Germany has no monument to the slave state that was the Third Reich or to its leaders that betrayed Germany. Why does the American South? Best course is to honor the memory of the dead and to remember the evil of the period.
During a recent visit to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia, I found it disturbing that Georgia's secession statement was not to be found. The historical display seemed to convey a false equivalency between the two sides in the war. The Confederacy was a slave state and its reason for going to war - made clear in the states' secession statements - was the cause of maintaining and expanding slavery.
All Americans, southerners included, should be deeply ashamed of our Confederate and segregationist history. This heritage is disgraceful; why embrace it? For generations, maintaining the Civil War myth of noble causes and valiant enemies served to cushion the agony of defeat for Southern whites while glorifying the victory of union forces. Hidden was the evil of state sponsored slavery, segregation and oppression. Good reasons existed for 'white lies' wanting to accept blatant racism. No matter their station, all US citizens of Anglo-Saxon origin were able to play the game of life on an easier setting than minorities.
Near the Kennesaw National Park lies Stone Mountain Park. The state owns the mountain but the same family that operates Dollywood runs the amusement park and attractions. Here is the very heart of the old Confederacy and the park includes the Confederate Memorial described as:
"The Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain is the largest relief carving in the world. Learn how it came to be through exhibits featuring original designs, scale models and the 11-minute feature film The Men Who Carved the Mountain. Stand beside full-scale replicas of some of the elements of the carving while enjoying a grand view of the memorial itself."
Last month, the park and memorial drew unwelcome visitors. Described by Atlanta television station FOX 5:
"The main demonstration, the "Rock Stone Mountain" is advertised as an "openly Pro White March up Stone Mountain that climaxes in a rally at the top." A concert will be held later in the day at a separate location in connection to the event. The organizer, out of Hapeville, previously told FOX 5 News they want to call attention to the "cultural Marxists" who are attempting to erase Confederate Heritage and the white race as a whole."
However, times appear to be changing. The organizers of the 'Pro White March' expected a crowd of 2,000 people. Less than 25 individuals appeared for the event. Two counter protests with hundreds of diverse people forced the 'Pro-White' demonstrators behind police barricades.
Both sides declared victory. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a 'Pro-White' March attendee, Joseph Andrews, "They didn't win. They didn't shut us down. We had a successful, peaceful rally,". Meanwhile, a counter-protestor, Dawn O'Neal, held a positive view; "We made a statement that we are not gonna get intimidated by and watch this terrorist group harass and incite fear and violence...We stood up to them today."
The real news is that the 'Pro-White March' people were unable to muster more than 25 of their expected 2,000 marchers. The ethnically diverse counter-protesters in their hundreds vastly outnumbered the marchers. Are times really changing in the old Confederacy? I think that they are, in the South's own way.
During this tour of the South, I saw even more urbanization and greater diversity. In the ten days of my travels, I saw only one Confederate style flag. The vaunted southern hospitality was still wonderfully on display. If anything though, rural tribalism seems to have gotten both better and worse. Southern communities have as many, or more, churches than northeastern cities have bars. But the churches are getting bigger.
Racial divisions are strong but only because political and religious groups work hard to keep them that way. These efforts are failing. Increasing urbanization forces interactions of people. The international manufacturing companies are also bringing change not just through forced diversity in the workplace but also by introducing foreign ideas such as unions can be good (Tennessee) and all people should be treated fairly (Mississippi and North Carolina).
If the South is changing, why are the state legislatures still passing laws the rest of the nation considers cruel and foolish? The machinations of old politicians and white elites are the result of change. A general abhorrence exists at the undermining of what the old guard sees as religion and morals. This fear is what underwrites the political extremism found in many state legislative branches.
For now, gerrymandering coupled with attempts to make voting difficult, if not impossible, serve to limit diversity and energize a primarily, rural, white and fundamentalist Christian base to get out the vote. Certainly, it hurts economically but that is the cost of the old guard maintaining control and slowing change.
They are plugging a perceived hole in a dike while the seas of change wash around and over them. They have already failed.