Yes, it's April again. And that means it's Confederate "Heritage" Month once more, the time when all loyal fans of the Lost Cause get a new "Heritage Not Hate" bumper sticker with the latest design - Confederate battle flag must be featured, of course - and talk jive about the Confederacy and the Civil War. Neither of which had anything to do with slavery, you understand, oh, no, nothing at all.
It's very appropriate that Confederate "Heritage" Month opens as always on April Fools Day. And, due to overwhelming popular demand, the vast research staff here at Old Hickory's Weblog will once again be celebrating the event with our third annual set of daily posts about matters Confederate.
As in the last two "Heritage" Month celebrations, I'm going to be concentrating of "reality-based" history of the Civil War, with an emphasis on the political battles that preceded the war. Just as we don't learn very much about the political significance and "meaning" of the Iraq War from the latest tales of IED's in Fallujah and car bombs in Mosul, studying the battles of the Civil War itself is limited in how much it tells us about the historical significance of the war.
I'm going to be posting quite a bit about John Brown this year. And I'll be talking about the political conflicts leading up to the Civil War as a way of positioning Brown in the context of those events.
Neo-Confederate ideology is significant today in a number of ways. One of them is that because of the popular fascination with the Civil War, neo-Confederate versions of history - which are often and dishonest as Holocaust denial, which is its illegitimate cousin - are one way in which pseudo-history gets perpetuated. And anti-democratic ideology along with it.
Neo-Confederate symbolism and cultural/political vocabulary have been increasingly popular among far-right hate groups in the US in recent years. As an illustration, check out the symbolism this murderous Florida neo-Nazi chose to announce his politics to the world: Did mistaken identity play a part in killing? by Camille Spencer St. Petersburg Times 03/26/06. See also Using love to counter flags of hate by Andrew Skerritt St. Petersburg Times 03/28/06.
This year's series of posts won't focus much on that aspect of it. But Edward Sebesta has made monitoring contemporary neo-Confederate developments a special project of his at this Temple of Democracy Web site and at his Anti-Neo-Confederate blog (which is currently dormant but he posted a couple of weeks ago that he plans to start blogging again soon). David Neiwert of the Orcinus blog is one of the best-informed and most astute observers of the far right in the US today, and he also pays attention to neo-Confederate outcroppings.
And the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) remains an invaluable source on American hate groups of all sorts. See, for instance: Uncivil War: The Sons of Confederate Veterans back in extremist hands by Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok SPLC Intelligence Report Summer 2005. Yes, there are far-right neo-Confederates and not-quite-so-far-right varieties.
The indexes to the two previous years' "Heritage" Month posts are at the following links:
Index to Confederate "Heritage" Month postings 2004 05/02/04Index to Confederate "Heritage" Month postings 2005 04/01/05