Restricted All Recent Confederate Heritage & Battle Flag Events...

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Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Feb 20, 2005
Right here.
No, I've haven't, now please tell me that the poster(#889) cherrypicked "Trust me. The South is no place for beginners. It's power of denial can turn a lost war into a vibrant, necessary form of national chic." so I can feel better about Allan Gurganus.

It's about the confederate flag that flew on the South Carolina statehouse. He's against the flag but in favor of the South. I know there are some who think that's not possible, but it is indeed possible.

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The novelist Walker Percy was often asked why so many darkly comic writers of genius arose from the American South. He answered, ''Because we lost.'' Then he laughed, with a shaman's economy and a cracker's certainty.

In three elegant words, Percy named the region's greatest shame and its uncanny secret power: our habit of anticipating defeat while never accepting it.

Trust me. The South is no place for beginners. Its power of denial can turn a lost war into a vibrant, necessary form of national chic. That same knack has also given us a dreadful reputation.

The virulent Rebel spirit still flies -- unsubtle as a flag run up a pole -- over South Carolina's Statehouse. Literally. This Confederate battle flag was first raised to commemorate the Civil War's centennial 34 years back. Until now, nobody has found the nerve or the vision to simply yank it down.

And why? The answer is aptly perverse: ''Because we lost,'' the flag must remain. That is, until now.

Sigmund Freud might have been practicing in Atlanta -- practicing on Atlanta -- when he announced:

''We overcame the transference by pointing out to the patient that his feelings do not arise from the present situation . . . but they are repeating something that happened to him earlier. In this way, we oblige him to transform his repetition into memory.''

These days, those memories are saleable, exportable. Shiloh is picturesque, touristic. The President and Vice President? An Arkansan and a Tennessean. Burned Atlanta now plays host to the Fortune 500.

Having once fought hard for a divorce from the United States, having been outgunned, outlawyered, burned flat, then alimonied near to death, we Southerners were left with little more than our lore. To that, at least, we held on tight. For a century, memory was all we had to sell.

Picture Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery on Confederate Memorial Day, 1871. Pretty dresses, gray uniforms, all the crutches. To a crowd of 6,000, the Rev. John L. Giradeau gave a speech. He might have been speaking about the worries of present-day African-Americans or Israelis or Palestinians.

'Let us cling to our identity as a people! The danger is upon us of losing it -- of its being absorbed and swallowed up in that of a people which, having despoiled us of the rights of freemen, assumes to do our thinking, our legislating, and our ruling for us. Influences are operating on us with every breath we draw which, if we be not vigilant, will sooner or later wipe out every distinctive characteristic which has hitherto marked us. Are we prepared for it? . . . Nothing of the past will be left to the South but a history which will read like an elegiac poem, nothing for the present but a place on the maps which our children study . . . a single existence, a geographical one. But can we preserve our identity in the face of the difficulties which oppose it?''

The Reverend need not have worried so. Though South Carolina might look somewhat like Ohio, it is still confoundedly South Carolina. For better and for worse. Fifteen years ago, we were told the Southern accent would disappear. Tain't so!

The North sent us carpetbaggers; we sent them chef Paul Prudhomme on a golf cart. Guess who made the bigger dent? Today black professionals are returning en masse to the South. These days country music is not just played at Nashville barn dances. The region that gave birth to both jazz and the blues is at last -- thanks to Junior Chambers of Commerce -- considered jazzy, bluesy, sexy. Rather than blandify our food to match the occupying force's, we've lent our spice to the Yankee blahs. And at a pretty good markup.

But certain rankling emblems remain, symbols of the Bad Old South and not the Good New Gourmet One.

In 1962, South Carolina rehoisted the Confederate battle flag over its Statehouse. The thing is still snapping there. The trouble with raising such a pennant: Once it's up there, you can't exactly pull it down unnoticed. If you raise a war flag in a time of peace, the rules of war will always govern it -- even 131 years after you lost the bloody war. And there's the bind.
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