Last week, a local car dealership was running adds for a Veterans Day weekend sale event. It was clear from watching the ads that the dealership in question had bought a series of canned ads and then added its own message at the end. This became especially apparent when the pitchman asked viewers to honor the veterans (and buy a car) while standing in front of a monument to Confederate soldiers.
One could react to that image in a number of ways, but for me it raised a simple question: how should we treat the service of Confederate soldiers? Keep in mind that this is not simply a question for academics. People count Confederate soldiers among their ancestors. That’s the case in my family. So the question engages me on various levels, and I wonder how it engages you.
I freely admit that I find it a source of never-ending amusement to visit two websites: Connie Chastain’s 180 Degrees True South and Facebook’s Southern Heritage Preservation Group. Oh, once I almost took the latter seriously as an example of distorted understandings of the American Civil War in modern memory, but I’ve followed my own advice and not paid it attention in terms of having anything serious to say … although it continues to make me chuckle (I blame Kevin Levin for drawing my attention to this group on his blog … you naughty boy). After all, this is a group that contains members that embrace the desecration of monuments to Union heroes and those who say that slavery wasn’t really all that bad (“in the overwhelming number of cases the slaves remained and helped farm the land because they had been well treated by those in authority over them” and “because slaves were treated well in the South, there was no widespread uprising,” for examples). Some are even confused about their own feelings about the misuse of the Confederate naval ensign (see here). And, of course, it contains members who offer such opinions as “Any one who does not love R E Lee does not love GOD!!” Continue reading