A Few Words About the so-called Academic Liberal Elite (whatever that means)

I am working diligently to finish my conference paper for next week's meeting of the Southern Historical Association in New Orleans.   I'm looking forward to spending time with some friends and hopefully some intense discussions about a subject that all of us care deeply about.  If you were to read the recent comment quoted yesterday,  in addition to other postings around the blogosphere and elsewhere, you would think that I am headed off to some kind of political convention of liberal academics whose primary mission is to attack religion, overturn all that is sacred in our collective past, and bash conservatives.  [By the way the individual who authored that passage is the same person who once accused academic presses of being anti-religion (see comments) and recently suggested that Brooks Simpson's decision to post his session comments was nothing more than a reflection of academic historians' "tendency to try to tear people down."

I've attended somewhere around 25 academic conferences over the past ten years and this is not my experience at all.  I can honestly say that I have absolutely no idea where the overwhelming majority of historians, which I've become acquainted with over the years, stand on the bread and butter political and social issues of our time.  In addition, I can't tell you where they stand in terms of religious affiliation.  And to tell you the truth, I don't care where they stand on any of these issues. 

In all of the sessions that I've taken part in, either as a presenter or as a member of the audience, I can't think of a single moment where a discussion of modern politics ensued or the conversation degenerated into a religious-cultural-social bashing free-for-all.   What I do remember are countless discussions that broadened or deepened my understanding of a subject.  In the cases where I presented a paper I almost always left with a clearer sense of my research's strengths and weaknesses.  No one ever accused me of belonging to the wrong religion or political party, and I can't remember the last time someone asked for my stand on abortion.  My guess is that the overwhelming majority of participants attend these conferences to discuss and learn about history. 

My experience as an undergraduate and graduate student in history are also reflective of these observations.  I attended classes in history at William Paterson College (now university), the University of Maryland at College Park, and the University of Richmond.  All of my professors were professional and not once can I remember them engaging in the kind of behavior described in the media and blogosphere.  I even worked as a teaching assistant for Jacques Pluss at WPC and never had any inkling that he was a member of a neo-Nazi organization.  

I would love to ask the authors of these claims the following: (1) When was the last time they attended a college-level history course?  (2) Have they ever attended an academic conference or took part in a workshop with academic historians? (3) Have they ever submitted an essay to a professional journal which would provide insight into how the vetting process works? (4) Have they ever witnessed the kinds of behavior that they describe?  If so, did it occur enough times to warrant such generalizations?  

There is nothing wrong with employing generalizations in an argument.  However, all of us are able to detect a poorly-constructed generalization, and the difference usually boils down to whether a sufficient number of particulars have been properly employed.  The problem in this case is that the authors of these claims have, for the most part, soaked up this critique from the mainstream media and passed it off as if they understand what it means, as if they themselves have experienced the behavior.  In the end, these accusations are nothing more than a product of a defensive posture that views intellectual activity as a threat.  Just below the surface you find ignorance and a whole lot of fear.

We Will Pick Up a Bible As Soon As You Pick Up a History Book

Getting to the heart of the matter:

Matthew 11:27 clearly states "no one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son has revealed him." Jesus himself said, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Therefore, according to what believers consider to be biblical truth, our fellow Christians such as Thomas Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and every other sinful Confederate (which BTW is all of them) were forgiven for their transgressions that they committed on this earthly plain against their fellow man, and are now in Heaven worshipping in the circle of the Lord.

On the other hand, many of these anti-religious academics, agnostics, and atheists who fervently preach against Christ and His followers (including born-again historical figures) may be headed to a much-much darker place. I suggest that these professors put down their history books and pick up a bible.

I just want to reiterate that it is a very, very, dark place. In all seriousness, this was written by an individual who knows absolutely nothing about academic writing or analytical history in general.  It's the worst kind of hate speech because it is born of ignorance and fear.  Who are these academic historians who hate religion and "preach against Christ and His followers?"  Have you ever heard of such insanity?  Not once has anyone cited an example of this. 

I Am Southern Heritage and So Can You

Let's get something straight: 

No one individual or group/organization controls the contours and definition of Southern Heritage.   An identification with- and an attachment to the South and its history belongs to conservatives, liberals, Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, blacks, and whites.  It includes those who revere Lee, Jackson, and Forrest as well as Thomas, Scott, and Cooke.  It includes people whose lives revolve around commemorating and honoring the Confederate cause and its Christian Warriors as well as those who view that cause and those who fought for it with contempt and disdain.  It encompasses those who view the federal government as a threat to liberty as well as those who view it as a means to prosperity.  It includes members of the Republican and Democratic parties,  as well as the NAACP, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and even native and recent transplants to the South.  In fact, you don't even have to live in the "Old South" to identify with its history and heritage.  

Southern Heritage includes the history of the South from the beginning to the present.  It includes examples of individuals and groups acting at their very best and their worst.  Identifying with Southern Heritage need not imply anything about how you evaluate the history of the South.  All of us are free to interpret it as we wish, based on our interests and respective goals. 

This is what I believe.   

Note: Thanks once again for the thoughtful comments, but this thread needs to come to an end. :)