Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A (much-anticipated?) Update:

I apologize for my absence. My mother came into town last Friday, so my weekend was spent enjoying her company at both historic sites and retail establishments. Saturday we went to the re-dedication ceremony in Roswell for the mill workers monument. It was a very innocuous affair --the story of the mill workers is so sad and compelling that it would be difficult to have turned the ceremony into a fire-eating screed against the North. Nevertheless, the master of ceremonies did make an almost-predictable reference to Robert E. Lee.

The monument ceremony at Roswell was put on by the local chapter of the SCV. The audience was populated by the “grannies” of the SCV –that is, SCV members that are not interested in pursuing the shrill, populist/nationalist ideology that has begun to pervade the organization’s top leadership. The Southern Poverty Law Center (an anathema to most heritage-types) has published a long and interesting article on the recent changes in the SCV in their magazine Intelligence Report. Here is the link:

http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=614

Though I’ve heard SCV members disparage the integrity SPLC numerous times (perhaps a kernel of truth exists in some of their claims that the SPLC has its own agenda), some SCV men have begun to question the direction in which their organization has been heading. On Monday I interviewed a longtime SCV member and all-round history buff who said he had his resignation letter penned because he believed that organization was headed in the direction of the Klan. He also told me that entire camps have –forgive the wordplay—seceded from the SCV. Alternative, watered-down heritage groups are popping up across the South.

On Sunday my mom and I hiked up Stone Mountain. I made some attempts at interviewing hikers as they ascended the granite mass. Most said that they never gave a second thought to the carving: they were there to enjoy nature. When pressed, some expressed a distaste for the carving because it spoiled the rock face. Of course, there is selection bias here. I’d expect crunchy hiker-types would have a distaste for the memorial on both environmental and political grounds.

The laser light show was really a post-modern experience. Because I don’t really venerate the three Confederates emblazoned on the rock (Lee, Jackson, Davis), I was surprised to find myself uncomfortable with the irreverent lightshow. Of course, the designer of the show gave a nod to the carving’s historical roots with an image of Lee breaking his sword (a story, as I understand, that never happened). But the patriotic medley following right on the heels of the Dixie medley must have given thoughtful spectators pause. Then again, one of the paradoxes of some die-hard Lost Causers is that they also happen to be the most hawkish and patriotic. So perhaps in the name of entertainment, designers unwittingly created show that was a fairly accurate demonstration of Southern attitudes –from ardent secessionism to ardent patriotism (with the whole unfortunate Jim Crow, KKK thing edited out…)

In one of the stranger moments of the evening (and there were many) I approached a family lying on Confederate beach towels to interview. As I explained myself and my project, I was interrupted by one family member:

“He don’t speak English so good,” the man said of his friend/relative in an unmistakably Mexican accent. Further inquiry into the relationship of new Southerners to the Old South could prove quite interesting.

12 Comments:

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous David Corbett said...

Wasn't it Dr. Samuel Johnson who quipped : "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel ."? I'm sure the Founding Fathers were embarrassed by the "stunts" of the Sons of Liberty .
Regarding the Jim Crow and KKK : Although today we regard it with anathema , one must consider how radical it was for the Radical Republican Federal government to punish /humiliate the white south by using African American garrision troops and politicians and forbiding most white southerners sufferage. Consider that the north ( although less organized ) , also resisted integration with violence and legislation . I enjoy your project ; write on !
David Corbett

 
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At 6:26 AM, Anonymous SCV Member said...

Interesting blog. I'm always interested in anything to do with the civil war, especially in the area of Bartow County, Georgia. I'm an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

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