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.
There have always been ex-Presidents who lived beyond their term of office. Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Ike all lived to be reasonably, if not very old men; but it's always been sort of an unwritten tradition that ex-Presidents were allowed to retire gracefully to work on their library legacy (unless you were an established criminal, like Richard Nixon, and then you were allowed to retire in ignominy) and were expected to refrain from comment or criticism of the incumbent, whether he was a member of their party or not.
Of course, many engaged in charitable or philanthropic endeavours and were wheeled out to wave or address the faithful at various party conventions or caucuses, but most knew enough to demur tactfully from any commentary on the state of the government of the day or the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.
Race has always been a part of the 44th Presidency. It couldn't help but be. After all, Barack Obama is the first African American to be elected President. John Kennedy was the first Catholic elected to that position. People spoke about how Kennedy's devotion to Rome would impact upon his legislative agenda, but that only covered his religion. Race, like the poor, is always with society, and it stands to reason that this President's race, whilst it certainly shouldn't impact upon his ability to govern, is clearly a problem, overtly and covertly, with various and sundry citizens of the United States, Right and Left.
Of course, race factors into the Left's perception of the President and his performance, as much - if not more, in a different way - than it does on the Right. It was always going to factor. If Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and the election, the question of gender and her response to certain situations based on the fact that she was a woman, would always be cause for comment and speculation. Certainly, Jack Kennedy's Catholicism and its adherence to the supremacy of Rome, was a mitigating factor for some during his brief Administration.
This is a seminal Presidency, the first time an African-American is Commander-in-Chief.
Having come of age during the Seventies, when the newly-born Progressives were driving the agendae of the Democratic Party with their quest for ensuring equality through Affirmative Action, I watched, often from the sidelines, when the first woman or the first African-American man (or woman) ascended to some post or position heretofore only inhabitable in the realms of the omnipotent white male. Suffice it to say, in each instance, that the performance standard was raised just enough, to ensure that the seminal appointment would either burn out in trying to achieve a success easily achievable by his or her white brethren, or fail. Few failed. Many achieved, but at a cost.
In those days, on the Right, you had administrators who hated the thought of having to compromise their sexism or racism (or both) and who could barely contain their disdain at having whom they considered to be lesser beings in positions of responsibility and authority. Those sorts were easily recogniseable.
Worse, were the supposedly enlightened people of the Left, the ones who went out of their way to refer to any female appointee as "Ms" or who made a great show of lunching with "the black guy" and showing friendly in the office - only to shake his head and tut-tut almost reprovingly each time the slightest error was made, often rolling his eyes as he glanced over his shoulder at the rest of the crew, the action wordlessly admitting, "See, I told you so. Have to show them everything."
And so they would hover. And explain. And assume. And breathe a sigh of relief when the woman or "the black guy" would move to a different department or job. Or he'd seethe silently, if such person deservedly got a promotion he had perceived to be his and his alone.
You can see this now.
It's a pretty inclusive article, but she should have added how elements of the Right, specifically the Tea Party, borrowed principles and techniques from Saul Alinsky and used them to their advantage -the organising and the targeting of communities and people within these communities in order to grow a movement from within. This whole current Republican Party borrowed a lot of organisational methods from the old communist party, in point of fact.
As much as they like to invoke his sainted memory, the Republican Party is not the party of Reagan. These people are the grandchildren of Barry Goldwater and direct lineal descendents from the Birchers of the Fifties and Sixties. The Birchers borrowed a lot of organisational practice from the communist party, from the era when the communists were trying to infiltrate the union movement.
It was from the old communist handbooks that the Birchers learned to infiltrate the lowliest organisations, mingle with the hoi polloi in order that they might see and accept them as people much like themselves (which they were), and then move onto something bigger and better. Start with the PTA, move onto the Town Council, run for Mayor, County Supervisors, State General Assembly etc etc. This might take time, but these people, unlike a lot of people today, understood that incremental change is change that lasts.
Thus, when the Democratic party, under the urbane and suave leadership of Gary Hart and co, newly-minted voters from affluent, professional, white-collard middle class homes, people with no emotional or traditional connection either to the working class or the labor movement, kicked the working class of the rural South, Midwest and other areas of the country to the political curb, the "family values" Republicans, many of whom were people these folks had known all their lives, were there to pick them up, dust them off and turn them in direction Right. Even though a lot of this effort took 30 years to achieve.
Cynthia's right to emphasize the fear tactics and brainwashing used by Fox News and the Right, in general, in order to keep their vast demographic so pulverised with fear that they're basically infantilised - hey, it's always easier to control scared children - and it's fair to say that a lot of this necessity on behalf of the Right's public voice arose after 9/11, when we were all pretty much scared cackless. It's pretty accurate to say that whilst George Bush and Co mananged to keep the country in a heightened state of fear over the spectre of Osama bin Ladin for 8 years, that fear now has been handed on by the Right to focus on the figure of the President, himself.
I'll grant you, for forty years, the Right has systematically demonised the Left to the point that the Left accommodated the Right and abandoned the use of the word "liberal" as a pejorative - instead, reinventing itself under the guise of "Progressive."
We watched the Republicans throw various dirty bits at Bill Clinton, mostly in the shapely shapes of women coming out of the woodwork to tell about his sexual exploits. He was also labelled a cocaine trafficker and a murderer. And now we've seen the Right vilify and seek to delegitimise Barack Obama in a myriad of ways which are just as bad, and worse, than the way Clinton was morphed into Public Enemy Number One, by the GOP.
He's been called a Kenyan, a Mau-mau, a socialist, a communist, a Marxist and a Nazi. He's been accused of being a curious Manchurian candidate, smuggled as a baby into the country by his mother and raised and groomed for the highest office in the Land. Some on the Right have characterised him as an uppity thug; one even called him a liar to his face. He's been accused of wanting to establish death panels, in order to determine who might live and who might die under his Healthcare program. All of this has been force-fed various tranches of the public to the point that they are convinced and nothing and no information could persuade them that they've been fed a tissue of lies.
And that's just from the Right.
Because as the Right has borrowed extensively from the Left in order to beat them at their own game, so the Left is borrowing from the Right and - for some reason - undermining this Administration.
Let me show you how, using some of Cynthia's listed propaganda techniques.
To say Choi's unadulterated hatred of the President is palpable is an understatement. Never mind that the President has enacted more legislation in favour of gay people than any previous President. Never mind he enacted the Matthew Shepherd Act, that he's given partners of gay people beneficiary rights. Never mind that he's repealed DADT or that he invited Choi the signing of that repeal and commended him publically on his activism. Never mind that Choi was filmed swinging from a lampost and waving an American flag outside the White House the night Osama bin Laden was killed, or that he was filmed in the company of Rachel Maddow and Paul Reickhoff. Never mind that the President has instructed the DOJ not to defend DOMA in court, and never mind that the President has said he's in favour of civil unions, which - as I've said - is a euphemism for marriage.
The media is the real driving force of this country, and even that's not made up of responsible professionals anymore.
I watch a BBC political opinion show, and I can expect the moderator to be somone who's covered the political scene since the year dot. I can expect analysis from seasoned political strategists from both sides of the political equation, as well as reliable fact-based opinion from ex-politicians finding new life in the media. What I don't get is a one-sided echo chamber inhabited by ex-sportscasters, superannuated bloggers, hate-filled failed movie producers and lawyers who've found a lucrative side business in political scamming, society matrons, social climbers and ladies who lunch. I don't get comedians who want to be political pundits until they say something totally unacceptable, and then they hide behind the comedian identity. I don't get flip-flopping political hacks.
I don't know what the President intends to do about Afghanistan, and I won't know until well after he's said it. By the time he speaks this evening, I'll be settling down for a night's sleep in the UK; but I do know that I'm not going to attempt to second-guess, much less, instruct him as to what he should do.
I was born during Eisenhower's first Administration. I barely remember Kennedy, and came of age during Nixon and Watergate. In all that time, I can never remember any President previously getting so much unsolicited advice from all quarters, nor can I ever remember any President receiving such hateful and spiteful gratuitous criticism and petulant behaviour from people who are supposed to be from his side of the political equation.
Before every major statement or speech, up pop various and sundry professionally Leftish talking heads, first, to tell us all what the President SHOULD say in his address; then after the speech, itself, they inhabit our screens, the very embodiment of moral and righteous consternation, to tell us why and how the President is wrong, what he should have said and, just basically, what a very bad, weak and naughty boy he has been. The boy bit is never openly stated, but it is just as much implied as if Joe Wilson, himself, had been issuing the criticism.
But then, Joe Wilson, is supposed to criticize. He's the opposition.
From Olbermann and his crony, Michael Moore, on down, we're presented with a series of armchair quarterbacks, who would always do a better job than this President, who know exactly what he should do and just how he should treat the most recalcitrant of Congresses, and who always end up by issuing a dire threat to the President that all-important votes will be witheld in the ensuing election, if he doesn't abide by their advice and orders.
For the life of me, I don't remember Bill Clinton ever receiving so much criticism masked as advice during his two terms; in fact, Olbermann, who doesn't vote, was much too much involved with the sporting sphere during many of those years.
It strikes a special chord with me which sounds suspiciously like a dog whistle.
I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but when you're born and bred in the South, you learn to recognise dog whistlin', even if the tune being whistled isn't "Dixie."
Olbermann, in "Special Comment" mode can be seriously scary, with his big head filling the screen space and his laboured and foghorned voice excoriating whomever, usually, the President. I can imagine him a frightful bully, but a bully who leads from behind the video camera as that section of the plebeian masses who harken to his call and recognize him to be the "voice" they, for some unfathomable reason, reckon they cannot use.
I can easily imagine him the snarky, cumurdgeonly bachelor uncle who'd verbally paste a kid for traipsing mud from the playground across his antique oriental carpet. Just as easily, when he's severely admonishing the President, I get a mental image of Marse Keith, elegantly dressed in jodpurs and with a riding crop in one hand and shaking the index finger of the other in the face of a suitably penitent President.
But what's so infuriating to Keith (and to Miss Jane and Marse Cenk and Miss Joan and all the rest) is the fact that, damn it, this President SHOULD be awfully sorry that he hasn't done anything they reckon he's said he'd do but carries on doing what he thinks is best and isn't sorry at all. In fact, on occasion, he's been damned uppity towards them ... and here's a man, an African American, whom they put in the White House in the first place before that nice white woman who'd been First Lady - ne'mind Marse Keith had plenty to say about her, even reckoning she should be horse-whipped when she wouldn't drop out of the primary race.
This is a minor character redux from Gone With the Wind. Seriously, it is, with Olbermann as the benevolently tyrannical Gerald O'Hara, berating his trusty foreman, Big Sam, for not following orders. In that society, Gerald O'Hara was the privileged master whose job was to tell his servant - say it, his slave - Big Sam what to do, how to do, and when to do it.
Then there was a Civil War, and Gerald O'Hara went mad and died. And Big Sam kept the business running. Maybe it's time Olbermann either put up an actual vote, which would give him a voice, go over to the Dark Side (because he's aiding and abetting them as it is), or just go mad and let the President keep the business running - perhaps with a bit less gratuitous criticism and a little more faith.