Quite likely the only such "Ave!" I'll ever give to Glenn Reynolds's (in)famous blog, this shout-out isn't for Reynolds himself, but for one of his guest bloggers: Randy Barnett, who had the balls to write a post that most definitely rubs certain conservatives the wrong way because it goes against the current rightie groupthink. Here's the post in full:
MAX BOOT: Rightfully Reversing Decades of Secessionist Rehabilitation:
But there is a big distinction to be made between remembering the past — something that, as a historian, I’m all in favor of — and honoring those who did bad things in the past. Remembrance does not require public displays of the Confederate flag, nor streets with names such as Jefferson Davis Highway — a road that always rankles me to drive down in Northern Virginia. Such gestures are designed to honor leaders of the Confederacy, who were responsible for the costliest war in American history — men who were traitors to this country, inveterate racists, and champions of slavery.
In this regard, honoring Jefferson Davis is particularly egregious, or, for that matter, Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan. But I believe even honoring the nobler Robert E. Lee is inappropriate. True, he was a brave and skilled soldier, but he fought in a bad cause. Modern Germany does not have statues to Erwin Rommel even though he — unlike Lee — turned at the end of the day against the monstrous regime in whose cause he fought so skillfully. Thus, I don’t believe it is appropriate to have statues of Lee, or schools named after him, although I admit in his case it’s a closer call than with Jefferson Davis.
This is not “rewriting” history; it’s getting history right. The rewriting was done by Lost Cause mythologists who created pro-Confederate propaganda (such as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind) to convince their countrymen that the South was actually in the right even as it imposed slavery and then segregation. This required impugning those Northerners who went south after the Civil War to try to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. They were labeled “carpetbaggers,” and their memory was tarnished while the actions of the white supremacists they opposed were glorified.
Boot is exactly right. I wasn’t kidding when I said before that I am glad to see Nikki Haley get the Stars and Bars removed from government buildings. Eric Foner and other historians like James Oakes and Richard Sewell are to be credited with correcting the historical record from the pro-Confederate revisionism that is still accepted by all-too-many on the right. Where the “Lost Cause” fable might once have been justified as a useful fiction to unify the country, lying about the Civil War and Reconstruction now only serves those who wish to sully the reputation of those who opposed slavery and promoted the civil rights of blacks when doing so took real courage (as it did for the civil rights activists of the ’50s and ’60s). In this way, like the Southerners of old, they can claim that there is a moral equivalence between North and South, between the USA and the CSA.
MORE HERE: I highly recommend the books I link to above about the men who opposed the pro-slavery reading of the Constitution before the Civil War, and who established the Republican Party to see their vision of the Constitution affirmed in its text. You can also read my articles on antislavery constitutionalism here and here. The more I learn about the history that has been concealed by pro-Confederate revisionism, the more I find to admire in our past.
Cross-posted on The Volokh Conspiracy. h/t Eugene Volokh
Posted at 5:09 pm by Randy Barnett
This is a reversal of the current conservative Zeitgeist. Conservatives, many or most of whom want, for whatever reason, to see the Confederate flag preserved, falsely equate the removal of the flag from public spaces like the state capitol to an erasure of history (a matter I discussed earlier: it's not). The above post rightly asserts that such a removal, far from being a distortion or an erasure of history, is a correction, a remedy for pernicious Southern revisionism. I can only say "Good!" to that. Imagine Holocaust deniers having their way, or imagine if Koreans abandon the fight to make Japanese textbook publishers publish a true and correct history of Japan's role in World War II. The above post is talking about something like that.
As of this writing, Barnett's post has garnered a whopping 382 comments, many of them outraged that Barnett would refuse to drink the Kool Aid.
All of this anger in the comment threads reminds me of one of Charles's posts.
Trivia: I know Jefferson Davis Highway. It runs through part of Arlington, Virginia, maybe 30 to 40 minutes from where I used to live in Alexandria.