Monday, April 19, 2010

A Friend's Comments on Being Southern

A friend of mine, who doesn't wish to be identified by name, but is a native white Alabamian like me, had the following comments on proclamations about Confederate history that I found interesting:

"The first of my family arrived in Jamestown in 1610.  By the mid-18th century, we had achieved the American dream of owning property.  I grew up in Alabama, but now live in Virginia inside the Capitol Beltway with a view of Washington, DC.  When I first started working in the area, I lived in Fredericksburg.  Everyone thought my move from Alabama would have to be a cultural shock, and it was, but not the shock that many thought it would be.  Alabama is known as the “Heart of Dixie” and the “Cradle of the Confederacy,” but it was not until I moved to Fredericksburg that I almost felt like I had left the United States and moved to the Confederate States of America.  Fredericksburg is very proud of its history, and the Battle of Fredericksburg was one of the major battles won by the Confederacy.  Like so many people and places in the South, Fredericksburg is sometimes contradictory – proud of Confederate past and giving 64% of its vote to Obama in 2008.

When I first moved to Northern Virginia, I found it amusing that a major street in the DC area is named after the President of the Confederacy, but now Jeff Davis Highway is very much a part of my daily life.  It is very true that the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression) has never ended.  The reason that I use the alternate name for the war is that Davis worked so hard to prove that it was not a war of southern aggression and would not allow the Confederate troops to push on into and capture Washington.  If he had been more aggressive at the beginning of the war the outcome of the war could have been different, but that is an argument that will never be resolved.
The governors of Virginia and Mississippi are not the only governors to proclaim April as Confederate History Month – there are several including Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana.  The interesting (and ironic) point to me is that the governors that have made this proclamation are all Republicans.  As the article pointed out, the two previous Virginia governors (both Democrats) did not make a similar proclamation.  The governor before these two Democrats was Gov. Gilmore (a Republican) and he also created a controversy by proclaiming April as Confederate History Month.  Abraham Lincoln (the first Republican President) was in office during a most uncivil war in which brothers (including some in my family) fought on different sides.
In September 2008, during the Presidential Campaign, I had dinner in Alexandria, Virginia with several people from Alabama and I made the statement that the Republican Party has taken over the State of Alabama lock, stock, and Ku Klux Klan.  This made one woman extremely angry and I asked her who she thought the Klan was voting for – Obama?  A Klansman once told me that after over 100 years of fighting Republicans, the Klan had no choice but to join them.  A few months ago someone that lives in Virginia told me that racism no longer exists in the country, but I must respectfully disagree and say that racism is alive and well throughout this country.
Even though I had six ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and another ancestor that was a Methodist minister who served as a Confederate Army chaplain, I have no desire to celebrate Confederate History Month.  It is time to let the dead bury the dead, and move on to living issues.  We need to push for even better health care for all U.S. citizens, equal rights for all U.S. citizens, reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and learn to live in peace with other nations and with each other.
There is one other interesting piece of irony about our history and that is the fact that a portrait of Jefferson Davis hangs inside the Pentagon.  I know this because I have seen it.  It is in the hall of portraits of former Secretaries of War/Defense, and Jeff Davis was a Secretary of War for the United States"

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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