May 09, 2010

The Atlantic's Observance of Confederate History Month

Continuing, or in some cases reviving, long-standing but utterly unwelcome customs, several southern states declared April "Confederate History Month". The occasion redeemed itself by provoking a long series of posts from Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, each of which "observ[s]e some aspect of the Confederacy—but through a lens darkly". These begin with one whose peroration is worthy of Mencken,

This is who they are—the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn't "have had all these problems," this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a "Real American" with no demonstrable interest in "Real America" then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.
The whole of it is a moving, empathic, and thereby all the more devastating meditation on memory, pride, shame, racism, heroism, moral courage, myths, the great personalities of the Civil War, and the enduring legacy of one of America's two great founding sins; on just how it is that we can be a country where a month set aside to remember a heritage of treason in defense of slavery is intended as a time of celebration and not of soul-searching.

(Owing to the folly of that venerable magazine's web design, there doesn't seem to be a single page collecting them, but I think this is the entire sequence: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21.)

(Incidentally, last week Coates asked his readers to explain financial derivatives to him, and this week he's move on to nuclear weapons. I speculate that if enough people buy his book, he is certain to not try out the business plan "1. Take a big position in the end-of-the-world trade; 2. Enrich uranium; 3. Profit!")

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The Beloved Republic; Writing for Antiquity

Posted at May 09, 2010 09:00 | permanent link

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