Commentary by Steve Scroggins

Journalism student editors of the Red and Black are suffering from severe deficiencies in knowledge, specifically with respect to American history. Included below are several recent editorials published in the Red and Black, the independent student newspaper of the University of Georgia. This rebuttal will point out some obvious fallacies and refer to other material (mostly links) recently written and published, which serves to document my points.

First, a little background and my bona fides. I completed my higher education in Georgia but not at UGA; however, my father was a journalism major at UGA (ROTC scholarship, Class of 1952).

Dad, if he were still with us, would be rolling his eyes at the ignorant material flowing from UGA’s journalism school recently. After a pause to control his anger, he would launch into a monologue on ignorant college kids, political correctness, etc. His journalism training stressed getting to the point, being clear and using the simplest words possible.

I remember his comments about some of my writing from my college days (oh, how painful it is to read some of that old stuff!!). He warned me about verbal flourishes and too much emphasis on the form at the expense of the content in my writing. Talking to him about a career as a writer, he told me that most people right out of college could use big words, but "they don’t KNOW anything to write about intelligently." That point hit home for me as I matured and learned just how ignorant I had been.

Mark Twain once told an anecdote, something to the effect of, "When I was 18, I thought my father was the most ignorant man in the world. At age 23, I was amazed at how much he had learned in that short span of time."

When I completed my bachelors degree at age 21, I was at least mature enough to realize how little I knew about a vast array of subjects I would never hope to master. At that time, as an accounting major, I had the typical public school "education" regarding American history and the War Between the States, and I had added little to that understanding during the blur of my college years.

I had the advantage of having family with Southern roots who told me that the South was right and that textbooks didn’t tell the whole story. Both my parents attended a high school named R. E. Lee Institute in Thomaston, Georgia. I write all this to point out that, even as a Southerner with Southern roots and five direct ancestors who served in the Confederate military and many more uncles and collateral ancestors—-even with all that— I had little in-depth understanding of American history or the War for Southern independence.

As Randy Young points out in his recent commentary, it took individual interest, initiative and effort well beyond higher education to accumulate a more in-depth knowledge on the subject matter at hand: Our American heritage.

Interest in genealogy (which unfortunately appeals to most people later in their lives after their elders pass on) is part of the drive that compelled me to personal research, leading to more curiosity about what was happening in the lives of ancestors.

Interest in American politics continued to bring forth questions, such as "How did we get from the original Constitution to the current American empire where the ever-growing consolidated national government dominates more and more of our lives and pocketbooks?"

The obvious motivator for many people is, as they grow older and earn more income, they begin to notice the larger and larger bite that Uncle Sam (aka ‘Massah Sam’) takes from our earnings. How did we abolish slavery in 1865 only to have tax slavery in the 20th century? We working taxpayers really are tax slaves. I wanted to know why and how.

I write all this illustrate that most people have an inadequate understanding of American history and—more importantly— they lack understanding in how that history is so VERY relevant to their lives right now. Historical figures from ancient times to contemporary have pointed out that man’s failure to learn from history leads to a cycle of familiar tragedy. Ignore history and face the doom of repeating it.

"If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You’re a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree." —-Michael Crichton

"A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today…" –Gen. Robert E. Lee

"People separated from their history are easily persuaded." –Karl Marx

"The history of an oppressed people lies hidden in the lies and the agreed-upon myth of its conquerers." –Meridel Le Sueur

"Historical knowledge is indispensable for those who want to build a better world." –Ludwig von Mises

For many Americans, our lives are filled with work, church and various diversions, much like the Roman citizens who, when they became restless, the Roman empire provided them with more elaborate circus acts and gladiators. It’s much better for our "governors" that we are more interested in mindless spectator entertainment than in actually thinking about what’s going on or making historical inquiry. As Mark Twain once wrote, "The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them."

OK, I’ll step down from my soapbox. End of sermon. But I hope that I’ve illustrated good reasons why Georgians have a need to better understand their past, their history and heritage. Same goes for all Americans. And that is the spirit behind SB 283, the Confederate History and Heritage bill introduced by Senator Jeff Mullis in the Georgia General Assembly.

It was planned well BEFORE the news reported that certain parties were seeking slavery apologies and this legislation has nothing whatsoever to do with that topic. All efforts to link them are based on ignorance or deliberate sophistry. I tend to think that it’s ignorance in the case of these student writers. They probably believe the ridiculous date argument, too.

The date argument holds that because of a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case (Brown v. Board), and because desegregation was a hot topic (that is undeniable), then it follows that any activity during that decade that was in support of Confederate history and heritage (e.g., the 1956 Georgia state flag change) was "obviously" (to them) motivated by racial malice or defiance of federal court orders.

That conclusion is ridiculous. Review the historical record. President Eisenhower had issued encouragement to all the States to take steps to observe the centennial of the War Between the States. Though the official proclamation is dated 1960, the U.S. Congress had been encouraging states much earlier and formed a "Civil War Centennial Commission" and encouraged observance preparation in the early to mid 1950s. See the list of Georgia legislation regarding Centennial preparations at the ‘many related activities’ link below.

Georgia was preparing to observe the centennial. Many thousands of tourists were expected and those tourists expected to see some Confederate flags, battlefields and antebellum architecture. The Stone Mountain carving was nearing completion, plans were underway to develop the Stone Mountain park, historical markers were being placed all over the state, and many related activities were going on from 1952-1957. The 1956 flag change was to honor the soldiers who endeavored to defend their country, their state, their homes and their families against an invader. It’s that simple. But a mountain of evidence won’t convince some people. "Don’t confuse me with facts," they say, "It’s just to much to be a coincidence. I’ve heard this

[big lie about the 1956 flag] so often, it must be true."

Don’t take if from me. Take it from Rep. Denmark Groover who was in the House as floor leader in 1956 and who addressed the House in 1993. On March 9, 1993, Groover took to the floor of the Georgia House to challenge then Gov. Miller’s proposal to change the 1956 flag. He admitted the obvious, that segregation was a heated topic in 1956, and added,

“But those who now say that the legislature was obsessed with the matter of segregation to the exclusion of all other matters know not of what they speak…”

“To now conclude that the flag was adopted primarily as a symbol of segregation is justified only in the minds of those who, for their own purposes, would teach one segment of our population to hate another because of the faults of their ancestors." The Date Argument and BIG LIE about Groover’s 2001 comments are addressed in another commentary. Despite the overwhelming evidence refuting it, writers everywhere continue to repeat the Big Lie as if it were the Gospel. I bring up the Date Argument to point out faulty logic. The UGA student editorialists are suggesting that because Senator Mullis’ Confederate heritage bill is proposed in the same year as UNRELATED discussions about slavery apologies, then the Heritage bill must be some form of "code" or backhanded slap to the slavery apology. The logical flaws in that contention are obvious. And the absurdity of the demands for slavery apologies are self-evident.

Let’s get back to historical education. I recently quoted author Thomas J. DiLorenzo from his essay entitled "The Unknown Lincoln", but I think it bears repeating here:

"It is a testament to the effectiveness of 140 years of government propaganda that a 308 page book filled with true facts about Lincoln could be entitled "The Lincoln No One Knows." It is not a matter of a poorly-performing government education system but quite the opposite: The government schools have performed superbly in indoctrinating generations of American school children with a pack of lies, myths, omissions, and falsehoods about Lincoln and his war of conquest. As Richard Bensel wrote in Yankee Leviathan, any study of the American state should begin in 1865. The power of any state ultimately rests upon a series of government-sponsored myths, and there is none more prominent than the Lincoln Myth. Fourteen decades of propaganda have indoctrinated our youth and those youth enter college knowing just enough to be dangerous. Give them the power of the pen, alleged to be more powerful than the sword, and the truth will often be the unlucky victim. They will regurgitate what they’ve heard for years without critically examining their "facts." Yes, writing can be an act of education….if one takes the time to research his facts.

Given the volume of credible and worthy books on this period of history and given the ease of accessing information on the world wide web and in databases, today’s students have less of an excuse for their ignorance. If they learn anything in college, it should be how to research and find information. But our culture places too much emphasis on the new and the now and is far too willing to ignore or oversimplify what came before.

Obviously, these students enjoy their sarcasm and rhetorical barbs and the power of wielding their pens online…and they skip the most important step. Some may one day grow up and beg the new UGA students to remove their old writings from the cyberworld to save them further embarrassment. Then, again, maybe they plan to use bigoted hatchet jobs to gain employment from left-leaning editors in the media?

Below is my brief rebuttal to several of the most odious and ignorant "opinions" posted recently (see text below) on the Red and Black website.

Steve Scroggins
posted 3/21/07 @ 9:26 AM EST

Your "Our Take" commentary on the Confederate History Month legislation demonstrates your ignorance on the subject and the timing of the story.

The proposed legislation changes very little. Georgia governors have been issuing proclamations for fifty years or more designating April as Confederate History & Heritage Month. The legislation simply makes it automatic without the need for proclamations. It does not propose or enact modifications to the K-12 curricula—though that is badly needed as illustrated by the widespread ignorance of American history and specifically the history of the War Between the States.

The legislation provides that the Civil War Commission will be "encouraged to develop a curriculum" that MAY be used. That decision will be left with education authorities at the local and state level. Legislation can be read here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/search/sb283.htm

The AJC recently published a decidedly ignorant editorial on the subject which was thoroughly rebutted at this website:
http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/bearden-mcnaughton-nonsense032107.phtml

Read the editorial and the rebuttal and dig further if you really want to be informed on the relevant questions.

Your use of the word "traitors" in the subtitle demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the absolute right of the States to secede. 140 years of government-sponsored propaganda delivered via government schools has taken its toll.

With regard to timing, the legislation in question was put together starting last August and introduced BEFORE there was any discussion of Slavery Apology resolutions. The two issues are NOT linked in any way whatsoever. Again, the fact that some are trying to link the issues demonstrates more ignorance about the War and its causes and stands as another indicator that more education on American and Georgia history is needed.

Your mention of the "dustbin of history" illustrates your belief that the history in question is not relevant in your life today. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

"If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You’re a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree." —-Michael Crichton

" A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today…" –Gen. Robert E. Lee

Perhaps in the future you will endeavor to perform a modicum of research on the subject before spewing ignorant venom in the public eye.

——————————————————————————–

Our Take
Majority opinions of The Red & Black’s editorial board
Issue date: 3/20/07 Section: Opinions

Honoring dishonor

An American state proposing to honor memory of seceeding [sic] traitors? Stupid.

This just in: fascism was defeated in World War II. Communism met its downfall during the Cold War.

Oh, and the South lost the Civil War.

This fact, and many others involving Georgia, conveniently can be found in any full, credible American history book, such as the kind used to educate youngster’s about Georgia’s state history. And yet, as if that, the state flag and the side of Stone Mountain weren’t enough, Sen. Jeff Mullis feels it necessary to propose legislation in the General Assembly that would codify Confederate History Month as a yearly, statewide event. Proponents say they’re celebrating "Southern heritage."

We’d never take a stance against historical inquiry, but somehow, we doubt Sen. Mullis eagerly awaits the inclusion of simulated slave auctions and descriptions of slave rape and torture into K-12 curricula. The "Gone With The Wind"-tinged narrative the bill promotes is narrow-minded at best, and revisionist at worst.

Furthermore, the bill’s timing speaks volumes about the true intentions of its supporters.

Proposing to honor – an ironic term in this circumstance – "Southern heritage" on the heels of a proposed apology for slavery doesn’t happen by coincidence. The message is clear.

Meanwhile, policy questions actually relevant to Georgians, such as the future of Peachcare, go unaddressed while the General Assembly continues its longstanding tradition of crypto-racist kabuki theater. We hope legislators see through the proposal and send it the way of the Confederacy – to the dustbin of history.

——————————————————————————–

Rebel pride outweighs shame again
Issue date: 3/20/07
Section: Opinions

Remember the Confederacy? I know it was long ago, and most true Confederates are long dead or hiding in the mountains, jamming to Lynyrd Skynyrd, stockpiling guns, beans and beer, just waiting for the South to rise again. But still, you remember. Well, maybe you don’t, or don’t care, but realize, nostalgia of the noble Confederacy is strong for many in the south.

Take state Sen. Jeff Mullis, for example. He’s got this idea, a bill which unanimously passed the Senate rules committee, to make April Confederate History and Heritage Month in Georgia. You know, a whole month dedicated to reflecting on the glory days of Southern independence.

This is nothing new, as Georgia governors, including Sonny, often have declared April Confederate History and Heritage Month year by year. However, this new bill would absolve the governor of that obligation, insuring April belongs to the Confederacy in Georgia. And what a month it promises to be!

The waving of cool-looking battle flags, campfire discussions remembering the good ole’ days of courting beautiful, proper Southern belles, drinking whiskey, beating slaves and fighting yankees.

Schools can celebrate the month by replacing the Pledge of Allegiance with Dixie, and history and heritage can be studied. I can see it now:

"Who was the best yankee killer of all?" teacher asks.

"Stonewall Jackson! He killed yankees good!" little Johnny proudly answers.

"Good, Johnny," teacher says. Children can be quizzed as to how many yankee swine died at this battle or that, and the sad story can be told of how armies of noble Southern defenders eventually were consumed by a fire-breathing demon, a drunken butcher and legions of decadent minions dispatched by the warlord Lincoln.

As for heritage, there are the pillars of Southern virtue such as pride, honor, family, steadfastness, freedom, piety and bondage. That last one is tricky to explain, even to kids, the gullible creatures they are. But maybe Sen. Mullis can figure this out, as his actions show him to be a man of tact.

His bill came just a few days after black lawmakers in Georgia announced they plan to ask the state to apologize for its role in slavery and segregation. Maybe this is a clue in how the state government plans to make atonement. Maybe Confederate History and Heritage Month will suffice for the apology the state government is asked.

I don’t know. I am a simple man, and this is a complex issue, one I’m sure wise men such as Mullis already have solved and simply are waiting for the right time to let everyone in on their thought process.

In the meantime, I say we prepare to celebrate. Stock up on whiskey, dust off those battle flags, load your muskets and start humming dixie.

The rest of the world may laugh at us for celebrating one of the most shameful eras of our history, but they just don’t get it.

In the South, pride is everything! And here, pride always will trump shame.

– Dale Hackler is
a columnist for
The Red & Black

Copyright © 2003-2007, GeorgiaHeritageCouncil.org

On The Web: http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/scroggins-RBignorance-trumps-truth032207.phtml