In the article “The Confederate Mystique”, AndrewO’Hehir discusses the emergence of proto-nationalist movements in the called”Southern States” of the U.S.A. following the white supremacist protest inCharlottesville, Virginia on the 11th of August of 2017.O’Hehir picks up Ulysses S. Grant’s struggle duringthe civil war, the peace signing, and his memory today, as a way to show thatthe morality of the Southern “cause” was already highly questioned by itscontemporaries.
After a brief introduction regarding the deeds ofGrant, O’Hehir formulates what is, for him, the issue at hand: That is how thegreat military hero of the Civil War and the 18th president of the UnitedStates (…) saw that flag that now adorns so many front porches, so many dormrooms, so many rear windows of Silverado pickups. It was a symbol of “thestupendous crime of treason.” O’Hehir believes all Confederate symbols to be not only abhorrent anddangerous but also criminal, questioning President elect Trump on his defenseof the Confederate monuments when standing against their demolition.The author goes on to argue that Grant’s memory has been let go, oftentimes being remembered negatively, whilst Robert E. Lee, hero of “SouthernAristocracy”, seems to be remembered as a “dashing Virginia gentleman”, a heroand a martyr.
O’Hehir continues pressing that the ideas of a romanticized moral South anda demonic liberal North are very real, proceeding to compare this century longidea with the concept of “Make America great again”, which O’Hehir claims toalso be a fantasy easily digestible.A reference to Victor Fleming’s Gonewith the Wind is made, in which the writer points out the dangeroussanitization performed upon the Southern personalities in the film. This isfollowed by two occurrences experienced by the author, a first one in which anolder family member from the South expressed her ignorance towards the fact thepeople of colour felt that the Confederate flag was hurtful, and asecond occurrence in which a beach towel was being sold with the Confederateflag and a Cannabis leaf on it. Both incidents reinforce the author’s idea thatthe mystification of Southern heritage is incited largely by a sense ofinjustice towards people’s living situation together with a general ignoranceof its cause.Andrew O’Hehir goes on to recall the surrendering of Robert E. Lee toUlysses S.
Grant, and how people retell, in a highly biased way, that historicmoment, in which Grant, the so called dirty peasant, unjustly forced Lee, thesouthern gentleman, to surrender. The author quotes from Ulysses S. Grant’sPersonal Memoirs, in which Grant admits the difficulty of seeing Lee’s demise,explaining that though he fought with bravery, the cause he had defended wasunacceptable.While the author’s arguments are compelling and somewhat intuitive, the articlecould have had a more human depth beyond being a simple chronicle or opinionarticle, if some form of contact had been made with African American people, specificallyanyone living in a Southern State. A focus group could have been highlybeneficial with explaining the issue beyond the spectrum of pop cultureanalysis. Contacting a non-profit organization focused on the protection andempowerment of the African American communities could also have helped by,perhaps, setting up an interview with victims of ethnic oppression, volunteersor with the people in charge of groups like Black Lives Matter, or the NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), allowing thecreation of a more personalized article that dealt more directly with theissues at hand.
Fundamentally, research initiatives as the ones referenced previously couldhave been helpful to better understand the real life, everyday consequences ofthe development of the South’s toxic infatuation with the former ConfederateStates of America.