One of the greatest men I know, a former professor of mine, lamented the media’s depiction of those against whom we have warred. Referring to the representation of the average German soldier during WWII, he said that Americans have this need to paint their enemies as vicious - they are not content merely to fight them as an enemy, but must wholly demonise them. Upon further reflection, I’ve seen this to be true in an almost caricatured fashion. With but a few choice selections to overlook (modern media is very hesitant to demonise those insurgents of the middle east, for instance), this is overwhelmingly the case. The enemies of the mighty US of A are largely robbed of virtue in movies, TV shows, and literature. Depending on the time, Germans are made monsters, Britons are born brutes, and Southerners are slave-loving scum. This dramatic show of utter depravity fashions opposition in an almost religious way, whereby wars take on near metaphysical significance in some cosmic crusade between what is right and wrong. This is not limited against the ideologies motivating the USA’s enemies, but seeps down to infect the average individual in that culture.
We saw this develop in our own War. initially the Union was motivated by a practical consideration of territorial hegemony, but, under the pressure of radical Protestants and secular humanists, later adopted the John Brown position for the war’s prosecution. As Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address intimated, the “unfinished work” of the war was now made so “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” What was a problem of territory and power became a war where the ruin of civilization hung in the balance.
We see the same picture play out today as well. In a very recent speech, President Donald Trump praised Robert Edward Lee as a “great general.” The wider context of that utterance - praise of Hiram Ulysses Grant - didn’t matter to the cultural gatekeepers. All that mattered was that President Trump had dared to say there was something of value in Lee’s life.
The outrage fell like Lee’s cannonballs at Fredericksburg. Mainstream media reacted with swift condemnation, and the hollow heads which make their means by cue-cards read line after line of righteous indignation that Trump could see any good in him. It didn’t matter that Trump’s words in context made Grant to be a greater leader than Lee, or that the speech was about Grant, or that Trump clearly saw the United States as the right side. All that spun and whirled inside the muddled minds of our modern-day elite was outrage that Lee was afforded some decorum of civility and recognition.
It really is rather trite.
The very vices they posses vie against the virtues of Lee. That great Virginian, true to cavalier fashion, seldom, if at all, spoke ill of his enemies. On the contrary, he prayed for them almost daily. We are readily reminded of another of that Anglo-Saxon tradition, St Edward the Confessor (whose feast day is the 13th of October), who similarly exuded the same heavenly qualities of good-will.
Let every son and daughter of the South weigh the two - Lee and “those people,” and find for themselves which side is worthier of emulation.
Christopher J. Carter is an Alabama native. He graduated with a B.A. in History from Aquinas College, Nashville, and is currently pursuing further studies.