Tall Flag Poles as Compensation

[Hat-Tip to Robert Moore]

Looks like the SCV in the good state of Tennessee is pushing for zoning amendments that will have the potential to legitimize an 80-foot-tall flagpole which will support a Confederate flag measuring 20-by-30-foot.  According to the article some “have described the display as a ‘political agenda’ and a warning to motorists on Interstate 155 that they have entered the South – a country within a country.”

Let me suggest something a bit more Freudian.  Perhaps these guys are compensating for inadequacies or shortcomings in other departments – if you know what I mean.

It’s About Time Someone Said This

Powell From the Meet the Press transcript with Colin Powell, 10/19/08:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.  Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?  Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

A Very Special Wedding

Michaela and I spent the weekend in New York City to attend a very special wedding, which was held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.  My college friend, Hope May who teaches philosophy and runs the Ethics Center at Central Michigan University, married Jeffrey Wigand who is best known for uncovering long-standing corruption in the tobacco industry.  He was the subject of the Hollywood movie, "The Insider"(1999), which starred Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. 

It was truly a unique wedding.  Testimonies were offered throughout the service by family members and friends as well as passages on the importance and meaning of marriage.  Here is a short excerpt from an essay by Elizabeth Cady Stanton titled "On Marriage".

There is one beauty of the earth, another of the stars, a beauty of rounded lines and fresh colors, and a subjective beauty which fadeth not away. Blessed are they who love for that alone, who, in a true spiritual union, find an element of the permanent, that like myrrh and frankincense, sweetens and glorifies life, makes gods of men and women and paradise on earth. One of these unions has given the world a John Stuart Mill, who in his writings unites the consciousness and strength of the man with the tenderness and inspiration of the woman; and whether speaking of trade, science, philosophy or law, a deep abiding love for humanity breathes in every line. He and his glorified wife were one in all their studies, interests and ambitions. Whatever came from the pen of one was the united thought of both… And this is marriage, a true union of soul and intellect, which leads, exalts and sanctifies the physical consummation.

Mer1909br.38982_md What I truly appreciated about this secular ceremony was the emphasis placed not just on their shared love for one another, but on the ways in which this union will further their shared commitment to education and public advocacy.  It's unfortunate that our society is so preoccupied with questions about same-sex, interracial, and inter-religious marriage when what we should be emphasizing is the transformative power of shared love and the potential for a greater public good. This is a couple that came together because of a shared passion for education and justice.  Their sex, religion, race, age are all completely irrelevant.  What ultimately matters is the way they identity with one another and in turn themselves. I walked out of the ceremony thinking to myself that this is a powerful union, that both of them will be better individuals because they have the other to rely on.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if even a small fraction of married couples could say that about one another? 

Following the reception we made our way over to the penthouse of the Parker Meridien for the reception, which overlooked Central Park.  The photograph above was taken from the banquet room.  

Click here for Wigand's personal website, which includes information about the movie, congressional testimony and Smoke-Free Kids.

I should mention that we also took in a dynamite jazz show on Friday at the Village Vanguard featuring the Bill Charlap Trio .

New Graphic Novel About Patrick Cleburne and Black Confederates Forthcoming

Cleburne1 I opened up the latest issue of one of the major Civil War magazines today and noticed a full-page spread announcing the publication of a graphic novel titled Cleburne by Justin Murphy, which tells the story of  his plans to arm slaves.  You can read an interview with the author here.  Check out these choice quotes from that interview:

Ultimately, Cleburne is not so much about African Americans fighting for the Confederacy, as it is the idea of it, and what that idea ultimately cost the South’s most promising military leader.  It is the story of a true underdog who challenged the institutions of the very society he fought to defend.

What many today do not know is that there were a large number of Confederate officers and enlisted men who were opposed to slavery. Every one of General Cleburne’s regimental commanders put their names on his proposal to free and arm the slaves. This was a huge career risk for them and they would not have allied themselves with him unless they strongly believed in his idea.  So what then were they fighting for if not to preserve slavery?  The truth is many Southerners felt they had no choice but to defend their home states, and others were fighting against what they believed to be an over-reaching Federal government (a problem Americans are still dealing with today).

I’m aware of the political-incorrectness of such a subject and I’m also aware of the sensitivity of the issue.  Some historians and educators may speak out against this book and accuse me of fabrication, but I’m ready for them.  The truth is I’ve probably spent more hours studying the subject than they ever will.  As far as speaking at schools, I will admit it can be difficult to stand in front of a classroom full of black students and try to explain why they should care about someone who (they’ve been told) fought for a government that wanted to keep their ancestors enslaved.  It’s an uphill battle and I don’t blame them for being a little suspicious. There’s very spotty evidence for black confederate soldiers, but the proof is still there in the eyewitness accounts, and the concept seems to capture public’s imagination.  That is why I have used the image in so much of my advertising.

Cleburne Murphy's responses are a clear reflection of the sloppiness that often accompanies discussion of so-called black Confederates.  First, it is unclear to me why we are so fascinated with Cleburne and his proposal to arm slaves.  If I remember correctly, he wasn't even the first; Gen. Richard S. Ewell proposed a similar plan in 1861.  Also notice the inference that because an officer supported the plan they must have been anti-slavery or that this plan was meant as a first step towards general emancipation.  What Murphy never mentions, of course, is that the plan was debated throughout the Confederacy and throughout much of the war, and from what historians can tell it never really had a chance.  That the plan was only passed in the final weeks of the war suggests that few white Southerners were able to contemplate such a development.  In fact, the passage of the proposal, along with R.E. Lee's support, was meant as a way to save the Confederacy and slavery and not as a step towards general emancipation. 

Murphy also falls into the trap of failing to distinguish between the outlines of Cleburne's plan and the experiences of individual slaves who were present with Confederate armies.  Their presence had nothing to do with Cleburne.  They served as slaves in various capacities and a few may even have picked up a rifle and fired it at a "Yankee" at one point or another.  This ought not to be confused with serving officially as Confederate soldiers, although there may even be some exceptions in this case. 

If you are interested in the history of Cleburne and black Confederates I recommend Bruce Levine's Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War and if you would like to learn more about Cleburne himself, check out Craig Symonds's Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War.  Finally, here is a brief trailer for Murphy's graphic novel.  Enjoy.

“Wild Bill” Strikes Again

You will find his name on a host of message boards, listservs, and other sites.  His mission is nothing less than to protect and defend Confederate heritage from anyone who asks questions or offers a view that differs from his own.  No, he does not live in the "Heart of Dixie", but in Commack, New York – or as he fondly notes at the end of emails and comments, "behind enemy lines."  I've been the target of "Wild Bill" for some time now, but by  now I've grown to appreciate his enthusiasm and good humor.  Today I received an email from a friend who monitors a number of these message boards and email lists.  Today's installment by "Wild Bill" is a real doozy, which you can read in its entirety here.  This is my favorite part of the post:

Don’t waste your time trying to debate Levin. He won’t allow it. It would spoil the nice, neat look of his blog. “Thank God for Kevin Levin”, was one of the comments on his blog!! (YIPES!?) Don’t waste your time trying to engage him in debate on neutral territory either. He has nothing to gain by it. And don’t waste time trying to enlighten those who worship at his temple. They are already in. So what to do then? Email him?   While it might get under his skin, it isn’t going to change anything.   Start a counter blog?   Having had a website myself once upon a time, I can tell you that such things are extremely time consuming. Actually folks, there’s a lot more at stake here than simply counter-pointing a blowhard yankee blogger. Levin, you see, is a teacher, the same kind of teacher who teaches your kids to be ashamed of who they are and where they come from. I wish I had a dollar for every Southerner who’s told me that he’s lost one or more children to an educational system which has seen fit to ingrain shame into them. 

And there are many Kevin Levins, in public schools and in private ones, all over the South and indeed, all over the country. The way to combat people like Levin is not to challenge them to intellectual duels, which they will not accept because they have nothing to gain, but to challenge them when they try to (and I mean this in the most literal sense) take your children away from you! Remember, you pay their salaries. You pay for your kids to go to the school, be it a private school or a public one. Don’t send your kids to them without first giving those kids the “lowdown” on who they themselves are, and who people like Levin are! And when teachers like Levin try to make your kids ashamed of who and what they are, go pay those teachers a visit and tell them that you pay their salaries and that you don’t appreciate what they are trying to do. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me that such schools as the one Levin teaches in are full of “latchkey children,” (children whose parents simply turn their kids over to the educational system without keeping tabs on what’s being taught).

You will notice that he spends quite a bit of time criticizing me for not allowing certain comments through on my blog.  As all of you know I do monitor comments for language as well as content.  If the comment contains offensive language or deviates significantly from the topic I delete it.  Readers, however, are free to disagree.  What "Wild Bill" doesn't tell his readers is that I allowed one of his crude comments through in response to Peter Carmichael's guest post on Confederate slaves.  In fact, both Peter and I welcomed "Wild Bill" to respond directly to the content of the post, which he attempted to do, but than failed to follow-up at all.  It was clear to us that he simply had nothing useful to say.  I couldn't be happier that this blog has brought "Wild Bill" to the point where he feels a need to lash out once again. 

Well "Wild Bill", the cat's out of the bag.  Anyone who bothers to look can see that you are nothing but a fraud and a liar.  It's just more evidence that Civil War Memory is on the right track.  By the way, I will be teaching a course on Civil War memory next semester and I plan on using your emails and postings as a case study for a lesson on the divisive nature of remembrance and commemoration.  Thanks buddy.  Keep them coming.

Note: I've decided to create a new category titled, "Fan Mail" for just this sort of thing.

Big Ass Confederate Flag Just Got Bigger

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I first reported on this story back in May when a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Florida decided to erect the largest Confederate flag at the junction of Interstates 4 and 72 outside of Tampa.  Well, it looks like a flag measuring 30-by-50 foot was not large enough, so this past Sunday Marion Lamber and the rest of the boys unveiled a new flag measuring 30-by-60-foot.  But wait, here's the best part.  Apparently, these geniuses have decided to cut up the old flag and sell it in pieces on Ebay to help pay for commemorative plaques which will be situated at the base of the flag pole.  Isn't this the same organization that claims to revere the flag as the symbol of courage of their Confederate ancestors?  What better way to show your respect than to cut it up into little pieces for profit.  I guess this is exactly what their ancestors fought and died for.  Oh…and I almost forgot to mention that the old flag was made in China. 

What a bunch of hypocrites.  Don't hold your breadth for the national office to voice any concern.