...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
      ( 12:55 PM )
Dixie Rising

There's been a lot of blog chatter very recently about the situation with the segregated prom in Georgia, and peripheral issues surrounding "southern heritage" issues. Atrios today comments that "if it isn't racial, what the hell is it?" And Digby this last weekend blogged a very in-depth commentary on the "neo-confederates." Digby brings up the "southern heritage" argument used by so many who feel that Dixie's heritage is being torn away...he talks about the codewords used to disguise old racist viewpoints. I clearly recall Reagan's prolific use of "state's rights" language in his speeches down south.

But one of my readers, a very old and dear friend, who now lives in the South and is one of the best Civil War aficionados that I know, after reading my own comments on Georgia last week, sent me several links to show me that people in the South just think differently. He shared with me also the story of H.K. Edgerton's March Across Dixie. I read this biography about H.K. Edgerton, an African American who evidently turned from his involvement in the NAACP and other causes to "embrace" his dixie heritage. My friend also sent me a link to this Dixie paper and this article about a return to a true republic for our country.

I read all of these things with an open mind, and I enjoy a true discussion of these issues with my friend (who despite our disagreements over many other political issues we manage to remain lifelong supporters of each other). I hope I won't offend him or those who believe the same things he does. That is not my intent. But despite his insistence that "southern heritage" is all about getting rid of the federal government's involvement in our business, it is hard to square this with the other aspects of "southern heritage" that still linger and seem to point to (at least to me anyway) a clinging to a way of life that we American's shouldn't want. While the antebellum south may ring with lovely, romantic cultural undertones, in reality, that way of life was built up on a lie.

The lie was that certain human beings aren't worth being called human or treated like humans. It was not just "certain" landowners who treated slaves bad that gives the Confederacy a bad name. It was a culture, a way of life that while the southern states may have felt it was their right to maintain, it was bound to collapse because it was based on a lie. I also know about the arguments that the Civil War wasn't really about slavery, that it was about economics, that it was about the power of the centralized federal government. All those issues were in play. But the bottom line is: the call for flags that bear the symbol of the Confederate battle flag and the protest that they don't represent slavery, the claim that proms divided between black and white kids isn't about racism, the adamant argument that true conservatives should bear the values of "southern heritage," well...these are all points of view that don't involve what I consider to be the bottom line (and my ultimate point to this post): you can't go backwards.

It reminds me of a very current issue here in Oregon: the timber industry's end days. Many small towns in our state are really suffering because the timber industry has moved on. For the most part, it's not because of the evil environmentalists or because of federal intervention, it's because the timber companies found cheaper labor and wood outside this country. These small towns are in some ways holding our state hostage in issues of school funding, property taxes and the like. But while it may sound cruel and unkind, and I don't mean it to be, their time has passed. Just like the time of all the clothing and shoe factories in the Northeast, just like the time for the big steal mills and coal mines, just like the time of Dixie. Just like the state of Oregon should not have to be so influenced by constituencies who will never be able to return to their glory days, I believe that the people who call themselves "Confederate Southern Americans" are not being honest with themselves or this country.

The truth is that there was 400 years of slavery and injustice towards a race of people in this country. From the moment the colonies were established, our country was founded on the backs of men and women who weren't even considered entire human beings in our Constitution - a lie. However our industry worked, however our economic system developed, however the balance between states' rights and the federal government played out, it was ALL built on this lie. It's only in the last 30 years of that entire timeline that this country has even begun to make amends. And the amends aren't only to African Americans, descendants of slaves... the amends need to be made to this entire country. It's no easy task to shift a culture back from a heritage built on 400 years of slavery and the view that certain of us aren't equal. It is going to take a long time. But the longer that our brothers and sisters in the south continue to insist that their "heritage" holds the key to a better America, the longer it will take for this country to get out from under that lie we built our society on.

The point isn't about a flag or a prom. The point is: humanity has moved on, why haven't we?

| -- permanent link