Monday, November 10, 2014
Whose History—And Why It Matters
By Valerie Protopapas
Some time ago, I wrote an article in response to a review of the book, REBEL YELL: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. I did so because I believed what the review’s author, Matthew Price, had written should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Mr. Price noted that, “(Stonewall) Jackson was no proslavery zealot, but (author) Gwynne does not address directly the somewhat vexed issue of writing sympathetically about a figure who still fought for a cause utterly discredited by history.” My question to Mr. Price was, to “whose history” was he alluding when he made that claim?
Because the matter involved the history and heritage of the South, I submitted my position to a Southern publication holding the same beliefs as expressed in my essay. However, it was rejected not because of my premise but because, in the words of those involved, the publication was “. . . not publishing as many Confederate history articles as previously . . .
To further illustrate the importance of the defeat of Jackson’s “cause,” I ended my article by stating, “For those who look at this country today and wonder how we got a government that is essentially lawless . . . and a Constitution that has been nullified along with its Bill of Rights, most of the answers to their questions can be found in the defeat of General Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s noble cause, a cause which has been made ignoble through the triumph of that present version of “history.” I believe that such a conclusion does address “current issues” for until and unless we directly counter the present myth of the South’s seceding because of and fighting for slavery, nothing else we do will matter. If we vacate that “historic” field and leave Mr. Price’s version of “whose history” to define all issues relative to the South’s past, then every present effort, no matter how intelligent, rational or spirited, is going to be dashed to pieces on the rocks of politically correct, factually inaccurate racial rhetoric.
Responding to every claim that the Southern cause was all about slavery is analogous to going back and correcting a miscalculation at the beginning of a mathematical equation. For no matter how involved and lengthy the equation, if one starts with error one will never reach truth no matter how many years one takes to solve the problem. All efforts to avoid “Confederate history” and “move on” so as to address “current issues,” is a study in futility for each and every time the South is considered or discussed in the present, we invariably—and inevitably—go back to that same “Confederate history.” This cannot be avoided and all attempts to disconnect present from past only gives credence to those who say that we do so because the South’s past is shameful and has been discredited by actual (rather than “whose” ) history.
Did my response to Mr. Price involve merely matter of history or did it not represent an attempt to enlighten people to the facts that undergird the entire question of “today’s” South? Do we who desire to re-establish the South as representing the true vision of the Founding Fathers not understand that until people realize the ante-bellum South was not all moonlight, magnolias and slavery, we have little chance of achieving our goal? Do we not realize that if we do not thwart this wretched narrative about slavery as the South’s only cause, all of our efforts to stave off oblivion are in vain? If we do not understand this reality, then we are wasting our time trying to refute the image of the South as it is currently understood in the 21st century. The simple fact is that we must repudiate “whose history” and re-establish authentic history. Only by doing so will the people of the South—their faith, intellect, morality, humanity and way of life—be understood to be what is missing from the current United States! On the other hand, if we do not—if we permit “whose history” to remain the only history, the South will be consigned to oblivion.