I’m always amused by ranting about southern pride that claims that part of southern pride is Confederate pride and heritage. That’s even more amusing than the claim that somehow expressions of southern pride cause consternation in people like me. You know, the guy who is married to a southerner, went to school in the South, worked in the South, and taught in the South.
Then again, as Taylor Swift is wont to say, haters gonna hate … because one suspects that the real haters are people who claim that other people hate southern heritage … because they apparently need to believe such tripe. They can’t simply accept that they hate all on their own.
It would think that it’s quite evident that one can be a proud southerner without being proud of the Confederate or protective of Confederate heritage in ways that comport with the views of Confederate heritage apologists and Confederate Romantics. To insist that one can believe in southern pride only if one embraces Confederate heritage is simply bizarre and divisive, betraying the desperation of Confederate heritage apologists.
Moreover, I’d argue that in the eyes of many folks who live in the South, Confederate heritage antics are a positive embarrassment, especially when they are accompanied by bigotry and a regressive sensibility. For many people, southern pride requires the rejection of pride in the Confederacy.
Simply put, Confederate heritage apologists do not get to say who is and who is not southern, although that segregationist approach to the region’s residents may recall good times for some people. One can have pride in the South while rejecting the Confederacy … after all, a majority of southerners rejected the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865.
And what’s the best evidence for this? Perhaps the fact that Confederate heritage groups are so small. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is only slightly larger than the Army of Northern Virginia when it surrendered 150 years ago this spring. The Virginia Flaggers? Don’t make me laugh. Most of the time the Flaggers can’t even approach double figures in their protests … although they sure were more numerous than the West Florida Flaggers (sic).
Simply put, one can exhibit southern pride without celebrating Confederate heritage. Those people who say otherwise are a wrongheaded, desperate minority.
What do you think?
Meanwhile, as for those people who think I hate southern pride … you know, those real haters …
The Confederate Heritage folks are fixated on an imagined homogeneity among Southerners that denies the “Southerness” or “Virginianess” of anyone who disagrees with them. No immigrants or non-whites can be Southerners, nor can anyone who has spent time outside of the South. Those who were born in the South will have their bloodlines examined by people like Connie Chastain to determine if they are racially pure enough to be considered part of the Southern race. 21st Century one-drop rules are resorted to to disparage people with ideas the Heritagists find threatening.
Modern notions of autonomy and self-definition fall away among the Heritage crowd to the sorts of fixed categories that some white Southerners enshrined in law in the 19th Century. These are categories that modern Southerners reject and regard as atavistic and divisive.
I will just stay being an American and a member of the human race. The US vs THEM crap is a huge problem that has an easy cure. The problem is so many exploit others through the theme in order to maintain their belief structure.
Expressly saying you are American means you accept the construct of US vs THEM.
True and not true. One can identify oneself as American when referring to the nationality of their birth without subscribing to some of the lunatic fringe’s definition of what American means to be. However, by erasing all forms of identification the construct of US vs. THEM would be rendered meaningless. Sheer physiology suggests that will never happen.
It would be nice if we could overcome some of the basic concepts involved with the US vs. THEM concept though. Allowing the oppressors to continue using group divisions will always result in oppression against certain groups.
As Carl Schurz said: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
Thank you for not quoting Ms Swift.
Brooks, I think you make good points here. The good news is that these folks are increasingly being marginalized by their fellow southerners. I have one friend who has southern heritage, who says he is glad the South lost the war, even though he honors his ancestor’s service in the Confederate Army. Interestingly, his family lore, not borne out by any documentation that I could find, says that his ancestor was the first man to fire on Ft. Sumter. It’s been awhile since I looked into it, and I can’t now recall the man’s name, but while I could place him in the right area at the time of the firing on Ft. Sumter I could find no evidence that he had been involved in firing the first shot. But, the major point is that my friend, who has a strong sense of loyalty to his family and its heritage, realizes that the South was on the wrong side of the war and says he thinks the nation would be worse off today if the South had won. This nuanced position is one that I can respect. I guess Connie would judge him not a true southerner. What a shame.
Once more Chastain responds, and once more she fails.
“Anybody who thinks the civil war and the Confederacy are not indelible factors in the history, the culture and very substance of the South — including Southern pride — is a compleat idiot.”
Ah, but history, culture and “substance” are not the same as “pride.” Let’s rework the sentence to show why:
“Anybody who thinks the Second World War and the Third Reich are not indelible factors in the history, the culture and very substance of Germany — including German pride — is a compleat idiot.”
Chastain also claims that just because one is married to a southerner, went to school on the South, worked in the South, and taught in the South does not mean that one is a southerner. Very good … even obvious. But I never claimed I was a southerner. So what’s her point?
Clearly Chastain believes that only southern whites who joined the Confederacy are real southerners, and that’s southern heritage for her. I say that’s Confederate heritage, and that once more she’s betraying her segregationist assumptions. Indeed, if one looks at all fifteen slave states in 1860, and counts all its occupants as southerners (white and black, enslaved and free), one can make the case that the Confederate was supported by a minority of southerners. We’ll take that assertion to the Research Exercise category.
Only a compleat idiot (Chastain struggles with originality, a problem characteristic of plagiarists such as herself) would exclude blacks from her definition of southerners, or exclude those southern whites who supported the Union cause. But then it’s heritage, not history.
She’s a sad relic of a bygone era. On the other hand, she’s an excellent example of how memory of the war shapes identity. I was reading Jonathan Sarris’s book A Separate Civil War which included some interesting parts about the post-war era of a couple of North Georgia counties. These counties were fiercely divided during the war in a communal conflict. After the war, they drifted towards solidarity in remembrance of who was more “confederate.”
Anne Marshall’s book on Kentucky offers a similar finding.
The shifting loyalties within Middle Tennessee’s southern counties made their post war years particularly hard. Not a lot of research on that area though. Can you recommend any reading on the region’s political climate before the war ? Shiloh prompted a shift toward the Federal cause, but the preceding Confederate allegiance among the region’s subsistence dirt farmers is baffling.
These areas make your recent research question a particularly hard one to answer.
Steve Ash wrote an interesting study on Middle Tennessee you might find illuminating.
Many good points here. Permit me to address the latter. Would Chastain deny the fact that George H. Thomas was a southerner, who lived a honorable life and sustained his oath to the United States, unlike the vaunted RE Lee?
I think you’ll wait a long time for an answer to this question.
Mr. Carey, Thomas was a southerner. Lower-case s. Anyone who resides in the south is a southerner, lower-case s. But for me he was not a Southerner. For me (and likely for many others, not all of them Confederate heritage folks by any means), not all southerners are Southerners.
Thomas also earned another designation that starts with a lower-case s.
Unfortunately, Confederate heritage folks are not the final arbiters on who is a southerner or Southerner. That they continue to practice segregation suggests that they are honoring another past tradition that many southerners/Southerners rightly denounced.
Now, people on your blog have made a great deal about segregated schools. When you were at Alabama Christian College, had it desegregated? You do know that it was all-white in the 1960s.
“Fortunately, Confederate heritage folks are not the final arbiters on who is a southerner or Southerner.”
Unfortunately for Ms. Chastain, of course. 🙂
Yes…George Thomas was a Soldier….and a damn fine one.
U would have to stand on your mother’s shoulders,just to kiss ROBERT E LEES ASS
I am neither proud nor ashamed of the Confederacy since it does not exist anymore. However, I am fascinated by it.
As for the antics of the heritage groups, they are a constant source of embarrassment for the region and do more harm to the social fabric of the South today as well as the memory of the men they say they honor. They are turning the memory of the Confederate dead into a farce. As I have mentioned before, I do not care if someone wishes to honor the memory, service, and valor of a Confederate ancestor. In fact, I understand the desire to pay tribute and have honored my ancestors in my own way.
One of the things that really irks me about how these people play the ” Confederate Heritage” card, is the aspersions and slander they inevitably and eventually cast upon my “Union Heritage”. Supposedly any of my ancestors and relations who set foot in “Confederate” territory while wearing the Union blue were deliberately engaged in wanton acts of destruction, theft, rape, and murder; vile barbarian invaders waging war on a peaceful(sic) people. I am thus left with no other option than to view their peculiar brand of “Confederate Heritage” as the bull manure that it is, and continue in my view as an unrepentant Yankee. (Thank you for letting me rant.)
It’s really a segregationist response. These people claim to decide who is and is not a “real southerner” according to their own prejudices. It reveals an ugly exclusionist side in their thinking, and of course it’s ahistorical.
I sometimes describe myself as an unreconstructed Yankee, since there was nearly a century of southern-fried historical reconstruction after the real Reconstruction ended prematurely when Hayes compromised to become president, to the everlasting shame of the Buckeye State. I never bought into that historical reconstruction. But, I guess I’m unrepentant too. Just ask my wife who has been embarrassed many times when I’ve challenged southern tour guides who had bought in just a little too much to the Lost Cause mythology. An incident in Savannah comes readily to mind when during a carriage tour I provoked a minor uprising with the help of another couple who we didn’t know but that just happened to be from another town in our own county in Ohio. When the Sherman bashing got to the point I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked the gentleman behind me if Sherman was not considered a real hero back home. He said yes, and then I repeated very loudly something to the effect that Sherman was the GI General of the Civil War and that all his men just loved him because he wouldn’t risk their lives unnecessarily. I then said proudly that three of my ancestors had been in Savannah with WTS and I was proud of them. The tour guide was nearly speechless for a few minutes before she regained her composure. I call it Yankee pride. That’s my heritage.
My experience is that white southerners are taken aback when someone defends the Union the way someone defends the Confederacy.
That works for me, but just imagine if I followed the style of argumentation employed by Confederate heritage apologists. 🙂
Brooks, you just gave me an idea: Union Flaggers. Encourage northerners who drive to a state of the Old Confederacy to get one those car flags — like folks use to support their football teams — and display a replica of a Union regimental flag or maybe the national colors of a Union regiment with the names of battles on it. Or, perhaps, a simple bumper sticker with a 35-star flag, besides it the words “The Union Forever!”
Clarification: no we shouldn’t argue in their illogical manner, just a little “down with traitor up with the star” rhetoric to keep them on the defensive. That’s when they are at their illogical best. 😊
I acknowledge that not all unionists — military or otherwise — were vile barbarian invaders, although in my opinion, the union army did invade the south and the invasion was barbaric. I acknowledge today (and have done so on my blog and elsewhere) that there are good, decent northerners. Although it depends on the venue, in most of my discussions of this, I try not to use northerner as a synonym for yankee or damnyankee. My personal conception is that historic yankees were money/profit/prosperity focused and motivated, and damnyankees were those who invaded the south and killed Southerners. Contemporary yankees are arrogant busybodies who think they should tell everyone else how to live. The ones who come closest to being damnyankees today are those who move South and try to re-make the region in conformity to their vision.
I have lived in the South since 1981 with the exception of 2 years in Germany and 2 stints in very sandy places.
That is 6 years in Georgia (Columbus & Savannah ) 2 years in Tennessee (just south of Fort Campbell) and here in Southside Virginia since 1989.
Yet I still consider myself a native Bostonian and still call Boston home.
A large part of that is I have never been made to feel welcome. Some of that has been the reaction that Soldiers often get in military communities (they want your money but they don’t want you.)
But in all sorts of social settings when I ask a question to explain why something is so I am told “Well, you just wouldn’t understand!” as if I were a simpleton.
Heck, I got this reaction when I asked a question at teh County Board of Supervisors meeting about recycling!!!
I joke that my son (who was born here) will see his grandchildren recognised as locals…maybe.
I’ve known northerners who have come South and have been made to feel very welcome. Usually, they were people who like it here and respect and admire the culture, and aren’t out to change it, and don’t insult their new neighbors. Not accusing you of disrespecting the culture and insulting Southerners, but a lot of newcomers from the north do that without even being aware they’re doing it….
“I’m hopeful. I’m much calmer and sereener than I was a few months ago. I begin to feel kindly towards all people, except some. I’m now endeaverin to be a great national man. I’ve taken up a motto of no North, no South, no East, no West; but let me tell you, my friend, I’ll bet on Dixie as long as I’ve got a dollar. It’s no harm to run both skedules. In fakt it’s highly harmonious to do so.
I’m a good Union reb, and my battle cry is Dixie and the Union.” –Bill Arp, March 1866