I’m Outta Here!
My annual membership renewal to the Museum of the Confederacy got paid a bit over a month ago. Too bad that director Waite Rawls didn’t go public about letting the NAACP use museum facilities for their meetings before I wrote out that check.
To say that “I have had it” with the Museum’s director, its board members, and the institution in general, would be an understatement. I’m outta here, at least as a donor, but I don’t think they’ll give me a pro rated refund, so I guess I’m on the books as a member until next January.
I have never had any expectations that the Museum would become involved in Southern Heritage issues – quite the opposite in fact. I joined the museum 8 years ago before I knew anyone in the Southern Heritage movement. Wanting to join the fight but not knowing who was who and what was what, I decided to listen and learn, at least initially, and to do my part in the meantime by helping preserve what was. Thus, I became a “Sustaining Member” of the museum.
Over these last 8 years I’ve compiled a long list of beefs with the people who run that institution. Except for a one or two year period it seems like there’s been at least one gripe per year. Let’s go to the video tape and quickly review those highlights!
**Right off the bat, I hear former director Robin Reed’s public comment – "We’re the museum OF the Confederacy, not the Museum FOR the confederacy". I thought that comment to be odd for a man who was charged with preserving the relics of the Confederacy, but what the hell? Maybe he was having a bad hair day when he said it?
**Then I see Alan Nolan, (http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Considered-General-Robert History/dp/0807845876/
ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205523549&sr=8-1), author of “Lee Considered”, on C-Span, lecturing IN the MOC. Why is this guy there? Nolan, an Iron-Brigade-loving lawyer from Wisconsin who hates Lee and who feels that everyone should feel as he does, lecturing in the MOC? Who let this guy in? I would have met him at the door with an ax handle!?
**Later I find out that David Blight, a South-hating professor from Amherst who calls himself a “Professor of Memory Studies”, (whaaaa??), and who maintains that my "memory" of the war is wrong (and he, of course, is going to correct it), was given access to the museum archives when he was researching his book, "Race and Reunion", http://www.amazon.com/Race-Reunion-Civil-American-Memory/dp/0674008197/
ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205523670&sr=1-1 (Uh, let’s see, where did I put that ax-handle?) Then Barton Campbell takes over and for a two year period I am at peace…. I call it “The Pax-Campbell”. But it is short-lived.
**Then Campbell is suddenly out and Waite Rawls appears – along with a plan to send two battle flags to NPS Superintendent John Latschar at Gettysburg. I politely show him the "Rally on the High Ground" seminar http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/rthg/index.htm, in which numerous so-called historians, many of them NPS people, along with Jesse Jackson Jr., rake his ancestors over the coals and, among other things, pronounce the “Lost Cause” to be a “Myth”. “Why give battle flags to people who would mock them” I ask? Rawls explains how important money is in the restoration of those flags and how their being on display in a place like the Park Service Building in Gettysburg will help raise money to that end. Yeah, but the NPS is doing its best to make a mockery of everything they stood for! How can you turn the Confederate soldier’s most prized symbol over to people like that? The plans eventually came to naught but it certainly wasn’t because my words had any affect.
**Rawls also explains that it is important for “us” to “tell our story”. He tells me he’s gotten a "team" together to tell "our story"….. Among the team members are, Gary Gallagher – who co-authored a book, “The Myth of the Lost Cause”, with Alan Nolan, and Irwin Jordan, Rawls’ so-called "black confederate expert". I tell Rawls that Gallagher thinks the "Lost Cause" is a crock and that Jordan in his book refers to black confederate supporters as "zealots of the wrong". Some team!? My words run off Rawls’ head like water off a rock.
**Sometime afterward Rawls tells a reporter that he’s thinking of partnering with the national slavery museum in Fredericksburg! I ask him if he’s lost his mind – the idea gets buried somehow, but I don’t think it was my caustic comment that caused it to lose its way.
**Rawls publicly says (several times) that the museum isn’t a "shrine" – I tell him to check his history – that’s exactly the reason it was started – to be a SHRINE, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it being a shrine! Everyone’s got their shrine these days. What’s wrong with having our own? I might as well have been talking to a wall.
**Then there was the incident where the Museums’ board and its director gave public thought to changing the name of the museum itself. It seems that “Museum of the Confederacy” might have been too “offensive” for “some people” – people who, as we know, have historically made their living airing manufactured grievances. Is this name change still in the offing? Who knows? By this time, I’m beginning not to care and am losing track of my own ever-growing list of grievances.
**Then comes the plan to split the museum up into 4 locations – Fort Monroe among them. Now as it happens, the town of Fort Monroe is also giving thought to opening a museum of its own. Anyone who knows their history knows that Fort Monroe gained fame as a haven for runaway slaves during the war. As one would expect, Fort Monroe is planning an exhibit on this very subject. I ask Rawls why he’s so interested in cozying up to another slavery museum? Other than one small exhibit on Pocahontas Island, I have never seen a slavery exhibit that doesn’t do the oh-boo-hoo, nobody know’d da’ truble ah’s seen routine? Why would you want to put the Museum of the Confederacy next door to that? Again, my words bounce of Rawls’ head like tennis balls off a tank.
**Now, we have the NAACP thing. In one of the MOC’s proposed relocation sites, Spotsylvania, the local chapter of the NAACP has graciously consented to not throwing its usual hissy fit -provided the museum tells “the whole story”. I can only guess what “the whole story” means. My guess is that it ain’t good. Further, Rawls publicly says that it would be nice if the NAACP could hold its meetings in the MOC!? (Kind of like the head Rabbi of Prague telling the local Gestapo chief he can hold staff meetings in the Synagogue!?)
I can see it now – the NAACP has said all along that the flag should be in a museum…. now they can hold their meetings in that museum, look over at the flags, and publicly rejoice that their wish has come true. The Richmond Times Disgrace and other like-minded papers will write stories celebrating the so-called “progress” the South has made and trot out that tired old civil rights slogan, “we’ve come so far but have so far to go”, (no one ever says where they are going to or how far it is) …. Meantime, Waite Rawls counts the money while John Coski autographs his books.
Moving the museum in an effort to solve financial difficulties is one thing. Groveling in front of the NAACP, and trying to ingratiate yourself with those who hate you is something else entirely. I won’t speculate on the motives of the board and its director in this regard except to say that if I had to guess the reason for their actions, I’d say it has something to do with $$.
What I do know is that this is the last straw – I can put one to two hundred dollars a year to better use. My only regret is that Rawls and his minions are sitting on a mountain of Confederate memorabilia – memorabilia which belonged to Southern families – memorabilia which was, I have to believe, donated by those families, in the hopes that the men who originally owned them would be honored and remembered. That memorabilia is now in enemy hands and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it….
Rawls once bragged to me about his ancestors at Gettysburg. I don’t understand how he and others like him on the board, people with ancestral ties to the South’s history, can do what they do and do it with a straight face. Why boast about your pedigree when you won’t defend it or when you will drag it through the mud for money or for gaining favor with those who hate you? This must be what you folks call “a Scalawag”!
And I cannot understand why more southerners aren’t up in arms. I cannot understand why those southern families who donated items to the MOC aren’t clamoring for the return of those items or deluging the Museum with phone calls or letters…. I don’t understand the resounding silence.
Understand or not, it is clear to me that the Museum is in enemy hands, and that my participation in the Museum of the Confederacy, as a member and donor, is at an end. I never for a moment expected that the Museum would take a position on Southern Heritage issues. Being “political” was not and should not be its function. What I expected was that they would preserve the past and do it with dignity, and this, in my opinion they have resoundingly failed to do.
Sad times in Dixie, very sad times indeed.
SCV Camp 3000 (Associate)
SCV Camp 1506 (Associate)