Re: Whitewashing The Civil War
Coates' article is indeed excellent.
The whitewashing of the Civil War, not only in the racial sense that Coates centers on but also in a moral sense, seems to speak to a widespread inability or unwillingness to look at ourselves and our past actions as a nation honestly. Outside of military historians few people know much about the WWII German generals Guderian or Manstein, and those who do may recognize their military ability but hardly consider them cultural icons. The case is far different for Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, or Jeb Stuart, who have been transformed by our culture and revisionist history into noble heroes, despite the similarly vile cause in which they served. Lee's visage is widely recognizable today, and while most would be outraged by the display of the swastika on a license plate or wall flag, many seem to accept the myriad placements of the Confederate battle flag, often claimed as a "symbol of Southern Heritage" as though the symbol of five years of violent and arguably treasonous rebellion in support of slavery define "Southern Heritage".
Perhaps they do, though I hate to think quite that meanly of my fellow man. The revisionist whitewash of the war may include elements of racism, or possibly a view of slavery as the ultimate form of capitalism. It might seem too impolite or simply too pointless to engage the myth of the Noble South and the Lost Cause. But it seems to me that for all the unique elements regarding the Civil War, or any other particular instance in our history, there is a common pattern in a widespread American determination to view our history through the narrowest of blinders and the most rose colored of glasses.