Gen. Robert Edward Lee: Soldier, Citizen, and Christian Patriot

My father's parents, into whose Mississippi home I was born, owned but three books: a King James Bible, a homesteading encyclopedia, and a book entitled Gen. Robert Edward Lee: Soldier, Citizen, and Christian Patriot

During the Civil Rights era, the Confederate Battle Flag became common on Mississippi's car antennas (I had one). Even before the ubiquity of rebel flags, Confederate statues and howitzers graced courthouse lawns; and parks, buildings and military bases had been named after Confederate generals. Those who betrayed their nation (among them my ancestors) were honored in lavish ceremonies. Many towns held grandiose celebrations called pilgrimages, which featured belles in hoop skirts and tours of antebellum mansions.

The South called the Civil War: "The War of Northern Aggression," and I was taught that although the North triumphed on the battlefield--due to having far more men and guns--the South had achieved a victory of ethics, patriotism, Christian values, and military brilliance. "And, no..." my teachers insisted, "the war wasn't about slavery. The war was about state's rights (i.e. the right to enslave), fidelity to the Constitution, and obedience to God. According to this view, America's liberals had become so hostile to our nation's values that its conservatives were forced to take up arms. 

It all sounds so modern. Here are the justifications that the insurrectionists gave for trashing their nation's capitol:

(1) This is the people's house, and we're the people, so we can do with it as we please.

(2) This is our country, and we're taking it back.


Who is "we"? They're those who voted for Trump and who support Boogaloo, Patriot Prayer, KKK, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Young Republicans. They are white, evangelical, rural, and primarily reside in the South and Midwest. They hate Jews, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, liberals, atheists, Roman Catholics, welfare recipients, and RINOs (Republican In Name Only used to mean Republicans who, on some issues, held Democratic values, but it now refers to any Republican who isn't totally in line with Trump). Here is what I interpret as their message to America:

Despite vowing to oppose the inauguration, we avoided going, but don't count us out because we've set our sights on such softer targets as celebrities, Congressmen, city council members, bridges, power stations, and commuter trains. Harassing people on the Internet is a great way to fill idle hours, but remember that an explosive-filled rental truck worked extremely well in Oklahoma City; shooting Mexicans at Walmart won us favorable publicity in El Paso; and the patriots who blew away Jews in Pittsburgh and niggers in Charleston also did us proud. We're only keeping a low profile at the moment because we're a little discouraged over being unable to stop Sleepy Joe's inauguration. Then came the worse blow of all when, instead of pardoning capitol-raiding patriots, Trump's final pardons were of mangy niggers. While it's true that those niggers supported him, for us to get nothing for attempting to overthrow the government on his behalf hurt. Three hours into the attack, he told us, "We love you. You're very special," but since then, he has done nothing but criticize us. It's like he's trying to win votes in 2024 by treating us like garbage. Finis.

The conservatives serve God, and liberals serve Satan argument that is in vogue now and during the Civil War, was also popular during the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s. I heard it preached from pulpits. I encountered it on page 1A editorials in the "Jackson Daily News." I read it in pamphlets that the KKK left in my family's driveway, and I saw it on Klan billboards. So it is that now--as during every year of the 160 years since Confederate cannon fired upon Fort Sumter, those who fight to destroy America regard themselves as its defenders, and they refer to those who fight for it as traitors.

The one obvious difference between the "patriots" of 1861 and the ones of 2021 is that today's "patriots" are not across-the-board racists, some groups even going so far as to completely disavow racism. My own belief about this is that they'll say or do any damn thing to win public sympathy, but that if they ever succeed, blacks will be thrown under the train because, in their view, no real patriot would want his daughter to marry a nigger.

I stopped counting when I reached ten uncles and grandfathers who fought for the Confederacy. The only good thing I can say about my ancestors of the era was that a single Alabama aunt openly professed her loyalty to the Union and unsuccessfully did her utmost to discourage her brothers from joining the Confederate army (one was killed but the other--a fundamentalist preacher who became my great grandfather--made it out alive). A neighbor later testified that only her gender saved Aunt Sarah Jane from physical harm. Clearly, the traitors who raided the capitol with the goal of murdering Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, felt no such restraint.

Prior to Trump, Peggy had no interest in politics, and because we rarely watch commercial television (aside from the news and Jeopardy), neither of us knew much about Trump. When he started appearing on the news, it was a case of disgust at first sight that has inspired her to learn more about politics than I know. Yesterday, she got up early to watch the inauguration, and shed happy tears throughout, both in honor of Biden and in celebration of the fact that the Trumpian nightmare is finally over.

"We're taking back our country," the capitol raiding Trumpians proclaimed, and as I watched the inauguration two weeks to the day later, I smilingly thought, "Not today, assholes."