Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Confederate "Heritage" Month April 27: A contemporary conservative Mississippi view of race

This post is about an article that doesn't look on its face like it has anything to do directly with the Civil War or Reconstruction.  But once you start looking at it, Lost Cause ideology and pseudohistory are just dripping from it.  It also shows how the habit of rewriting history became almost second-nature for white Southerners.  The fable of the Lost Cause, with all the fuzzy headed-thinking and routine dishonesty that went with it, was one big way that the lesson was conveyed from one generation to the next.  The article is, The past is not dead by Wyatt Emmerich Daily Times Leader (West Point MS) 12/09/04.  Emmerich is the publisher of the Jackson Northside Sun weekly.

The title, by the way, refers to a famous passage from one of William Faulkner's books, which Emmerich even has the gall to quote in the last paragraph.  That especially called my attention  to this article, because unfortunately it's stock "Southern moderate" talk, and he tried to dress it up with a quotation from Faulkner.  I just don't like to see people misuse Scripture that way. That's even worse than misusing Old Hickory's memory!  (And, yes, I consider Faulkner's works part of the canon.)

The article is about a meeting of something called the LQC Lamar Society.  I metioned in an earlier post in this series that I regard LQC Lamar, a "Redeemer" post-Reconstruction political leader and Senator from Mississippi, as one of the least admirable characters in American history.  He pretended in the North to be a conciliator between the (white people of) North and South.  In Mississippi, he was a hardline racist, like all the "Redeemers" were.

I don't know if it was a reflection of how much the Lost Causenotions permeated the consciousness even of people who really should have known better, or whether it was a calculated Machiavellian notion.  But the LQC Lamar Society was apparently set up during the segregation era and the civil rights movement so that Southerers who favored having the American form of democracy in the Deep South states could get their message across to whites.

So Emmerich attended an LQC Lamar Society event recalling the civil rights movement and the end of segregation.  The keynote speaker was former Governor William Winter, the best governor Mississippi ever had after Adelbert Ames, the Reconstruction-era Republicans governors who was run out of the state by the "Redeemers."  Winter is currently the grand old man of the Mississippi Democratic Party.  And he's a real Democrat, of the kind that Andy Jackson would be proud to be in the same room with.  The fact that LQC Lamar would have met the same kind of reception from the General as, say, Dick Cheney or Rummy is just one of those weird relics of Mississippi history.

So there's a tangled Lost Cause theme in even trying to explain the name of that group.  Here's Emmerich's description of that wretched Lamar:

Lamar drafted Mississippi's secession ordinance in 1860. He later served as a lieutenant colonel for the Confederate States of America. After the war, he accepted defeat and delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history, calling on the South and North to bury their grievances and build a new country. He later served as a United States Senator, a U. S. Supreme Court Justice and U. S. Secretary for the Interior.

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