Return Stone Mountain To Dixie
I remember, as a child, my parents took my younger brother and me to Atlanta. We saw the Cyclorama, walked Kennesaw Mountain, listened to the stories of the "Great Train Chase", which was a Disney movie, and went to Stone Mountain.
It was during the "Civil War Centennial". Although, it was anything but a Civil War, that was what they called it. At Stone Mountain, the massive carving of Lee, Jackson, and Davis, was a work in progress. Atop Stone Mountain flew a Confederate Battle Flag, and we rode in a train behind romantic steam locomotives, named the "Texas" and the "General", and watched brave Confederate Calverymen chase off evil Yankees burning a Georgia town. We learned about history, the South, and it was fun.
I recently carried my 6 year old son, and my beloved’s grandchildren to Stone Mountain.
The first shock was at the entrance. Gone was the prominent display of the Confederate flags. Instead, was a Third National Flag, hidden among a display of modern Southern state flags. No Confederate flags appeared in main park. During the light show, we listened to modern rap, rock, country, and contemporary music, super-imposed on laser images across the face of the monument, that included rappers, Martin Luther King, Satan (from the Devil came down to Georgia), and finally, Elvis Presley’s rendition of "Dixie, and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Although I was offended by the Battle Hymn of the Republic, I would add that "Dixie" seemed to draw the only emotional response from the crowd.
The next morning, things got worse. We entered an "entertainment villiage", which contained no archatecture that resembled the 19th Century South, except, perhaps, the "train station". Instead, there was a Bavarian, Hillbilly, California-miner, South-western, American Indian, redneck polyglot, that resembled nothing that I have ever seen in any, or all, of the states of the old Confederacy. There were women in long dresses, as well as a "hillbilly" playing a banjo, dressed as a reject from "Deliverance", and a couple of female employees wearing overalls, dressed like clowns.
After taking the tram, to the top of Stone Mountain, I found the base of the flagpole, that once flew the Confederate flag, a torched piece of pipe, among the granite. Upon returning, I toured the "visitors center", and saw a "replica of Scarlet O’Hara’s dress, and Ashley Wilke’s uniform (displayed with a US flag), exhibits of Kentucky Fried Chicken, an amusement park in Florida, and contemporary drivil.
By this point, my patience was running a little thin. I was looking for a fight.
Some poor middle aged, female employee, with an Ohio accent, asked, "Sir, are you enjoying yourself?"
"Ma’am, I am sorely disappointed", I answered. "Do you work for the Georgia Department of Tourism?". "Yes", she sniffed.
"Where are you from?", I demanded. She mumbled something about living in Dayton for a while.
I responded, "the State of Georgia has taken a memorial to the Confederacy, and turned it into Dollywood, or worse. There is only one Confederate flag here, there is no historical perspective, and everything here is 21st Century fluff!" I was still not raising my voice.
She responded, "Helen Plane (of the UDC), only wanted Lee on the carving". I took a deep breath, (you should be glad for what you’ve got). My blood pressure was rising.
I responded, "Ma’am, you don’t know what you are talking about. Not only did Mrs. Plane want Lee, Jackson, and Davis on the mountain, she wanted thousands of images of Confederate soldiers on the mountain, as well as a few in Klan robes, to immortalize the end of Yankee occupation".
"Where did you ever get that idea?" she demanded.
I held Kenimer’s history of Stone Mountain in front of her. "You know nothing. You don’t ever read your own literature. This place is a disgrace to the state of Georgia."
My seven year old son had selected another gray kepi and a small Confederte flag from the gift shop. (He already has several, but I think he wanted to make an statement, at that moment.) He looked at the guide with his clear, blue eyes, and uttered the wisest words that I heard all weekend. He said, "I hate yankees. Most yankees go to hell".
A cellphone call from Dianne summoned me to sanity. We rode the diesal train, and listened to such inspirational classics as "I’ve been working on the railroad". We suffered through a history of railroading in Georgia, and stopped at Confederate Hall, which has nothing to do with the Confederacy, except to display a 20 minute long movie on the "History of the War in Georgia". I think the entire movie can be summed up in the quote, "After four, long, arduous years, Georgia was finally returned to the Union". I was enlightened to discover that we had burned Atlanta, and not Sherman. The UDC did have a handsome display of the US flag, and the Flags of the Confederacy, hidden on a remote section of Stone Mountain. We passed the romantic steam locomotives, and yards of rail cars, modified to appear as 19th Century classics, and I fumed anger.
No where in the park, did I see evidence of the Yankees burning churches, (their target of choice). The General and the Texas were relegated to rusting piles of junk. There were no accolades for Lee, Jackson, Davis, or "those who wore the gray". A Japanese visitor mentioned to me that he had come to see Tara, the Confederate flag, and the South. I told him that they were not at Stone Mountain. If he wanted to see them, rent a pickup truck, and travel any of the back roads of the South. I also told him, "If you want to see Dixie, get away from Atlanta".
Georgia, and the South, needs to reclaim Stone Mountain. Our fight is not just over the Confederate flag. We are experiencing a "cultural cleansing", in which our flags, our music, our architecture, and our identity is being sold, and marketed, as a materialistic juxtaposition of "the Beverly Hillbillys" and "Deliverance".
We, Southrons, have played "defense" for too long. The time has come for us to attack, and capture the reins of power in our government, and return them to the Southland. Our brothers in Georgia have been uniquely successful. May I suggest that returning Stone Mountain to Dixie should be a project for all of us in Dixie.
"I’ll take my stand, to live and die, in Dixie"
Lourie Salley (Larry)