The “partial government shutdown” means I’m at home this week with time to kill; yesterday I had planned to play golf but it rained…a lot. (Today it rained again; hey, aren’t we in a drought?) So, I finished off the last two issues of Golf magazine, which I had allowed to lapse, and then organized the more than two and a half years of back issues of Texas Monthly that I’ve been ignoring since…well, since March of 2011, our state’s 175th birthday. Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1836; while the siege at the Alamo neared its end, 59 Texans gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declared Texas a nation independent of Mexico.
The cover story in “The Terquasquicentennial Issue” is a tour of 175 historic events and places in Texas history. From 113 million year old dinosaur fossils west of Glen Rose (#1) to the invention of the integrated circuit (#23) and the frozen margarita machine (#22), both in Dallas (dammit), to the sites of infamous murders (#4, #7, #15, #34, #46, #62) and great literature (#29, #81) and the first Dr Pepper (#145) and important sports milestones (#10, #18, #53), the list is a great read for Texans and, I think , at least amusing for non-Texans. But #31 made me stop and think: the first Confederate monument in Texas, erected in 1896 and still there today on the grounds of the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman, in north Texas.
I’ve lived in Texas for more than 45 years, and I’ve seen plenty of monuments to Confederate war dead, including some pretty impressive ones on the grounds of the state capital; I never gave much thought to any of them. Even when I considered the probable impropriety of praise for the losers in a civil war, I reconciled it to myself with the thought that it was a memorial placed by good-hearted people to honor lost brothers.
But the wording on this memorial got me thinking (emphasis mine):
“Sacred to the memory of our Confederate dead, true patriots, they fought for home and country, for the holy principles of self government—the only true liberty. Their sublime self sacrifices and unsurpassed valor will teach future generations the lesson of high born patriotism, of devotion to duty, of exalted courage, of Southern chivalry.” “Fighting for the preservation of family, homeland and rights is never a lost cause. So great the valor, so supreme the sacrifice, so red the rose . . .”
Maybe it’s just me, but all I can hear in my head as I read that is the echoes of today’s far right. The invocation of traditions of faith and righteousness are the buzzwords of today’s extreme conservative political machine; the people who claim to love and cherish the U.S. Constitution and the laws of this country, and who are fighting the good fight to take their country back (from whomever), are using the same language as people who supported and honored the traitors who took up arms against the United States of America, who claimed the backing of the Almighty in a fight to defend the practice of human slavery. Today, conservatives impugn their political enemies for an alleged lack of patriotism using the same language that was used to exalt traitors to this country.
Do many of the extremist Republicans who are responsible for today’s standoff in the current fight over “family, homeland and rights” look to those rebels as examples of “high born patriotism” and “devotion to duty”? Do any? It makes me wonder.