Time for new statues and solemn remembrance in the South
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