Today the intesphere was full of much head-shaking and guffawing in disbelief at the news about the South’s plans to honor the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War — a fight, as most will remember, the South surely lost, though the wounds, as the popular narrative goes, are still a little raw. The internet chatter was on the obvious cognitive dissonance of it all: that a conflict so many in the other part of the country classify largely as a battle over the right to imprison and enslave other human beings would be celebrated at all, let alone with a blind eye turned to that particular aspect of the war. As the Times wrote:
The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.
To readers in the North, all this adds up to some mind-baffling historical doublespeak and cultural insensitivity, like celebrating the anniversary of the Dred Scott decision or hitting a pinata made out of broken Indian treaties.
I spent four years living in South Carolina as a local government reporter; another half a year living in Raleigh in between transferring colleges. I got to travel all up and down the coast of the Palmetto State and its neighbors, from the Spanish-moss framed squares of downtown Savannah to the Supreme Court steps of Columbia; from the Watermelon Festival of Hampton to the barn-sized dining hall/gas station/general store/karaoke bar/emporium of wonder known as Harold’s Country Club in Yemassee , and I realized something that I must share with you, fair readers; something that, once I checked and double checked my math, stood my preconceived notions about regional identity and historical traits on their heads. Disbelieve if you will, but I stand by my argument:
Here it is: I came across way more Confederate flags in New Jersey than I ever did in South Carolina or North Carolina. Continue reading