News and Notes, March 25, 2012

  1. Apparently last month another Confederate statue fell victim to vandalism.  At least it’s not simply an offense to good taste.
  2. These reports about the Museum of the Confederacy and the flag controversy are becoming boring.  Someday they’ll be selling pictures of Susan Hathaway and Waite Rawls shaking hands in Wilmer McLean’s parlor … and Susan will get to keep her flag.
  3. Connie Chastain wishes to remind us of how her mind works: ” … all the heroes in my novels are Southern white men, and all the heroines are Southern white women. But then, a couple of the villains are Southern white men. However, MOST of the villains are yankee wimmin.”  Apparently segregation (or outright exclusion) reigns supreme in her fictional world, too.  No news of when Hunter Wallace will appear in one of her “books,” since she asserts that he’s a fictional construct, too.  Probably a pen name.
  4. Lost in the flag flurry with the MOC is another story about what the MOC will display.
  5. Here’s a report from Charlottesville which places the newest statue flap in context.

Deconstructing Confederate “Heritage”

Over at Civil War Memory they’ve been talking about me and this blog … or at least one of the recent themes of this blog (I’ve excerpted the main discussion … click on the names for the full comment):

[Phil Ross]:  Brooks Simpson has been playing a masterful game of chess on his blog by baiting the SHPG and the flaggers, and in the process has subtly impelled them to make distinctions amongst themselves. In doing so he has successfully drawn out the arch-conservative neo-confederates who, while their racial views are despicable to most 21st century Americans (which they don’t consider themselves), they are absolutely crystal-clear and accurate in their history. There isn’t a hair-breadth of difference between your understanding of the causes of the war and theirs. Simpson has done an incredible service in prompting neo-Confederates to define themselves along a political spectrum that has often appeared monochromatic to the mainstream.

This leaves the Confederate Heritage folks in a bit of a conceptual conundrum, though, which explains a lot of the cognitive dissonance they leave in the wake of their blog posts and replies. They are attempting to define their heritage in a paradigm that they, themselves, consider to be an invalid politically-correct 21st century liberal context. Mr. Lucas’ replies above are chock full of liberal buzzwords–”intolerant,” “bigotry,” “racism,” “diversity,” etc.–implying an acceptance of the interpretive paradigm that followed the civil rights era. The problem is, it simply can’t be done. There is no logical way to do this, knowing what we know about the rock-solid, unassailable facts of southern history.

This leaves neo-Confederates like Mr. Lucas in the rather ironic position of being stuck between mainstream history and hard-line conservative reactionary neo-Confederate views, neither of which consider their point of view valid. Existentially, they inhabit an interpretive no-man’s-land.

[Kevin Levin]: “I am as big a fan of Brooks’s blog as the next person, but the views of these folks have been made crystal clear on their own websites. He hasn’t impelled them to do anything that they haven’t already done themselves.”

[Phil Ross]: I could have been more clear here. His modus operandi is to call attention to those websites and blogs on his own blog. Their reactive responses–on their own blogs as well as Simpson’s–make the exact points he was seeking to make. It’s been truly fascinating watching this play out over the last several weeks. And it was especially amusing watching Connie Chastain get outed as a closet liberal. :)

To which I have this to say:

Okay, okay … I think they got the point the first time.  No need to rub it in.

UPDATE: Hunter Wallace agrees with Phil Ross.  Kinda.

Confederate “Heritage” Versus Confederate History

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

News and Notes: March 24, 2012

Here and there we find small matters of interest, such as …

  1. Dimitri Rotov rouses himself from a long slumber to comment on Gary Gallagher’s ruminations about blogging.
  2. Mannie Gentile offers his own take on the Gallagher commentary.  It’s concise.
  3. More on the MOC and the Virginia Flaggers.  The grand opening’s a week away.  This should make for good heritage theater (that’s what I think we should call such “confrontations”).
  4. This report puts the Flagger protest in context of the opening of the MOC’s Appomattox museum.  However, one could take issue with Waite Rawls’s declaration that “Appomattox is the very metaphor for the end of the Civil War and the reunification of the nation.”  Not without a display of the Colfax massacre and the road to U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), I’d say.  The anniversary of that decision is March 29, by the way.

Enjoy your weekend.

News and Notes: March 22, 2012

Reading Andy Hall’s Dead Confederates a few days ago, I saw that he had decided to gather several minor news stories into a single blog post, saying that while they were worthy of notice, they weren’t worthy of a blog post dedicated to each story.  This seems like a good idea: some things are worth noting without devoting too much attention to them (or calling too much attention to them).  It just so happens that I’ve seen several of these stories (in this case all blogosphere-related) over the last day or so, and so here goes with another experiment:

  1. I awoke to reports that Gary Gallagher had offered in print his views on blogging in Civil War Times, and, as one might have anticipated, two bloggers (Kevin Levin and Harry Smeltzer) have already devoted some attention to what Gary has to say.  Having not read the article, I won’t comment, but I know that several academic historians have an aversion to blogging and question those who do it … especially if the blogger’s a fellow academic historian.  Shrug.  To each his (or her) own.
  2. You knew it was coming: the Virginia Flaggers plan to show up at the opening of the Museum of the Confederacy’s Appomattox facility.  Another model use of Facebook.
  3. Speaking of Facebook, Connie and company are chirping today about whether the “infiltration” of women and the integration of the military to include non-white males have weakened the armed forces of the United States … although not all of them want to remain United States citizens.  For that to happen, however, they must discuss what needs to be done to revive/restore “southern pride.”  Sounds like they are designing a RPG (role-playing game).  I suggest a reality show instead.  Reading Connie Chastain’s Facebook group is like reading The Onion.

I can’t wait for the weekend.  Bravo to my nine-year-old daughter, who today decided she wanted to test the chilly waters of our pool.  She’s wide awake now.

Glorifying War? Second in a series

If we concentrate on representations of the American Civil War on film, the two movies which most recently struck a nerve with both people interested in the Civil War and parts of a broader general public were Gettysburg (1993) and Glory (1989).  Do these scenes glorify war?  Why/why not, and how?

First, a scene from Gettysburg:

Compare that image to another epic battle film, Waterloo (1970) … of which the following shows the preparations for battle:

And then, from Glory, there’s the eve of battle and the preparations for the assault on Battery Wagner here:

Now … do these scenes glorify war?  Do they hint at its reality on the eve of battle?