that, like culturally historically,
but like I think they are both part of the South.
Virginia is now like certainly like has like elements of

(22:53):
I don't know, it's it's weird, like it's not worth
getting into right now.

Speaker 3 (22:56):
But yeah, I guess I guess my question would be like, uh,
because it was I was leading.

Speaker 2 (23:01):
To a question, I think.

Speaker 3 (23:02):
But like, so obviously, if he works in d C,
he's in the more and we're still talking about a
slave state, but he's in one that's more closer to
city life rather than agricultural now yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1 (23:17):
And he's kind of commuting from this semi this agricultural
plantation into d C because Arlington is kind of in
the heights above DC. Like one of the reasons that
like the Union will go after it early in the
Civil War is you can shell DC from Marline. Yeah,
so he's not far away, No, it's pretty close. Yeah. Now,
the Lee Boys aren't named as being given any enslaved people,

(23:41):
it's not in the will, but they actually seem to
have inherited some. It's just not I guess for whatever reason,
she didn't think it was worth writing. And the will
biographer Alan Guelzo has noted that the Lee Boys definitely
inherited who he describes as quote one unitemized slave family.
I don't know if they were like kind of cheating
so that they didn't have to pay as much inheritance tax.

(24:03):
It's weird, Like, I don't know why they wouldn't have
been listed. But in eighteen thirty five, Robert E. Lee
wrote that he owned Missus Sally Diggs, Missus Nancy Ruffin,
and her three illegitimate pledges. No men are named, which
is undoubtedly evidence that a family was forcibly broken up.
I guess possible the men died early, right, that's not
given the time, not impossible, but it seems likely that

(24:24):
families were broken up As a result of this inheritance,
which happens a lot. In eighteen thirty five, Lee is
sent to Saint Louis on a mission to literally defy God.
For years it had been clear that the Mississippi River
was shifting, and so there's all this like port infrastructure
in Saint Louis that will be useless if the river
shifts to be over in Illinois. So Lee has to

(24:45):
do basically the equivalent of spritzing the Mississippi's nose with
water until it learns not to like risk the future
economic viability of Missouri. Yeah, that's funny, really thumbing your
nose in God's.

Speaker 2 (24:57):
Eye, mister Southern gent Yeah, Okista.

Speaker 1 (25:03):
So I have mentioned that one of my sources for
these episodes is General Lee, a biography by Fitzhugh Lee.
Now this is not a good source, and that it
is not a reputable, unbiased historic account of Lee, but
it is a good source, and that it was written
in like eighteen ninety six by his family and because
of the area it's and it includes some fucked up

(25:23):
shit that I think would have been edited out by
like a lost cause pop historian today, but that you
do get when you read through this draft, and while
churning through much of this otherwise interminable book, I found
another letter Lee sent back to one of his cousins,
where he comments on a local rumor by using a
casual racial slur. We live in a credulous country where

(25:44):
people stick at nothing, from a sea word story to
a sea serpent. And you know the sea word is
like it's a it's a slang term for black people
using like talking about like raccoons. Right, that's the yeah, Yeah,
I'm bringing this up because this is like the use
of a slur in a letter considering Robert E. Lee's
actual crimes on the lower list of the horrible things

(26:06):
he did.

Speaker 2 (26:07):
But sure, I'm.

Speaker 1 (26:08):
Bringing this up because casual and lost cause histories of
the man love to emphasize how much he hated slavery,
called it a moral evil, and would have been willing
to free his own slaves to keep the union together.
He did express variance of those sentiments, but he also
regularly expressed very casual hateful racism like this, right, it

(26:28):
is all over his letters. It is undeniable, and I
think that ugliness is important to get out. It's not
just that he was willing to fight for slavery. He
fully bought into the racial hierarchy and the casual distaste
and hatred even for black people.

Speaker 3 (26:43):
That was the reality of like it to put yourself
in the time to understand that. They saw this as like,
this is settled science in the same way that we
understand that the Earth revolves around the sun. That is
settled science. That is how it works. So race science
for them is like, no, this is it's settled. This

(27:06):
is the science. We are biologically superior. So like, what
do you it's settled, Like what are we arguing about?

Speaker 2 (27:14):
You know what I'm saying.

Speaker 3 (27:15):
I think that that that element when you're talking about
this Like okay, so I remember in like some of
my formal like theological training, they talked about like this
this dude Jonathan Edwards, like Jonathan Edwards, the guy Jonathan Edwards,
like the sinners in the hands of angry God like.

Speaker 1 (27:32):
This, yeah, yeah, you know, big, hugely influential America.

Speaker 3 (27:35):
Hugely influential, like you know, Protestant preacher. And during this
time of the institution of slavery, like he was quoted
to saying like if the savages and the.

Speaker 2 (27:48):
Africans knowing exactly what I mean by that.

Speaker 3 (27:51):
Yeah, are in fact made in the image of God
like image bearers, as in that's what we what we
believe humans are You made in the image of God.

Speaker 2 (28:01):
Then we should be giving them the gospel.

Speaker 1 (28:05):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (28:05):
And then but then he says, I'm just not.

Speaker 3 (28:08):
Sure they're humans, Like, and you don't say like this,
this is all preacher, this is y'all.

Speaker 2 (28:14):
This is y'all, dude, That's what I'm trying to say,
like a person who is and that Yeah, pat like
a leader, a pillar of the faith. It is like
it is he's because his brain he's challenging science. I
think they're humans.

Speaker 1 (28:28):
And I think this is where we get into when
we talk about the morality of like, well, you can't
judge people from the past by modern standards. You can't
judge people from the past for being raised with racist beliefs.
You can judge them for how they act on them.
I think that's useful because like, you cannot blame a
man for like being raised in a bigoted society and

(28:48):
keeping a hold of some degree of those beliefs, but
you can judge him on the degree to which he
changes and overcomes some of it, Right, like it's you know,
I have older relatives who like will never be comfortable
with homosexuality because of the time they were raised in,
but came rounder the belief that like, yes, they should
be allowed to marry. There shouldn't be legal prescriptions against them.
That's wrong, and like, yes, yeah, you were born in

(29:10):
like the thirties, right, Like that's about as much as
I can hope for, right, And I think that that's
kind of how you have to judge people, right, Like, yes,
you inherit some bad stuff, but like, what do you
actually do when you have the ability to make decisions?
And where do you go in your life? And like
Lee never questions any of this, and he never changes,

(29:31):
you know, he is a marble man and marble does
not grow, you know, good one. Yeah yeah, speaking of growing,
you know who does grow and change over time? The
sponsors of the show.

Speaker 4 (29:53):
Bazam, we're back building, Bazam.

Speaker 1 (29:58):
You've never my new catchphrase, Sam Bazam is like really
like it fits you very suite. Thank you. So Lee
is going to complain constantly about money throughout his life.
You don't make good money as an officer. He's always like,
should I retire my commission and try to make a
living some other way. I don't think he would have

(30:18):
been good at that, but he thinks about it a lot.
He's not ever really happy, right, and in any of
his situations, his ambitions kind of outweigh most of what
he's able to accomplish. And you know, he's away from
home all the time. He does not seem to have
a strong desire to be around his family or to
help him, like his wife, raise their children. So he

(30:39):
is like an absent dad.

Speaker 2 (30:40):
You know.

Speaker 1 (30:42):
Most of his letters are him like giving merry advice
on raising children based on probably not much actual knowledge
about how to raise kids, or you weren't raised not
very yeah yeah.

Speaker 3 (30:53):
And the one you weren't raised, and then number two
you're not raising your own kids yeah.

Speaker 1 (30:56):
Yeah yeah, And this is not you know, military families
today you're going to deal with, like your parent who's
in the military, potentially being away for long periods of
time undeployment. That is a reality still, but usually if
they're not in a combat posting families move around with
their family members. That's less of a thing here in
part because of like it's just not practical, you know,

(31:17):
with travel and the dangers of it being what they
are at this time. In eighteen forty six, the Mexican
American War breaks out, and this is gonna be Lee's
big defining moment as a man. This is the conflict
where most of the major military leaders in the US
Civil War will get their first combat experience. Lee at
this point is an artillery officer and he becomes a

(31:39):
part of General Winfield Scott's inner circle. Winfield Scott is
the commander of US forces in this war. Lee is
really good at this job. And it's important to note
he is really good at being an officer in charge
of artillery. He is not commanding armies. That is not
ever a thing he's going to be great at. He
is managing sections of guns in the man who fire them.

(32:01):
And a big part of his job is the armies marching.
They're like, okay, we're going to try to bring them
into battle here. And his job is analyzing the maps,
scouting on horseback and whatnot, figuring out where is the
best place to put our cannon so that they'll have
good fields of fire to hit the enemy, you know,
And he's really good at this job. One of his
first moments in the sun comes during the Battle of

(32:22):
Saro Gordo, where he leads a detachment of cannons through
thick brush bushwhacking their way into a position where they
can fire down on the Mexican left flank and surprise
the enemy. This gets him promoted to major, and his
further exploits in the war earn him significant press attention.
He becomes a war hero back home, not the biggest
of the war, but one of the larger US war
heroes to like the US population. The most spectacular moment

(32:46):
of his career comes when he crosses with just a
handful of men a lava field at night to get
reinforcements for an upcoming action. General Scott describes this as
the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by
any individual in my knowledge penning the campaign. A lava field, Yeah,
like dried lava. I think, like, oh, I was like where, no,

(33:07):
not lava. Yeah. Also, I don't see where there's moral
courage involved in that, but there's physical courage. He's it's
it's yeah, this less lava. Yeah, yeah, unless it's lava.
I will say this earns lee are slightly less coveted
pretty good at the Mexican American War Medal, which due
to a printing error, is also a gold medal that

(33:28):
reads I don't diddle kids. Sorry, sorry about that, guys.
Both of them wound up being the same medal.

Speaker 3 (33:34):
But yeah, but you know what though, like he's in
rarefied air here for a bastards man.

Speaker 1 (33:38):
Yeah, that's right. Two medals, two medals. So Lee ends
the war as a brevet colonel and is one of
the most widely praised officers in the US Army. After
this point, there's buzz around the man, which does him
less good than you might guess, because he's gonna spend
the next stage of his career furious that he's not
moving up faster to new ranks and better commands. Part

(33:59):
of the reason for this is that the US we
don't really have a military in the modern sense. We
have a tiny regular military. We have a lot of
state militias which are pretty useless, and we have a
very small regular military. So there's not a lot of
spots for officers, and you can't move up until someone
above you, like quits or dies. Right, So he's kind

(34:20):
of frustrated that he's not really like getting He feels
like he's stuck in place, right, He's constantly wondering about quitting.
In eighteen fifty two, he gets a promotion. He's made
commandant of west Point, which he's not really excited about.
He describes it as a snake pit, I think due
to its internal politics. His son Custus attends while he

(34:41):
runs west Point and graduates first in his class. I'm
sure there's no.

Speaker 2 (34:45):
Oh he ran west Point for a while.

Speaker 1 (34:47):
Yeah, he runs it. He's a commandant a west Point.

Speaker 2 (34:49):
For three that's what kammandant means. Sorry, he's the boss.

Speaker 1 (34:52):
He's the boss.

Speaker 2 (34:53):
You know what that means.

Speaker 1 (34:54):
It's like being the dean. I think, yeah, yeah, yeah,
there's a fun maybe you could do like an a
animal House style movie about like whatever the bad Fraternity
is an old dean Robert E. Lee getting angry at
him for drinking. Yeah, we could make that work. So
on the whole, his tenure there is as boring as
most of the man's life, and is primarily of interest

(35:17):
because his long association with the Academy is going to
cause a lot of shit today, right, Like, there's a
bunch of debate over and actually this is interesting. One
of the books that is a source for this is
me and Robert E. Lee and it's written by a
former US Army officer who taught at west Point and
who they were trying to decide should we have a
memorial for Confederate troops, and specifically they wanted to put

(35:41):
it in a building that's named after a Union officer
whose personal stance was like, these people should never be
part of the country again. Fuck them, they're traders, right.
So this guy, the guy who writes the book is
like arguing, basically to his colleagues, we should not honor
Confederate veterans at west Point. They were they kill US soldiers.

(36:02):
Why are we honoring them at These men are fucking traders? Yeah,
and he he loses the fight. They decide to move
ahead with the memorial until a I'm not sure who
it is, but it is a high ranking black officer
who's a graduate of west Point. I don't actually know
it might have been Powell, I don't know, but someone

(36:23):
leaks it to this this high ranking black officer who's
an alumni of west Point, that like, they're about to
put in a Confederate memorial and he is like, the
fuck you are? You are absolutely not and they have
to like scrap the idea, which is good.

Speaker 2 (36:39):
Yeah, he's absolutely no.

Speaker 1 (36:41):
What are you talking about? Yeah, So, by the late
eighteen fifties, Lee is stationed in Texas, but he's back
in Arlington with some regularity. He gets to see his
family from time to time, and this accelerates after his
father in law dies in eighteen fifty seven. Now, the
Custis family at this point somewhere between I've heard forty

(37:03):
two adults I think, is what Gwelzo's biography says. Most
sources will say there were almost two hundred of them.
I don't know a lot. He's got a lot of
people that he's holding on Arlington right when he dies.
Most of them are doing some amount of farming. Right.
But according to white people who were friends and relatives
of the Custis family at the time, the enslaved people

(37:24):
there didn't work hard enough. Right. They're all bitching about that. Yeah. Now,
Old George Washington Park, who is Robert E. Lee's wife's father,
allegedly tells one friend in eighteen fifty three of his
enslaved people, they have that comfortable homes, that families around them,
and nothing to do. But consult their own pleasure. Run
of Robert's cousins complained to him that the enslaved people

(37:46):
on Arlington were quote fonder of play than work, which, like,
you people are landed gentry. You don't do shit but
play you give you that? What are you talking about?

Speaker 2 (37:55):
You can't say anything about my work ethic.

Speaker 1 (37:59):
Yeah, he over pulled something out of the ground. Man,
I'm gonna guess not.

Speaker 2 (38:03):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (38:05):
Yeah, Now we shouldn't obviously, as we've said, we shouldn't
take that seriously that these guys were not working hard.
But it is true that the Custus properties are not profitable.
Right by the time he dies and Mary inherits them,
they are not making money. And this is a problem
because like Mary's dad somewhat hilariously decides that the last
thing he's going to do in life is going to
be to fuck Roberty Lee over and I this kind

(38:29):
he's a bad person, but I like this. He really
hates Lee's dad for like being so irresponsible. Yeah, and
then when he dies they found out he's been just
as bad. They're in horrible death. The property is not
making any money. He like completely shot the bed on
his finances and in his will, he gives he gives
Arlington the property to his oldest grandson, right, which is

(38:51):
Mary's Mary and Roberts one of their kids. Yeah, Mary
gets rights to reside at Arlington until she dies, but
it is no longer their property. His other valuable properties
go to their other kids, and Roberty league gets basically
nothing like he gets cut out of the will, but
old Custis still makes him the executor of the will,

(39:12):
so his job is to hand out money to Custis's grandkids.
That's like, hedy, he's such a bitch.

Speaker 3 (39:21):
Heymen, hey man, I just want to say, man, look,
thank you for taking care of my daughter. You've given
me the most beautiful grandchildren. So here's what I'm gonna
do for you. I want you to be the one,
because this is how much you mean to me. I
want you to be the one to tell everybody what
they're getting. Here's the paper, and it's it's more fucked

(39:42):
up than that, Like, uh, where where my name at?

Speaker 1 (39:50):
Each of the grandkids is supposed to get ten thousand dollars, right,
but he doesn't have any money, and so in his
in his in his his will, he's like, here's some
properties sell the I'm not willing these properties to anyone,
Robert sell them and use that to pay my grandkids
ten grand each. But Custis is bad at everything, so

(40:11):
he doesn't actually know. He like wildly overvalues these properties.
He doesn't get nearly enough money. So Robert E. Lee,
because he's this like big honor guy, is like, well,
I can't just tell his grandkids that their grandfather was
dog shit with money and is fucking them. I have
to find a way to get them each ten thousand dollars.

(40:32):
And the only way to do that is to force
enslaved people to work for money, right, Yeah, because obviously
Robert E. Lee doesn't know how to make money. You know,
he doesn't have any skills other an army shit. Yeah,
so Lee had spent his whole life. Part of why
he is so obsessed with like paying, you know, executing
this will that should not be his responsibility is that

(40:55):
he is still smarting about his deadbeat dad and the
fact that his father in law is proven in death
to have been another richocratic fails son doesn't diminish Lee's
personal obsession with executing the will and returning the Custis
family plantation to profitability. This becomes his obsession. And the
problem comes in that we just noted Custis. You know,

(41:16):
his father in law is kind of soft hearted. That's
what people say at the time towards the slaves. So
he tells them all, when I die, you're free, right.
M So that's a problem because Lee has no ability
to make up this money without the family slaves, right.
And this is again goes back to Custis being such
a piece of shit. He is a deadbeat. So he

(41:37):
promises I think in part because like a lot of
these are his kids or his people that he's he
considers his lovers. Obviously that's not what's going on. Yeah, yeah, yeah,
and he just feels bad. So we have to tell him, like,
when I die, you'll be free. You'll keep living this
sweet life and then you'll be free when I did.
It's fine, don't worry about it. I'm really a good guy.
You can trust me. But he is a liar, right.

(41:58):
He does not say you are all free as soon
as I die. He directs that they be freed within
five years of his death. Right. But he tells them
you're free when I die, yeah, which is so true.
Kinda but what this means is that Lee is going
to be like, all right, well, I've got five years
to make as much money out of these people as
I can before they're before they're free. Right yeah. Now

(42:21):
this causes a conflict because they were expecting to be
free right away, and they considered themselves free. Moreover, part
of the issue here is, again, their life at Arlington
is more comfortable than most enslaved people's lives.

Speaker 2 (42:36):
Right.

Speaker 1 (42:36):
They are not being like worked as hard or as
brutally as is common in the area.

Speaker 4 (42:42):
Right.

Speaker 1 (42:42):
Again, I don't I don't give any sort of credit
to Custus for this, but this is going to be
relevant because Lee decides we don't need all of these
people at Arlington to get it profitable. So I'm going
to hire them out to other owners, right, contract them
out to make money to pay Custus's grandkids. I'm going
to force them to labor. I'm going to break up

(43:04):
their families, force them to live away from their children
and wives for five years so that I can give
our shiftless grandkids some money. Right, that is fucked up?

Speaker 3 (43:18):
Yeah, it's yeah, you sell the brand for parts, yeah,
and it's like it's it's it's you can make more
money if I'll sell you for parts rather than try
to work.

Speaker 1 (43:26):
It's still yeah, and this is how he writes about them.
Among them is Reuben, a great rogue and rascal who
I must get rid of some way, right, Like, these
guys are just such a problem. They don't want to work.
I'm just gonna have to sell them to somebody who
beat the hell out of them, you know, for for
five years, so that I can, you know, make up
the cash. So one of the things that's really horrible

(43:47):
about this is Custis had let families stay together in Arlington, right,
So after years of being used to well, at least
we have our families, right, Lee just break. He doesn't
give a fuck. Right now, several of these people, when
he hires them off, flee their new positions and return
to Alexandria. It causes this like whole because he's got
to like discipline them now. It's this whole thing, and

(44:10):
it causes a stir even within Virginia because within the gentry,
their understanding too is that like, yeah, Custus wanted these
people freed on his deathbed, and Lee is still working them.
So even a lot of white people are kind of
disapproving of this right like this is kind of a
violation of a promise that had been made. And the

(44:30):
soft disapproval of his fellow citizens was met with a
burning rage by the enslaved workers at Arlington. And I'm
going to quote from an article on the website American
Heritage here, believing they were entitled to their freedom and
alarmed at the way Lee was breaking up their families
by hiring the able bodied. Far from Arlington, the slaves
banded together and tried to overpower him, physically shouting that

(44:50):
they were as free as he was. Angered by the
slaves defiance, Lee resorted to increasingly harsh measures to maintain control.
And the first harsh measure he resorts to is forcing
the men who'd attacked him into what are described as
slave pins in the city of Arlington. He locks them
up in the city, away from their families, and then
he leases them off again. And this takes us to

(45:13):
the reality of the marble man. Beneath his layers of
politess and this genteel Southern social obligation, he is as
brutal a slave master as any as soon as his
financial goals are threatened, right, That's what it is to him,
it's as simple as.

Speaker 3 (45:27):
That you started fucking with my money. Yeah, exactly now,
and now you really know what I think of you.

Speaker 1 (45:32):
Now the nice guy's gone.

Speaker 2 (45:34):
Yeah now.

Speaker 1 (45:35):
Alan Guelzo, who knows Lee better than me, describes Lee's reaction,
based on years of letters to family and friends, as
one of confusion as to why these people are angry
that he's forcing them to work and be away from
their families.

Speaker 2 (45:49):
Quote.

Speaker 1 (45:50):
Lee could not comprehend why the demands he was making
did not earn the understanding even the cooperation, of the
Arlington slaves. But they didn't, and his frustration at their
obstinacy over in the spring of eighteen fifty nine, when
three of the Arlington slaves, Wesley Norris, his sister Mary Norris,
and their cousin George Parks, determined to run away. They
made it as far as Westminster, Maryland, only a few

(46:11):
miles from the free state border of Pennsylvania, when they
were stopped and imprisoned. Two weeks later, they were shipped
back to Arlington, where Lee had to pay the costs
for their rendition. His fabled self control teedling unsteadily. Lee
demanded of the three why they ran away because they replied, frankly,
we considered ourselves free. Now that's a baller response, yeah.

Speaker 2 (46:33):
Because it's like that there's such.

Speaker 3 (46:36):
An insidiousness in the sense that like, like, fam this,
ain't you plantation number one and number two? Oh you
married it?

Speaker 2 (46:49):
That's not even your father, Like yeah, and the dude
that we who actually owned us, which we gonna set
aside for a second.

Speaker 3 (46:56):
That that's a sentence that just came out of my mouth. Yeah,
has already freedoms. What is you talk like? You're not
You're not in charge?

Speaker 2 (47:04):
Who are you? Bro?

Speaker 1 (47:05):
Who is this like that?

Speaker 3 (47:07):
Like that would be even more insidious of like you
you have no authority here?

Speaker 2 (47:13):
Yeah, what are you talking about?

Speaker 1 (47:15):
Yes, you are? You are ruining our lives. Yes, so
an old man who was a piece of ship will
seem better to his grandkids who are also shiftless, lazy
pieces of ship. It's such an unfair situ.

Speaker 2 (47:29):
I like, I can't. I have I understand so much
more now that.

Speaker 3 (47:34):
Like like privilege just makes you brittle, Like I feel
like that's just the best because I'm like, what a
brittle soul that?

Speaker 2 (47:44):
Like, why is this inferior? They're not yours like these
they're not yours.

Speaker 1 (47:51):
Yeah, and it gets worse because and this is really
what reveals the actual man behind the marble. Right, one
of these fugitive enslaved people later recalled quote. He then
told us he would teach us a lesson we would
never forget. And he has all both men stripped to
the waist and he orders his overseer to lash them
each fifty times. Mary Norris, the only woman of the group,

(48:14):
he orders to be lashed twenty times. Now that's horrible
without context, right, yes, but I want to lend some
Whipping is a obviously very common punishment on many plantations.
Somewhere between thirty and forty was normal for an infraction, right,
So fifty is a big punishment. And you can tell
how big it is by so Lee. There's a white

(48:36):
overseer whose job is to manage the enslaved people at Arlington, Right,
and Lee says, I want you to whip these men
fifty times each. I want you to whip Mary twenty times.
And the overseer says no, He's like, I can't do it,
Like that's fucked up, man, I'm not going.

Speaker 2 (48:48):
To do it.

Speaker 1 (48:49):
So again, and this guy's part of his job is
whipping enslaved people, and he's like, no, this is fucked up, Like, wow,
that's bad. When yeah, that I do it right, that's bad.
So Lee has to hire find a local cop, the
guy who had captured the escapees, and is like, will
you beat them for me? Right? That is how Lee

(49:13):
claims this goes. Now, that may not have been exactly
how it goes, and maybe a lot worse than that.
More recent Lost Cause books love to emphasize Lee's distaste
for slavery, and he says a lot of stuff about
how he doesn't like slavery, but older texts from the
middle of last century, including stuff written by his family,
makes it clear that his dislike of slavery was what

(49:33):
it revealed about his own inherent cruelty and more cowardice.
The nineteen sixty nine book Meet Robert E. Lee stated
Lee knew slavery was wrong. He said it was bad
for the slave and worse for the man who owned him.
And that's not true. But also, I don't want to
disregard one of the meanings of that, right, I disregard like,

(49:54):
obviously it's worse for the slave. Yeah, but what he's
saying there. When he says it's worse for the man
who owns him, he is thinking about the evil in
himself that he had to see because of what he
does to these people. Right, the New York Tribune publishes
an article about Lee's battery of his enslaved people. Right,
it is so bad that it makes the fucking news.

(50:17):
And that article claims that Lee himself stripped Mary Norris
and lashed her thirty nine times in a fit of rage.
And crucially, Lee writes about this news article, he is
aware of it. He never denies the allegation or lodges
any protest against the paper. Never, So it does kind
of seem like what happens and why he's like it's

(50:38):
so bad for the slave owner, is he loses his control,
like this granite reserve that he is so proud of,
and he strips and beats a woman bloody, and he
lives with that. That's the only thing really inside of him,
This man who is such a mystery everybody. That venal cruelty,
the same kind of cruelty that exists in his father.

(51:00):
That's the core of property. Yeah, and you get to
see it here.

Speaker 3 (51:03):
Yeah, you're tittling on something that I feel like obviously doing.
You know, post mortem psychology is never good. However, that
point of like that type of hate and prejudice, how
it destroys the person inside of them is one of
those grotesque things that like is not talked about enough

(51:27):
in discussing the pretzel that these people had to put
themselves in to know that if you are calling yourself
the civilized one, to know what you're doing to Yeah,
I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna stoop down to say
in your brain you still don't. You're still saying these

(51:48):
people are subhuman. But still, even if they're subhuman, the
things you are doing to this creature that's alive, you know,
is there's no way like the again, the mental gymnastics
you have to do to be able to look yourself
in the face and justify that has got to be haunting. Yeah,

(52:09):
because newsflast you just as human as I am.

Speaker 2 (52:11):
You know what I'm saying.

Speaker 3 (52:12):
And so I think that that statement is not acknowledged enough.
And rather than face what you think is unthinkable and
preposterous and accept the fact that I am participating in
a deep evil and do the work to change you
double down.

Speaker 1 (52:31):
Yeah, I also wonder if part of what's happening here
is that you know, there's this always these claims that like, well,
this is a divine racial hierarchy, and really black people
don't even want to be free, They're happier this way,
and you can't keep telling yourself that lie when you
see someone in a very intelligent and dignified way say

(52:52):
I am a free man, and as a result, you
like when that kind of shatters that myth in your head,
all that's left is violence, right, which puts a lie
to the fact that this is a divinely ordained system.
I do think that's like part of why there's this
rage and shame over it for him.

Speaker 3 (53:10):
I do want to Yeah, sorry, one more thing. I
do think, like you said, like that lie that you're
telling yourself, part of me is like why I again
rarely give like I give historical context. I understand that
like humans in a time, but like I rarely give
any quarters to a to the argument that like, well,

(53:33):
this is just what we did at the time. I'm like, nah,
you knew, y'all know what y'all doing.

Speaker 1 (53:37):
Yeah, yeah, this is that moment for me. Yes, and
the moment that it is for all of us is ADS.
All right, we're back. So I want to stay with
this moment, this beating a little longer, because this is
a moment that the people who want to paint a

(53:59):
picture of Lee as a moral paragon have to grapple
with and they usually have to find some way to
like minimize it. Right, yeah, and this this goes on
to this day. I want to read you a quote
from an absolutely shameful Dallas Morning News article. And part
of why this is fucking shameful, by the way, the
Dallas Morning News has a proud pedigree. One of the

(54:20):
things they did during the Second ku Klux Klan was
like have journalists basically tail people to clan members, take
down like license plates and shit like that, and publish
lists of the members of town who were in the KKK.
Like that was some based shit, yes in the day.
And this is the crap they're doing now. This is

(54:41):
from a twenty seventeen article entitled Robert E. Lee is
the uniter America has been looking for.

Speaker 2 (54:47):
Okay, wait wait wait wait wait.

Speaker 1 (54:49):
Yeah THO seventy two zero one seven.

Speaker 3 (54:55):
Okay, this makes me wish this was like a visual podcast.
Oh it's we could have seen my face just then.

Speaker 1 (55:01):
Yeah, we'll refer back to this article a couple of
times later. But it is shameful shit, and I want
to read a quote from it now. This is published
in the wake of Charlottesville, right, so they're like, how
do we get Americans back together?

Speaker 2 (55:14):
Okay, in the wake of Charlotte's Okay, Dallas.

Speaker 1 (55:17):
Yeah, in Dallas City of hate. Yeah. Yes, Lee himself,
Virginia aristocrat as he was, was no slave task master.
He was a soldier of the United States. Just before
the war. He received in trust from his late father
in laws of state one hundred and ninety six slaves
designated under terms of the Will for emancipation, which objective
despite the distractions of command, Lee faithfully achieved at the

(55:41):
end of eighteen sixty two. A New York newspaper report
from the same time period accusing Lee of stripping and
personally beating a woman runaway slave, deserves the same credence
as might a tale of Barack Obama's endowing the Richard B. Spencer,
Chair of Confederate History at Yale fake news, Like, what
why are you calling it fake news? Is there any

(56:01):
evidence that it's fake. Oh no, there's not. He was
aware of it and didn't argue against it, didn't say
shit against it, and in fact ordered those slaves objectively.
We know this, no doubt about it. Ordered them beaten
brutally in order to make money for his grandkids. Not
a slave task master, my fucking ass.

Speaker 3 (56:20):
Like the amount of things that were within the first
two sentences that were factually, verifiably false, the first two
things out your mouth.

Speaker 1 (56:32):
Yeah, that's a vile thing to say. Again, maybe we
should consider bringing back stoning for certain things.

Speaker 2 (56:40):
Yeah, man, thank you?

Speaker 3 (56:41):
What's the basis? Like this desires? It's all like, what's
the why I bring this up?

Speaker 2 (56:45):
Yeah? How was his helping Charlottesville? Tell me you're Matt
what's the capulus?

Speaker 1 (56:50):
His thing as well, is that in the wake of
the Civil War, Lee was a really big uniter. He
wanted everyone to move on, to get past this ugly
chap and that we shouldn't tear down his statue. We
should celebrate him as a guy you preached unity. What
else did he fucking do?

Speaker 2 (57:07):
Yeah?

Speaker 3 (57:08):
And like where you're editored at when your first sentences.
He was a soldier of the United States, He was.

Speaker 1 (57:15):
Not No, No, he was a waiter. He was on
the other side.

Speaker 2 (57:20):
I don't understand what like what what?

Speaker 1 (57:25):
Yeah, there's this meme that goes around and it's like
anarchists in every other period of American history and they're
like burning an American flag and it's anarchists from eighteen
sixty one to sixty five. You're like, you've got like
the Union flag. You're doing in a blue uniform saluting
like that is. I do not consider Lee's fucking like
like he is not a uniter of the America. I

(57:47):
want to be a part of I want to be
a part of the America that fucking lit the South
on fire to end of that system, right, yes, Like
that's that's that's where I want to be.

Speaker 3 (57:57):
That was like, all right, this is some bullshit. We're done, Yeah,
we're done.

Speaker 2 (58:01):
Okay. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (58:04):
So the next chapter of Lee's career and life was
to involve a man who was his opposite in every
way and whose very existence was dedicated towards dissolving the
foundations of Robert E. Lee's existence. His name was John Brown,
and I think we are all broadly aware of what
he did. Yeah. Yeah. To provide a quick summary, John

(58:24):
Brown was a professional militant abolitionist. He had fought bloody
battles in Kansas to free enslaved people, and he was
basically a living boogeyman to pro slavery types. From October
sixteenth to eighteenth, eighteen fifty nine, he and a band
of hand picked gorillas launched a raid on Harper's ferry
to try and secure weapons from the garrison there that

(58:44):
they could use to arm enslaved people and launch a
rebellion that would carve out an independent fortress of freedom
lodged right in the heart of the Old South. It
did not work. Not a successful operation, unfortunately, but a
noble attempt. I mean, in the long run, it helps
start the war that ends slavery. So I will call
it a failure. It's just like not immediately tactically successful, right, Yeah.

(59:08):
And Robert E. Lee is the man who commands the
US military forces sent in to quell the uprising and
kill or capture John Brown. This they did. And while
the job is odious, Lee is like, he handles this
in like a competent way, right, He's not particularly brutal.
He does the job, you know, that's the kind of
guy he is Brown is wounded when the army storms

(59:29):
his position, and this excerpt from the book Clouds of
Glory by Michael Korda describes the first interaction between Lee
and Brown. Lee had him carried to the office of
the paymaster of the armory, where Brown soon recovered enough
strength to hold what would now be called a celebrity
press conference combined with some of the attributes of a
royal audience. Lee courteously offered to clear the room of

(59:49):
visitors if their presence annoyed or pained Brown, who, though
in considerable pain, replied that he was glad to make
himself and his motives clearly understood.

Speaker 2 (59:58):
Now.

Speaker 1 (59:59):
One of the fun asides of the John Brown story
is that all of the men involved in capturing him
are like, can't help how impressed they are.

Speaker 2 (01:00:08):
They're like, yeah, they're like Disney is hard.

Speaker 1 (01:00:11):
But yeah, They're like they all think he's insane, but
they're like, this man is incredibly physically courageous, He is
well spoken, he knows exactly what he's doing right. He
gives a three hour press conference after being stabbed through
the kidney. The governor, the governor of Virginia, who's there
in the aftermath, calls John Brown the gamest man I

(01:00:33):
ever saw, Like, motherfucker's down credit.

Speaker 3 (01:00:37):
Yeah, yeah, he's staying all bidness over there.

Speaker 1 (01:00:41):
Now, Yeah, I think you have to because like he is,
he doesn't even break composure when his son is killed
in the fight. I think it's because Brown there is
not a doubt in his mind that God is real,
there is not a doubt in his mind that Heaven
is real, and there's not a doubt in his mind
that the only thing that matters is fighting to end slavery.
And if his son died, that my kid's gonna be fine.
And so I'm on exactly right. Yeah, like we're going,

(01:01:04):
we're going to paradise. We did what we were supposed
to do, you know, your right? Yeah, like that, like
and and and.

Speaker 3 (01:01:10):
It's very rare in the world, in the in time memorium,
can someone definitively be like, yeah, no, we're right, Yeah, absolutely,
we are absolutely right.

Speaker 2 (01:01:22):
Yeah yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:01:23):
Now, Lee is present for the whole conversation that ensued
between Brown, Senator Mason, Lee's man Stewart, and the governor Quote.
When Senator Mason asked him how he could justify his acts,
Brown replied, I think, my friend, you are guilty of
a great wrong against God and humanity. I say it
without wishing to be offensive, and it would be perfectly
right in anyone to interfere with you so far as

(01:01:45):
to free those you willfully and wickedly hold this in bondage.
I do not say this insultingly like no offense, but
like you are. You are willingly participating in the greatest
evil of our time. Respectfully, anything anyone do stop you
is justified.

Speaker 3 (01:02:01):
Yes, look respectfully, like respectfully, no shade like respectfully.

Speaker 2 (01:02:06):
You're the fucking devil. Yeah, and you're doing the work
of Satan.

Speaker 1 (01:02:10):
Yeah, respectfully Yeah, yeah, I mean, nothing impolite here, but no,
God's damn you for your actions.

Speaker 2 (01:02:18):
No disrespect, but you work for some Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:02:22):
It's cool. When when Mason, because Mason's like, did you
pay these men who fought with you? Did you have to?

Speaker 4 (01:02:27):
Like?

Speaker 1 (01:02:27):
Are they mercenaries? Brown replies no, like fuck that, and
Jeb Stewart remarks on this, uh, the wages of sin
is death, and Brown turns to him and says, I
would not have made such a remark to you if.

Speaker 2 (01:02:39):
You had been a prisoner and wounded in my hands.

Speaker 1 (01:02:43):
Like such a such a g for his part. Lee. Again,
he has this kind of basic respect for Brown's personal courage,
but he thinks he's insane. Yeah, he thinks because the
plot was so doomed to failure, it means the abolitionist
was either a fanatic or a madman. And you know,
Brown is both a fanatic and if if being a

(01:03:04):
madman means acting in ways that are completely inconsistent with
logic of your culture, he is crazy. But I think
he's a kind of crazy that it was necessary. Right,
The abolitionists who weren't mad men lived comfortably in the
North and would like tut tut to their friends when
they read articles about Lee stripping and whipping young enslaved women. Right,

(01:03:26):
John Brown picked up a rifle.

Speaker 3 (01:03:29):
Yeah, they shake your head, just like gos so what
they're doing over there?

Speaker 1 (01:03:32):
Yeah, like is it? Yeah? Well we on our way
and that that's why you get from Harriet Tubman and
like being like yeah, he was the fucking best, Like yeah,
he was the coolest dude.

Speaker 2 (01:03:42):
Yeah. Everybody sign. Everybody sign like no, no, he's a writer.

Speaker 1 (01:03:46):
Yeah. Yeah. One of my favorites. I think it was
Hue P. Newton, who was like the only white man
we might have led into the Black Panthers was Jean Brown. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (01:03:56):
Him, He's like, nah, but fu all y'all that I
kind of like that, dude. Yeah yeah.

Speaker 3 (01:04:04):
Obviously adult part of the history is just like these
like rays of light in the middle of just chaos.
But like I think, you know, situated culturally, it's like
anytime I'm ever talking about this time in the world,
like obviously because it's so personal to me, but like
I always want to like remind people that we are
still talking about the enslavement, a chattel, a type of

(01:04:27):
skurgs that hadn't been we hadn't seen before on the planet,
Like how remarkably evil this is, and at the same
time that those that were disgusted by it are just
as normal as we are now about the things that
we're disgusted by that Well, if there was a social

(01:04:48):
media they would tweet about it, they would follow hashtags,
they would do all those things too, But and then
and then be looking to the government to be like,
why aren't y'all doing something about it?

Speaker 2 (01:04:58):
So it reminds me I think of like my brain.

Speaker 3 (01:05:01):
Goes to like the dread Scott case, where like I
don't need to teach you of this, but like the
for the listener, who clearly is the other eighty thousand
people that are we're talking to right now, is this
idea of like you have the Missouri Compromise, which was
like for every free state there's a slave state. If
you're gonna get a new one in the Union, you

(01:05:21):
got to get a new one on this side too,
Like this was their way of trying to like play
cap before we actually went to war. So a dude,
So a dude gets free. He like escapes his plantation,
goes north, you know, signs up to be a citizen
in a northern state and is living his life right.
And now he's like, I'm in a free state. This
is that's what y'all said, This is what y'all said,
y'all was gonna do.

Speaker 2 (01:05:41):
I'm a free man. I got up here. I'm good.

Speaker 3 (01:05:44):
And then the slave hunter goes and finds him bring
and attempts to bring him back to his plantation to
enslave him again. And he's like wait, wait wait, wait
wait wait hold up, Like looking at this all, y'all
states writes people looking at the state, like, fam you're
why are you letting this other state, the other state
is usurping your authority. You're saying that I'm a free man,

(01:06:07):
like I'm a citizen here. Why are you letting them
do that? Goes all the way to Supreme Court. Supreme
courts like ah, yeah, you're right, like you still kind
of belong to your plantation, and it's like yeah, So
at this point you're like, well, I can't trust the
Supreme Court to do anything about this shit, you know
what I'm saying, because clearly when it was a choice
between two states, right, you chose the rights of.

Speaker 1 (01:06:32):
The slave state.

Speaker 2 (01:06:34):
So to me, I'm like, you could be nice, like
you said, you could be nice and like tiss tisk,
like you know what's going on, or you could be
like John Brown.

Speaker 3 (01:06:42):
Is like fuck this. I can't trust y'all to do
any of this shit. So we just it's getting down.

Speaker 1 (01:06:45):
Yeah, yeah, and it's I want to you know, when
we talk about like the particular evil of slavery in
the Americas, I think a really good point to look
back on as slavery in the Roman Empire. Rome was
a slave heavily and they worked generations to death and minds. Yeah,

(01:07:06):
and yet if you get freed. There was no lingering shame.
There was no caste system. Your kid you got most
of the rights of a citizen, and your kids were
just normal citizens. And that is why despite you might
have generations of specific people get enslaved, once they got free,
there was no lingering stigma. There was no lingering apart like,

(01:07:26):
yeah you were like the Romans were just like, no,
slavery is a political condition. We beat you in a war,
we get to enslave a bunch of you, right, but
once you're still people, We don't think you're less human.
We just won, you know, like I don't own your kids, Yeah,
but you often did own their kids. But like what
your kids, if your kids get free, they're not lower

(01:07:46):
quality people. Yeah, we don't think there's a racial hierarchy.
We just won a war, and so we're going to
be shipped to you, right, which is like that's still
a bad thing, but it is so different from how
it worked here. Yeah. So Lee had been sent on
special duty to crush John Brown's uprising, and after it

(01:08:07):
gets done, he goes back home to keep unfucking his
father in law's finances, but he gets sent back to
Harper's Ferry a few days later to defend it from
there's this like it's kind of like these fears you
had in twenty twenty, that like Antifa's starting fires, Like
he's got hundreds of allies. They're hiding in the woods.
They're gonna come free him. Lee is like, not a dummy.
He knows that no, that's probably not gonna happen. But

(01:08:27):
he does his job. He manages a defense. They execute
John Brown, and Lee soon returns to his command down
in Texas. He does not seem to have considered the
incident to have been hugely significant at the time, but
of course it would have an enormous impact on the
rest of his life. In the days and weeks after
the execution, Brown became a hero to abolitionists across the

(01:08:49):
North and a demon the physical embodiment with growing Southern
unease at the political fight over slavery. Guelzo's book contains
a good summary of headlines in the wake of the raid.
The Southern people of Huge four disregarded the ravings of
Northern fanatics because they believed that such madness to be
merely of pecuniary speculation, wailed the Richmond Inquirer, but Harper's

(01:09:10):
Ferry shows that the northern people mean more than words.
How long will it be? The Inquirer asked before the abolition.
Abolition fanatics of Cincinnati may seize Newport in Kentucky. For
the moment the aid of the federal government was near
Harper's Ferry and was in hands faithful to the Constitution.
But another year may place that in the hands of
our assailants and urge on and strengthen the hands that

(01:09:31):
murder our families and pillage our property. So they start
freaking out about this, but at least for a while,
life goes on. One of the last duties Lee is
going to execute for the US Army before the Civil
War starts is a very mild insurgency against a Mexican
man named Juan Courtina. One was a former Mexican Army

(01:09:53):
officer who owned a ranch near Brownsville. He had properties
on both sides of the Rio Grande, and as settlers
coming in and displacing Mexicans would live there, often for generations.
A lot of these settlers are like Conman right, They're
basically cooking up fake legal documents to claim they own
this property, and like forcing families off it's really fucked up.

(01:10:14):
Cortina calls these guys flocks of vampires, and he is
entirely accurate in that. In July eighteen fifty nine, Cortina
acts to stop an American police officer from arresting a
Mexican man. He winds up shooting the sheriff, evading a posse,
and then forming his own band of insurgents and returning
to Brownsville with a list of white lawyers to kill

(01:10:35):
and he gets five of them. He's fucking cool. This
guy's dope. He then flees back to Mexico and this
blows up into a series of raids right and Lee
is sent to stop him, and they kind of have
a back and forth because every time he'll cross the
Rio Grand Lee is not allowed to follow across the
Rio Grand in a Mexican territory, and Cortina winds up
like eventually, Lee never catches him. Cortina winds up like

(01:10:58):
France tries to take over Mexico and they install a
Habsburg emperor, so he has to deal with that. Right,
It doesn't end well, but it ends the Courtina problem
for the US and for his part. Lee writes to
his family about Courtina and says, you know, I am
a great advocate of people staying at home and minding
their own affairs. Were you were you Liberty? Lee?

Speaker 2 (01:11:22):
Really?

Speaker 1 (01:11:25):
Yeah, I don't think that's true.

Speaker 4 (01:11:26):
I don't think so true. I think the dead Man
just how's marg Yeah, absolutely, it's hilarious. Yeah, that dude
was like running up. Look, yeah he ran up in America.
Who was like, okay, catch.

Speaker 1 (01:11:41):
Me, fun guy. So back in Texas, Lee encountered a
rising tide of secessionist sentiment from the Texans around him.
Their hostility to the federal government and even to US
army troops was palpable. The situation grew worse by the day,
and Lee found himself is sort of in a peculiar
and alienated mindset. If you want to imagine what the

(01:12:03):
kind of man Lee was would be doing today in
twenty twenty four, it's helpful to note that he was
his era's equivalent of a centrist, at least in terms
of how he expressed his beliefs. I don't think it
was in his heart really as centrist. He was much more.
He was a dedicated slave owner, But in terms of
how he talked about things, that is how he liked
to portray himself. Michael Korda describes this well, he was

(01:12:27):
appalled at Southerner's talk about the renewal of the slave trade,
to which he was opposed on every ground, and his
experience of dealing with his father in law slaves had
further soured his view of slavery as an institution. He
regarded secession as revolution, dismissed it as silly, and could
anticipate no greater calamity for our country than a dissolution
of our union. Now, it's tempting to look at the

(01:12:49):
decisions he makes later and just say, well, he was
lying about that. He was pretending he didn't care about
secession and slavery, but we know that he really did
care about slavery enough to fight for it. I think
that that's not entirely the right way to look at it. Right,
You have to understand, counter to a lot of casual history.
You hear that Robert E. Lee did not particularly identify

(01:13:10):
as a Southerner.

Speaker 4 (01:13:12):
Right.

Speaker 1 (01:13:12):
Part of why he doesn't want a civil war is
that he doesn't really consider himself. He considers himself he's
a cosmopolitan guy. He's an American in general, and This
goes totally against the lost cause stuff, right. The popular
narrative is he hates the idea of secession, but he
loves Virginia's too much. He just can't. He just can't
fight against it. It's his heart, It's the entirety of

(01:13:32):
his being. It's not Lee spends very little of his
adult life in Virginia, let alone Arlington. He lives in
the North for considerable periods of time, and then out
in the West, in Mexico and in Texas. He is
a citizen of the United States, and throughout most of
his life his letters give very little sign of a
man who holds specific affection for Virginia. In fact, he

(01:13:54):
puts a lot of time and effort into avoiding being
at home. This is in spite of the fact that
his army career seems to have petered out right. He's like,
I'm not going to get promoted as much as I want.
I should quit. I'm old enough to retire. I should
do something else with my life. And he refuses to
do so, despite complaining about it. He refuses to go
and enjoy life back at his supposedly beloved at Arlington.

(01:14:17):
And I'm going to read a really telling quote from
Robert E. Lee A life here. He could have taken
the course of resignation from the army, but that would
only land him back at Arlington, and even as he
received letters from Annie extolling the trees and hills at Arlington,
he gently pushed away at any suggestion that he might
return there for good. I do not think my presence
would add anything to their appearance, he replied, in a

(01:14:39):
peculiar mix of pity and self regret. It is better
that I am away. When Annie pressed the suggestion again
in August, he calmly but firmly told her that it
would be far easier if you will come out here.
I will endeavor to make you as comfortable as possible.
I have a nice little pony on which you can
accompany me in my evening rides, and a commodious traveling
wagon that can carry you wherever I go. I have

(01:15:01):
a nice little pony.

Speaker 2 (01:15:03):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:15:05):
Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2 (01:15:06):
He sounds like a dude that like he just wants
to go back to brunch. Yeah, it's just like, can
we just brunch it not to Arlington?

Speaker 3 (01:15:13):
Yeah, he like in Virginia. Get on my nerves. I'll
just get on my nerves like.

Speaker 1 (01:15:19):
Yeah, he's literally, I'll send you an uber comfort. Yeah, yeah,
I'll send you a new just out.

Speaker 2 (01:15:25):
I'll send you an uber I think.

Speaker 3 (01:15:27):
But I want to use that bad line because that
was some that was some high level shade. She's talking
about how beautiful the trees are, and he's like, well,
I ain't gonna make them many more beautiful.

Speaker 1 (01:15:39):
Yeah, I want to continue the last bit of that quote.
There was no point in his returning to Arlington. He
wasn't always would be a stranger there. You know, I
am much in the way of everybody, and my taste
in pursuits did not coincide with the rest of the household,
and certainly not with the Arlington slaves. Now, I hope
everybody is happier now. That doesn't strike me as a

(01:16:00):
man who loves his home so much he'd break his
oath and turn traded to defend it in a cause
he otherwise abhorred.

Speaker 3 (01:16:06):
Right, Yeah, no exactly, He's like, really, y'all get on
my nerves. That's the yeah, like that is a that
is people truly contain multitudes, and but the idea that
he was just like, really, I don't even I'm not
even from Virginia. Oh, like, y'all, I just got station here,
Texas got better weather.

Speaker 2 (01:16:27):
You know what I'm saying. I can get a taco
down here. Wy, don't you just come down here? Yeah?

Speaker 3 (01:16:32):
Like we chill him, man, Like, that's hilarious to me.
I ain't gonna make the trees no more beautiful if
they already. You don't need me to make a beautiful
you just did. That's hilarious.

Speaker 1 (01:16:41):
Arlington's not really my place, Yeah, yeah, that is. Anyway,
We're gonna talk more about why Lee decides to fight
for the Confederacy and how he makes that decision. That's
gonna be a big part of part three, and then
we will deal with the myth and the fact of
Bobby Lee as a great general. But PROP for right now,

(01:17:02):
we're gonna deal with the myths and the fact of
you as a podcast or musician. Where can people find you?

Speaker 2 (01:17:10):
Man? Prop? Hip hop dot com is my everything.

Speaker 3 (01:17:12):
It's music. I got some new music out. We got
music going along with the podcast. Last song was called
Lemme Highland Player and yeah hood politics will PROP season
three up and running. There's so much going down. We've
like really, like, like I said last time, kicked it
in the like fourth gear, you know, putting together like
a bunch of different series. There's the you Wasn't Outside

(01:17:34):
series as that's following the Israel and Gaza situation. Then
we got series following the election. It's a good time, man,
and as good as it can be. But yeah, hood
politics will prop uh every every Wednesday. Get ready for
the Wednesday drop, you know what I'm saying.

Speaker 2 (01:17:50):
And I got a book called Terrorform. It's poetry book.

Speaker 3 (01:17:56):
There's music to go along with that too, and uh,
I'm Betty happy to be here.

Speaker 1 (01:18:02):
Yeah. I also have a book it's called After the Revolution.
Check it out. You can order it wherever books are sold,
or you can just google ak Press After the Revolution
and buy it directly from zippublisher. That is the episode.
Come back next week when we will conclude the exciting
story of Bobby Lee.

Speaker 2 (01:18:22):
I like that you're calling him Bobby.

Speaker 1 (01:18:24):
Yeah. The rough draft title the working title for this
episode was Bobby Lee the Guarantee and then parentheses of Failure.

Speaker 2 (01:18:35):
The greatest second place trophy of all time? Yeah, all right.

Speaker 1 (01:18:40):
Everybody behind the Bastards is a production of cool Zone Media.
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zonemedia dot com, or check us out on the iHeartRadio app,
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