[via 21st Century Abe]
Can someone please send me directions to the cultural war between the Old South and the New. Sorry, but interviewing the commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans concerning plans to spread Confederate culture to every municipality in the country and including an image of some dude wearing a Confederate flag jacket as part of the 2006 Redneck Games doesn’t cut it. How many people do you think Charles McMichael speaks for? My guess is that the number doesn’t even appear on the radar screen. Luckily, the reporter included an interview with a reputable historian:
Commemoration of the Confederacy as a noble cause began shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865, said Jonathan Sarris, associate professor of history at North Carolina Wesleyan College. The multicultural angle is an effort to appear more inclusive, he said, but it ignores the facts.
“To say that it is not racist but about multiculturalism is an attempt to adopt a modern mind-set,” Sarris said. “You can call it a victory for the forces of multiculturalism when even the defendants of the Confederacy feel they have to pay some lip service to the idea of tolerance.”
Sarris is absolutely right. [By the way, I highly recommend his recent study, A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South] The fact that the SCV has pushed toward emphasizing the multicultural “appeal” of the Confederacy is a sufficient indicator that even they have left the realm of the past for a mythical one that allows for continued identification and celebration. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the SCV’s emphasis on their multicultural heritage makes them the hippies of Confederate remembrance. Sadder yet is the reduction of Confederate history and symbolism to the kinds of games pictured above: bobbing for pigs feet, hub cap hurling and the Redneck mud pit belly flop contest. Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly how their Confederate ancestors hoped to be remembered.
There is no war over how to remember the Confederacy nor is there a cultural war between two Souths. Sure, you can find pockets of partisanship here and there, but do we really believe that a substantial portion of the nation is aware of any of this or feels as if it has a stake in the outcome?
While other states are still in the beginning stages of organizing sesquicentennial commissions Virginia is getting ready to host a major event on Wednesday, April 29 at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center. This is the first of a series of Signature Conferences that will be held throughout the sesquicentennial. This first conference is titled, “America on the Eve of the Civil War” and will include four sessions, which will place participants in a position where they must take stock of the nation following John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry and anticipate its consequences as a presidential election loomes on the horizon. The participants make up a who’s who list of Civil War historians. They include, among others, David Blight, Gary Gallagher, Manisha Sinha, Nelson Lankford, Charles Dew, and Ed Ayers. Well over 1,700 people are registered to date, coming from all over Virginia plus 23 other states. Registration is still open, though I urge you to reserve a seat now as it looks like it will eventually sell out.
I will be live blogging throughout the day. In fact, I will be located in a special section with the rest of the media – should be a blast. In addition to blogging, I will be hosting a luncheon for educators, the goal being to give teachers a chance to network and discuss the session topics. I do hope that additional states can muster the political will and organize commemorative committees to better our understanding of this crucial period in American history. For now, sit back and watch as Virginia sets the standard.
Update: The Q&A sections of the panels will include questions submitted electronically. It looks like you will be able to submit a question to me through the blog that I can relay to the Question Manager. I will provide more details as we get closer to the conference.
Imake my acting debut this year in our school’s student production of “The History Boys.” I’ve been given the role of headmaster. The story is set in a private school in England in the mid-1980s and follows a small group of history pupils who are preparing for their entrance exams for admission to Oxford and Cambridge. The boys must navigate through the contrasting teaching styles of Irwin, Hector, and Ms. Lintott as well as their contrasting views on the lessons of literature and history. Along the way the students work to come to terms with their own sexuality as well as the intentions and deceitfulness of the faculty. One of my favorite moments in the film takes place as the boys are preparing for their college interviews. In frustration, Ms. Lintott shares her own gendered interpretation of the lessons of history and the “ineptitude” of men. She is followed by Rudge who reduces the complexity of the past down to the simple thought that history is “one fucking thing after another.”
I am thoroughly enjoying my introduction to the world of acting. In fact, it is exhilarating!
Iam sorry to have missed yesterday’s meeting of the newest chapter of the League of the South, which has been organized in Anniston, Alabama. The John C. Calhoun Chapter held their first meeting yesterday at the local Western Sizzlin’ where the organization’s national president, Michael Hill, railed against the abuses of the federal goverment. I can’t stop laughing as I imagine Hill addressing an audience that is continually making its way to the buffet bar to load up on as much bad steak as possible for $5.95. To be honest, I am not so much interested in what was said as I am in the total cholesterol level of the group.