Is a Dialogue Possible With the SCV’s New Chief of Heritage Operations?

Brooks Simpson is optimistic that a dialogue is possible with the SCV’s new chief of heritage operations. I fully support whatever extent Brooks and Mr. Jones are able to engage in a civil conversation about those issues related to Civil War memory that continue to divide Americans. That said, I think it is safe to say that however civil and productive the conversation turns out to be we should remember that Jones will not be speaking for the SCV.

The SCV has proven itself to be a reactionary organization with a distorted understanding of the history of the Civil War era. Incoming president, Kelly Barrow, has played a central role in perpetuating some of the most extreme myths about the Confederacy and slavery. More to the point, it is clear that the SCV is not interested in dialogue with anyone, which was on full display in the recent controversy at W&L. I don’t know what, if anything,  the SCV expects of Mr. Jones when it comes to engaging the university, but I hope that W&L steers as far away from engaging these people as possible.

I would love to know what Mr. Jones thinks of Michael Givens’s farewell speech to the SCV. What does Mr. Jones think of the fact that Givens is even on the phone with the likes of Kirk Lyons in addition to the overall tone of his speech? It doesn’t take long at all to realize that this is an organization that is not interested in meaningful conversation with anyone?

I look forward to reading more give and take between Brooks and Mr. Jones, but if he is truly interested in honoring his Confederate ancestors and meaningfully engaging others about history and heritage he would be wise to find another group.

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24 comments… add one

  • Rob Baker Aug 4, 2014

    Just from my personal observations, the SCV’s hierarchy system ruins their local efforts. Many of the local chapters involve fairly interesting people that are open to various opinions. However, when a “Heritage” fight breaks out, the bureaucracy kicks in; dragging those level headed officers at the local level into the rhetoric of the general organization. Often, these people end up being their own worst enemy.

    The Ringgold flag situation that I’ve been tracking on my blog lately is a good example of that. There you had a situation in which the city and local SCV had a legitimate argument for not taking down the CBF. Then came outside influence that complicated the situation further until the city sought a quick and easy compromise to make the issue go away.

    It will be interesting to see where Jones takes the SCV. I mean, how much worse can it get?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2014

      It will be interesting to see where Jones takes the SCV. I mean, how much worse can it get?

      Why do you think Jones has any leverage with the SCV? I understand that he now has a title, but look who appointed him.

      • Rob Baker Aug 4, 2014

        I think he is more than simply a mouthpiece but even if he is, his words will be associated with the organization.

        Barrow is a conversation in his own right. The GAH conference last year included some interesting dialogue about Barrow and the Georgia Civil War Commission.

        • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

          I think he is more than simply a mouthpiece but even if he is, his words will be associated with the organization.

          Perhaps, but that has yet to be seen. For Jones to have any impact any moderate/constructive tone he attempts to strike will have to be reflected in the broader views of the SCV’s rank-and-file as well as leadership. That, to me, is highly unlikely.

  • Ben Allen Aug 4, 2014

    If he wants to expand this dialogue, Brooks Simpson is the least qualified individual to do so. Pointing out their humorous, pathetic, irrational antics in a public forum like his blog will not make them willing to hear him out. Indeed, he goes down to their level with his cruelty, however justified. To be honest, in a way he plays right into their hand by giving them the attention they crave. After all, any press, regardless if it is positive or negative, is good. The Flaggers, SCV, and the rest hardly deserve our time of day… in public, at least. Indeed, I regret to even devote a few sentences to them here, but what I have said needed to be said. (Nevertheless, since your blog deals with Civil War memory and you are usually a lot nicer than Simpson in criticizing the heritage advocates, it is proper for you to impart them coverage.)

    • Kevin Levin Aug 4, 2014

      Pointing out their humorous, pathetic, irrational antics in a public forum like his blog will not make them willing to hear him out. Indeed, he goes down to their level with his cruelty, however justified.

      I think Brooks gives them exactly what they deserve.
      The Flaggers, SCV, and the rest hardly deserve our time of day… in public, at least.

      Sure they do. Both groups ought to be challenged for their antics given the amount of attention they receive from various media outlets.

      • Ben Allen Aug 5, 2014

        The best way to discredit them is to ignore them. I have yet to hear about their antics on NPR, or the newspapers I encounter daily. I learn about them from your and Brooks’ blogs. In other words, Civil War Memory and Crossroads is one of those “various media outlets.” (Of course, I reiterate that for your blog, Kevin, giving them attention is unavoidable and understandable, since it deals with remembrance.)

        • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

          The best way to discredit them is to ignore them.

          I don’t agree with this assessment.

          I have yet to hear about their antics on NPR, or the newspapers I encounter daily.

          You need to read more. They have been featured in numerous newspapers, both here in the states and beyond. I agree that the Flaggers are an appropriate topic of discussion given the focus of my site, but I see no reason whatsoever that ought to prevent anyone from responding if he/she deems it appropriate.

          Of course, if you don’t find it interesting or relevant than you shouldn’t bother reading these particular posts or taking the time to write multiple comments about the issue.

          • Ben Allen Aug 5, 2014

            “You need to read more. They have been featured in numerous newspapers, both here in the states and beyond.” Yes, but do the majority of Americans, much less most southerners, pay attention to them? The answer is no. Are those newspapers major ones, nationally distributed? Does the Associated Press and national television frequently cover their antics? Again, no and no. Most of them, the people and the press, couldn’t care less. Perhaps you’re too much in the soup, so you see only soup. There is a world of lay persons devoid of that fiery passion for the Civil War out there, Kevin, where James McPherson and even David McCullough are nobodies compared to the likes of Justin Bieber and PSY. Indeed, the direct challenges on your blog and Brooks’ have also, regrettably, gone largely unnoticed outside the Civil War community (or maybe even, dare I say, within it). Most of your audience on this cite, like me, agrees with you to some degree or another. Better to indirectly challenge them with interpretations contrary to theirs. Makes the Lost Causers feel less threatened and therefore less likely to be in the media spotlight, however local, if not less willing to make fools of themselves, as well as, possibly, more receptive to serious historians like yourselves. In any event, I’m your side.

            • Kevin Levin Aug 6, 2014

              Thanks for the wake-up call, but I am under no illusions about the reach of this blog. I’ve said as much multiple times.

              First you made the claim that newspapers don’t cover these groups. That is false. Now you are claiming that most people don’t pay attention to them. I never claimed they did.

              • Ben Allen Aug 11, 2014

                Just because I said I didn’t encounter coverage of their antics in the daily papers doesn’t mean there aren’t articles out there. Besides, you and Brooks post online links to them. I was talking about seeing articles neither cited on both of your blogs, nor on the internet. :)

    • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 4, 2014

      Well, Ben Allen, Ben Jones obviously disagrees with you. He has shown the willingness to come on Crossroads and to engage people, and I think he should be commended for that. If you don’t want to participate, fine. But I think it’s worth the effort … unless you believe (as you well might) that there’s nothing worth considering when it comes to Confederate heritage. I think he deserves the time of day (and more). You don’t. To each his own.

      As for the Flaggers, I can assure you that they don’t need me to get attention. But I’m glad you have said what you feel needed to be said, and I’m glad you felt the need to be honest about what you believe.

      That you think it is cruel to highlight the antics of certain people makes me smile. I believe their antics are self-inflicted wounds. Whatever your dismay, you couldn’t make your comment unless you were a faithful reader of the blog, for which I thank you.

      I’m able to distinguish between the Virginia Flaggers and the SCV, which has already tossed out one Flagger for his antics. That said, I believe in giving people a fair chance to explain their position, and I welcome this opportunity for what I hope will be constructive dialogue. I understand if you don’t want to participate.

      I agree that Kevin is nicer than me about these matters. John Hennessy feels the same way.

      • Ben Allen Aug 5, 2014

        All right, fair enough. I believe Confederate heritage is worth considering in terms of remembering those who fought gallantly. Indeed, I am named after my great-great-great grandfather, who fought in Company B, 2nd Arkansas Mounted (dismounted) Rifles. These Lost Causers just use heritage to further their political goals. Truthfully, I hope you do succeed in expanding this dialogue, it’s just that I don’t think it will work; it’s unlikely that they are going to listen to someone who demolishes their delusions of grandeur. Like you said: “To each his own.”

        • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 5, 2014

          Connie Chastain would agree with you. That may make you reconsider your position.

          • Ben Allen Aug 5, 2014

            Unlike Connie, I am willing to acknowledge that slavery was the predominant cause of the war; that the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas and Sumner, Dred Scott, and John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry Raid didn’t happen in a vacuum; and that the “peculiar institution” was wrong. Yes, there were nice masters, but it’s still wrong to own other people. I also do not subscribe to the “Black Confederates” myth. I think Washington & Lee did the right, polite thing concerning the display of the battle flags; she doesn’t. The flag should be displayed in a museum as an artifact and for other historical purposes like reenacting. I recognize that the South had its own political and economic problems, epitomized by North Carolina. Lastly, I do not place any of the Confederacy’s major players on an unassailable pedestal, least of all Nathan Bedford Forrest. Nobody is perfect.

            • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

              Yes, there were nice masters, but it’s still wrong to own other people.

              I’ve always found this to be an incredibly disturbing thought.

    • Actually, Brooks has been exceedingly polite and approachable in his exchanges with Mr. Jones, even to the point of asking that his commenters be respectful. (I trust we have, or he’d probably not post them.) For my part, I’ve seen nothing except an attempt at constructive engagement there.

      I find the whole thing fascinating.

      • Ben Allen Aug 5, 2014

        Kudos to him. I’m just afraid that he won’t be able to move beyond Jones to his followers, since he has trashed them sin piedad. Hopefully they have short memories.

  • Connie Chastain Aug 5, 2014

    Dialog with who? Simpson? What does it matter if it’s not possible?

    • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

      Perhaps you should take up your concerns with Mr. Jones. He certainly believes there is room for discussion with Brooks Simpson.

    • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 5, 2014

      Just because you find it impossible to engage in constructive dialogue doesn’t mean that other people share the same sentiments. Ben Jones is perfectly able to do what you find impossible to try.

      It is as if some people are actually afraid to dicuss issues where they may disagree. It is only impossible if you decide that it is impossible.

      • Kevin Levin Aug 5, 2014

        Remember, Brooks. You are talking to an angry woman with a computer. Nothing more.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Aug 5, 2014

        I should never compose on a tablet … discuss. :)

  • Eric A. Jacobson Aug 5, 2014

    Well Connie is now portraying herself as Rosie the Riveter. Yikes. If Rosie’s image is to be replaced, I would prefer something like this, rather than Connie:

    http://www.gaiahealthblog.com/2013/03/08/we-can-do-it-part-ii-that-is-we-can-lift-ourselves-up-into-the-realm-of-total-health/

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