Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

A recent PPP survey showed that 37 per cent of Mississippi Republicans said they would back a Confederates States of America if a new Civil War broke out, compared to just 9 per cent among Democrats.  It gives you a pretty good indication where the Dixiecrats went after the landmark 1964 Civil Rights legislation and shows that Dixie is far from dead in a lot of people's minds.

The open feud between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel over the Republican Senate primary appears to have opened up deep wounds, but such pro-Confederate feelings aren't confined to Mississippi.  The Klu Klux Klan has mounted recruiting drives in several states, notably South Carolina and Georgia where they indiscriminately left "goodie bags" on door steps with the hope of luring persons who are upset about the ongoing immigration "crisis."

Yet, anytime someone brings up race the radical right seems to cringe as if we live in a post-racial society.  Eric Holder once again came under fire for making racially-charged statements in a recent interview with ABC News.  Conservative pundits were quick to jump on these comments, claiming he was race-bating.

Of course there was no such race-bating in Mississippi when Chris McDaniel's camp called for election monitors in the run-off, afraid Black Democrats would vote twice in the cross-over primaries?  No such proof was ever presented, yet McDaniel has yet to admit defeat.  He's gotten support from Ted Cruz and other conservative Congressional leaders in another run-off.

Then you have all these conservative blogs scouring local media for any form of reverse racism, like this incident where an Iowa kid was apparently considered "racist" for wearing all white and waving a "W" sign during school spirit week.  I guess we can't say The Daily Caller is race-bating either.  These stories pop up on Yahoo! news, as lead stories seem to be based on the number of hits on their search engine.

Part of the problem resides in the South's inability to let go of the Civil War.  Wherever you go you find memorials to the battles, to the soldiers lost, to the generals who led the battles.  The biggest is Stone Mountain with its massive engraved image of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  Re-enactments of the battles can stretch out for days and have become big tourist draws.  Southerners are quick to point out all these reminders are a matter of pride not racism, but for such a short-lived Confederacy, it seems to live deep in the heart 150 years later.

The Lost Cause comes back again and again and again.  It is repeatedly evoked in music.  Even The Band, which hails from Canada, paid tribute to the Old South in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."  Robbie Robertson called it a "beautiful sadness" when he heard Southerners evoke Old Dixie.  A little naive considering this was the late 60s.  Ralph Gleason, in a Rolling Stone review, likened the song to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage.  Many persons have since covered the song, oddly enough even Richie Havens, although I imagine he saw something else in the song that others didn't.

It is a beautiful song, like the softly sung Dixie, but the ugly truth remains that the Old South was institutionalized racism and that this racism continues to persist.  Evoking Dixie doesn't do anything to heal those wounds.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of evoking Dixie. Michael Peroutka rallies Maryland Republicans behind the Stars and Bars,