Richard Williams has a post up in which he takes me to task for supposedly dismissing a question asked of me during a recent roundtable discussion that I served on as part of Brunswick County’s Civil War Sesquicentennial. The question was posed to me by a representative of the SCV, who was curious as to my place of birth. Apparently, Richard is not satisfied with my response and goes on to suggest that my failure to appreciate the question reflects my own lack of a “sense of past”:
Thirdly, I’m not quite sure what Kevin has to gain by insulting someone for asking an honest and reasonable question – someone who took time out of their schedule to come hear Kevin participate in a public forum. That won’t go very far to encourage attendance and sincere questions at these types of events in the future, that’s for sure. Since Kevin has mentioned this issue before, I get the distinct impression he’s uncomfortable with the topic, perhaps revealing his own feelings (justified or not) of inadequacy due to his not being “Virginian, born and bred.” (See, I can pyscho-analyze too.)
The idea that I insulted anyone during this conference is ludicrous. In fact, I answered the man’s question directly, but he failed to follow-up and chose to move on to whether I teach my students that Lee, Jackson, and Stuart are great men. It was clear to my co-panelists as well as others in the audience that the question was not meant to engage me in a serious discussion, but was meant to dismiss me out of hand. Perhaps Richard should inquire as to why he failed to ask a further question.
In the comments section Richard and another reader once again accuse me of lacking a “sense of place.”
Mr. Williams, what a well written post. It is true, as Mr. Levin said, that a “sense of place” can function as a liability but it is amusing that he does not wish to consider that those words could apply to himself.
Thank you and you are so right. Kevin’s “sense of place” – the North – is a liability when it comes to his biases against Confederate heritage and history.
Both assume quite a bit about me in concluding that I lack a “sense of place” or that my background clouds my understanding of Confederate history. Nothing could be further from the truth. The study of history has taken me all over this beautiful state. It’s introduced me to a wide range of Virginians and my many visits to state archival repositories has given me an intimate understanding of its rich past. I feel more connected to Virginia than all the other places I’ve lived including the place where I was raised. I’ve contributed to its written history more than once and have even been recognized for it by the Virginia Historical Society.
What exactly does it mean to be “biased against Confederate heritage/history”? Would they say the same thing about Robert Moore and Andy Hall, both of who blog about the Civil War and the Confederacy specifically and are native to the South? Is there really only one legitimate interpretation of the South? How do their comments reflect on the fact that scores of people who are native to Virginia and the rest of the South read and enjoy this blog as well as my published work? Is there something wrong with these folks? If I were somehow to write about the history of the Confederacy in the way that proved satisfactory to Richard and others would my place of birth be set aside? Finally, does my place of birth cloud my understanding of any other period in Virginia’s history. Can I write or blog about any other aspect of this rich story without having to worry about it or is it just Lee, Jackson, and Stuart that concern them? I could go on, but what’s the point.
Regardless of whether they acknowledge it or not, it’s my strong sense of place and love for this state’s rich history that keeps me connected to it and works to more firmly ground me in the present. In the end, Richard has done little more than follow in the footsteps of the individual he accuses me of insulting.