At the recommendation of a fellow Southerner, I’m currently reading a book I should have read long ago – Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic.
It’s one of the most honest representations of the Southern psyche I’ve yet to read, without any of the snark, insinuation, condescension and assumption many on the Left make about Southerners, as a whole, today.
But it also made me realise something supremely ironic.
There’s a chapter devoted to a week-long odyssey Horwitz made with a real hardcore Civil War re-enactor named Robert Lee Hodge, who’s now, actually, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker. The idea was to cover all the major Virginia battlefields in a one-week blast – basically, condense four years of fighting into one week. Hodge referred to the trek as a “Civil Wargasm.”
I guess there’s still plenty of that left in Virginia, where the bulk of the fighting took place, and the first great irony of this was that Virginia could also be deemed a site of Revolutionary Wargasm too – the colony-cum-state who produced so many of the original Founders, including the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, should also produce many of its military and political brethren who tried, for one reason or another, to rend it asunder. Oh hell … the damned ordeal was all about slavery. Any fool knows that, and it’s a bigger one who doesn’t or who says he doesn’t.
Horwitz’s book was written in the mid-1990s, when we had a Bubba in the White House, a Bubba as Vice-President and a Bubba as Speaker of the House. Yes, the South had risen again and morphed into Bubba Heaven.
Horwitz and Hodge hit Richmond during the week that the City Council was meeting to discuss the possibility of placing an additional statue on Richmond’s famous (or infamous, depending on who you are) Monument Avenue. This is a wide thoroughfare in the city adorned with humoungous statues of Confederate icons – Lee, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and the rock star, himself, Jeb Stuart. The single biggest testament to a gaggle of losers to be found anywhere, and I’m saying that as a Southerner. Honest to Pete (Longstreet, Confederate general and BFF of Ulysses S Grant, who turned Republican after the War), Monument Avenue is a real testament to Lost Cause mentality.
At the time of Horwitz’s visit, however, the Council was debating whether or not to add a statue of a real son of Richmond, an iconic sportsman and a true hero, Arthur Ashe, who’d recently died.
Horwitz listened as the first two members of the public rose to speak. They were two elderly men, one white and one black.
An elderly white man in a seersucker suit and a red bow tie was one of the first to speak. His appearance and courtly drawl fit my stereotype of a stuffy Richmonder – an image that his words quickly contradicted. “We have Monument Avenue, not Confederate War Monument Avenue,” he said. “Let’s change it from a fantasy to a true Monument Avenue. If we don’t, we’ll be saying to the world that Arthur Ashe was not good enough to be on that street.”
He was followed by a retired black foreman who expressed a similar view. “We’vegot to do something now to get over that fight back then,” he said, referring obliquely to the Civil War. “That’s the only way we’ll sort out this black/white thing.”
The arguments go back and forth, until suddenly someone politicizes it:-
“Ashe isn’t a soldier and his statue will barely reach Lee’s saddle,” said Wayne Byrd, who headed a chapter of the Heritage Preservation Association, a pro-Rebel flag group … “This statue will trivialize Ashe and be disrespectful of Confederate-Americans who hallow the other men on that street.”
Whoa, here! Just a couple of points. Byrd is a big FFV name in Virginia – that’s First Families of Virginia. In fact, the Byrds literally founded Richmond, brick by brick. They certainly dominated politics for years. To those of us who owed them scant respect(because we recognised them as drunkards, corrupt and inept politicians and general assholes), we have the saying, “shit for the Byrds,” meaning nothing worth a damn, like them. They had their heritage and their political sinecures, often passed down from father to son, until the last Senator, young Harry, who couldn’t stay with the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act was made law, but couldn’t make himself part and parcel of the Party of Lincoln.
I guess his kinsman Wayne could, however, because, during a break in the meeting, Horwitz approached Wayne Byrd, and asked him what he meant by the term “Confederate-American.”
“A Confederate-American – then and now – is simply anyone who’s against big government,” he said.
Stand UP and be counted, Michele Bachmann, Ron and Rand, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, the entire Bush family, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, John Thune, Sarah Palin, Allen West, Darrell Issa, Orrin Hatch, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Nikki Haley, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman … and Saint Ronald Reagan, who intoned that government was the problem?
You get my drift?
If Confederate-Americans are people who are against big government, then that’s the Republican Party!
Isn’t it ironic that the Party of Lincoln has now become synonymous with the definition of what a Confederate-American is?
But wait a minute … wasn’t it Big Bubba, you know Number 42, a Democrat, who proclaimed in 1996 (right about the time Horwitz’s book was on the Bestsellers’ List), that “the era of big government was over?”
The world is full of oxymorons.
And, by the way, Arthur Ashe’s statue now adorns Monument Avenue.