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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

It’s time to declare the Confederacy dead and gone with the wind.

The Virginia tragedy is the knell. It shook America with street scenes of violent white male supremacists. Young hooligans claimed the life of a young woman and injured other brave resisters. It was a terrible thing, made worse by the president’s defiant defense of new Confederates.

But it’s over now: the noble, glorious “Lost Cause” and all that, starring Robert E. Lee as the honorable Southern gentleman general.

When a Southern city like Charlottesville, Virginia, considers taking down a statue of Lee, that’s a catalyst for trouble. His myth is always burnished by legions of defenders. The statue stands for racial hatred, pure and simple.

The Confederate battle flag is a racial taunt. The rebirth of Confederate symbols arose at the same time as Jim Crow and lynchings in the South, and then again during the civil rights movement.

Leadership on this front is flowing from mayors and mobilized citizens. Social change can’t be far behind. New Orleans and Baltimore are in the forefront.

Rivers of tears, talk and ink on President Donald Trump and the deadly race riot in Charlottesville, still spill over. The crisis is a defining moment for each of us.

For the longest time people like me thought the Civil War was history. We knew President Lincoln waged it to end slavery, and thought the right side won. We didn’t talk of it in Philadelphia, where I majored in history, as a living thing.

The defeated Confederate general had amazing history publicists. Let’s give no more ground to the owner of Virginia’s plum slave plantation, right by the river. Arlington, it’s called.

President Lincoln seized Lee’s rolling thousand acres for the Union Army in 1861, when the Civil War broke out. Soldiers’ bodies were buried there, in the gardens. So the Union’s blood would be on Lee’s hands. Now it’s the national military cemetery.

Don’t let anyone tell you Lee opposed slavery in his heart. He loved his antebellum privilege, his perch atop the pyramid. An Army officer educated at West Point, he deserted his country and became a traitor or a war criminal. Take your pick.

Charlottesville is a perfect place to have a street revolution on race, because it’s unlikely that neo-Nazis would come to town. Old Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia, watching it rise from his spyglass at home — his mountaintop mansion. The town is scenic and pleasant. They call him “Mr. Jefferson” on the university grounds.

Yet Southern charm can turn dark. Virginia is the leader of the South, so it befits that an army of hate stormed into that state.

It’s been 152 years since “The Surrender” in Virginia. Lee, gleaming in his dress uniform on horseback, rode in on the wrong side of history to meet scruffy Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

By all accounts, Grant gave Lee and the Southern states generous terms. Lee never served time as a prisoner, nor did Jefferson Davis, president of the vanquished Confederacy.

If you read “Gone with the Wind,” shockingly, Ashley Wilkes was in the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan terrorized blacks for decades after the Civil War. Jim Crow segregation also took hold.

Shamefully, Washington’s government workforce had Jim Crow, thanks to President Woodrow Wilson — a Virginian.

A New York editor, a son of the South, says we should not rest until we lay the Confederacy to rest.

Then let’s tell the truth about the Civil War. The storytelling South kept its monumental loss alive: what a shame about Gettysburg’s last act. Southern historians artfully equated the two sides. The Ken Burns documentary didn’t do much better.

Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg was Lee’s reckless, vainglorious stand. Then the 4th of July, another story to tell on our side.

So the “Cause” never surrendered, culturally. White generations handed it down. As Melanie Wilkes says, she’d teach her son Beau to hate Yankees, and his children, and so on.

Lee has torn the nation apart again and done too much damage — dead or alive — up to the present moment. It’s high time to make the Confederacy and its marble statues surrender.

The contested weight of history haunts and hangs over us.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.

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19 responses to “Country To Confederacy: Be Gone With The Wind”

  1. old_blu says:

    America and Americans have done a great job of denouncing the bigots and racist, most all of us have become more united because of the way these people are, and I for one am proud of the way we’ve come together.
    Too bad no one can say that about our supposedly leader.

    Edit: I’m glad that’s not my friend or relative in that picture.
    How embarrassing it is for his friends and relatives.

    • stcroixcarp says:

      And yet the conversation about racism has hardly begun. White people are so uncomfortable with the concept of privilege we don’t want to talk about it. The history or official narrative of our nation is mostly sweet myths. I would like to say that the he angry white guy in the photo is no friend or relative of mine, but if I dared to look inside myself, I would find him living in my soul.

      • Ronald Hester says:

        stcroixcarp, at least you recognize that part of your soul, and are making an effort to repair it. That’s what separates us from them.

      • rhetoric_phobic says:

        Almost no one is immune from it. It’s present in most families to some extent. What I find very hopeful is out of some of the most racist roots grow children who are the polar opposite.
        As for the rest of us, when you know better you do better. It would be awful to go through one’s entire life not growing or learning a thing or holding onto “it’s the way things have always been”.

  2. idamag says:

    One thing that came out of the nazis and KKK marching on our Southern streets, is the pushback. Those counter protesters in Virginia shows there is some decency in that state. When I was in the South (I have been there several times.) you can feel they are still fighting the Civil War. We were too lenient with the traitors who fired on Fort Sumner. The Confederacy lost the war and their flag was no longer of any importance until the KKK took it as their flag. I have also been from one end of Germany to the other. They do not have statues of hitler or the nazi flag because it is part of their history. They have enough decency to be ashamed of that history.

    • stcroixcarp says:

      Germany is big into reconciliation. Reconciliation is the beginning of healing, and the beginning of reconciliation is truth. Germans do not do not tell happy lies about the holocaust.

    • righteous mob says:

      Your analysis is spot on. We shouldn’t have statues or memorials to the Confederates, any more than to Benedict Arnold. If the history lovers wanted to honor history, we could pull down every cheap bronze statue and burn every battle flag and there would still be testaments to Confederate history in Civil War cemeteries.

  3. FireBaron says:

    Why are we still enshrining secessionist traitors? Put them in a museum of military history. For those who had previously served with the US Army, treat them like Benedict Arnold is treated – recognize his previous service and accomplishments, but remind people of his treason.

    • Independent1 says:

      That’s the unfortunate part: not enough was made at the end of the Civil War of making sure all Americans realized that Jefferson Davis and all the Confederate Army generals and other leaders of the Confederate army were guilty of TREASON!! They were fighting as if they belonged to a foreign country; they had seceded from the Union and were no longer Americans. The Confederate traitors got off far too easy so too many southerns still today consider these traitors heroes.

  4. tomcfuller says:

    Ok, so, now are we allowed to fly only the flags of countries and societies that are virtuous? Will someone tell me, then, exactly which those are? I would love to see a list.

  5. rhetoric_phobic says:

    For those who want to bring up the tired old rhetoric that the stars and bars mean nothing more than celebrating their love of their southern heritage, the new nazis in Germany who can’t use their outlawed swastikas now use the confederate flag.to identify themselves. THEY know what it stands for.

    In Germany, the Confederate flag is not void of political context. European skinheads and neo-Nazi groups have adopted the Confederate flag and variations of it because of its historical context as a symbol of racism and white supremacy.

    In addition, the Atlantic reports that American Civil War reenactments have become popular in Germany, with many Germans choosing to side with the Confederacy.

    Wolfgang Hochbruck, a professor of American Studies at the University of Freiburg, told the Atlantic this is because “some of the Confederate reenactors in Germany are acting out Nazi fantasies of racial superiority.”

    • Charlotte Sines says:

      A good way for us to help move past the Civil War is to stop the reenactments. All they do is continually bring up the war and makes heroes out of traitors. The people who participate in these reenactments are just trying to keep a lost cause and racism alive.

  6. rhetoric_phobic says:

    Here’s to the citizens of Boston who showed up and stood up by the thousands to exercise their right to free speech. That’s what need to happens everywhere when those who want to preach hate show up. No violence necessary. Just drown them out.

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