18 April 2014

Are Confederate Symbols & Stories Disappearing?

Recent full page ad in a popular Civil War magazine
Whine and complain all you want, but the reason the symbols and stories that you care most about are slowly disappearing is that you have not made a compelling case to maintain them in public spaces. Blame yourselves. ~ Kevin Levin
The "you" in the above quote is referring to yours truly as Kevin attempted to respond to this post. Kevin grew up in New Jersey, so I don't believe he has had enough exposure, nor enough experience, to conclude that "the symbols and stories that you care most about are slowly disappearing." I see more Confederate flags, images of Lee and Jackson and see far "more stories" about the WBTS now than I ever saw in the Shenandoah Valley growing up in the 1960's and 1970's. As to what Kevin believes, living in Charlottesville and Boston hardly exposes one to areas and individuals who hold different perspectives than what rules and reigns in Kevin's bubble of existence.

(Examples of Kevin's lack of exposure to, and understanding of, different and legitimate perspectives than his are illustrated here and here.)

Of course, the reason these symbols and topics are more prevalent than ever is due (at least in part) to the very fact that they are seen as non-conformist and anti-establishment, at least by a large number of individuals. The additional symbolism of being associated with pride and heritage remain extremely popular, which is why ads for Confederate related items in most major Civil War magazines dominate their pages. "Disappearing"? Very funny. If  it weren't for the revenue generated by the symbolism and "stories" represented in these ads, I doubt many Civil War magazines would last more than 12 months. And if it weren't for the tourism dollars generated by the heritage related symbolism at Lee Chapel and Stonewall Jackson's association with Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, the city would have to find other sources of revenue. Some folks love to ride piggy-back on these two men for the revenue they generate while still trashing their memory. Very classy.

It would seem that the more you tell some folks not to do such and such, the more thy are going to do such and such - ESPECIALLY if it has something to do with their family heritage and roots. As an entry at Wiki notes:
Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or peoples. Places said to have a strong "sense of place" have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. [This is something Kevin and others like him just can't seem to grasp; causing a major blind spot in how they analyze certain topics.] Sense of place is a social phenomenon that exists independently of any one individual's perceptions or experiences, yet is dependent on human engagement for its existence. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, and generally includes the people who occupy the place. The sense of place may be strongly enhanced by the place being written about by poets, novelists and historians, or portrayed in art or music, and more recently, through modes of codification aimed at protecting, preserving and enhancing places felt to be of value . . .
It's also rather hilarious to see Kevin accusing someone else of whining and complaining when his blog is a virtual gusher of anti-Confederate/Southern heritage b****ing on a daily basis. What a kettle and pot moment. And, rather than address my actual argument, Kevin takes the easy way out and lumps me in with everyone he sees as the neo-Confederate boogie man lurking around every corner or somehow outside of the mainstream of WBTS views and perspectives - including those with even the slightest deviation from his perspectives. (Notice, again, how surprised he was.)

In regards to Lee Chapel, as I told a former docent the other night, the docents and other officials at Lee Chapel have always been the most professional and informed regarding the history of the Chapel, as well as General Lee and George Washington. I've never detected a hint of "hero worship", but have always taken note of their immense respect for both the Chapel, as well as General Lee. I've always believed they strike the perfect balance and have complimented them in those regards. Most of the critics have very little understanding of what Lee intended for the building, and how that has evolved over decades. Even for those who love and cherish the place, it has different meanings - as it should. (Part 2 of my comments on this topic will discuss some of that history and meaning.)

But, as I originally charged, the current flap regarding Lee Chapel is the natural progression of attitudes like Kevin's and many others in academia. Kevin and others have sown these seeds and now appear to be embarrassed by the harvest.

To read a balanced and dignified perspective on the legacy of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, in regards to their connection to Washington and Lee University, I would recommend this 2012 article by Washington & Lee's president, Kenneth P. Ruscio. It is quite refreshing.

9 comments:

olesonms said...

Good article, keep charging.

C.W. Roden said...

Bravo sir!
I wonder if Levin and others like him are truly prepared for how future history will remember their current acts.

olesonms said...

As my pawpaw use to say the truth a'int inum. They are typical puritans, their truths are the only one's that matter and anyone who disagrees with them are simpletons and not worthy of notice. All we can do is keeping telling the truth and challenging them at every turn which I might add you are doing a fine job of.

Ralph Steel said...

Richard,

Just curious are you really serious about those types of trivial symbols like you show in the magazine add? Those seem like cheap, stylized and catering to the neo-confederate type, not the real heritage minded individual like yourself. Do you plan to order one of those items for your house?

RightsideVA said...

Thank you for the good read...
Our education system is striving for the "Social Justice" that they seek and over time will change history to fit their needs. Keep up the good fight and I enjoy reading your work....

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Serious to the points I'm making in the posts, yes. But you should direct your question to the management of the popular CW magazine(s) that run these ads and rake in the bucks from those companies, as well as their readers. That was kinda the whole point there partner.

No, I won't be ordering any, though I'd gladly except one as a gift, if you're so inclined. Thanks for the comment Ralph.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

RSV - precisely. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

Sue B said...

Thank you for all of the great points that you make on your blog. I am so tired of comments made about neo-Confederates and the denigration of our Confederate ancestors. I always enjoy reading your well-written comments.

ropelight said...

Are Confederate Symbols Disappearing?

Not when the chips are down they ain't. The Dixie Cross always seems to make an appearance every time the guns begin to shoot and patriotic American boys march off to fight in Europe, Korea, Vietnam, or the Middle East. And, not just on land but at sea too. Here's an example from WW-2.

The Confederate Naval Ensign proudly flew over the light cruiser USS Columbia (CL-56) to honor her namesake South Carolina city all throughout combat operations in the South Pacific which included Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, and Peleliu. Columbia was also one of the ships that crossed the Japanese 'T' at Leyte Gulf.

Which flag she was flying didn't seem to make any difference at all to the Japanese Kamikazi pilots, they just saw an American ship and sacrificed their lives trying to sink it.