(August 28, 2019) History is a story, which is interpreted by viewpoint. If, for example, we read the narrative of the Jewish resettlement in Canaan from the biblical perspective, we cheer when the walls of Jericho fall. But if we consider the same incident from the perspective of the Canaanites, it is a disastrous tale of invasion by unwanted immigrants. Although it is the same story, viewpoint changes everything.
Thus, it is with the War Between the States. Increasingly, however, the Southern narrative is censored because the dominant interpretation is controlled by anti-Southern academic elites. It reflects their growing obsession during the past fifty years to tell American history from the viewpoint of selective victim classes, real or imagined. Sometime in the last twenty-five years it metastasized into the general culture. Hollywood, for example, transformed the sinking of the Titanic into a feminist tale instead of one about male sacrifice.
Presently the trend has evolved into totalitarian identity politics, which is intolerant of any interpretations other than its own. Consequently, Confederate statues are torn down. Dissenting voices are silenced by mob attacks prompted merely by pointing at the offender, in the manner of Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the primal scream of “racist!”
Nonetheless, unlike identity politics advocates, Southerners have long been among the most patriotic Americans. We tend to see what is right about her instead of what is wrong. Even today the region accounts for 44% of the nation’s volunteer military as compared to only 36% of the population. Partly because the Confederate soldier went to war to defend his homeland, his descendants retain an affection for the land and its traditions. Moreover, as Sir Walter Scott explained, such feelings are common among all nationalities, not just Southerners:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
It is wrong to deny Southerners the freedom to commemorate their ancestors. Rather than taking down Confederate monuments we should be adding new ones to the subjects of slavery, the Underground Railroad, black soldiers, and Reconstruction as well as the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Adding new memorials while keeping the old ones in place provides a tangible record of how Southern society evolved. History is, after all, a matter of records.
Confederate statues are not icons of racism. They honor the soldier for his devotion to duty, courage and sacrifices in an effort to repel invaders. He has been—and can continue to be—an inspiration to future American warriors. Military experts such as author and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters agree: “The myth of Johnny Reb as the greatest infantryman happens to be true. Not only the courage and combat skill, but the sheer endurance of the Confederate foot soldier may have been equaled in a few other armies over the millennia, but none could claim the least superiority. . . [T]he physical toughness, fighting ability and raw determination of those men remains astonishing.”
Peters continues: “The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of bravery, not slavery. I’m a Yankee, born and bred, and my personal sympathies lie with the Northern cause . . . To me, though, that red flag with the blue St. Andrews cross strewn with white stars does not symbolize slavery—that’s nonsense—but the stunning bravery of those who fought beneath it.”
As long as we are all Americans, the South deserves to have its story told from both perspectives. Few of those who censor the Southern viewpoint and tear down our statues would likely suggest that Hiroshima destroy its memorials notwithstanding Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, or the horrors of the her prison camps. Most Americans respect the Japanese desire to honor their ancestors and appreciate—even respect—its long tradition. Southerners have a similar regard for tradition and we should also be allowed to honor it.
[Learn more and support this blog at My Amazon Author Page]