Although I rarely care much about what The New Republic has to say, one of their writers, Brian Beutler, has had a marvelous idea: We should celebrate April 9 as a national holiday. April 9 is the day of Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, thereby ending the south's war for slavery.
But 150 years on, we know that subjugation is a moral obscenity, and that there's no valid modern argument for spitshining the Confederacy.
Today, the South is home to innumerable counties, schools, and other monuments named in honor of Confederate men, or established to celebrate the Confederacy itself. The federal government can’t change that on its own, but it can refuse to participate in the celebration. It could rename these 10 army installations after Union fighters. It could remove monuments to the Confederacy (as opposed to museums and landmarks) from the National Register of Historic Places, and disclaim any obligation to finance their maintenance. It could stop producing headstones for Confederate graves—as Steven I. Weiss documented in The Atlantic, the feds process nearly 2,000 of these a year, at a cost of half a million dollars, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for maintaining more Confederate graves and monuments than Union ones. It could remove the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and place it in the custody of the Smithsonian—or at least end the spectacle of the president of the United States bestowing it with a wreath every Memorial Day. We aren’t being polite to anyone worthy of politeness, or advancing any noble end, by continuing to honor traitors in this way.
I am particularly glad that Beutler used the T word -- traitor
-- to describe the secessionists. The Confederacy was the first attempt to create a modern fascist state, and everyone who reveres that flag should be categorized alongside those who wear the swastika.
Today's Republican party hosts many "secession-flirters" such as Ron Paul and Rick Perry -- yet these would-be traitors speak as though they
have a hammerlock on patriotism. They wave the flag and wear tricorner hats and make frequent reference to the founding fathers.
This situation is infuriating. These "patriots" despise American values and long to live in a fascist theocracy, yet they would question my
right to call myself an American.
As Ed Kilgore
I’m all for any measures that improve our memories of the racial history of the South, 200 years ago, 150 years ago, 100 years ago and last week. The most important reason for doing so is that the same horrific ideas—-the inferiority of people of color, the power of states to nullify and secede, the unconstitutional nature of democracy—keep coming back over and over again.
But on the other hand, there’s considerable value in reminding us all that armed rebellion against the United States was an act of treason, not of “honor” or some sort of higher patriotism. Certainly the blood of all those killed or maimed in the years before Appomattox, and the grinding poverty to which southerners of both races were consigned for a century afterwards, are squarely on the heads of those who decided they could not tolerate even the possibility of slavery being restricted or prohibited in the country’s new western territories. The defeat of these people was indeed a huge turning point for the United States, and the fact that it was not made more permanent is one of our enduring tragedies.
I'll go further.
We need to remind the Southern-fried Jesusmaniacs of one simple fact: They are evil and we are good.
Everyone else on the planet laughs
at Pat Robertson and those who are like him. Ask a European to name ten great Americans: The only southerner on the list will be Dr. King.
Southerners produce no great art or truly noble music. They don't even produce first-rank writers anymore: Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner are long dead. Can you name a great southern scientist? (TV's Sheldon Cooper doesn't count. His mom is more representative of that part of the country.) Instead, redneck culture emits maniac preachers, UFO-spotters and Honey Boo-Boo. The Monster of the Id wears no leash on that side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Southern culture is, in a word, inferior
. Let us not be afraid to use that term. Refusing to identify inferior values for what they are will only perpetuate those evils.
(I would also add that many who live in the north may be considered southerners in spirit. Sarah Palin comes to mind.)
We liberals are often faulted and foolish. We, too, continually struggle with the bestial sides of our natures. We cannot claim to live up to our ideals. Yet the best of us have taken the necessary first step of choosing the right
values -- the values of the Age of Enlightenment
. I freely admit that blue state liberals are often as brutish as southerners -- but at least liberal thinkers and writers understand that our lapses into brutishness are a cause for shame. Southerners are proud
to be primitive.
Southern fundamentalist "Christians" consider the very word enlightenment
to be odious. That foundational bigotry explains why so many of them believe in mythical conspiracies involving the Illuminati and the Freemasons, who were the vanguard of the Enlightenment.
The ideals of the south -- unbridled neoliberalism, militarism, religious fundamentalism, racism, antipathy for science, hatred of reason, the primacy of the Id -- have brought this country (and perhaps the world) to the brink of ruin.
I suggest that we celebrate April 9 as Enlightenment Day. On that day, let us invite those trapped in southern culture to rejoin humanity. Let us not just commemorate our victory in a necessary war; let us celebrate the ideals of Voltaire, Montesquieu and Thomas Paine. Let us celebrate the glorious Ninth.
Here's one way to do so: Listen to to the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, the ultimate expression of freemasonic ideals
Perhaps we should call it Illuminati Day. That'd really
tweak the noses of those superstitious ninnies.