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The Lost Cause And Confederate Flag

June 23, 2015

There are many fine reads over the past few days about the Confederate flag and racism.  Perhaps none better is this one.

I do take issue with the writer’s inability to see Gone With The Wind as a cinematic experience.   I take his point about how some view the film, but as a matter of movie making there is no way not to place it in the list of classics.  But for everything else this article is perfectly stated.

In part it reads:

You see, I study traditional culture. More specifically, I study the ways in which today’s culture manufactures and reinforces traditions through mass media. Folklorists have a unique disciplinary perspective for this sort of analysis because there was this period of time when the field was mired in “romantic nationalism.” The “true character” of a people was said to be rooted in the culture of the volk and was glorified and incorporated into more modern political movements. Like Nazism. So folklorists have a keen interest in serving as the sort-of keepers of cultural authenticity, if you will. If anyone should be highlighting the ways in which “traditions” are being manufactured, distorted, and consumed, it is us… me.

In America today, the most prominent, prevalent, and pernicious of these revisionist movements is the Lost Cause narrative: the idea that the Civil War was a romantic struggle for freedom against an oppressive government trying to enforce cultural change. There are scores of books on this topic, and you should check those out at your local library. But probably the most famous popular culture Lost Cause text is Gone With The Wind (both book and movie).

I hate Gone With the Wind. I hate everything about it. I hate its portrayal of the Civil War. I hate its portrayal of Southern aristocrats. I hate its popularity. I hate that it’s become an iconic movie. I hate that it was ever made in the first place. Gone With the Wind is Birth of a Nation with less horses. The movie, and its position among the American cinematic pantheon, has done more to further the a historic Lost Cause bullshit than any other single production. Because that’s the fundamental problem with the Lost Cause narrative: it’s not true.

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Heritage not hate!

  • Funny story: the heritage is hate. This is my favorite talking point because it sets up a false dichotomy and then tries to pretend “heritage” is a signifier for some romantic, noble culture just waiting to be recaptured. When Lindsay Graham says things like, “The flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side. To others it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people, it’s been used in a racist way,” he makes a mockery of the history. Yes, Senator, it does represent one side of the Civil War: the side that advocated slavery and secession. It’s the flag of treason.

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