29 February 2016

Are Mainstream Civil War Museums Racist?

(This post is Part 2 and a follow up to a recent post asking the same rhetorical question about "Mainstream Civil War Magazines." You will need to read that post first in order to understand the discussion in this one.)

The American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia sells the items pictured above (at least they do at the time of this post) in their Museum Shop. These images are actual screenshots taken from their webpage.

So again, is the American Civil War Museum "racist" because it sells these flags? No, of course not, but how do certain historians separate the selling of these flags, from those wearing and displaying them publicly after their purchase? Are museums like the ACWM "enablers" of "racist intent"? Are they, like Civil War magazines, knowingly marketing to "racists"? No and neither are the magazines. However if you claim that everyone displaying a Confederate flag image is a "racist", then the association is inseparable.

The ACWM, (consisting of, in part, the former Museum of the Confederacy) sells other items which also display the Confederate flag in their shop.

As anyone who has ever worked in, or been associated with, any kind of museum (I serve on the board of 2) would know, gift sales from souvenirs like these can represent substantial funding in addition to whatever other funding mechanisms that are in place, i.e., grants, donations, admission tickets, etc. 

Moreover, the items sold also further the particular museum's mission to educate, inform and spur discussion. They can also drive more traffic to the museum, working in synergy with other promotion efforts which benefit the museum, the teaching of history and the community at large.

In other words, sells of these items are important for a number of reasons. Museums would not offer them if they weren't.

But now we have certain individuals suggesting that anyone and everyone who publicly displays a Confederate image (especially a flag) must be assumed to be a "racist." Again, the claim is absurd on it's face and irresponsible. You'll note that these same individuals refuse to call out the magazines, museums and other organizations (other than the SCV), for violating their "standards." Why the double standard?

One of the historians associated with the ACWM is John Coski, whom I quoted in the previous post from an article he wrote for the respected popular magazine, Civil War Times. I would highly recommend Coski's book on the topic of the Confederate flag. I only own an uncorrected page proof review copy before it was actually published, but I assume most of what I'll be quoting is essentially the same. Embattled Emblem was published in 2005 by Belknap (Harvard University Press). Like any such book, readers will likely find things in Coski's book with which they disagree - regardless of which side you come down on in this debate. I did. But, overall, it is about as balanced and honest a book on the topic as one will find today.

So what are some of the things that the Nation's leading expert on the Confederate flag has to say about it? As I alluded to in the earlier post, Coski is by no means a "flag-waving neo-Confederate." He tackles the CBF's racist misuse head on and pulls no punches. But, again, he also gives a full and complete understanding of the flag's multi-dimensional history and symbolism. For example, in the books' epilogue (titled "The Second American Flag") Coski boils down the history of the flag's evolving symbolism and offers possible solutions to the ongoing debate. He also notes the following after a discussion on the fall of Communism in Europe in the early 1990's:
Whether as a symbol of national liberation or of individual expression and rebelliousness, in Europe the Confederate battle flag is associated typically with American values and American culture. From a vantage point beyond our shores, the Confederate battle flag is an American symbol . . . the Europeans have grasped something that Americans take for granted: the Confederate flag is fundamentally an American flag.
And Coski seems to grasp what many elites do not:
. . . [it] is not therefore simply going to disappear. The people who fly or revere the flag will not become extinct, and they will resist efforts to reeducate them to view it as offensive. On the contrary, they will pass reverence for the flag from generation to generation and strive to reeducate others to accept their understanding of its meaning. For them, the flag will always be a war memorial and summon heroic visions of soldiers fighting for southern independence, not slavery or racism. If precedent serves as a guide to the future, insults hurled at the flag and demands for its removal will prompt more people to rally to its defense.
And we saw a perfect manifestation of that last sentence last year. As the feeding frenzy against all things Confederate reached a fever pitch, many sellers of the flag could not keep up with demand. Anecdotally, I saw the number of Confederate flags being flown on private property explode in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The vast majority of those are still flying.

Coski continues his discussion of this "second American flag":
The capacity of the battle flag to express both American patriotism and often strident opposition to mainstream American ideals is further confirmation of its status as the second American flag. It shares the ambidextrous quality with the Stars and Stripes, which has stood in symbolic opposition to and unity with the battle flag. The Ku Klux Klan has used the Stars and Stripes far longer and far more often than they have the St. Andrew's cross. . . . In other words, the Stars and Stripes has proven perfectly capable of expressing the thoughts and values that critics of the Confederate flag fear and loathe.
So what of "historians" who proclaim that "there is little reason to give anyone the benefit of the doubt" who fly the Confederate flag? Coski has an answer for that point of view:
It is a fundamental mistake to believe - as Carol Moseley-Braun suggested in her 1993 speech in the U.S. Senate - that one's own perception of a flag's meaning is the flag's only legitimate meaning. . . . People must not impose their interpretation of the flag on others or project their interpretation of the flag's meaning onto others' motives for displaying it. Just because someone views the flag as a symbol of racism does not give him the ethical right to assume that someone who displays it is a racist. To make such a judgment is an exercise in prejudice. [Emphasis mine.]
Not only is the assumption "a fundamental mistake", it, by necessity of logic, transfers that same assumption and guilt to many more organizations and persons than just the one displaying the flag.

25 February 2016

Are Mainstream Civil War Magazines Racist?

No, they're not. The question is, of course, a rhetorical one. I subscribe to several popular Civil War publications and enjoy all of them very much. However, if you agree with the "logic" of some folks, one might be able to at least make the accusation. Allow me to explain. 

A recent post at Civil War Memory gives us a great example of competing interpretations and perspectives regarding the Confederate flag. First, we have what some might consider the "moral reformer" perspective as posited by Kevin Levin (author of one book about the War Between the States):

"the battle flag belongs in a museum where it can be properly interpreted."

Fine, but that's just his opinion.  

But what prompted Levin voicing his opinion on the Confederate flag were remarks by Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. (author of more than 20 books on the Civil War) in which Dr. Robertson states that the Confederate flag "was stolen from the South"; another perspective held by many Americans. The remark evidently shocked Levin. I guess Dr. Robertson should have issued a trigger-warning.

Dr. Robertson was referring to the Confederate flag being appropriated for other uses, many of those bigoted and racist. And he is correct, despite Levin's claims to the contrary. Levin's post was then followed by readers making these comments regarding anyone who displays a Confederate flag outside a museum setting:
We defend the right of anyone to be a racist (and thanks to all of you who fly the flag for letting me know exactly what you are).
there is no way that your display will not be interpreted as white supremacist, racist, 
you of course have every right to display the Confederate flag in your home, on your truck, etc. Nobody should use force to stop you. But to do so is a racist act
The CBF today is used for racist purposes and or total ignorance. 
We've been down this road many times, nothing new here. And, as noted before, many of the things said about the Confederate flag could be (and are being) said about the American flag, - a fact Levin and his readers conveniently ignore. It's the proverbial elephant in the room. But that's a bridge too far for even these folks - at least for now anyway.

I suppose we could take these generalizations about the display of the Confederate flag to the next logical step. Lots of respected authors and historians speak to Sons of Confederate Camps and events on a regular basis. Many (if not most) SCV members display Confederate flags and symbols as a matter of ancestral and regional pride. This is a well known fact and not something unknown by the speakers prior to their agreeing to speak. So should we assume that these authors and historians are associating with "racists"? Are they guilty by association? The same analogy could be used regarding Civil War Roundtables; many of which use the CBF in their logos and often display the CBF at their meetings. Since they are displaying the CBF outside a museum setting, are they tainted with the charge as well?

And, as I've pointed out before, what about historians who support and write for popular Civil War magazines which display ads selling trinkets and heritage type items featuring images of the Confederate flag? If it's racist to display the CBF outside of a museum, then what is it to profit from publications that advertise it's "non-museum" display? For example, the ad shown at the beginning of this post which advertises a "pride of the South" watch featuring the CBF and which appeared last year in an issue of the Civil War Monitor (to which I subscribe). That's just one example. I could provide scores of other similar ads from other mainstream Civil War publications, such as the one below which, ironically, appeared in the October 2015 issue of the Civil War Times featuring an article about the flag by noted Confederate flag expert John M. Coski and entitled, "Embattled Banner" -

The ad above featuring the jacket includes the following text: 
The spirit of the south still runs deep, rooted in its heritage, and in those who bravely fought in the Civil War alongside visionary commanders like Robert E. Lee. Their gallantry has survived and gained undying admiration.
Neither of the Confederate Battle Flag images appearing in these ads are "in a museum." They will not be "interpreted" in a museum. They are, as advertised, explicitly a display based on regional pride. Based on what many of the commenters at the Civil War Memory post wrote, should we assume that those who would purchase and wear such items are "racists"? But what about the company advertising the product? Do they get off untainted? What about subscribers? They're indirectly supporting the ads, whether they purchase the item or not. What about the magazine - are they marketing to "racists"? And what about all those associated in a professional sense with the magazine, are they tainted as well? Maybe it's ok if you're profiting in some way for the display of the CBF, even in a non-museum setting.

What utter hypocrisy and phoniness.

In the Coski article mentioned above, Coski discusses the history of the flag and does not shrink from discussing its misuse. However, he wisely and correctly argues that the flag is anything but one dimensional:
The flag never ceased being the flag of the Confederate soldier and still today commands wide respect as a memorial to the Confederate soldier. 
Coski also alludes to the fact that the symbolism of the flag could, in fact, be perceived as being "stolen" as Dr. Robertson claimed:
Confederate heritage organizations correctly perceived the Dixiecrat movement and the flag fad as a profound threat to their ownership of the Confederate flag. [Emphasis mine.]
And Coski also correctly assesses how the symbolic display of the flag has evolved far beyond both its original meaning, as well as its bigoted misuse:
As the dam burst on Confederate flag material culture and heritage groups lost control of the flag, it acquired a new identity as a symbol of "rebellion" divorced from the historical context of the Confederacy. Truckers, motorcycle riders, and "good old boys" (most famously depicted in the popular television show The Dukes of Hazzard) gave the flag a new meaning that transcends the South and even the United States. [Emphasis mine.]
If the symbolism of the flag has evolved once, it can (and has) evolve again; something critics routinely ignore as they advance an agenda.

And, as I've predicted, not even museums are safe from the charges, as one of Levin's readers pointed out:
. . . about the Confederate battle flag belonging in a museum, I recently read an article proposing that the flag should not be in public museums, either . . . In the author’s opinion, Confederate relics like the flag are not worthy of such space.
Well of course. Please don't tell me you're surprised. It's going to get worse. This is the natural progression of the professional historian moral reformer mindset. Just as I predicted two weeks ago when the National Civil War Museum was criticized for displaying William Quantrill's revolver: "you're going to see more and more of it - thanks, in large part, to the current 'moral reformer' class of historians. Pretending to be an innocent bystander ain't gonna work." They've painted themselves into a politically correct corner.

One of the important take-aways from the post at CWM, along with the apparently agreeing comments, is that we need not guess which "interpretation" of the Confederate flag will take place in museums if these folks have their preference: The Confederate flag is only to be interpreted with a narrow, one-dimensional perspective: as an evil image of slavery and bigotry, thus advancing the moral crusade.

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb put it this way:
The greatest disservice on this count has been the attempt by these revisionist politicians and academics to defame the entire Confederate Army in a move that can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy. Often cloaked in the argument over the public display of the Confederate battle flag, the syllogism goes something like this: Slavery is evil. The soldiers of the Confederacy fought for a system that wished to preserve it. Therefore they were evil as well, and any attempt to honor their service is a veiled effort to glorify the cause of slavery. ~ From Born Fighting by former Virginia Senator James Webb
In my opinion, suggesting that anyone and everyone who displays a Confederate flag or image outside of a museum should automatically be assumed to be a "racist" reveals an agenda other than anything to do with understanding our history. If the moral reformers want to make that ridiculous claim, then they'll have to include a lot more persons, institutions and publications than they are currently doing.

Let's see how far that goes.

Finally, Coski concluded his piece in Civil War Times by writing:
Studying the flag's full history also allows us to engage in a more constructive dialogue about its proper place in the present and in the future. 
I agree. And I would add that the knee-jerk reaction of assuming everyone who displays a Confederate flag is a "racist" not only ruins any chance of constructive dialogue, it is also patently absurd and irresponsible.

23 February 2016

Academia: Protecting Snowflakes is Their Secondary Goal

Indoctrination seems to be their first.
“This is what the climate of campus fascism has wrought: jackbooted students who believe they can strong-arm the administration into shutting down dissent, and an administration willing to shut down that dissent to kowtow to these precious snowflakes. The campus left are not just cowards, they’re totalitarians. We’re not going to stand for it.” ~ Conservative author Ben Shapiro after being disinvited to California State University Los Angeles.
Story here. You'll notice in the article that the school has absolutely no problem hosting hard-core leftist radicals. Ah yes, the great bastion of free thought and expression. Not.

19 February 2016

Levin Launches TV Show

No, not that Levin. And he'll be discussing, on a nightly basis, philosophy, history, politics and current events. I think I'll give it a try. As I've been a ROKU customer for several years now (and LOVE it), I'm glad to see the show will be available on my ROKU player. Enjoy the preview. Gotta love the studio/office.

As an aside, I definitely believe that streaming over the internet is the future of television. I've never been a cable or "Dish" subscriber but I've had a ROKU player for quite some time, and just recently purchased an Insignia ROKU TV for another room in my home. It's quite amazing. I like it better than my Sony, which cost 3 times as much. And I absolutely love the cafeteria style viewing ROKU offers - over 2500 channels. I believe we're going to see more and more shows like Levin's: Subscription based, commercial free and targeting a more specific demographic. This would be a great platform for historians and writers to deliver content as well.

Only in the South

"Son, we do dumbbell presses with weights bigger than you." These are the types of cops that chased me when I was a teenager. Shuwee y'all.

11 February 2016

National Civil War Museum in Pennsylvania Under PC Attack

General Ambrose Burnside, first President of the NRA
(FYI: He also served in the army that killed William Quantrill)
And some folks seem surprised. Really? Uh, this kind of thing isn't exactly new. As a matter of fact, one could easily come to the conclusion that those complaining the loudest have led the charge bringing us to the latest politically correct historical "offense." These folks seem to now be in a circular firing squad formation.

I'm referring to a recent post at Civil War Memory. The jest of the screed is over the recent news that some folks are upset over a gun display funded by the NRA at a Pennsylvania Civil War museum:
The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is taking heat from the mayor and others for a new exhibit on firearms sponsored by the National Rifle Association. While the source of the funding has come under scrutiny, the larger concern is the display of weapons, including William Quantrill’s colt revolver.
Setting aside the fact that the author of this post (as well as some of his readers) once referred to NRA folks as "bat sh*t crazy"; why should this latest protest come as a surprise? Lest we forget, the Museum of the Confederacy refused to display any Confederate flag outside their Appomattox location and Lee Chapel removed Confederate flags from where they had hung above the Recumbent Lee for decades. And, of course, the ongoing effort to remove monuments is also part of this environment. The PC feeding frenzy has even led to the banning of books related to the Confederate flag.

While some of these incidents may have separate arguments and ostensibly legitimate concerns about historical accuracy, the larger issue of political correctness overshadows them all. The constant drumbeat evilizing the Confederacy, Confederate
images, it's participants, 19th century Americans (and America's Founding Fathers as well) and all things associated has poisoned the well of American history. It's a classic case of "be careful what you wish for." Even one of Civil War Memory's readers acknowledged this connection:
Isn’t this a natural, though unfortunate, continuation of the recent movement to remove Confederate iconography from public areas? It starts with flags on state grounds, moves to monuments in public areas and eventually finds itself in publicly accessed (and/or funded) museums? It’s sort of the cliché “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
Of course it is a natural continuation. And you're going to see more and more of it - thanks, in large part, to the current "moral reformer" class of historians. Pretending to be an innocent bystander ain't gonna work.

By the way, the National Rifle Association was founded by Union veterans:
Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. The primary goal of the association would be to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis," according to a magazine editorial written by Church.

After being granted a charter by the state of New York on November 17, 1871, the NRA was founded. Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who was also the former governor of Rhode Island and a U.S. senator, became the fledgling NRA's first president.
I have no idea whether or not those veterans were bat sh*t crazy, though I have little doubt they would view much of what is going on today with the study of American history in that light. 

10 February 2016

The History of Turning Boys Into Men

Young hunters, circa 1865.
The Spartans: By the age of 14, a boy is a survival expert. By 18, he is the deadliest warrior on earth.

Vikings: By the age of 10, boys were skilled in the use of a sword and hunting. By 18, an expert in survival and fighting.

American boys, 2016: From birth, he is programmed to believe that males are inherently bad and they should be more like females. By age 6, he is obese and playing video games. By 18, he's a delicate flower who needs a "safe place" so he won't get his feelings hurt by words.

(Adapted from Manly.Is.)

And this from Virginia historian, Philip Alexander Bruce, writing in Brave Deeds of Confederate Soldiers 100 years ago:
There were few young men who could recall the years of their earliest youth when they were unable at least to shoot off a gun. The father, returning home after a day passed in the stubble fields beating up partridges, rarely failed to require the small son, perhaps not ten years of age, to discharge his fowling piece; and should the little fellow be severely kicked, he was not permitted afterwards to show any fear when ordered to shoot a second time.  . . . and from morning until darkness came on, the boys were using their horses either in hunting in the fields and forests or in traveling to some distant mill-pond famous for perch and mullet. Every one of them looked upon himself as fully able to break in a young colt however raw and fractious it may have come from the pasture; and many a young fellow was seriously injured by his reckless indifference to the dangers of mounting such a wild beast before its spirit had been even partially broken.
And the American Indian:
When a boy of the Plains Indian tribe was born, he would be named after an elder or ancestor of the tribe.  As the boy grew up, unless he didn’t do anything important his name would change and would describe a brave act or famous battle they had been through.  As the boy grew up, he was kept farther and farther away from the girls because the boys would have been training on their fighting skills for war and horsemanship.  The most important goal for a male Plains Indian as they grew up was to be tough and brave . . . [Source.]
American boys are being taught that their ancestors were, for the most part, evil oppressors and not worth emulating. 

"The death of the spirit is the price of progress." ~ Eric Voegelin


01 February 2016

Global Warming Will Prevent the Bicentennial of the Civil War

In Charleston, SC anyway. According to Professor David Blight:
if as a world community, as a species, we do not do something serious and soon to reduce greenhouse gases, and therefore stop global warming, then the commemoration of the Civil War in 2061 will likely not be held in Charleston to remember Fort Sumter, because that city may be under the sea. Perhaps, ironically, by 2061 we will have a new Lost Cause with which to contend: the long, failed effort to thwart the power and greed of climate change deniers.
"As a species"? Really? Who talks like that? No wonder most people just roll their eyes and laugh. Oh my. I suppose we could all retreat to the Rockies unless, of course, some other species becomes dominant by then and forbids our species from upsetting the delicate ecosystem.  I suppose we could just all stock up on floaties and hope for the best. 

And it looks like Blight's "new Lost Cause" (Really?) is alive and well, at least according to a recent international survey posted at YouGov.co.uk:
In Britain climate change has a share of concern of 10.8%, two points behind the global average and above only the USA (9.2%) and Saudi Arabia (5.7%). [Source.]
So, would David Blight claim that 90.8% of Americans are powerful and greedy? And who is it that most academic Civil War bloggers accuse of politicizing the Civil War? Projecting? Wow. Of course, these wild, apocalyptic, Chicken Little-like environmental predictions have been made for a very long time. And none of them have come true. It all appears to be yet one more effort to promote more centralized government control.

But if you're really worried, maybe they'll have the Hunley back in service by 2061. LOL. You just can't make this stuff up.