EDITORIAL: The final end of the Lost Cause
Just 155 years after the end of the Civil War, we might be seeing the final fall of the Confederacy.
In the past few weeks, the Marines and the Navy have announced that public displays of the Confederate battle flag will no longer be allowed on bases, and the Army is considering making the same move, according to the Army Times. (What's the hold up, Air Force and Coast Guard?)
Confederate monuments from Birmingham, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, are coming down.
Even the bastion of Southern pride that is NASCAR announced that the stars and bars flag will not be allowed at racetracks and other venues when fans are allowed to return.
These monuments to the Confederacy, along with the fetishization of the battle flag, came not immediately after the Civil War but following Reconstruction, beginning in the 1880s, when groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy sought to rewrite history and make the secession of the Southern states into an ideological battle.
The Lost Cause narrative seeks to portray the Civil War as a fight about state's rights and romanticizes the soldiers of the Confederacy as "Southern gentlemen" who were fighting for their way of life, which the power-hungry industrial North was trying to wrest away.
That portrayal is familiar to many of those who grew up in the South and anyone who has watched "Gone With the Wind."
But it's far from the truth.
The Southern states went to war to ensure that they could continue to treat African Americans as property and perpetuate slavery.
"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth," wrote the Mississippi Legislature in its bill to secede from the union.
After they lost the war, Southerners tried to revise history with talk of the War Between the States and slaves who didn't know what to do when they were freed.
Iraq War veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., was one notable voice calling for each military service to prohibit the display of Confederate flags.
“The Army should demonstrate moral leadership in acting swiftly to prohibit the public display of the Confederate Battle Flag, rather than waiting on Congress to force such action,” Duckworth wrote in a letter Monday to the Army secretary and chief of staff.
The spokesman for the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, B. Frank Earnest, condemned the toppling of “public works of art” and likened losing the Confederate statues to losing a family member.
“The men who served under Robert E. Lee were my great-grandfathers or their brothers and their cousins. So it is my family,” he said. “What if a crowd of any other group went and found the symbols of someone they didn’t like and decided to tear them down?"
Please. We shouldn't have to keep saying this so many generations later, but here goes:
The Confederates were traitors — likely someone's ancestors too, but traitors nonetheless — who took up arms against their country to perpetuate an immoral system. The United States fought its bloodiest war to quell the uprising and ended the institution of slavery once and for all.
Southern soldiers and their banner — which today, not surprisingly, has been adopted by white supremacists as a symbol of hate — deserve no reverence from this country.
In fact, the Confederate flag belongs on the ash heap of history where true American patriots left it 155 years ago.