Monday, April 19, 2010

Clyde Wilson, On Being America’s Red-Headed Stepchild

The current fad is to treat everything good that Southerners say about the Confederacy as part of a “Lost Cause Myth” that Southerners made up after the fact to rationalize their failure and their evilly motivated attempt to destroy the “greatest government on earth.” Robert E. Lee was not really a great general, Confederate soldiers were not really brave and out-numbered, the people really did not support the Confederacy, a distinct Southern culture was merely a pretense to defend slavery, etc., etc., etc. In the face of vast contradictory evidence, it is simply declared that everything Southerners said about themselves was a lie they made up and told after the fact. A catalog I picked up just a few days ago reported new books: The Myth of Jefferson Davis and The Myth of Bedford Forrest. You see, Southerners always make up flattering stories about themselves while Northerners just tell the true facts.

Southerners are intrinsically evil and Northerners intrinsically good. The South is not to be understood for itself, as it is and was, as something with its own life and identity. It exists only as the bad side of America. Casting us in the villain’s role is not in the least affected by the facts—that the South is now the only part of the country where a majority of black people say they feel at home, and that racial tension and hatred is more prevalent today in the big liberal states than in the South. It leads the Southerner to suspect that all the furor about imposed equality in the last half century is motivated by something less seemly than the pure thirst for justice.

It is a strange and not comfortable feeling to be the object of hatred of great numbers of people you have never met and to whom you have never done any harm. On the upside, it does give one some objective distance from the myth of unique American virtue, a false belief far more pervasive and destructive than admiration of the Lost Cause.

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