Rewriting history

Mike Gallagher
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Posted: May 12, 2006 12:06 AM
The radio talk show caller’s voice was confident. “Chris” identified himself to me, the radio host, as a 7th grade history teacher. He was responding to my point that it was a shame that almost all the school districts in South Carolina chose to ignore Confederate Memorial Day as the state holiday that it is supposed to be. Shockingly, 84 of the state’s 85 school districts held classes, despite the fact that this is a mandatory state holiday.

After having lived in the South and spending considerable time studying the Civil War, I have come to appreciate and respect the pride that Southerners have for their heritage. After all, everyone is celebrating their heritage these days, right? Illegal immigrants are marching through the streets waving Mexican flags, Black History Month has become a staple of American culture, and millions of us enjoy paying tribute to Ireland by wearing green and drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, even if we’re not named Gallagher.

Yet when it comes to the South, some Americans are squeamish over the subject of the Confederacy. Black activists insist that the Confederate Flag is simply a symbol of slavery and Hollywood never runs out of ways to portray Southerners as a bunch of corn pone hayseeds who are incapable of the sophistication of, say, residents of New Jersey.

So when Chris the history teacher called my radio show, I expected him to present a fairly balanced perspective of the role the South played in our nation’s history. Boy, was I wrong.

“The South’s entire culture was completely wrapped around the concept of human bondage”, he insisted. “If it weren’t for forward-thinking Northerners who wanted to emancipate the slaves, Southerners would have gotten away with it!” I was incredulous at the suggestion that this guy was teaching history to 7th graders. “What about the Northerners who owned slaves?” I asked. “Well, they were probably an anomaly,” he replied.

As my blood pressure began to soar, I managed to ask Chris where he was born. Could this actually be a Southern history teacher who had this distorted, warped view of the South and the Confederacy? “I was born in Kansas”, he answered. I guess that explained it.

I once had a good friend give me his theory about “Yankees.” Not the kind of disparaging Yankee jokes that I’ve heard for years (“What do you call a Yankee who moves to the South? A damn Yankee.”). Rather, he had a belief that unless someone has actually lived in a Southern state or was born there, he or she is simply incapable of understanding what it means to respect the history and heritage of the South. They just don’t get it.

One of the key components of political correctness is to revise history. After all, if history can fit one’s national or world view, it’s a lot easier to advance an agenda, right? For whatever reason, media elitists have consistently portrayed Southern politicians as buffoons and the South as a vast wasteland of barefoot, straw-chewing ignoramuses. It’s simply a form of bigotry that is not only ignored, but practically encouraged.

Consider what would happen if school districts refused to close their doors on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Imagine the outrage. Yet like the story of the Civil War, Dr. King had plenty of flaws and faults and made mistakes along his journey. The fact that Southerners, like plenty of Northerners, owned slaves does nothing to diminish the pride that millions of people feel about their ancestors’ participation in the Civil War – on both sides. States like South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas honor Confederate soldiers because it’s the honorable thing to do.

Ever watch the movie, “Song of the South?” If you’re under the age of 30, you probably haven’t seen Uncle Remus singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” or admired the cutting-edge technology of mixing animation with live action the way this Disney classic did. Because “Song of the South”, a movie that depicts a character named Uncle Remus who was a slave, has been pretty much completely banned from video stores everywhere. Evidently, the politically-correct police determined that this is not a movie that should be viewed by an enlightened and “forward-thinking” America.

The South Carolina school districts that remained open on Confederate Memorial Day this week are just as guilty of dampening the spirit and pride of the South and threaten to homogenize students to such an extent that any semblance of southern heritage will become extinct.

It would be yet another great American tragedy if the song of the south – the story of the Confederacy -- is silenced forever.