Of Course Not
Will taking down Confederate flags promote social peace or racial healing? How long would a peace based on suppression of a people’s cherished heritage last? How long would a peace built upon suppressing the memory, valor, and virtue of the revered forebears of a great number of the Southern people last? What could possibly be a surer cause of immense strife, bitterness, and economic and political turmoil? Does anyone outside of a madhouse believe that peace and prosperity can be achieved by discarding the heritage of a numerous people to gain the political favor of another? It is more likely to shatter all hope of peace. Can a society set itself against tolerance and mutual respect and have peace? No fair-minded person can accept such corrupt reasoning.
Suppressing the chief symbol of Southern Heritage or “confining it to private property,” as South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley has now suggested—in complete contradiction to her campaign statements a year ago—is quite obviously an act of disfavor. Taking away the honor previously given to Confederate veterans and Confederate dead is an obvious act of dishonor.
The unholy bargain here is to insult one constituency to gain the political favor of another.
Removing Confederate symbols and flags does not exactly meet the Four Way Rotary Test. It is not based on the truth. It is based on many years of slanderous propaganda, agitation, and racial political pandering. Is it fair to all concerned? No, and nobody with any sense of fairness is going to believe it is fair to all. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Do misrepresenting, slandering, and degrading the Confederate cause, Confederate soldiers, and their descendents create goodwill and solid friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? It would probably be beneficial to the Democrat Party, and agitation against every remnant of Southern Heritage would advance to new levels.
I find it remarkable how many political, media, business, and religious leaders respond to tragedy or bullying by powerful special interest agitators with unfounded and hysterical condemnations of long-honored traditions and institutions. Moreover, I find it disturbing that such condemnations and proclamations are increasingly made without a lick of serious homework on the issues involved. In this hysterical state, truth and logical reasoning seem always to be trumped by shaky emotional perceptions. Emotional anecdotes dominate all communications, and facts and statistics are ignored. Little thought is given to logical primary or secondary consequences or the possibility of serious insult and injustices resulting from hurried emotional decisions.
Political Correctness always reminds me of the hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, where innocent people were executed on the basis of visions or dreams of their accusers. Many were condemned to death because an accuser had testified to seeing the “specter’ of the accused doing harm or witchcraft. Hysterical young girls pointed a finger at whoever they claimed was a witch, and it was taken as credible evidence. Many of the accused were tortured until they confessed to witchcraft. For much of 1692, lies ruled in Salem. Historical perspective later showed that many of the 19 alleged witches hanged and one tortured to death in Salem were not only innocent but among the most godly in the community. A substantial number of the accusers had unsavory reputations or were suffering acute mental illness. Other analysis indicates that envy and long-standing grudges in Salem society played an important role in this tragic miscarriage of justice. What has Salem in 1692 got to do with Washington or Columbia? Politically correct lies and moral cowardice seldom result in just government and often result in totalitarian government.
In our modern culture, the lies usually come as politically correct falsehoods that must be embraced as “truth” to avoid social condemnation and its likely economic penalties. Those who strive hard to meet the truth-conflicting standards of political correctness are especially prone to hysterical condemnation of the innocent. The scapegoat is condemned to avoid offending the sacred cow, which is often an important but false historical narrative. “Civil War” history has always suffered from a high dose of Union propaganda about the causes of the war, but the current dominance of cultural Marxism (political correctness) in American history and especially the “Civil War” has served to hinder even discussion of many important and easily substantiated truths that strongly contradict the politically correct narrative.
The Reverend James Power Smith, the last surviving member of Stonewall Jackson’s staff had this to say in 1907:
“No cowardice on any battlefield could be as base and shameful as the silent acquiescence in the scheme which was teaching the children in their homes and schools that the commercial value of slavery was the cause of the war, that prisoners of war held in the South were starved and treated with barbarous inhumanity, that Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were traitors to their country and false to their oaths, that the young men who left everything to resist invasion, and climbed the slopes of Gettysburg and died willingly on a hundred fields were rebels against a righteous government.”
In response to Governor Haley’s exhortation that the Confederate flag “does not represent the future” of South Carolina, I would caution her with these quotes from the Annual Commencement address delivered on June 15, 1882, at Hampden Sidney College in Virginia, entitled, “The New South,” by Reverend Robert L. Dabney, one of the most prominent theologians, scholars, and social and political commentators of his era, who had served as a Confederate Chaplain and as Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff during the war:
“It behooves the New South, in dismissing the animosities of the past, to see to it that they retain all that was true in its principles or ennobling in its example. There are those pretending to belong to this company who exclaim: ‘Let us bury the dead past. Its issues are all antiquated, and of no more practical significance. Let us forget the passions of the past. We are in a new world. Its new questions alone concern us.’ I rejoin: Be sure that the former issues are dead before you really bury them! There are issues that cannot die without the death of the people, of their honor, their civilization and their greatness. Take care that you do not bury too much, while burying the dead past: that you do not bury the inspiring memories of great patriots, whose actions, whether successful or not, are the eternal glory of your race and section; the influence of their virtues, the guiding precedents of their histories. Will you bury the names and memories of a Jackson and Lee, and their noble army of martyrs? Will you bury true history whose years are those of the God of Truth?”
“There is one point on which you insist too little, which is vital to the young citizens of the South. This is, that he shall not allow the dominant party to teach him a perverted history of the past contests. This is a mistake of which you are in imminent peril. With all the astute activity of their race, our conquerors strain every nerve to pre-occupy the ears of all America with the false version of affairs, which suits the purposes of their usurpation. With a gigantic sweep of mendacity, this literature aims to falsify or misrepresent everything; the very facts of history, the principles of the former Constitution as admitted in the days of freedom by all statesmen of all parties; the very essential names of rights and virtues and vices. The whole sway of their commercial and political ascendancy is exerted to fill the South with this false literature. Its sheets come up, like the frogs of Egypt, into our houses, our bed chambers, our very kneading troughs. Now, against this deluge of perversions I solemnly warn young men of the South, not for our sakes, but for their own. Even if the memory of the defeated had no rights; if historical truth had no prerogatives; if it were the same to you that the sires whose blood fills your veins, and whose names you bear, be written down as traitors by the pen of slanderous history, still it is essential to your own future that you shall learn the history of the past truly.”
Leonard M. (Mike) Scruggs is the author of The UN-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths, Universal Media, Asheville, 2011.