Tag Archives: Confederate Statues

Who Causes Change?

(June 12, 2019) Yesterday Andrew Klavan interviewed ninety-four-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Harry T. Stewart who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen group of black fighter pilots during World War II. Klavan admired how Stewart successfully pursued his goals during the years that bridged from segregation to the present. Although Stewart was aware of racism in the early part of his career he navigated through it as it gradually crumbled. He especially appreciated the whites who helped him along the way during the period of segregation, beginning with the Tuskegee flight instructors. When Klavan asked the retired airman to share advice for today’s youth he said, “I’d tell ’em to keep their eye on the prize.”

After Stewart had moved off stage Klavan addressed his audience with a personal reflection. He said, “I have a theory that it is not the social activists that effect change.” It is men like Harry. After guys like Harry have done the job its “easy for Hollywood actors to speak out, shout, parade and pretend to be heroes” but they are merely “riding the tides of change.” People like Harry had already done the job without grandstanding or whining.

Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart.

Grandstanders are ineffective for two reasons. First, they’re latecomers. The real work is already done. Second, they’re outsiders. They are not really Theodore Roosevelt’s metaphorical “man in the arena” who deserves the credit.

Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King and Robert Owens* were black men “in the arena.” They lived all of their lives in the South. They experienced first-hand the dynamics of a racially mixed society; One centered in an underprivileged region in which they were a large  but underprivileged minority.

In contrast, James McPherson, Eric Foner, and David Blight are latecomers and outsiders. By comparison to the three blacks noted above, they know nothing of the South. McPherson was from North Dakota and deliberately avoided his dissertation advisor’s recommendation to study Alabama reconstruction because he did not want to go to Alabama. Foner had access to any kind of education or career he wanted merely by getting off at different subway stop. Aside from his readings, Foner knows the South about as well as a cotton picker from Toad Suck, Arkansas knows New York. The economic privileges of Blight’s Flint, Michigan hometown steadily dwindled after he went to college because the Rust Belt lost its tariff protection. Fisher Body could no longer prosper by providing mere cosmetic innovations to automobiles.

McPherson, Foner, Blight and their acolytes are merely “riding the tides of change” when they demand that Confederate statues be removed. The professors did not end racism. The Southern white supremacy groups they fear are as rare, and small, as fresh water wells in Death Valley. They are phantoms which, like Don Quixote, the statue critics think “might be giants.” In reality, blacks started moving back to the South only a few years after McPherson and Foner published their signature books thirty-two years ago.

Finally, the professors either have—or pretend to have—no comprehension for the statue interpretations of Confederate descendants. They are like Klavan’s Hollywood entertainers who “speak out, shout, parade and pretend to be heroes” after racial attitudes have already changed. The only thing modern historians have changed is freedom of speech.  They silence anyone who disagrees with their understandings of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Even though the senior academics in charge during their formative years allowed them to challenge then-contemporary interpretations, they now censor opinions contrary to their own. As always, it is those in power who censor, which they do for a single reason: to retain power.

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* Robert Owens is the grandfather of political commentator Candace Owens. She credits him with teaching her the morality she values.

Saving Confederate Statues

(June 7, 2019) Politicians will stop tearing down Confederate statues when influential citizens and big donors ask them. As Donald Trump explained during his presidential campaign, in the years when he was chiefly a New York real estate developer he donated to candidates of both parties. “You had to,” he said, “in order to get things done.”

Despite their noble-sounding speeches, politicians listen to people with money and influence. Fortunately, influential civic leaders might be persuaded to protect Confederate statues if properly targeted, and approached respectfully with solid arguments. Silent Sam’s situation could be a pivotal opportunity.

First, the manner in which a student mob toppled his statue is inexcusable within respectable society.

Second, state law requires that it be replaced, although UNC law Professor Eric Muller apparently argues that vandal removal circumvents the law.

Third, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the South’s most distinguished public educational institutions and perhaps its oldest. If UNC will stand against Silent Sam’s enemies, they could give backbone to many Southern politicians.

Fourth, there are twenty-nine University of North Carolina Board of Governors members. All are prominent citizens whose opinions matter to Chapel Hill administrators. Many are wealthy. At least one is a multibillionaire.  All, or nearly all, can be approached respectfully in the following manner:

  1. Send a postal letter with a copy of Shane Anderson’s 1200-word essay on Silent Sam’s dedication. Despite the racist remarks of a single commemoration speaker, Shane shows that an honest appraisal indicates “. . . the monument was not intended as a symbol of white supremacy. It was genuinely meant to honor the students who sacrificed for what they saw as their duty, and to inspire future generations by that example.”
  2. Include a one or two sentence cover letter.
  3. Do not substitute an email for a postal letter. It is less respectful.

If you would like to participate email me here. I will send you the names of two UNC Board members to write. I will also provide you copies of Shane’s essay and form cover letter, if you decline to use your own.

Yesterday when I was reflecting upon the sacrifices that numerous twenty-year-old boys made seventy-five years ago on D-Day, a contrast struck me. Americans have always made supreme sacrifices in wartime. They often gave up their very lives to combat evil. Yet in peacetime, we are reluctant to even write a letter to oppose the wicked. We kick the can down the road until the sacrifices may once again require the very lives of our youth.

There are few greater peacetime depravities than censorship, for which Confederate statue destruction is merely a variation. It is always those in power who censor. And they do it for a single reason: to retain power.

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Contemporary Black Reaction To Confederate Statues

(May 22, 2019) One argument used by those wanting to remove Confederate statues is that contemporary blacks had little chance to oppose them when they were erected.  Aside from anecdotal evidence that blacks joined white crowds to observe the dedication ceremonies, one example in Mississippi provides undeniable evidence of explicit high-level black support. In 1890 the Mississippi legislature voted on a bill to appropriate $10,000 for a Confederate monument. The vote in the lower chamber was 57-to-41 in favor. All six black representatives voted “yea.” One, John F. Harris, made a supporting speech excerpted below prior to the vote:

Mr. Speaker! I have risen here in my place to offer a few words on the bill. . .I was sorry to hear the speech of the young gentleman from Marshall County. I am sorry that any son of a soldier should go on record as opposed to the erection of a monument in honor of the brave dead.

And, sir, I am convinced that had he seen what I saw at Seven Pines and in the Seven Days’ fighting around Richmond, the battlefield covered with the mangled forms of those who fought for their country and for their country’s honor, he would not have made that speech. . . . When the news came that the South had been invaded, those men went forth to fight for what they believed, and they made no requests for monuments . . . But they died, and their virtues should be remembered.

Sir, I went with them. I too wore the gray, the same color my master wore. We stayed four long years, and if that war had gone on till now I would have been there yet . . . I want to honor those brave men who died for their convictions.

When my mother died I was a boy. Who, Sir, then acted the part of a mother to an orphaned slave boy, but my old missus? Were she living now, or could speak to me from those high realms where are gathered the sainted dead, she would tell me to vote for this bill. And, Sir, I shall vote for it. I want it known to all the world that my voice is given in favor of the bill to erect a monument in honor of the Confederate dead.”

Harris was about thirty years old when he went off with his master to fight on the side of the Confederacy. After the War he studied law at the offices of Percy and Yerger in Greenville, Mississippi. The firm’s co-founder was William Alexander Percy, a former Confederate Colonel. In 1867 Percy successfully defended ex-slave, Holt Collier, who had been accused of murdering a federal officer.

Holt fought as a Confederate sharpshooter during the War and later was a guide for Theodore Roosevelt when the President visited Mississippi on a bear hunt in 1902. When word got out that Roosevelt declined to shoot a bear that Holt had trapped for him, a toy manufacturer started mass producing stuffed bears for infants. He named them Teddy Bears.

Percy’s son (LeRoy) fathered a second William Alexander Percy who authored Lanterns on the Levee in 1941. When future novelist and physician Walker Percy was orphaned at age fifteen in 1931 he went to live with the second W. A. Percy. While in Greenville, Walker became best friends with high school classmate Shelby Foote who had been fatherless since age five. During the next three years the two youths were treated like nuclear family in the W. A. Percy household. The patriarch became a mentor to both. Later, Walker won the National Book Award for The Moviegoer while Shelby became best known for his three volume Civil War narrative.

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Why Didn’t Isaac Newton Invent the Lightbulb?

(May 21, 2019) Those who critically ask why Confederate leaders, and other Southerners such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, didn’t abandon slavery might just as well ask why Isaac Newton didn’t invent the lightbulb. Like all of us, they were people of their own time. Whether or not we are honest enough to admit it, we all tend to be prisoners of our own experience. Breaking free from past ties is the exception, not the rule. Even when successful, it always takes time and often an enormous amount of it. As William Faulkner put it, “The past is never dead. Actually, it’s not even past.”

Despite having a 190 estimated IQ, Isaac Newton did not invent the lightbulb because of the limited knowledge about electricity available during his lifetime. His most productive years were in the seventeenth century, long before there was enough known about electricity to make a filament illuminate without consuming itself. Thomas Edison did not perfect earlier attempts until two hundred years after Newton published the Principia. Yet Edison stood on the shoulders of Newton and many other scientists who worked in the era between the two. 

Nonetheless, Newton broke free enough to make incalculably valuable scientific advances—far more important than Edison’s. Likewise, by commanding the Continental Army and declining to serve as President beyond two terms, Washington gave us a lasting Republic instead of a monarchy. Jefferson articulated America’s grievances and objectives in the Declaration of Independence and doubled the country’s size during his presidency. As the first non-aristocratic President, Jackson made the common man proud to be an American. Finally, Confederate soldiers repeatedly showed in their letters and diaries by the tens of thousands that they went to the battlefield to repel invaders, not to perpetuate slavery. Their fighting spirit and devotion to duty lived on to inspire later generations of American soldiers. It still does.

Although enlightenment can take a long time it is impossible to make course corrections without freedom of speech. Ironically, however, free speech is a prime target of those wanting to destroy Confederate symbols and topple statues of Washington, Jefferson and Jackson. Most modern historians of the American experience are narcissistically intent upon imposing modern values on historical figures and censoring those who disagree. Censors always come from the groups in power. Moreover, they always censor for a solitary reason: to retain power.

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Ridiculing Confederates as “Losers”

(April 30, 2019) Increasingly critics of Confederate symbols ridicule the Southern soldiers as “losers,” thereby implying that the men—unlike their modern critics—lacked the qualities for success. The most recent example is South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn who is also the Democrat Party’s Whip in the House of Representatives. Thus, in terms of Party leadership he ranks only two steps below Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the chamber and one step below the Majority Leader.

Would South Carolina Congressman & Democrat Party Whip James Clyburn call these boys “losers.?”

A number of factors explain why the Confederates lost the Civil War including the fact that the available pool of whites for Northern soldiers outnumbered those in the South four-to-one. Beyond that, the losses endured by the Rebel soldiers document that their sheer fighting spirit was never exceeded by American soldiers in any war. If the USA were to fight a war today and suffer the same loss ratio as the Confederacy, military deaths alone would total over eleven million. That’s twenty-six times our losses in World War II.

But such points are secondary to the implication that it’s okay to ridicule soldiers for being on the losing side. If Democrat Party media organs such as The New York TimesSlate Magazineand the BBC are taken at their word, for example, America lost the Vietnam War. Mr. Clyburn undoubtedly witnessed the unwelcome reception Vietnam vets received during that period when he worked first as a public school teacher and later as a political appointee. In time, nearly all Americans came to regret the shameful ridiculing of Vietnam vets. Perhaps Representative Clyburn is an exception.

Finally, the tendency of critics to label Confederates as “losers” may chiefly reflect a long-concealed jealousy over the cachet of the rebel persona. Traditionally Americans have been attracted to the rebels in literature, art, motion pictures, history and politics. Rebels are cool.

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False Truths Are Our Biggest Problem

(April 1, 2019) While some may suppose today’s title is an April Fools joke, it actually stems from the anonymous axiom: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Consider the following June 29, 1989 article from the Associated Press:

U.N. Predicts Disaster if Global Warming Not Checked

UNITED NATIONS (AP)  A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.

Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ″eco- refugees,′  threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP.

He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control.

As the warming melts polar icecaps, ocean levels will rise by up to three feet, enough to cover the Maldives and other flat island nations, Brown told The Associated Press.

Coastal regions will be inundated; one-sixth of Bangladesh could be flooded, displacing a fourth of its 90 million people. A fifth of Egypt’s arable land in the Nile Delta would be flooded, cutting off its food supply, according to a joint UNEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study.

″Ecological refugees will become a major concern, and what’s worse is you may find that people can move to drier ground, but the soils and the natural resources may not support life.

Excess carbon dioxide is pouring into the atmosphere because of humanity’s use of fossil fuels and burning of rain forests, the study says. The atmosphere is retaining more heat than it radiates, much like a greenhouse. . .

He said . . . there is no time to waste. . . etc. etc. etc.

Presently, New York’s newly elected Congress-lady Alexandria Ocasio is echoing similar warnings. Even though the United Nations released its hysterical and erroneous predictions before Ocasio was even born, the 29 year old is convinced that her opponents—especially older ones who are white, male and heterosexual—are deluded, if not downright stupid or evil. Evidently, she cannot understand that some of us might understand that global warming is a trend, but disagree with her $93 trillion accelerated remedies. 

In truth, she is supercilious. Her overconfidence and disdain for common sense can be traced to teachings provided by most American colleges and universities in non-STEM fields during the past thirty years. The same kind of education falsely concludes that Confederate heritage can only be interpreted as racist. Since academics generally continue to censor any contrary opinion, their bigotry has grown to a point where century old statues are toppled by a mob-like zeitgeist. It’s the same kind of hysteria that prompted the UN to forecast thirty years ago that humanity had only a ten years to prevent the end of civilization due to global warming.

Owing to their academic training most of America’s present historians are unable to appreciate that Confederate symbols have had, and will continue to have, different meanings to different Americans. The belief of most academics that they can only symbolize racism is a truth “that just ain’t so.”