In reflecting on how certain advocates of Confederate heritage respond to criticism of their beliefs, understanding and representation of history, and so on, I am always somewhere between amused and bemused when I hear the claim that their critics must hate them (and the South). All this talk about “evilizing” brings a smile to my face, but leaves me scratching my head.
It would be a useless exercise to state that I do not hate these people with whom I disagree. That would not change their minds at all on this subject. But I am struck by their need to believe that they are hated. Frankly, that would be an excessive expenditure of emotional energy on my part that would be totally unwarranted.
Take, for example, the new gift that keeps on giving … the Virginia Flaggers (who have been remarkably silent as of late). Oh, I find some of the posturing astonishing (for example, Susan Hathaway’s rather unwilling to make anywhere near the sacrifices in her own life that she celebrates in the service and sacrifice of the Confederate soldier (thus her absence from the sidewalk in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts). On the whole, however, I find the Flaggers a source of amusement, a rather funny reality show. I mean, can you take Norwood “Tripp” Lewis seriously? Let’s honor the Confederacy, get arrested, challenge law enforcement officers, and never, ever lose our sunglasses.
Tripp’s only the most visible of a cast of characters now that Susan’s taking a low profile when it comes to the VMFA. You can’t find better entertainment on obscure cable channels. Leave it to the Flaggers to erect their not-too-tall flagpole on land next to a trailer park, thus reinforcing unfortunate stereotypes of white southerners. Welcome to Richmond, indeed. I can’t wait to see what happens when they attempt to repeat that fiasco elsewhere (as promised) or what happens when Tripp goes after Richmond law enforcement (as promised). This is so much more fun than keeping up with the Kardashians.
Face it … if I was an enemy of Confederate heritage, I’d invent the Virginia Flaggers if they didn’t already exist.
The same sense of amusement/bemusement appears when I read blogs that seem all too eager to claim that someone hates them, wants to evilize (white) southerners, and so on. Why, I wonder, do they need to feel that way? How does believing that they are hated make them feel better? How does it serve their view of the world?
Maybe they would rather be hated than ridiculed, but, after all, they provide the material. Maybe they believe that it’s better to think they are hated than to admit that they are the subjects of laughter. I guess I could understand that.
Look, I understand that for some people “heritage” and a peculiar rendering of American history (including the history of the Civil War, the Confederacy, and Reconstruction) is best understood as a search for a usable past by people who seek justification for their present political, social, and economic perspectives. It’s not simply about honoring the Confederate soldier and the supposed cause that he served. It’s not simply about the reminding each other of the wonders of slavery or the superiority of white (southern) culture. When members of the Flaggers show up at an election-eve Republican rally … when I hear attacks on “diversity” and “multiculturalism” … when I hear that I’m a Marxist, Communist, Leftist, Fascist, white-hating Yankee … (well, the Yankee part is true) … to say nothing of that old standby, “political correctness,” and its cousin, “revisionist history” … I know that some folks select a version of the past that supports their approach to the present. Moreover, I enjoy it when critics assume the very characteristics that they accuse their “enemies” of exhibiting. That tells me someone’s blinded by hatred, but it isn’t me. Indeed, there seems to be a lot of projecting here. After all, Austin/Caldwell/Melbourne/whatever really can’t complain about Corey Meyer (and his efforts to conceal his ISP are, to say the least, flawed and inconsistent). And let’s recall that the Flaggers and their allies, while whining about free speech, tried to shut up their opponents by contacting their employers … which suggest that their complaints are mere self-serving posturing. After all, Susan’s employer knew what she was doing, and I gather she was warned about the consequences of that. Simply to point out her conflict of interest as a means of explaining her silence is well within the bounds of showing that the Flaggers aren’t what they claim to be.
Sure, I oppose much of what these people claim to believe when it comes to issues of race, gender, sexual preference, and culture. And it’s absolutely true that I’m astonished by their ignorance of history, as well as their deliberate attempts to warp the record (it’s always a good question when I see some misstep as to whether it can be attributed to ignorance, idiocy, incompetence, or deliberate intent … or some mixture). But do I hate southerners? Nope. They’re in the family tree. Do I hate advocates of Confederate heritage? Nope. That’s foolish. Do I hate the folks who feel the need to be hated? Nope. At best, I hate the sin, but I smile at the sinner.
Maybe you can explain to me why these people need to believe that they are hated.