Time for new stat­ues and solemn re­mem­brance in the South

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Gene Lyons Arkansas Times

If your pre­cious “South­ern her­itage” in­cludes swastikas, you may as well quit read­ing right here. But odds are as­tro­nom­i­cally high that it doesn’t. The vast ma­jor­ity of South­ern­ers are as re­pelled by those goons as ev­ery­body else.

Rebel flags, in com­par­i­son, strike me as merely ado­les­cent. Yee-haw!

Well, it’s time to grow up.

If that an­noys you, an­swer me this: Since when is South­ern history strictly white history, any­way?

Most of th­ese Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments com­mem­o­rate not so much the South’s glo­ri­ous history of slav­ery and re­bel­lion, but the bloody ad­vent of Jim Crow laws be­tween 1895 and 1925 or there­abouts. A time of “race ri­ots” -- i.e. black cit­i­zens mas­sa­cred by white mobs across the re­gion from At­lanta (1906) to Elaine, Arkansas (1919) to Tulsa (1921) -- and of widespread lynch­ing.

A time when the Klan-glo­ri­fy­ing epic “Birth of a Na­tion” (1915) was screened at the White House for Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son.

Iron­i­cally, rebel sol­dier stat­ues were a Yankee in­dus­try. A fac­tory in Con­necti­cut man­u­fac­tured the fool things by the hun­dreds and shipped them south to stand guard fac­ing north on court­house squares. A pointed re­minder of ex­actly who was in charge. Specif­i­cally, the Ku Klux Klan.

There was noth­ing sub­tle about it. Pho­to­graphs of Char­lottesville’s eques­trian statue of Robert E. Lee be­ing ded­i­cated in 1924 show that many in at­ten­dance wore KKK re­galia. Con­trary to the art critic in the White House, the statue’s not be­ing de­stroyed. Plans are to re­lo­cate the mon­u­ment to a park on the out­skirts of town -- just as Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues taken down at the Univer­sity of Texas will be placed in a mu­seum, where they be­long.

Lat­ter-day Con­fed­er­ate sym­pa­thiz­ers who feel the need to gen­u­flect to Fake History can visit them there. (Fake horse­man­ship, too. I have a friend in­dig­nant about the bronze Gen. Lee’s cru­elly over­crank­ing the bri­dle, some­thing the real Lee -- an ex­cel­lent rider -- would surely never have done.)

But make no mis­take: Fake History it is. The trea­sured myth of the “Lost Cause” of free­dom-lov­ing pa­tri­ots fight­ing bravely for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and “states’ rights” can’t sur­vive even a cur­sory read­ing of se­ces­sion­ist doc­u­ments.

Here’s Alexan­der Stephens, Vice Pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­acy, ar­gu­ing that its “cor­ner­stone rests upon the great truth, that the Ne­gro is not equal to the white man; that slav­ery -- sub­or­di­na­tion to the su­pe­rior race -- is his nat­u­ral and nor­mal con­di­tion. This, our new govern­ment, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great phys­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, and moral truth.”

No­body talks that way any­more ex­cept guys with swastikas. It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that the vir­u­lent racism they preach was in­vented pre­cisely to ra­tio­nal­ize the evil of slav­ery. Nev­er­the­less, that’s what the Civil War, the blood­i­est tragedy in Amer­i­can history, was all about: pro­tect­ing and

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