A few hours before ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner with a “courage” award on Wednesday, the University of Texas vice president for diversity and community engagement hosted a public forum on removing Confederate-themed statuary from campus, which includes a likeness of Robert E. Lee.
There’s courage in cosmetic surgery and shame in battle. May I secede now?
Cassi Pollock of Breitbart Texas reports that a UT graduate student claimed at the meeting that the presence of the statues on campus “inhibited students from their full participation.” Several undergraduates, perhaps frustrated at the havoc the inanimate objects played on their GPAs, recently defaced the effigies with spray paint. And unlike the vandals of a monument to fallen Southerners in Charleston, the Austin defacers spelled “Black Lives Matter” correctly. It’s a college town.
The revival of the War Between the States after a 150-year interbellum thankfully witnesses human simulacrums as casualties rather than living, breathing people. After killing 300,000 Southerners, destroying Richmond, Charleston, and Atlanta, and imposing martial law on much of the rebellious region for more than a decade, the victors allowed the vanquished to keep their heroes. A century-and-a-half later, that appears too generous a concession to some.
Nathan Bedford Forrest rests rather than lives and breathes in a park once named for him. But his corpse remains part of a grave matter. The Memphis city council, arriving at the cultural battlefield “firstest with the mostest,” unanimously voted to disinter the bodies of the Civil War general and his wife from the park.
A New York Post film critic calls for exiling the “undeniably racist artifact” Gone With the Wind from screens to museums. TV Land canceled reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson promised to paint over the Confederate flag atop his original General Lee. He didn’t divulge when he officially changes his first name to Preston.
Tom Petty took to the pages of Rolling Stone to wear a hairshirt over using the Confederate battle flag as a backdrop for his tour supporting Southern Accents three decades ago. “I then just let it get out of control as a marketing device for the record,” Petty writes. “It was dumb and it shouldn’t have happened.” Hopefully he doesn’t receive the Nathan Bedford Forrest treatment and his masterpiece recording doesn’t become gone with the wind like Gone With the Wind.
A distressed consumer at a Wallingford, Connecticut flea market called 911 over a vender selling Confederate merchandise. Apple pulled “Ultimate General: Gettysburg,” a historical video game on the crucial Civil War battle, from its app store for including the Army of Northern Virginia’s standard—rather than, say, the Fleur-de-lis?—as a graphic.
The Atlanta NAACP calls for the removal of the massive bas relief of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on Stone Mountain. “Those guys need to go,” chapter president Richard Rose insists. “They can be sand-blasted off.”
This Taliban quality of the crusade escapes the grasp of people who see censorship as progress. How can they be wrong in a cause so right? Humanitarians bring out the worst in humanity. People rarely show more capacity for evil than when they imagine themselves as serving good.
The main effect of the purge of Southern iconography figures to encourage haters to further employ such imagery toward racist ends and discourage benign uses in monuments, films, video games, battlefield reenactments, Molly Hatchet concerts, NASCAR parking lots, and wrestling matches involving the Freebirds. A place for everything and everything in its place may mean the Confederate flag should not fly high over state capitols. But surely the phrase conveys the notion that the flags under which a quarter of the white population of the South died deserve a space in polite society.
The benighted enlightened ready shovels to unearth resting corpses and dynamite to deface great works of art as they force-feed a troubled man imagining himself a woman upon America. They call this tolerance, multiculturalism, diversity, and progress.