Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Southern Anthem: Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Southern Anthem: Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Article excerpt

The South is becoming more indistinguishable from the rest of America every day, but that process is not complete just yet. Only recently did the Virginia senate finally feel enough embarrassment to vote to retire the state song, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," which contains these lyrics: "There's where the old darkey's heart am long'd to go,/There's where I labored hard for Old Massa." Not exactly in the mainstream of national attitudes, are we?

The song is one of those symbols of the Old South that stoutly resist being relegated to the past. The most familiar of these is the Confederate battle flag. It still flies over the South Carolina capitol 132 years after Appomattox, and it is incorporated into the state flags of both Georgia and Mississippi.

It's also emblazoned on bumper stickers and T-shirts and waved at football games. One peculiarity of the South is that many people who would stomp anyone burning an American flag proudly embrace the banner of those who tried to destroy the country that the American flag represents. Most black Southerners object to such exercises in nostalgia, and many whites are coming around to the same view. Georgia Gov. Zell Miller tried and failed to change his state flag. South Carolina Gov. David Beasley may likewise fail in his effort to persuade the Legislature to remove the red flag with the blue St. Andrew's cross from atop the statehouse in Columbia. Miller and Beasley face a lot of opposition among their white constituents, many of whom think you cannot be a proud Southerner without also being proud of the Lost Cause. Defenders of the Confederate flag say they have good reason to cherish it. "It's certainly not about race from our position," Christopher Sullivan of the Southern Heritage Association recently told The New York Times. "It's about the courage and valor of Confederate soldiers on the battlefield." A letter issued by South Carolina Republican legislators who favor the flag said that if it is removed, "the day will come when the children of South Carolina will be taught to be ashamed of their history and their heritage." I have a surprise for those lawmakers: The children of South Carolina should be ashamed of some parts of their history and their heritage, particularly the part that involved treating human beings as property to be used and disposed of by other human beings - and the part that involved a determined effort to demolish the Union rather than accept any interference with this barbarous practice. …

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