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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Op-Ed: Question everything - especially them

As a recovering Confederate-apologist, I have become quite sensitive to the propagation of Lost Cause mythology that is so pervasive among southern heritage bloggers today. Since my conversion I have come to realize that there is such a vast difference between writing Confederate history and worshipping it. I am most irritated over the Confederate-apologist’s constant use of the term “revisionist” when referring to anyone who disagrees with their version of the Civil War.

The implication of that statement is that the act of revision is a bad thing. This could not be further from the truth. Revision is actually good. Revision means to expand on - or correct. According to the textbook definition:

Historical revisionism is the critical re-examination of presumed historical facts and existing historiography, it is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding a historical event. The constant revision of history is part of the normal scholarly process of writing history.

How can that possibly be looked upon as a negative? After all, what IS the study of history, but the search for deeper meaning? The fact of the matter is that these southern heritage folks have zero interest in deeper meaning. They are completely satisfied with their own versions of historical memory and have absolutely no desire to evolve in these perceptions. They also appear to live in constant fear of learning anything new. As if that is also a bad thing. I was once told by a southern writer that perhaps there isn’t anything new to add to the discussion. His exact words were: “Maybe there's nothing new to tell. I don’t seek the new - just the facts. New and faddish are related.” What?

You may have noticed that I don't really plug my first three books on this blog anymore. Why? Because I once felt the exact same way as these folks and it definitely skewed my historical interpretations. Thankfully I realized my bias and worked very hard on my last three books to correct that. Now I find myself debating the very same folks that I once considered kindred spirits. Fortunately my academic friends have been trying very hard to convince me that you cannot reason with these folks. They are fanatically set in their ways and they will not waiver. Don't try and debate them they say. Instead, question them…

Considering the overwhelming historical record, it's appropriate to ask: Why is it so difficult for so many Confederate apologists to admit that the ONE state's right that mattered above all else - according to the secessionists themselves - was the 'right' to own slaves? That the one type of 'property' that they were concerned with, above all else, was the nearly 4 million slaves that they owned? Worth several billion dollars in 1860 money - which translates into the equivalent of how many tens of billions, today?

I believe that many people are in fact sincere when they say things like 'heritage, not hate' and 'it wasn't really about slavery.' But the only reason they can say these things sincerely, I believe, is because they are genuinely ignorant of what the secessionists themselves wrote and said to justify their cause. We are simply not taught these things in history classes in school, not shown the original speeches and documents that make so clear what it was about. But with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War fast upon us, the historical revisionism will be coming fast and furious. So we had best be prepared to confront the apologists with the words and documents of the secessionists.  

Ask them to explain the Confederate Constitution’s provisions on slavery. Ask them to explain the various declarations of the causes of secession put out by the states. Ask them to explain what the secession commissioners wrote and said, as official representatives of their states. And see if, once they are informed and educated, they can still bring themselves to romanticize the Lost Cause. - What Caused the Civil War: or, How to argue with a Confederate apologist

I embrace this newfound perspective not in an attempt to disrespect Confederate history or those who have an attachment to it...I simply believe that we do a great disservice when we alter historical memory in support of a preconceived notion or agenda. Unfortunately, this has become the norm among many so called "Pro-Confederate" heritage groups. Far too many folks are flat out ignoring or disregarding the issue of slavery, or propagating myths such as the Black Confederates.

In their efforts to legitimate their perspective, they are actually creating a false memory of their forefathers. This renders their credibility useless and nullifies their counter-argument capabilities.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 2:24 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 16 April 2012 12:13 PM EDT
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