Hey, it’s April so, if you live in Dixie, it must be time to drag the stars and bars out, hit the bourbon and do some more history revising. The first two might not be so bad if the third wasn’t part of the mix. But, sadly, it is. Let me say right up front that my family – both sides of it – is from the South. My roots reach deep in the soil, going back even further than the Europeans who settled the region. So I know quite a lot about Southern history. More than the Press guy for the Sons Of Confederate Veterans does, that’s for damn sure. And remembering that history isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just the revisionists who make it so.
Ray McBerry is that PR guy who either doesn’t know or understand Southern history. Or perhaps he does and, like Tom Sawyer whitewashing that fence, he’s got a bucket and brush handy to whitewash the parts that he doesn’t like. To wit:
“So much is portrayed by Hollywood today that Georgia and the South were evil; when, in reality, the South was the most peaceful, rural, and Christian part of America before war and Reconstruction destroyed the pastoral way of life here.”
Wow. That there is some serious whitewashing! McBerry, who is a 2-time GOP candidate for governor of Georgia, appears to be a kind of PR Mr. Wolf (Pulp Fiction reference FTW), taking on lost causes like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He also happens to be a member of that group. John Avlon of The Daily Beast decided to give Mr. McBerry a call to learn more about this month’s celebrations. “Do you understand why many Americans, especially African-Americans, might find your message offensive?” he asked. McBerry replied:
“I do. But they have been miseducated by our government-run school system.”
Uh-huh. Don’t you find it interesting that when history diverges from what they would like it to be, most wingnuts blame the education system? That, and they whip up elaborate conspiracy theories.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has its eyes on the SoCV but doesn’t classify it as a hate group, though it did note that the group has purged itself of nonracists in the past. No NONracists allowed? Sounds legit. They send out a lot of “educational” material which they see as helpful but if you have a look at their newsletter, you will note that there is much in it that most would see as decidedly UNhelpful.
Many Southern states celebrate April as Confederate History Month, not just Georgia (they were just the latest to make it official). Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Florida all observe Confederate History Month in April. The Georgia law pretty much sums up what all of them do, however:
“The month of April of each year is hereby designated as Confederate History and Heritage Month and shall be set aside to honor, observe, and celebrate the Confederate States of America, its history, those who served in its armed forces and government, and all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear from its founding on February 4, 1861, in Montgomery, Alabama, until the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah sailed into Liverpool Harbor and surrendered to British authorities on November 6, 1865.”
The problem is not with remembering (or even celebrating) history: the problem lies in misrepresenting history. The slavery culture that thrived in the South, their “peculiar institution,” was neither peaceful nor Christian. Not by the strict definition of those words. How peaceful could it have been for human beings to live in fear? To not know when the whip would fall across their back or for what reason. To be treated as property and traded, bought and sold like so much livestock. It is not a Christian thing to do, at least not in any understanding of that religion that I have. It may have been a peaceful and pastoral life for the slave owners, they may have thought that they were being generous, good masters. They may have told themselves that they were taking care of their slaves. But it is just not true. The cognitive dissonance that covered the South, clouding the Southern mind appears not yet to have dissipated. They still try to tell themselves that they were good and that the slaves were grateful but the reality is far from that. Anyone who tries to say differently is lying or trying to sell something. That something is revisionist history and it is a defective product.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…