Why Take Confederate Heritage Seriously?

It’s been an interesting two weeks for Confederate heritage. Even since the July 8th announcement by Washington & Lee president Kenneth P. Ruscio addressing several issues concerning commemorating the past at the university, a good number of Confederate heritage advocates, especially on social media, have been simply besides themselves. We’ve had calls for Ruscio to resign (and demands for his removal, although how these folks intend to go about that foolishness is never made clear), denunciations of the group (“The Committee”) that initiated what Rusico rightly calls a conversation within the WLU community, talk of marches, demonstrations, and that time-honored means of protest, flagging, and so on.

The reaction at times has been ludicrous. While some Confederate advocates proclaim that the next despicable step will be the removal of Lee’s remains, others say that is precisely what should happen. Talk amongst yourselves, folks. Various groups are vying to take the lead in protesting The Decision, as we might now call it, and that’s been amusing to watch and at times irresistible to comment on.

In short, it hasn’t been boring over the last several weeks, which is an interesting change. But you know how these things go. Who now cares that Glenn McConnell is now the president of the College of Charleston? Just a few. Did many people notice the erection of a Confederate flag north of the Rappahannock along I-95? No. Does anyone talk about the one near Chester? No. The Museum of the Confederacy’s decision to become part of the American Civil War Museum is now but a dim memory. Confederate History Month in Virginia? That’s so 2010. In short, these things come and go.

What remains the same is the never-ending ability of some Confederate heritage organizations as well as prominent individuals who support those organizations to make fools of themselves. I freely admit that reporting on their comic adventures seems to be popular with a lot of people, judging from the traffic at this blog (this should be a great disappointment to those who thought the blog’s traffic or influence was dwindling or who called my coverage of other topics rather that these groups “suspicious”). Indeed, it’s been downright funny (and at times hysterical) to see certain Confederate heritage advocates step into traps largely of their own making; at other times, it’s been astonishing to see how eagerly they take what I thought was all too obvious bait. At those moments all I can say is …

As I’ve said before, some of these people really should approach someone to do a reality show … they are a cast of real characters. Not only does it seem that some of us live rent free in their heads, but there’s more than enough room to install an NHL arena in said heads. I enjoy the ice time. Sometimes it’s too easy:

In short, much mirth awaits. That said, however, as these folks step forward as the most vocal and most visible expressions of Confederate heritage, one is left to wonder what’s going to be the fate of that heritage. Will the antics of these groups damage it beyond repair? Are they serious when they claim that SCV license plates are a sign of their eventual triumph? Is Confederate heritage now little more than flags in the woods, a handful of Flaggers on the sidewalk, and expressions of ignorance, stupidity, racism, and bigotry shared gleefully by these folks on social media?

Really? Is that the image of Confederate heritage you want to see?

It says something about the mindset of such people that they believe that someone’s out to get them. “We know what you are doing you are still working on the take over,” one Confederate heritage advocate recently proclaimed. She must have known what was next, for her declaration came just days before President Ruscio issued his statement. I’m sure she thinks so. Next, according to some people, is a plan to go after Lee himself … which means that those people in the Confederate heritage movement who advocate changing the name of WLU and removing the bodies of Lee, his family, and his favorite horse from campus are simply doing our work for us …

Confederate heritage advocates have no one but themselves to blame for their problems (as well as the way they are portrayed in the media, social and otherwise). Nor should that blame be shouldered simply by the individuals and groups that provide us such amusement on this blog and elsewhere. It’s that other advocates of Confederate heritage have failed to establish a rationale for Americans to respect that heritage and have forfeited the stage to their comical counterparts that lead people to believe that Confederate heritage is to be found somewhere on a spectrum between a circus and an insane asylum populated by hateful, bitter, bigoted folks, with stupidity seasoned by their vile nature the only constant.

Yes, Jerry, George, Connie, and Carl, we mean you. Not just you, however.

It’s as if I let Ed Sebesta stand as a representative voice for what I believe. Were I to do so, I’d have only myself to blame. So why let these people speak for you?

There’s a saying going around nowadays called First World Problems (let “Weird Al” Yankovic explain). It’s time to consider whether there may be Confederate Heritage Problems, too. Some may be funny, some may be outrageous, and some may be just pathetic or sad … but for those people who want to honor their Confederate ancestors without subscribing to the beliefs or endorsing the antics of certain groups, they may be all too real.

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