Reaping the Backlash

The USS Robert E. Lee, the only U.S. Naval  vessel named after a Confederate military figure.

The USS Robert E. Lee, the only U.S. Naval vessel named after a Confederate military figure.

When one sows vengeance, one eventually reaps the backlash. I was reminded of this reading Peter Manceau’s excellent “The Many Images of Jefferson Davis.”

Many white Southerners advocate removing the Battle flag from public spaces – I’m one of them. But a distinction must be drawn between battle flags and monuments and icons.

In years following the Civil War, a tacit agreement was worked out between Northerners and white Southerners: In exchange for loyalty to the Union, the North afforded due deference to Southern monuments and icons. Granted, this nation and the world haveundergone radical change in the 150 years since Appomattox. And one simply can’t overlook the tragic fact the political conditions in the postwar South that gave rise to this informal agreement worked to the distinct disadvantage of Southern blacks. Even so, for more than a century, this tacit agreement worked reasonably well. As recently as 1959, the United States saw fit to name one of its ballistic submarines the U.S.S. Robert E. Lee.

The erosion of this tacit agreement, reflected in a growing zeal to remove any vestige of Confederate valor and honor from federal installations, poses a dire threat to American patriotism of white Southerners, particularly, rural white Southerners, millions of whom have borne a disproportionate share of this nation’s military burden across 8 U.S. wars and major conflicts.

Honestly, I can’t imagine the fix this country will be in if the most patriotic segment of American society – the people most inclined to mark their ethnicity as “American” on census forms – turns its back on this country. And, quite frankly, this is a distinct possibility unless political leaders on both ends of this great cultural divide stop thinking so much about political expediency and act for the common good.

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About Jim Langcuster

A Southern late-Baby Boomer whose post-retirement focus is on building a post-racial, post-Confederate Southern regional identity. If the election of 2016 underscored one thing, it is that this country is intractably divided and that radical devolution of power to localities and states is the only way to save the American Union.
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