The proclamation was urged on him by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which asserts that the Confederacy was a crusade for small government and states’ rights. The sesquicentennial, which coincides now with the rise of the Tea Party movement, is providing a new chance for adherents to promote that view.
Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust, is organizing the secession ball in Charleston and a 10-day re-enactment of the Confederate encampment at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the war were fired on April 12, 1861. He said these events were not about modern politics but were meant to honor those South Carolinians who signed the state’s ordinance of secession on Dec. 20, 1860, when it became the first state to dissolve its union with the United States.
“We’re celebrating that those 170 people risked their lives and fortunes to stand for what they believed in, which is self-government,” Mr. Antley said.
First random thought: Who would've thunk that in the 21st century the Lost Cause would still have purchase and appeal?
Second random thought: It must be my northern Yankee blood that blinds me to the permanent pain of the South's defeat.
For some, this ideology involves play acting in historical reenactments. For others, the Lost Cause is a way to signal to the lost dreams of Jim Crow white supremacy and the "good old days" when black and brown folk knew their "rightful place."
History does political work. As a corollary, memory is a function of power, selective forgetting, and intentional remembering to advance certain ends in the here and now.
It is no coincidence then that the New Right and elements of the Tea Party GOP are deploying the dog whistles of "our America," "state's rights," "nullification," and "intercession" as they attempt to mobilize their largely older, racially resentful, frightened, white victimology possessed, and extremely conservative base. It is also no small coincidence that these factions yearn for a white washed (if not wholly White history) in which America returns to her "founding values."
Not ironically, the symbolism and convenient language of the Lost Cause and the Confederacy are a near perfect fit for the Tea Party GOP and the New Right in the Age of Obama.
Conveniently, the founding values that the Tea Party GOP pledges allegiance to do not include the white supremacy that was the beating heart of the U.S. Constitution--and the ultimate reason for the South's leaving the Union. For the white gaze that is the Lost Cause and New Right, the role and centrality of black folk to American history is a mere inconvenience at best and a footnote at worse. That people of color, and Black Americans in particular, died and struggled to help perfect this country's democracy is an impossible thought, one anathema to the white racial frame and the Tea Party imagination.
I do not know if the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their related ilk are good people or bad. In fact, I could care less. All I want is a little honesty in how American history is taught and remembered. Is it so much to ask that as these (presumably) white folk (and their obligatory token Republican negroes) dance about in period clothing, smiling as they imagine antebellum life in terms of Gone with the Wind on yee old plantation with happy piccaninnies and doting mammies, give some thought to the many thousands dead, the millions of black folk whose full humanity and freedom was denied by the society that the Sons of Confederate Veterans venerate?
I won't disallow the White Soul its pleasure in celebrating Jim Crow and the Confederacy. I can only hope that those who celebrate a centuries long tradition of treason, slavery, rape, exploitation, and death own the blood on their hands. Why? Because a person cannot truly celebrate a thing without taking ownership of all its aspects...good and bad alike.
Is that too much to ask?
The New York Times' story "Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves" can be found in its entirety here.