Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Jefferson Davis, Christopher Coke, and the Cross-Dressing Enemy

with 4 comments

By Wiz

Christopher Coke, the notorious leader of a Jamaican drug gang was captured this week. A bit ago, attempts to capture Coke led to violent street fighting that killed dozens and did not, at the time, yield up Coke. Coke is sort of an interesting figure. Although a drug leader, he has also filled the void left by corrupt officials and neoliberal policies in Jamaica, acting as a sort of Robin Hood figure who provides jobs and basic social security for Jamaicans in some of the worst slums.
Interestingly, though, authorities claim he was picked up while disguised as a woman.The New York Times, always bravely skeptical of government authority that’s not ours, warns that “government forces in other parts of the world like Iran and Pakistan have tried to discredit male rebels or dissidents by claiming that they hid in women’s clothing.”

It is not just the Iranians and Pakistanis who do such things. In 1865, when Jefferson Davis was captured by Union forces, rumors spread that he was hidden in a bonnet and women’s clothing. As in the case of Coke, accusations of Davis’ cross-dressing came after his defeat, as the vanquished enemy could be seen as weak, passive, and all of sudden lacking in virility. I suspect in both cases, feminizing the vanquished enemy helps the winners accommodate themselves to the fact that the rebels put up a much greater fight than was expected.

As one historian writes about the Davis capture: “Northern men drew on the images of impetuous Southern men, disorderly Southern women, and a former Confederate president in women’s clothes to establish ideas of Northern control over a weakened and submissive South.”

With Coke’s capture, of course, we can be sure that we will never ever see another illegal drug in America. Ever.

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Written by Peter Wirzbicki

June 25, 2010 at 14:22

4 Responses

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  1. Nice post, Peter. I think you could go even further with it. Thinking about the fact that he’s now being delivered to the U.S., this fits in well with the feminization of Jamaican immigration both at the level of cultural stereotype (the idea of the maid or nanny) and reality. The proportion of women migrating from Jamaica has been steadily rising in the past decades because of the predominance of service jobs, of which providing the US public with drugs looks like an increasingly essential one.

    Quinn

    June 25, 2010 at 16:52

  2. Ehud Barak famously disguised himself as a woman when on a covert operation for Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s elite commando unit.

    weiner

    June 25, 2010 at 16:54

  3. I agree with Quinn–both a nice post and I think we could go even further and consider how this works into the feminization of an immigrant population within the American popular mind. Considering how the Puerto Rican immigrant community was marked as “different” and implicitly inferior through their representation as “welfare mothers” (i.e. jobless mothers with lots of children and no husbands draining away the nation’s resources), how does the feminization of one of the most well-known, ‘threatening’ faces of Jamaica play into the exertion of US cultural power over yet another growing immigrant community, and by extension the country itself? Should we be grateful that he’s not wearing the pink wig, which might have given him an air of Pretty Woman?

    kristen

    June 25, 2010 at 20:34

  4. Davis most certainly did wear a dress, when captured. Ever single officer, and soldier, present, said so in their reports, and for the rest of their lives. Many of them wrote about it, for example, in Atlantic Monthly, in September of 1865.

    There is a wealth, an overabundance, of first person accounts saying very certainly that Davis wore a dress. Not petticoats and a slip — but a dress, a scarf, and an shawl. He wore all three.

    But the most amazing witness was his WIFE — who wrote a 20 page letter to the Blairs soon after the capture, and spent 8 pages detailing what happened that day.

    She shows –unequivocally — that she yelled out “Its my mother” when Jefferson Davis was stopped. That is what SHE writes !

    Plus, while she tries to take the blame for it, its clear these were not his normal clothes. She insisted she “pleaded” with him to put it on.

    Do you plead with someone to put on their own clothes? No, of course not.

    She also wrote, in effect, ‘well, so what if he had worn female attire? He did it because he so loved the south’.

    Most Southern “scholars” will not even mention Varina’s amazing letter. When they do dare to mention it, they don’t bring up the embarrassing parts, some of which I mentioned above.

    Do you even write 8 pages about someones clothes, if the clothes were not an issue?

    Plus, she begs the Blairs to destroy the letter (obviously, they did not) because “it could be used by his enemies to embarrass him”. The Blairs did not destroy it, but it took fifty years, and the next generation of Blairs, before they released it to the public.

    There were dozens of very credible sources — all who were there said Davis wore a dress –except Davis. His wife said he had on a dressing GOWN, she probably said that, in order to explain away the dress.

    The soldiers said that they told Davis to go into a tent to change — his wife went with him. Astonishingly, she came out wearing THAT dress. She put on the dress Davis had on moments before!

    The soldiers assumed she did that in order to keep them from taking the dress, but take it they did, as soon as the group arrived in Savannah, and Mrs Davis was put up at a hotel. That dress was seized, per order of the War Department, and put on display for over twenty years.

    You will hear all kinds of attacks on the dress story, all of them nonsense. None of them deal with Varina’s own declarations that he wore a dressing gown and she called out “Its my Mother”. Those are from HER letter.

    Her letter, in fact, corroborates every substantial point in the soldier’s report.

    Davis apologist should not be embarrassed by the dress he wore — he was trying to stay alive, there was 100,000 dollar bounty on his head, he was very likely to be shot if caught with an entourage of Southern soldiers. So he wisely dismissed the soldiers and fled to his wife.

    What Davis apologist should be ashamed of, however, is Davis abject cowardice when stopped. He stood mute and downcast, like a pouty child. His wife ran to him, grabbed him and held him like a child, and dared the soldier to shoot HER if he had so shoot someone.

    Davis let her do that.

    Later, Davis got all macho, after he was out of the dress, he got mouthy. He told the soldiers they were lucky he didn’t kill them. He told the soldiers he could have easily escaped, but he was guarding his wife. Nonsense, Davis was running AWAY from his wife when stopped, to get to the horses. He was apparently going to ditch her.

    Davis was a coward, just like Beauregard said he was.

    Mark Douglas

    November 2, 2010 at 15:07


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