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Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Civil War Is Weird And Complicated (Sometimes)

Have you heard about the moving of the body of Nathan Bedford Forrest? Memphis is moving it. I can't say I blame them. It was likely placed with prominence during a time when everything Forrest did--postwar helping to found the Klan included--was viewed as a good thing. If you keep scrolling, you might conclude that at least this man was capable of virtue and kindness. On his best day, he would probably qualify as a paternalist toward his black neighbors, which is unacceptable to us today, as it should be.

When people are involved in things of great historical import, they don't often see the full implications of what they are trying to do. There undoubtedly were black people sympathetic to the Confederate cause, because of some personal assessment of a more immediate concern (like, say, the destruction caused by Union "invaders," or having been personally discipled by Robert E. Lee) who just wouldn't even see the big picture (that Union victory would help them). There'd be no basis for revisionist histories without these oddities, and history in general is replete with them. Those of us who came later, because we are not native to the time, nor generally experts in history, will be painting with broad brushes. Good and Evil is a pretty common one, in wars.

I think there is potential for all this flag stuff to become a giant spasm of liberal self-righteousness--frankly, I've known a few--but I don't think we're anywhere near it.

We lost Dr. King in Memphis.

If we are deciding as a group that King did more good for our nation than Nathan Forrest did, and so, we want to move the latter's body, and in some way rethink our previous unstinting adulation of the man, I'm OK with this.

The KKK was founded in Tennessee.

If, by the mercy of God, Nathan Bedford Forrest attains to glory on the Last Day, he's not going to mind. If he did not, it's not going to matter.

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