16 June 2009

Ron Maxwell Pushes Back

Gettysburg and Gods & Generals director, Ron Maxwell delivered the annual commemoration of the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery recently and you can read the full text of that speech here. I think it is an excellent speech. Maxwell is catching some criticism for bringing up the letter (written and signed by a number of academics) which asked President Obama to break the long held tradition of laying at wreath at the Confederate Monument. Obama ignored the request.

Normally, I would have to agree with the critics that such comments should be left out of these types of memorial speeches. However, in this case, the letter in question also sought to demean those men to whom the monument was dedicated. Maxwell's comments, which touched on the letter, were simply a defense of those men.

Moreover, given the highly publicized letter and the hyper-politicization of our nation's history (and not just the Civil War), along with the fact the letter included an attack on Maxwell and the fact he would be delivering the speech this year, I think his comments were quite appropriate.

The critics suggesting that Maxwell should not have commented on the controversy--and come to the defense of those being memorialized--are either disingenuous or extremely naive.

7 comments:

chaps said...

I was at the Memorial and thought Maxwell's speech was quite appropriate, moderate in tone, and exactly on point. The really fiery address was Father Alistair Anderson's invocation! He is former SCV Chaplain-in-Chief and was also attacked in the infamous letter to Obama.

Naim Peress said...

It's a remarkable speech. I found the portion about how he prepared to write his screenplays the most interesting. What part most interested you?

Michael Bradley said...

I will take my stand with Maxwell.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Naim:

Thanks for your comment. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Maxwell a few months ago. My wife and I were guests at a private B&B where he was also staying. We were in town and all attending a Civil War seminar. Late one night, my wife and I ventured into the kitchen area for a snack and ran into Ron doing the same thing. He was very cordial and gracious and we talked at length about Gods and Generals and the next installment: The Last Full Measure. (No takers yet)

We also discussed some of the rather unfair and silly attacks on the G and G film.

Regarding this speech, I liked this comment:

"This is how I came to know, through the study of their own words, both written and reported by contemporaries and can say without any hesitation, that Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were in their own hearts and minds fighting in a war for liberty, or as they themselves called it, a second War of Independence. To fail to understand this or to refuse to understand this is to fundamentally fail to understand the American Civil War. I’m not saying this out of some misguided notion that we have to feel good about our ancestors or in keeping with 19th century imperatives for reconciliation or to indulge in the futile exercise of trying to justify the present by the past or the past by the present."

Again, thanks for commenting.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael:

Me too.

Anonymous said...

Richard, thank you for bringing this to my attention and for coming to our ancestral heroes defense.

"a war for liberty, or as they themselves called it, a second War of Independence."

One has only to look at some Confederate regimental battle flags and frequently see the dates "1771 - 1861" and know that this struggle was about freedom from a perceived unfavorable government.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon:

You are welcome.