Sunday, March 18, 2012
Sounds like a plan… sort of
We recently had a discussion on my Facebook group about why the Museum of the Confederacy has so blatantly reneged on its responsibilities to preserve and present Confederate heritage, most recently seen in locating a "branch" at Appomattox and refusing to fly any Confederate flag on the grounds of the facility.
The discussion evolved into why Southerners in general have grown in indifferent to Confederate history and heritage, and what might be done not only to rekindle their interest but spark a cultural renewal. This is a subject I’ve thought about for a long time with a view toward formulating responses and solutions. My thoughts are rudimentary but I wrote them in a few replies in that thead, and I post an edit of my comments below.
In response to the suggestion that Southerners have "lost sight" of their heritage, I think that may be part of it. A more accurate description is that they’ve not necessarily lost sight but unobtrusively backed away. Why? Because our heritage was hijacked and tarnished — deliberately, on the part of some people; inadvertently on the part of others, in an effort to turn it into something people cannot be proud of.
The folks who hijacked and tarnished our heritage were people like leaders of the South Carolina NAACP boycott who had to tarnish and dishonor the Confederate flag — and thus the heritage it came from — in order to justify its removal. This tarnishing was repeated to justify the renaming of streets, parks, schools named for Confederates and the removal of other items, such as the Texas Supreme Court building plaques.
The South has its share of scum and reprobates, like any other place; but for the most part, Southerners are good, decent people (and when I talk heritage, I’m talking about white Southerners, although that doesn’t exclude others from the "good, decent people" description) who flinch at being portrayed as racists and haters, and who will shy away from doing things that can be miss-portrayed as racism and hatred.
The secondary stereotype is the the toothless ignorant (inbred) hick. People of reasonable intelligence, common sense and average or above education don’t like being portrayed that way, either.
You want to reverse this trend, you have to understand exactly how our heritage has been tarnished (the result) and what was done to tarnish it (the process) — and then do the reverse.
Our culture has been the victim of PC revisionism. Two PCs actually. Political correctness PC sets the revisionist "standard" for how our culture should be portrayed/seen/understood (very negatively, of course). Popular Culture PC implements that vision — and by popular culture, I mean the media, both news and entertainment, education, business and industry and government, although popular culture is also defined other ways (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_culture)
I don’t think any attempt to reclaim our heritage and reconnect our proud people with a heritage they can be proud of will be successful without taking on these two PCs.
Confronting the two PCs and reversing the damage they’ve done will not be easy, but it’s certainly doable. And what we need to do has never been easier. The internet changes everything, if we will but use this awesome resource for more than getting online and complaining, or arguing about civil war battles, generals, etc. There’s a place for all that — (to help us rest and rejuvenate, keep us motivated) — but in and of itself, won’t do a thing to reclaim our heritage.
We need our own news media. We have a small start on that, but most of it (Dixie Broadcasting, etc) is aimed solely at Southern heritage folks. It has the kind of content and programming most Southerners have been conditioned to shy away from. Not saying we should get rid of what we have at this point; I’m saying we should augment it for Southerners who have not come that far yet.
Our media needs to be more mainstream in that, for example, our news media needs to actually report news, not just rehash the war or present opinions-editorials. It needs to be informative. It needs to be interesting. It needs to be spelled right and grammatically correct…. And the items in it designed to reverse the tarnishing of our culture and the restoration of its honor need to be included matter of factly, as if everyone knows it belongs there.
We need our own entertainment media — our own movies, music, books, videos, magazines, comic books, live events, etc… Again, some of this is already being done for the heritage community, but it’s turning out the kind of product Southerners have been conditioned to shy away from. The gap between the two has to be bridged.
What we need now is people to step into that gap. Somebody to, for example, write, produce, direct, cast, act in and promote our movies… Yes, we would have to learn all this, but it’s not hard, there’s a ton of stuff out there that teaches it. Yes, it would take money, and we’re in especially hard times. It can still be done — using OPM.
Thus, we need a fundraising organization. That would be all it does — raise money and then evaluate projects for heritage-worthiness and give grants or low-cost loans for the projects. It would have to be a scrupulously honest effort, thoroughly transparent to the public so no money-scandals or other fraud could further tarnish our efforts.
One thing about videos — there is some heritage stuff with great info in them on YouTube right now, but the production values are horrible. We’re not going to reach already gun-shy Southerners by standing in front of our computer cam or cell phone cam talking heritage with our bedroom or kitchen in the background. Set, lighting, sound, scripting — all need to be as professional as we can make it. Remember, this stuff can be learned, easily.
What I have chosen to do is write fiction that portrays Southerners as ordinary, decent people, not the scum-sucking racist monsters of the popular culture. There needs to be a lot more contemporary proSouthern fiction. My books are written to bridge the gap between heritage folks and gun-shy Southerners; to let them all know that somebody knows they’re good, decent, caring people even if they do honor their Confederate heritage, and it is their critics and opponents who are sometimes less than honorable.
I started to write, "Southerners have to be given back their pride," but that’s not true. Something has to reawaken their existing pride that has been beaten down and gone dormant by PC.
These are just ideas I’ve tossed around in my head; I don’t know how practical they are. To get the ball rolling, I conceptualize a fairly small group who will … not direct, exactly — channel, perhaps, the efforts of a huge culture-wide "Southern Initiative," or some such designation. These people are big-picture focused. They’re basically a think-tank. Analysts. They look at the whole thing, see how A affects B (Good A and Good B, as well as Bad A and Bad B) and determine what needs to be done to strengthen and spread the good, diminish the bad. These have to be some savvy, savvy people. Not necessarily highly educated, but they have to be deeply knowledgeable about how the culture and its constituent parts work.
They would be an advocacy group that mainly issues reports and keeps people who want to be active in the initiative aware of opportunities. I’m thinking of something sort of like the National Coalition for Men (I’m a men’s rights advocate, but not as "active" as I used to be) http://ncfm.org/ncfm-home/
(An interesting aside; as I visited the NCFM, I saw a link to another men’s rights site where there’s an article about the SPLC attacking the men’s rights movement…. I am not a bit surprised… http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/activism/splc-a-poverty-of-integrity/)
(As another aside, I note that the men’s movement has its kook and extremist element, like feminism and nearly every other special-interest ism that exists. That doesn’t mean its mission is not legitimate.)
What this Southern Initiative group would do is help channel the initiative’s, or movement’s, attention to areas that need to be supported, or that would do the most good, or whatever. The idea would then be for the info to travel throughout the initiative’s informal network.
The "rallying point" is whatever an individual or group is interested in. You want to make indie films? Learn how with an eye toward making films that will raise the Southern consciousness. You want to produce comic books? Ditto. You want to reach kids? Publish coloring books with proSouthern themes.
Several years ago, I saw a puppet show set up in the mall and I thought about creating a Southern heritage puppet show initiative. I would design and create the little portable booths with the little stage, I would write the scripts, design and make the puppets, and sell them real cheap so anybody could buy one and set it up at events in their own area. Nothing came of it, but I still think it’s a good idea and could be a productive element that would support and strengthen the overall effort.
Public events like festivals would be good. They would have to be local and small because of the economy but they could still be effective. Don’t call it "Confederate Flag Heritage Rally" — celebrate something local but unabashedly include heritage stuff that gets excluded or prohibited from a lot of these festivals now.
I don’t know of an existing organization that could serve as the think tank/channel organization, but I suspect they all have members who would be valuable contributors. The great thing about this era is that the initiative could exist almost entirely online. The internet makes teleconferencing cheap and easy, but most communications could be done with chat software and a forum-bulletin board. Space on a server to host it is cheap.
Another job of this think tank, or some members of it, would be to research similar movements, both successful and unsuccessful ones, and see what worked and what didn’t. This is why the group has to be so savvy. Has to know about a lot of things — or at least know how to find out about them.
Back in the 1960s, the counter-culture had at a powerful culture-war weapon — the technology and popular culture of the time — television, movies, the news media, magazines, books and later on, fax machines and phone/fax trees — and they played it all like a Stradivarius. That is how they made such great strides in Gramsci’s "long march" through the institutions so quickly.
But we have something better. In fact, we have the most powerful culture-war weapon ever devised by man, if we will but use it — the Internet. It replaces everything the counter-culture used with something far more powerful; it’s practically instantaneous, and has global reach. The digital revolution has changed everything — film distribution, publishing, the music industry, the news media. We must learn to play it like a Stradivariu and a Steinway. We cannot be content to quench the fire in our bellies by getting on Facebook, making a few announcements, arguing civil war battles and bickering amongst ourselves. How foolish to squander such an incomprehensibly powerful weapon on such paltry efforts and pettiness.
I may not live long enough to see it, but I want a surge of Southern pride that results in Nathan Bedford Forrest High Schools with Rebel mascots and bands playing Dixie, Robert E. Lee Boulevards, businesses with "Dixie" in their names, Confederate flags proudly flying in front of historic sites, Southern children familiar with and proud of Confederate heroes … and a respect and renewal of Southern families with authentic family structure (father, mother, children) and extended families (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) an important part of our lives; of respect and renewal for our Christian heritage, a re-commitment of our churches to Biblical, not political, missions; a re-emphasis of our schools on education and excellence, not social manipulation… An entire cultural renewal with Southern flavor and a distinction that once again sets us apart from the rest of the country — a nation within a nation.
I plan to better organize this rather rambling blog entry into a more concise presentation — take it from diaphanous ideas to a concrete outline for a plan of action, as time permits. It will be posted here and at this blog’s companion website currently under construction.