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June 6, 2002

Lost and loster
Posted by Teresa at 08:31 AM *

“a/k/a Abraham’s Mentally Challenged Stepdaughters,” says Jack Womack; “Check this fascinating article out if you haven’t seen it already.”

Thank you, Jack. The article is “Confederate Flap: Rebels with an old cause reclaim their town’s not-so-glorious heritage with the assistance of a black mayor” in The American Prospect; and for certain values of “enjoy”, I enjoyed the hell out of it:

About halfway through dinner, Hart asks if I have heard of the Battle of New Market, which took place on May 15, 1864. General John Breckenridge of the Confederacy, ordered to save the Shenandoah Valley from Union forces, found himself short of manpower and reluctantly called up cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. At a crucial moment in the battle, the cadets, mostly teenagers, charged and held their position, swinging momentum to the Confederacy. Ten were killed. The valley was saved. At this point in the story, Hart’s voice begins to crack. His eyes well with tears. He apologizes: He can’t go on. It is the second time during our dinner that Hart has become choked up over Civil War battles. He is wearing a Confederate tie. He sports a Confederate wristwatch. And now he is verklempt.

Fortunately, there is a lot to be said about the crimes of cruel fate against the southern people, and my other dinner companions are more than happy to pick up where Hart leaves off. For if the Sons of Confederate Veterans have an unusually vivid sense of history, they have an equally well-developed persecution complex. “We are now the ones in the minority and finding our civil rights trampled,” Richardson says. Like members of any oppressed group, they are determined to reclaim their identity. “I had to go to the doctor about a year ago, and you had to put your race on a little form,” he recalls with the evident pride of someone who has beaten the system at its own game. “And I put ‘Southern Confederate.’”

In fact, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are fond of turning the rhetoric of the relativist left in on itself — and using it skillfully to decidedly nonliberal ends. “In this era of mutual respect and social healing,” Richardson asks, “how can everyone come together to be homogenous when the only people who can come together to celebrate their history are those people?” (He is referring to blacks.) “We all have a unique heritage, and we have more similarities than we do differences,” Fred Taylor, the group’s lieutenant commander, says of southerners. “Our strength is our diversity,” Richardson adds.

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