Hurrah, boys, Hurrah!
One crying shame about the way we Americans do history is that we always seem so scared of our own. Just like the immaturity to which we tend to approach the subject of modern war, we bend over backwards to justify oversimplification and ignorance about past wars.
Confederate History Month is not some new thing, even if most Confederates in the Attic celebrate it for the wrong reasons.
We should not shy away from our past, we should not gloss it over. When political hacks issue proclamations of Confederacy memorials, don't oppose them, encourage them to include the whole history. Tell the whole story. Own American and Confederate and Civil War history and we will be better for it. The story is more complex and heroic and tragic and redemptive than almost any other episode in our history.
And yes, that story includes the story of slavery. Bookman is absolutely right. If you're going to tell one story, you got to tell the whole story. But the story doesn't stop at slavery, either.
This story is the American Epic and we spend most of our time debating whether to tell it wrong or ignore it completely. The past is never dead, it ain't even past. But you wouldn't be able to tell by the way we treat it in the mainstream.
Every day I drive by reminders of the Confederacy. A statue of General Robert E. Lee is exhaulted over Lee Circle in a premier roundabout. A statue of General P. G. T. Beauregard on horseback guards a roundabout two blocks from my house. I pass a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on my way to and back from work - it is located on Jefferson Davis Parkway which makes up most of my route. This is shortly before or after I turn onto Calhoun Street. If I travel east to Georgia, I pass through a city named Slidell. When I pick up friends from the airport, I travel to a city named Kenner.
I live in one of the most diverse, culturally African and Carribean cities in America, and every day is Confederate Memorial Day.
Every. Single. Day.
And no one seems to know why. Why would we still be ashamed to talk about slavery and its pivotal role in both American history and the war, while at the same time we declare we've moved on from its legacy? If you never owned slaves, why in the hell are you afraid to talk about slavery in academic ways? And if you think the war was just about ending slavery, why did Lincoln specifically include exceptions in the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves held in Orleans Parish, coastal counties of South Carolina and Georgia, and the border states?
Hell, the guy who helped design the Rebel Flag was from St. Bernard Parish and owned a home in the French Quarter. In a city that liberally celebrates its overwhelming cultural contributions to America, why can't I find three people who even know that?
No, no. I know the answer to all these questions and more: because it is complicated, that's why. And we don't like complications. It may mean we have to take off the team colors for a minute and think.
Which is a shame, really. Especially when talking about the Civil War.