A Step Too Far

Those of you who have followed the coverage involving a petition by James Loewen and Edward Sebesta asking Barack Obama to end the practice of sending a wreath to the Confederate Monument at Arlington know the discussion has been heated.  This was one of the reasons why I suggested in a recent post that the petition was a bad idea.  As many of you know I am a regular target of those who interpret my commentary as offensive and that is to put it mildly.  On occasion I share these comments with my readers, usually with a bit of humor thrown into the mix.

Unfortunately, a recent comment by Josephine L. Bass cannot be treated with such good humor.  Her comment appeared as part of the discussion following Loewen and Sebesta’s petition at the History News Network:

I agree, and the Kevin Levin is one of their ilk! They are in to present ism, South Bashing, and hatred of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy. Levin is born in the North teaching students n VIRGINIA! Keep your eyes peeled for him and let him have it with both barrels.

For now I am going to attribute this to poor word choice, but I do want Ms. Bass and others to understand that such language will not be tolerated.  We can and should disagree with one another, but it must be done in a respectful manner.  Whatever differences there may be, and however offensive some may interpret my commentary, I have never used such language in reference to any group or individual.  Please understand that I am prepared to take legal action if necessary.

You are free to post a response, but I will not approve any comment that exacerbates this situation in any way.  Please do not address Ms. Bass on this forum.  If you are a blogger I kindly ask that you refrain from allowing her to comment about me on your site.  And I would appreciate it if the rest of you would keep a sharp eye out for any threatening references from Ms. Bass.

I apologize for having to bring this to your attention, but I wanted to have a public record of this on my site.  Thanks for your understanding.

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17 comments… add one

  • Sherree Tannen May 31, 2009

    Kevin,

    Isn’t Josephine Bass the same “Josephine Southern” who made disparaging comments on your blog several months ago? I remember having a run in with her myself on your blog. Also, I was going to ask you about her a while back, but I thought that you had made some sort of peace with her since you had her picture in your google friends list for a while. I personally don’t think she is dangerous, just foolish. There are some very dangerous people in all walks of life, however, and allowing Josephine’s type of commentary to flourish, either to prove a point or to get some traffic on the Internet is a potentially very dangerous practice. (what do academics of Loewen and Sebesta’s caliber gain by arguing with men and women who know absolutely nothing about the subject at hand?) You can count on my support, as I am sure you can count on the support of all of your other readers and fellow bloggers. I had some truly uneasy moments myself, as you know, when I spotted a flag with a swastika on it in my neighbor’s workshop across the street from me. I have since investigated this situation. The flag belongs to a young couple from Michigan. I don’t think they even know what it means. My husband told me to forget about it, but I couldn’t. So, I confronted the couple and we reached a truce: they will keep the door to the workshop closed so I don’t have to look at that flag, or I will call the sheriff and complain. So far so good. Since my husband is a veteran of World War II and is Jewish, the issue could not be more relevant. After dealing with the worst of anti Semitism, my husband has his own assessment of anti Semitic sentiment, based on his experiences. He said that the worst anti Semites and racists are the ones you don’t see. In his assessment, they are the ones to watch out for. Now we are both on record, Kevin, if you think it is right to post this comment, in case I am wrong about my neighbors. Sherree

  • Steve Tully May 31, 2009

    Kevin Levin is a southern gentleman, who happened to be born in the north. Gentlemen and gentle persons all believe in discussion not attack. He is a teacher in the finest sense of the word. He obviously loves the Civil War era and looks at it not with adoring eyes but with the eyes of a historian. I find him an inspiration as a teacher and I am proud to know him as a friend.

  • Victoria Bynum May 31, 2009

    Josephine Bass’s remarks are so absurd–yeah, watch out for northerners who teach in the South!–they are laughable. Guess we better forbid Southerners to go North and teach as well, or people to teach about the opposite gender or any racial/ethnic group other than their own. Her words amount to essentialism taken to a new low: teachers as the mere sum total of their geographical birthplace.

    Vikki

  • Kevin Levin May 31, 2009

    Sherree,

    It is indeed the same person.

    Steve,

    Thanks and nice to hear from you.

    Vikki,

    Her comments are indeed absurd. I can’t tell you how often I read that historians/teachers must be understood as nothing more than a product of their geographical origin, political leanings, etc. It betrays no understanding of historical research or what is involved in formal debate. It’s the hallmark of the anti-intellectual.

  • Sherree Tannen May 31, 2009

    You’re from the North, Kevin? I didn’t know that! Now that the truth is out, I will never read your blog again, lol. I need to get my smelling salts. I am just devastated. I have been reading a blog written by a Northerner! Sherree

    (Was there a picture of Josephine in your friends list, Kevin, or did I imagine that? I thought either you had smoothed over differences with her, or that you were trying to see if your readers were paying attention–like when you put a picture of General Steve Martin in your heading–so I didn’t say anything in case I didn’t get the joke. Anyway, that explains a lot. Enough is enough.)

    • Kevin Levin May 31, 2009

      Sherree,

      Sorry to disappoint you. :) I allowed her to stay in the group until additional comments about me surfaced. It seemed like the right thing to do in response.

  • Sherree Tannen May 31, 2009

    Kevin,

    You showed tremendous graciousness as a host in allowing her to join to start with. Her comments were not at all respectful, if I remember correctly. Also–in all seriousness–nothing about your blog is a disappointment. On the contrary, I find your blog to be intellectually stimulating, educational, entertaining, and dead on germane to our time and its most important issues. Thank you, Kevin, truly, for all that you do. Just take a day off once in a while, ok? so that you don’t get worn out. Have a good one! Got to go. I have company. (I wonder if they are bringing me some of that good muscadine wine like I asked them to do….) .Sherree

  • Greg Rowe May 31, 2009

    Someone did come to your defense and warn her of her “mistake.” Check Comment #134545.

    In all seriousness, this is why I cannot take many people on the extreme right of history debate very seriously. Most, from my observations of this format, resort to this type of behavior when they have little else to say. Some are articulate and attempt to argue rationally, but several do not. I suppose that’s what’s a little scary about some of them. Personal attacks and threats support a dissenting viewpoint in about the same manner as someone who wants to burn the flag in protest, in my opinion. Sure, it draws attention, but is it the kind one really wants and can we take anything that person says seriously, even if they are accidentally rational on ocassion?

  • Brooks Simpson May 31, 2009

    The gag rule (and worse) returns.

  • Sherree Tannen May 31, 2009

    Well, Kevin, this post and Greg’s astute comment were unfortunately prescient. As I am sure you and your readers know, an abortion doctor was murdered yesterday as he attended church. There is no place for violence as remedy for any political cause, whether it be a cause of the left or a cause of the right. Dr. King told us that over forty years ago. There is also no place for rhetoric that might incite violence. Dr. King told us that, too. Responsible citizens and responsible members of the academic community owe it to ourselves and to our nation to choose our words wisely and to curb the actions of those who would do harm to others. Comments that may have alluded to violence on the petition in question should have been sent, by private email, to the men and women to whom the comments were directed. Petitions that purport to help bring justice to African American men and women should not include as a signatory a man who condoned and helped to bring about violent acts. For those of you who remember the 1960s, we have witnessed this history already, and we don’t need to repeat it. It is not 1969. It is 2009. The 1960s were not good times, and have been romanticized by too many. Race relations and justice for African American men and women were set back for decades when the 1960s became a free for all for those for whom the decade became just a fad. When the fun, the party, the drugs, and the craziness were all over, black men and women were still black and still seeking justice. Violence begets more violence. The means do not justify the end when the means include violence. Josephine is out of line. Sebesta and Loewen are also out of line for including William Ayers on a petition that states as its goal the quest for justice for African American men and women. Web sites that publish questionable comments about individuals are out of line. We, members of the public, are out of line if we lapse into the numbing, appalling silence of the good people. We will all serve as your eyes and ears and help keep you posted, Kevin. Sherree

  • Matthew Donnelly Jun 1, 2009

    Yikes.

    This hits home, as a Pennsylvanian who interviewed at 4 districts in Virginia between September ’04 and June ’05. I have al;so tried to teach evenhandedly bout the Civil War, being a descendent: My Great(x3)-uncle was captured at Chancellorsville and held for 6 months before exchange.
    My experiences in Virginia were always pleasant, and I thought we, as a nation, were beyond this – It is, after all, nearly 150 years. That’s an awfully long time to hold onto this hate. I thought us yankees were long past being called carbetbaggers (the only word missing from this post), but, sadly, that’s a no. Per your instructions, I’ll keep my more tart, embittered opinions to myself about this person.

  • Kevin Levin Jun 1, 2009

    Matthew,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. While these types of comments are disturbing I want to point out that as far as I can tell they represent a minority view. Many of my readers have strong ties to the South and they do not subscribe in any way to the narrowness of such a view. There is a wide and rich spectrum of Southern ties to the past that I am only beginning to understand and appreciate.

  • Robert Moore Jun 1, 2009

    Kevin,

    I’m pretty much in-line with Greg. Some people… when they discover that they cannot effectively argue their counterpoint… resort to name-calling, snipes, and the like. Calling upon others to “dog-pile” resistance on you to make stronger their point is rediculous… and sad.

    Robert @ Cenantua’s Blog

  • Mike Jun 1, 2009

    Kevin you know Josephine Bass statement is based upon the words of Gen Patrick Cleburne; who said, ” If the South should Lose ,it means that the History of the Heroic
    Struggle will be written by the Enemy, that our Youth will be trained by Northern School Teachers, will be impressed by all of the influences of History and Education to regard our Gallant Dead as Traitors and our Maimed Veterans as fit subjects for Derision.”

    http://americanrevival.org/quotes/confederate.htm

  • Naim Peress Jun 1, 2009

    I think the President should still send a wreath to the Confederate monument in Arlington. We are one country with two different sets of memories. Whatever you think of the cause, Southerners also fought and died in the war. They were Americans too. There is nothing wrong in honoring them.

    Naim Peress

  • victoria bynum Jun 1, 2009

    To Naim Peress,

    But that is not even the point. Remember, Kevin did not support the Sebesta/Loewen petition, but was disparaged and threatened anyway.

    Vikki Bynum

  • Mike Jun 2, 2009

    Sorry Kevin that this “Lady” had made vile threats and sodden your good name.

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