We are a week away from the formal opening of the Museum of the Confederacy’s Appomattox branch. Many people will find this a cause for celebration, while others will find in the museum much to contemplate. That said, we also know that at least one “heritage” group plans to protest the opening with a demonstration featuring various Confederate flags. “Return the Flags! Restore the Honor!” (Isn’t someone borrowing from Glenn Beck?) In this case, of course, there are no flags to “return,” and I don’t see how a museum can take away honor (someone must do a little reading on the concept of honor, especially in a southern context).
However, this debate, as well as the ongoing skirmishes between self-identified defenders of “southern heritage” (read “Confederate heritage” … none of these folks are terribly interested in defending any other sort of heritage) and white supremacists (who draw freely on southern and Confederate history to demonstrate the connection between white supremacy and Confederate and secessionist ideology) serves to remind us that “heritage” and history are two different things. One cannot escape the notion that many proponents of Confederate heritage look to a selective and distorted reading of the past to seek justification for their present world view, cultural beliefs, and political philosophy (just as certain white supremacists look to the selected sayings of secessionists and Confederates to justify their own principles and to ground them in a historical past). Continue reading