Vital Signs

Living With the Past

Returning from the Abbeville Institute’s conference on Confederate symbols, I began thinking of all the things I failed to say in my talk on the campaign of cultural genocide waged against the South.  I had addressed my argument to people who already respected the Southern tradition and quite properly resented the program of demonization and reeducation that was aimed at obliterating Southern historical memory.

But, I was thinking, what can one say to people who are not prepared to admit that the Antebellum South was the apogee of civilization in North America?  One effective argument is the reductio ad absurdum, and this was cleverly made by Kirkpatrick Sale, best known, perhaps, for his book condemning Columbus.  Brilliantly parodying his arguments, without giving away who authored them, he called for all of Columbus’s monuments to be torn down and all places bearing the hated name—from Columbus Circle in New York to Columbus, Ohio—to be changed.  He did wonder if the government of Colombia would listen to reason.

In the same vein, Barbara Marthal, a gifted African-American storyteller, called for the elimination of black-eyed peas from the American diet and declared that even the sight of a cotton field caused her anxiety.  In the course of her remarks, she recounted her first date with her husband-to-be.  She was shocked to find out he belonged to the Sons...

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