|A statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, defaced by a mob. Projected onto it are the initials of a terrorist organization and the glowering face of a violent robber, porn actor and drug-addict.|
So, here's Johnny Cash, singing "God Bless Robert E. Lee" from his 1983 album, Johnny 99.
Johnny Cash was a white supremacist.
Wikipedia states that the song is "anti-war." Perhaps. But it's also pretty pro-South, at least in one sense, as well as being pretty pro-Robert E. Lee. Listen to it.
Here he is singing against the backdrop of a Confederate flag.
On the Muppets Show.
On the Disney Channel.
Miss Piggy was a white supremacist.
Well, we knew that already, but still.
And here's Joan Baez singing "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down." This video is from 1978 and features a live performance in Norway for 10,000 blond white people. I think they're called Aryans.
I don't know that much about Joan Baez, but when you watch the modestly dressed Miss Baez playfully tease an un-shirted Norwegian young man, it's impossible not to like her. And it's impossible not to like the song.
She also was a white supremacist. Or so it would seem.
And here's Lynyrd Skynyrd in 2003, performing Sweet Home Alabama with a Confederate flag as a backdrop, and with Johnny Van Zant singing with the flag wrapped around his microphone. At one point, he affectionately cradles it. Other Confederate flags are waved in the audience. It's the "Official" video of the song.
Lynyrd Skynyrd were and are white supremacists.
Okay, you probably knew that, too. But it's okay, Lynyrd Skynyrd denounced slavery.
It was very brave of them.
What does all this prove? A lot, actually.
Do you want to know what I think? I think that if the Civil War was "about" any one thing, it was about slavery.
But it's a gross simplification and injustice to leave it at that. Many on each side fought for noble motives. Just as some fought for ignoble ones.
Abraham Lincoln, the leader of the winning side, famously claimed that he initiated and waged a war in which hundreds of thousands died, many more were horribly injured and entire towns and cities were razed, not because of the issue of slavery but, rather, over the issue of mere political "union." If that isn't an ignoble motive, the word "ignoble" has no meaning.
And, frankly, Lincoln's words are a slander against my ancestors from Massachusetts, many of whom died believing they were fighting to end slavery, not prop up centralized tyranny.
There are some righteous statues about that in Boston, I can tell you.
And the fact that Lincoln claimed that the war was not about slavery doesn't negate that I earlier said it was (if it was about any one thing). That the political leader responsible for initiating a war can be wrong about what the war is about is a bit of a fine point that I won't belabor.
But back to the Southern case, since that's currently at issue. I reject the view that we should leave the statues up merely in the interests of "history." If that were true, then we should move them to museums. But the statues and symbols are not merely about history. Maybe in a thousand years we could say that, but not now.
Rather, they're meant to honor what was good, honorable and heroic in the Southern cause - loyalty to one's neighbors; loyalty to one's community; loyalty to a way of life that was in some ways virtuous and even superior; the rights of peoples to determine their own destiny against those who would impose it on them with guns and invading armies, and so on. Lynyrd Skynyrd adopted the flag for this reason. And, of course (to be serious) the members of that band aren't really white supremacists.
As well, part of what we mean "good, honorable and heroic" is normal human beings responding as best they can to tragedy. The Civil War certainly was that. I'm sure Joan Baez would agree.
And Johnny Cash had a knack for finding what was good in many things.
What was good.
That's why people erect statues and wave flags. If you don't think there was anything good, honorable and heroic about the Southern cause, then you are a moral imbecile, or utterly blinded by whatever fad happens to be popular.
We take what was good and honor it.
Or not. Perhaps we should just follow whatever fad happens to grip us at the time. With no core principles to guide us, that's the way it goes. The statues and the flag were perfectly fine, yesterday - or, at worst, only an odd affectation that may have been annoying to some; but today they're something that only a Nazi could love.
If we don't worship God, we will worship the zeitgeist.
And we won't honor anything.
Note: I actually wrote this two years ago (in March of 2018) during that smaller and earlier wave of statue attacks. I don't remember why I didn't publish it. Perhaps some other piece of news superseded it and it didn't anymore seem relevant. I think it's relevant again now. But I also think I couldn't have written it now, at least not with the same somewhat "light" tone. I'm frankly too angry and fearful at what has become more than just an assault on Confederate monuments, but rather a vicious and violent attack on our entire culture on many fronts. I had no idea then that things would get this bad so quickly. Call this a short post from a more innocent time, before the eve of the second Civil War.
Here's to innocent times with another earlier clip of Sweet Home Alabama by a much younger Lynyrd Skynyrd, recorded in Oakland in the summer of 1977. A few weeks later band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines and three others would be killed in an airplane crash. RIP.