The Remnant, Part 3
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Unless the Lord of Hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah. – Isaiah 1:7-9
Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.– Ezekiel 6:8-10
O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. – Ezra 9:6-8
(This is the third part of a three-part series. Part 1 of the Remnant begins here, part 2 begins here.)
We are living through an iconoclastic terror in which irreversible and unforgivable damage will be done to our cultural heritage. It is an atrocity and a tragedy not unlike the Spanish Red Terror – when Communist revolutionaries desecrated Catholic churches and massacred Catholic clergy, even going so far as to exhume and execute in effigy the corpses of monks and nuns. For what is a monument but a symbolic grave – a grave for the memory, if not the body, of a person, or a people? Yet we, the Southern people, do not live in bronze or stone. As horrible as it is to lose our monuments, that is not to lose everything. We must become ‘living monuments’ of our people. The virtues that we admire in our heroes and that we once memorialised in these beautiful works of art? Now, more than ever, we must embody those virtues ourselves and make our lives beautiful. Our ancestors’ graves may be desecrated, but even if their memories are exhumed and executed in effigy, they themselves cannot be killed – and it is not because they are already dead. It is because they live in us.
The Hebrew prophets knew that the ruling classes and the masses would not heed their message, but they also knew that their duty was not to preach to them anyway, but to ‘The Remnant.’ According to the Bible, the Remnant is what remains of a people after suffering a catastrophe – the Assyrian conquest of Israel or the Babylonian conquest of Judah – which must preserve the heritage of their people within themselves until a time comes when it can be restored to its former glory. ‘Major Prophets’ like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, as well as many other ‘Minor Prophets’ spoke of ‘a faithful remnant’ with hope for their people’s future. In the books of Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai, and Malachi, the Jewish people who returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon are referred to as ‘a faithful remnant.’ The Jews have continued to survive as a people because generation after generation remained faithful to their ancient heritage in spite of their dispossession and persecution. (In fact, part of the reason that they have been persecuted in the first place was because they never fully assimilated wherever they lived and always kept themselves somewhat apart, with Jewish institutions and Jewish traditions of their own.) Because of the faith of this Remnant, the Jewish people have not only created diaspora communities around the world for thousands of years, but also created a country of their own in their ancestral homeland after thousands of years of exile.
Living amid the death throes of the Roman Empire – barbarian invasions, economic crises, political corruption, and social dissolution – an Italian monk named Benedict founded the first Catholic monasteries in order to preserve a ‘faithful remnant’ of Christianity and the Classics. Because of how the Catholic monasteries which Benedict founded virtually saved Western Civilisation during the ensuing Dark Ages, Benedict has been canonised as the ‘Patron Saint of All Europe.’ Rod Dreher (a Christian author and blogger at The American Conservative who lives in Louisiana) has proposed a plan for how Christians can use what he calls ‘The Benedict Option’ in the modern post- and even anti-Christian world. Ironically, Mr. Dreher has also compared contemporary Christians to Rome’s ‘Final Pagan Generation,’ a generation which appeared to be blissfully ignorant of or even indifferent to the threat that Christianity posed to its world.
We Southerners must practice a version of the Benedict Option among ourselves and become ‘The Remnant,’ so to speak, of our own people. Each one of us must be like Benedictine monks, conserving the blueprints of our culture and civilisation so that one day our children can reconstruct a new American South after these Dark Ages. Each one of us must aspire to be the ‘Patron Saint of All Dixie,’ doing great works to honour the memory of our ancestors and sacrifice for the future of our descendants. If we do nothing, then we shall go down in history for our complacency and cowardice as America’s ‘Final Southern Generation,’ born into a country where our people belonged but dying in a country where our people have been banished.
M.E. Bradford, in Why the South Will Survive (a tribute to I’ll Take My Stand on its semi-centennial anniversary), summarised our mission as the Southern Remnant:
For the sake of memory, let us preserve the iconic things – buildings, monuments, gardens, rites, celebrations, and stories – which have defined us for over three hundred years as a people apart, and which carry in themselves the seeds of restoration as a context for the tradition. Objections to these reminders of an earlier South or to an attention to its history must be resisted, at every turn and with every resource. Those who would destroy the icons and erase that memory are not Southerners as we define the species here, but instead serve chiefly to recall to us why we have never agreed to be absorbed by the deracinated abstractions of the Union at large
Since the symbols of our ancestors will be purged from public places, we must display our pride in our ancestry ourselves. Set out family portraits and set out photo albums. Fly a flag from your porch or yard. Put a (polite) bumper sticker on your car. We must also learn about our ancestry, too. Trace your genealogy and learn family lore from your elders. Join hereditary societies like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (which are in desperate need of new blood) in order to fraternise and organise with your fellow Southerners. We must also treat our patriotic symbols with the respect that they deserve (so no ‘rebel flag’ bikinis, boxers, beer cozies, beach towels, etc.) Many Southerners are so far out of touch with their roots – who they are, where they come from, and what they have done – that they are insensible to how personal these attacks on our ancestors truly are.
We must behave like traditional Southern gentlemen and ladies, practicing the Southern manners that we preach (which, as George Garrett has explained, are an expression of the Christian commandment to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’). If we treat others and ourselves with respect, then others will respect us more, we will respect ourselves more, and our spheres of influence will not only be more civilised, decent, and humane, but also will grow in influence. Describing the literature of Tom Wolfe (a native of Richmond who moved to Manhattan, where he satirised every aspect of American race, class, and sex, including/especially the poor manners of New Yorkers), Garrett explained that for Southerners manners are ‘a mean between brute savagery (barbarism) and frivolous foppery (foolish over-sophistication),’ ‘the mean between the utterly idiosyncratic (mannerism) and the tediously conventional (cliché and stereotype),’ and ‘represent a formal obligation to one’s neighbor (who is always Everyman) and the recognition of the love of God and presence of the Holy Ghost in all of one’s fellow creatures.’
We must study all 400 years of Southern history, not just the 16 years of the War and Reconstruction, which however epic is just one chapter of our story. ‘The North defeated the South in war, crushed and humiliated it in peace, and waged against it a war of intellectual and spiritual conquest,’ according to Frank L. Owsley. ‘In this conquest the North fixed upon the South the stigma of war guilt, of slave guilt, of treason, and thereby shook the faith of its people in their way of living and in their philosophy of life.’ We must renew our faith in that way of living and philosophy of life, as Owsley urged us to do, but in order to do that have to go back in time to before that conquest. As Richard M. Weaver demonstrated in his juxtaposition of the diaries of the Cavalier William Byrd II of Virginia and the Puritan Cotton Mather of Massachusetts, there were already distinct Southern and Northern identities as early as the 17th century. Colonial history is often overshadowed by the Founding (which slaveholding Southern soldiers and statesmen dominated, much to the chagrin of the American ‘Girondins’ and ‘Jacobins’ alike), but it was then and there that our heritage originated. Prior to the War and Reconstruction, of course, ‘America’ was synonymous with Southern history: Daniel Boone and the Cumberland Gap, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Francis Scott Key and the Battle of Fort McHenry, Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, Davy Crockett ‘The King of the Wild Frontier,’ Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, ‘Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!’, Kit Carson and the Rocky Mountains, Zachary Taylor and the Battle of Buena Vista, Winfield Scott and the Battle of Mexico City, and the popular literature of the ‘frontier humourists’ who fictionalised the settlement of western territory. As the monuments to our history are torn down, we must build up new ones in our hearts.
That said, we must be prepared to keep ‘mowing the lawn,’ so to speak, continually refuting the lies that Yankees never tire of telling about the War and Reconstruction. They believe in the simplistic formulation that since secession was ‘all about’ slavery, the war was also ‘all about’ slavery, and therefore the Federals were ‘good guys’ and the Confederates ‘bad guys.’ We must show that secession did not cause the war – that the Union’s reasons for invading the Confederacy were not the same as the Confederacy’s reasons for seceding from the Union. We must show that slavery was a national problem which required a national solution and that no national political party (including/especially Abraham Lincoln’s Republicans) proposed such a solution. We must show that the so-called solution to slavery which the Northern anti-slavery movement proposed would have amounted to the greatest act of self-disinheritance in history with no positive precedents whatsoever. We must show that when white Southerners recoiled at these demands, the Northern anti-slavery movement only intensified their rhetoric and threatened them with the very slave insurrections that they feared the most. We must show that the Northern anti-slavery movement had non-humanitarian ulterior motives, to say the least – from the capitalists (who figured that ‘free labour’ blacks would work harder for less money) to the nativists/racists (who wanted to keep blacks out of the American West), to the statists (who wanted to weaken the power of the Jeffersonians so that they could enact the Hamiltonian programme). We must show that the Southern defense of slavery from external attacks by the Northern anti-slavery movement coincided with the internal reform of slavery by white Southerners, contradicting the Northern anti-slavery propaganda to which the pro-slavery arguments were responding. We must show, in sum, that white Southerners had inherited rather than invented the institution of slavery and that the solution to that problem was hardly as self-evident as ‘presentism’ (or ‘anachronistic moralism’) makes it seem.
Yankees lie that secession was treason – an illegal and undemocratic plot to destroy ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ We must show, by contrast, that secession was legal and democratic. We must show that secession was the act of conventions of the people of the states, which in the American small-f federal and small-r republican tradition were elected in order to represent the people in their sovereign capacity amid great public crises. We must show that it was supreme state conventions such as these which delegated power to the general conventions in Philadelphia in the first place and ultimately had the authority to accept/reject whatever their delegates proposed. We must show that the people of the states never surrendered their sovereignty by forming ‘a more perfect union,’ but spelled out in their ordinances of ratification and constitutional amendments that they reserved whatever powers they had not delegated to that compact and enumerated in that charter. We must show that just as the people of the states had, through their sovereign authority, ratified the Constitution of the United States of America, so through that very same sovereign authority did they repeal that ratification of the Constitution and dissolve their connection with the United States of America. We must show what ‘saving the Union’ meant in practice – declaring supreme state conventions to be ‘combinations of criminals,’ overruling the ‘consent of the governed’ with sheer military power, and overthrowing the duly elected governments of the seceded states under occupation. We must show, in sum, that it was secession which exemplified ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’
Yankees lie that the Confederates committed war crimes. This particular lie is most popular in Hollywood because however historically inaccurate it may be, entertainment media has the creative freedom to tell whatever story it wants and audiences are often dumb enough believe whatever they watch. We must show the absurdity of this lie by reminding everyone that the War was a war of invasion – that it was the Union that invaded the Confederacy, not the other way around. ‘The Rape of Athens’ was much more representative than ‘The Lawrence Massacre,’ and even then there are notable differences between those two atrocities. The former was committed by regular Union troops at the order of their commanding officer; the latter was perpetrated by irregular Confederate ‘Bushwhackers.’ The former was an act of indiscriminate violence against black and white women alike; the latter was an act of discriminate violence against ‘Jayhawker’ men for their indiscriminate violence against women. The former was hailed throughout the Union and resulted in the promotion of the court-martialed commander by the U.S. President himself; the latter was condemned throughout the Confederacy and resulted in the outlawing of those who perpetrated the crime. The former was enabled by a Union commander who was elected U.S. President after the War; the latter was committed by men who became ‘Wild West’ outlaws after the War. As far as the lie that Confederates committed war crimes against their own people is concerned, we must show that while conflict between civilians and the military is inevitable when they are fighting a war in their own country, Confederate civilians cheered on the Confederate military even after they had given up on the Confederate government. We must show, in sum, that Yankees are, with their usual insufferable self-righteousness, projecting their own war guilt onto their war victims.
We must all contribute to a renaissance of Southern arts. Whatever our individual talents are – culinary? literary? performing? visual? – we must make our experience as the Southern Remnant our muse. The alleged cultural inferiority of the American South is nothing more than Yankee arrogance and ignorance – our lack of a derivative culture ‘poured in from the top,’ in Donald Davidson’s phrase, as opposed to an original culture arising from the folk. What has always made the American South a ‘Mirror for Artists,’ in another phrase of Davidson’s, is her closeness to nature, her historical consciousness, and the cohesiveness of her communities, a muse which starkly contrasts with atomised, deracinated, and citified life.
We must cook Southern cuisine in our homes for our family and friends in the tradition of old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Indeed, what would American cuisine be without dishes as diverse as barbequed pork and deep-fried chicken? Buttermilk biscuits and cornbread? Greens and grits? Chili and gumbo? Peach cobbler and pecan pie? To say nothing of sweet tea and whiskey! (Note: Support local Southern restaurants, not nü-South ‘foodies’ appropriating our culture in their ironically antiquarian ‘eateries.’)
We must read Southern literature and write some poetry or prose of our own when we find our voice. Indeed, what would American literature be without Southern writers as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms? William Faulkner and Walker Percy? Florence King and Tom Wolfe? Augusta Jane Evans and Eudora Welty? Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor? (Note: Culturally appropriating the ‘Southern Gothic’ genre in order to tell a moralistic tale about how evil Southerners are is the polar opposite of philosophical and theological beliefs about good and evil which inspire that genre.)
We must listen to Southern music and write some of our own when we find our sound. Indeed, what would American music be without Southern genres as diverse as bluegrass and ragtime? Blues and jazz? Funk and soul? R&B and rock n’ roll? Gospel and sacred harp? (Note: The degeneration of country music from its folk roots into ‘bro-country’ and ‘hick-hop’ – veritable redneck minstrel shows – is the cultural appropriation of Nashville by Los Angeles.)
When it comes to the visual arts, we cannot replace the great public works of art of ours which have been and will be destroyed: They were from a time when our people were self-conscious and self-confident in spite of – or, perhaps, because of – military defeat and occupation as well as economic exploitation and impoverishment. That proud sense of self has been perverted into self-hatred and self-righteousness. Our unique experience as aliens in our own country must inspire unique works of art less public and more private but no less proud. ‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ lamented the Psalmist, ‘there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.’ Our duty as the Southern Remnant is to keep the memory of Zion alive even as we are spiritually, if not geographically, exiled in a modern-day Babylon, so that our posterity will be prepared to rebuild when our homeland belongs to us again.
Consider these arts our version of the Hebraic Law. For the Jewish people, the strict observance of a code of arcane (and sometimes seemingly arbitrary) laws kept them apart from host populations which otherwise would have assimilated them. We, the Southern Remnant, must keep ourselves apart from the American mainstream, but while the Hebraic Law is fundamentally unnatural, the ‘Southern Law’ should come naturally to us. What could be more rewarding than eating America’s best cuisine, reading America’s best literature, listening to America’s best music, trying your hand at yourself, and then sharing the fruits with friends and family?
Rootedness – that feeling of belonging to a particular people in a particular place during a particular period – is at the core of Southern identity. ‘From that moment there crept over my spirit a feeling akin to patriotism for this piece of land – for its history and for its beauty,’ Don Anderson described the experience of rediscovering his ancestral home. ‘From that moment I have been drawn to it as a magnet.’ We must deepen our roots in land where we live by exploring the outdoors (picnics at the park with friends and family are nice, but not the same) and taking up outdoor sports like fishing and hunting (collegiate and professional sports are popular Southern pastimes, yet they are degrading diversions converged with ‘Woke Capitalism’). For a taste of that agrarian life which hardened and humbled our ancestors, try growing a garden on whatever land you own (or at least mow your own lawn). Hamilton C. Horton listed such recreational activities – gardening, hunting, fishing, etc. – as examples of how Southerners can bend their identities without breaking them, choosing to be ‘culturally agrarian’ as much as we can even as other aspects of our lives are necessarily industrialist. As Horton put it, ‘Within the South there remains a tendency to view the land as something more than just a commodity.’ At the same time, we must cultivate local and small (or ‘human-scaled) communities, where human individuality, family, diversity, and unity can flourish. It was an agrarian economy and society which created and sustained those human-scaled communities, and while few of us today can live according to the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal like Andrew Lytle and Wendell Berry, the Southern Remnant can still be good neighbors and citizens in whatever community where we live.
We must go back to church – though not just whatever your family’s traditional denomination was, but to an orthodox Christian church of whatever denomination or maybe even of no denomination. For one, it is what we always should have been doing together. The very reason that the Jewish people had to survive as a ‘faithful remnant’ was that they betrayed the covenant of their fathers for the false gods of the Philistines. For another, it is the only way that we are going to endure these tribulations together. The Jewish people were only able to remain faithful to their covenant because they did not disperse as individuals but cohered together in diaspora communities. Last, but not least, what Cleanth Brooks called ‘The Enduring Faith’ of the American South has historically been free from the Gnostic heresies of Puritanism which revolutionised American Christianity and (in a secularised but no less zealous form) America’s civic religion. ‘The best one can say,’ remarked Brooks, ‘is that a venerable tradition has not been wholly lost – that there remains at least a foundation upon which to rebuild.’
And it should go without saying that if you are a single young man or woman, get married, be a good husband or wife, have children, and be a good father or mother. There can be no Remnant if there is no next generation. As they say, ‘Demography is destiny.’ We must also educate that next generation, as all effective Remnants have done. (The Jewish people, for example, did not just expect their children to be well-educated, but educated their children well themselves – for if they had done otherwise then they would have been assimilated into their host populations and would no longer exist today.) Beyond ‘the three R’s,’ the purpose of education should be the individual pursuit of intellectual excellence. The American public-school system, however, is more like a factory than an academy: It is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, dominated by corrupt unions with no stake in the success of the students, designed to instill conformity/uniformity of behavior/beliefs rather than critical thinking, and is converged with ‘Cultural Marxism.’ As the Southern Remnant, we must, according to John Gould Fletcher and Thomas Fleming respectively, make education ‘an ally of culture and civilization’ in which students are ‘schooled by the best minds of the ages, rather than by those semi-literate denizens of teachers’ colleges, the writers of textbooks.’ If you can, send your children to classical Christian academies which teach the Canon and the Trivium (and are, not coincidentally, objectively superior to prep-schools in terms of ‘college and career readiness’). If there are no such an academies in your area or you absolutely cannot afford tuition, then homeschool your children. With the curricula and communities that are available online, homeschooling is easier and more effective than ever. While public-school students are taught in unsafe environments by unqualified ‘teachers’ (people with degrees in ‘education’ with one eye on the next chapter in the textbook and the other on standardised tests), homeschooled children can be taught in a safe environment by some of the best teachers of a subject in the world. Of course, there is no substitute for the family – that is, for raising your children right yourself.
We must reject the hyper-partisan factionalism of the Democrats and the Republicans (which is mentally and morally degrading to spectators as well as participants) and rededicate ourselves to our political patrimony. What is this Southern political tradition? It is so much more than ‘States’ Rights,’ which is just a particular expression of it under our federal and republican form of government. (Not to belittle the importance of states’ rights, of course, which are so important that the great John Randolph of Roanoke once remarked, ‘Asking one of the States to surrender part of her sovereignty is like asking a lady to surrender part of her chastity.’) The Southern political tradition can be summarised as an order of Self, Society, and State in which the ‘Country’ must come before the ‘Court,’ governance is ‘Nomocratic’ not ‘Teleocratic,’ the ‘City of Man’ can never equal the ‘City of God,’ ‘Change is not Reform,’ and ‘The Lamp of Experience’ is ‘A Better Guide Than Reason.’ These traditions are not only ‘absolutely necessary for the continuation of our form of government,’ according to George C. Rogers, but also provide ‘a different framework of values and institutions through which we can approach the world with purpose and coherence,’ according to Samuel T. Francis. The American South has, in the words of her greatest statesman, John C. Calhoun, traditionally been ‘the balance wheel of our complex and beautiful system,’ but as Democrats and Republicans have suppressed real Southern leadership in the government, the consolidation of and corruption by power combined with dissolution of public order and policy has become so catastrophic that the country is now in a permanent state of crisis.
As the Southern Remnant, our political role will be comparable to that of the Hebrew prophets, who were always on the margins of their society but whose lives influenced and inspired future leaders. We are in the political wilderness and cannot overthrow our own Ahabs and Jezebels, but we can, like Elijah, call down fire from heaven to expose their evil lies to our people. We can, like Daniel, read the writing on the wall at the Belshazzar’s feast that is the American civic religion. Indeed, we are living through a veritable plague which, if not called down by Moses to punish Pharaoh, has nevertheless exposed the fragility not just of our current administration but of our entire system of government.
There have been sympathetic intellectual histories of the American South by academics like Richard Beale Davis, Michael O’Brien, and Eugene D. Genovese, yet according to the poseur-professor pundits and the poseur-pundit professors who dominate news panels, opinion pages, and podcasts, there is no peculiar Southern thought and whatever we say we think is either a conscious lie or a false consciousness for white supremacy. A gap has been growing between what first-rate historians (many of whom are amateurs) are rediscovering about the American South and what third-rate celebrity-historians who want to be called for comment keep echoing and exaggerating. ‘As Southerners we are so used to certain slanders that we no longer even bother to answer them,’ remarked Thomas H. Landess. ‘But there are some slanders that need answering in order to isolate our true vices as well as to affirm our virtues.’ As the Southern Remnant, we must continue to disentangle what is beautiful and valuable in our heritage from the legacy of slavery and segregation.
We must be like Robert Penn Warren, who in The Legacy of the Civil War admitted that the ‘Great Alibi’ had turned the ‘great virtues’ of Southern heritage into ‘vicious absurdities,’ exemplified by white resistance to civil rights:
Does he ever realize that the events of Tuscaloosa, Little Rock, and New Orleans are nothing more than an obscene parody of the meaning of his history? It is a debasement of his history, with all that was noble, courageous, and justifying bleached out, drained away. Does the man who, in the relative safety of mob anonymity, stands howling vituperation at a little Negro girl being conducted into a school building, feel himself at one with those gaunt, barefoot, whiskery scarecrows who fought it out, breast to breast, to the death, at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania in May, 1864? Can the man howling in the mob imagine General R.E. Lee, CSA, shaking hands with Orval Faubus, Governor of Arkansas? Does that man in the mob ever wonder why his own manly and admirable resentment at coercion should be enlisted, over and over again, in situations which should, and do, embarrass the generosity and dignity of manhood, including his own? Does he ever consider the possibility that whatever degree of dignity and success a Negro achieves actually enriches, in the end, the life of the white man and enlarges his own worth as a human being?
Contrary to the ‘white nationalists’ claiming to be ‘Southern nationalists,’ we share a heritage with our black brothers and sisters. When Martin Luther King argued that ‘the language, the cultural patterns, the music, the material prosperity, and even the food of America are an amalgam of black and white,’ he was describing the American South which he and his wife called home. The American South is not so much a race (‘white’) or an ethnicity (‘Anglo’ or ‘Celtic’), but rather a nation comprised of diverse races and ethnicities united by history, including Cajuns, Cubanos, ‘Dutch’ (i.e. German and Swiss Anabaptists), French Huguenots, Indians (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole), Sephardim, Tejanos, and of course Africans. Indeed, of the eleven distinct ‘American Nations,’ six of them are in the American South. We are a unique ‘nation within a nation,’ however, as we are the single largest geographical region within the Union (larger than many other independent nations) and older than the Union itself (older than many other independent nations). We are, in a word, sui generis. As Clyde N. Wilson declared, ‘The South is a national asset a priceless and irreplaceable treasure that must be conserved.’
The South is a distinctly American expression of Western Civilisation, and so as the Southern Remnant we are conserving more than just our particular Southern heritage, but our Classical and Christian heritage as well. ‘Though the South is our subject,’ observed Stark Young, ‘we must remember that we are concerned first with a quality itself, not as our own but as found everywhere, and that we defend certain qualities not because they belong to the South, but because the South belongs to them.’ Southerners are (or at least were) the heirs of what was best from antiquity. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the USSR and began touring the Western world, Marion Montgomery argued that Solzhenitsyn believed in the same qualities of life as we do and paraphrased Young’s reminder to us: ‘He affirms and defends certain qualities of life not because they belong to the Russia he loves, but because the Russia he loves belongs to them.’ This makes the American South a fairly inclusive identity and inheritance, one which is less about ‘blood and soil’ and more about ‘soul.’ I, for example, am not someone whom most Americans would identify as ‘Southern,’ at least not until they get to know me. I was born and raised in Florida’s suburbs, where my family moved from Maryland. These suburbs are largely homogenised and have little local culture left, though it is still Southern if you know what you are looking for and where to look. I went to school for my undergraduate degree up north in Pennsylvania (where I stuck out as one of the few not from ‘PA’ or the Tri-State Area) and for my graduate degree out west in California (where I stuck out as one of the few who was not a first- or second-generation immigrant or on a student visa). After graduate school, I moved back to my suburban hometown where I live to this day. My Southern heritage is chiefly one of tastes and values – tastes and values instilled in me by my family. So you do not have to be ‘outwardly Southern’ to be ‘inwardly Southern,’ the latter of which is far more important, anyway. My wife and her family, who emigrated from the former USSR, are more ‘Southern’ than many ‘Southerners’ whom I know, even though they would never identify themselves as such, in the sense that they maintain the same ‘qualities of life’ from the Old World that the American South alone has maintained in the New World and which has differentiated her from the rest of the Union.
‘Tradition is not simply a fact, but a fact that must be consistently defended,’ argued Allen Tate. ‘It can always be defended,’ he added, ‘but a recovery and a restoration is a more difficult performance.’ Whether you are young or old, as the Southern Remnant, we are all living during a momentous time in the history of our people in which our traditions are just a single generation away from extinction. No individual can carry the burden of the whole Southern tradition himself or herself, but if each one of us contributes our God-given talents to the cause, then together we can defend and even restore those traditions. Of course, we must distinguish between living in the past and the past living in us. We must accept that we can never go back to 1650, 1750, 1850, or 1950, nor should we want to. We must accept that change is a part of life – but unlike most other Americans who mouth such clichés as they shrug off any and every change to their culture and civilisation, no matter how manifestly for the worse, we add that conservation must also be a part of life. We want to conserve what is eternal and universal about our heritage, which in 1950 was different from what it was like in 1850, in 1850 was different from what it was like in 1750, and in 1750 was different from what it was like in 1650. Yet there is no reason, by 2050, for our heritage not only to have persisted but also to have prospered. Indeed, one of the consistent themes of ‘The Remnant’ in Hebrew prophecy is not merely the survival, but the revival, of the people through those faithful few – and our people have succumbed just as much to American idolatry as the Israelites did to Ashtoreth, Baal, and Molech. As John Shelton Reed argued, the toll that ‘Industrialism’ has taken on our society has vindicated traditional Agrarian ‘ideas on the proper relation between work and leisure, on the importance of humanizing scale, on respect for nature, on autonomy and self-respect,’ which are now as popular in New England and the Pacific Coast as they were in the American South. Furthermore, argued Reed, even though we have been uprooted from an agrarian way of life, our Southern heritage – which is as much about what we remember as what we have experienced – has continued to find ways to adapt. ‘It continues to crop up here, there, and everywhere,’ he remarked, ‘like grass through concrete.’
In 1994, Eugene D. Genovese delivered a series of lectures at Harvard University titled ‘The Southern Tradition.’ The Communist-turned-Catholic Italian-American professor was one of the most prolific and prominent scholars of the South, authoring classic works such as Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made and many others with his wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (who was no less of a Southern historian herself). These lectures, published as The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism, were a landmark moment in his career and demanded the attention of his profession.
Genovese accepted the modernisation of the American South insofar as it entailed ‘long overdue if incomplete justice for black people,’ but cautioned that modernisation’s ‘desirable features are coming at a price Northerners as well as Southerners, blacks as well as whites, will rue having to pay and need not pay.’ According to Genovese, ‘That price includes a neglect of, or contempt for, the history of Southern whites, without which some of the more distinct and noble features of American national life must remain incomprehensible.’ This ‘Southern tradition,’ protested Genovese, had been ‘silenced’ as supposedly ‘immoral and intellectually inferior’ and ‘wrongly equated with racism and white supremacy,’ and the purpose of his lectures was to redeem that tradition. ‘Rarely these days, even on Southern campuses, is it possible to acknowledge the achievements of the white people of the South,’ argued Genovese. ‘To speak positively about any part of this Southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation.’ According to Genovese, ‘We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity – an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white Southerners, and arguably black Southerners as well, of their heritage, and therefore, their identity.’
Pardon me, but in these discouraging times, part of Genovese’s encouraging introduction must be quoted at length:
Recall that great speech by Martin Luther King in which he evoked a vision of the descendants of slaves and slaveholders, sitting together on the hills of Georgia as Southern brothers. That vision will be realized when, and only when, those descendants, black and white, can meet with mutual respect and appreciation for the greatness, as well as the evil, that has gone into the making of the South. Black Americans have good reason to protest vehemently against the disgraceful way in which their history has been taught or, worse, ignored, and demand a record of the nobility and heroism of the black struggle for freedom and justice. But that record dare not include the falsification and obliteration of the noble and heroic features of the white South. To teach the one without the other is to invite deepening racial animosity and murderous conflict, not merely or even primarily in the South but in the North. For it is worth noting that our most vicious urban explosions are occurring in the ‘progressive’ North and on the West Coast, not in the ‘bigoted’ and ‘reactionary’ South.
Invoking Martin Luther King (an old-fashioned African-American Baptist minister who believed in communication, love, and nonviolent protest), as Genovese did, seems downright quaint nowadays. If the Rev. Dr. King were active today, the spokespersons of ‘Black Lives Matter’ would write navel-gazing think-pieces for The Atlantic or The New Yorker denouncing him as an ‘Uncle Tom,’ the balaclava-masked and brass-knuckled punks and thugs of ‘Antifa’ would attack his marches for their ‘accomodationism’ and ‘incrementalism’ with ‘white supremacy,’ and the famously ‘articulate, bright, and clean’ Joe Biden would say ‘come on, man…he ain’t black.’
As enraging and depressing as it is to witness the destruction of our monuments by fools who know nothing and fanatics who care for nothing, we must overcome our anger and despair, because the fact is that this is only going to get worse. In Richmond, in Virginia, and in the rest of the nü-South, we are utterly powerless to resist this revolution. Those places are more lost to the American South than they were during the War and Reconstruction, for at least then the destruction was coming from without rather than from within. If demographic changes have been creeping up on us like the tide, then this ‘anti-racist’ moral panic has crashed on us like a tidal wave. We must do what we can to preserve the symbols of our heritage for our posterity, of course, but what is even more important for our posterity is that we preserve our heritage itself. In other words, it is more important that we preserve what those monuments symbolise than those symbols themselves. To be sure, these barbarians and fanatics are doing irrevocable and unforgivable damage to our public spaces (as if the empty pedestals and piles of rubble were not bad enough, just wait until you see what artistic abominations are put up in their place), but one space that they can never spray-paint or sledge-hammer is our hearts and our minds.
The great Southern theologian James Henley Thornwell’s stern disquisition on ‘Our Danger and Our Duty’ early in the War can still speak to the Southern Remnant today.
Thornwell warned Southerners not to underestimate the danger facing them or to overestimate themselves:
Our fields, our homes, our firesides and sepulchres, our cities and temples, our wives and daughters, we must protect at every hazard. The glorious inheritance which our fathers left us we must never betray. The hopes with which they died, and which buoyed their spirits in the last conflict, of making their country a blessing to the world, we must not permit to be unrealised. We must seize the torch from their hands, and transmit it with increasing brightness to distant generations. The word failure must not be pronounced among us. It is not a thing to be dreamed of. We must settle it that we must succeed. We must not sit down to count chances. There is too much at stake to think of discussing probabilities—we must make success a certainty, and that, by the blessing of God, we can do. If we are prepared to do our duty, and our whole duty, we have nothing to fear. But what is our duty? This is a question which we must gravely consider.
Although the danger is now civil/political rather than military, it is not much more peaceful and the stakes have not much changed from the danger which Thornwell perceived.
Using the Greek city-states’ wars against the Persian Empire as examples of how a smaller power could win against a larger power, Thornwell inspired Southerners to do their duty:
Let us imitate, in Christian faith, this sublime example. Let our spirit be loftier than that of the pagan Greek, and we can succeed in making every pass a Thermopylae, every strait a Salamis, and every plain a Marathon. We can conquer, and we must. We must not suffer any other thought to enter our minds. If we are overrun, we can least die; and if our enemies get possession of our land, we can leave it a howling desert. But, under God, we shall not fail. If we are true to Him, and true to ourselves, a glorious future is before us. We occupy a sublime position. The eyes of the world are upon us; we are a spectacle to God, to angels, and to men. Can our hearts grow faint, or our hands feeble, in a cause like this? The spirits of our fathers call to us from their graves. The heroes of other ages and other countries are beckoning us on to glory. Let us seize the opportunity to make ourselves an immortal name, while we redeem a land from bondage and a continent from ruin.
Southerners did their duty as best they could – indeed, they fought harder and suffered worse than any other Americans in our history – but as Thornwell would have understood better than most, the ways of Providence are often inscrutable.
We cannot know when or where our people shall rise again; we can only do our duty and have hope. Robert E. Lee himself gave that very advice to Charles Marshall, a Marylander and his aide de camp who was struggling to understand how God could have willed for their cause to be lost. ‘My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them nor indisposed me to serve them; nor, in spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair of the future,’ wrote Lee in 1870. ‘The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.’ As Lee put it, ‘It is history that teaches us to hope.’
 That essay, ‘Two Diarists,’ was intended to be a chapter in an unfinished American version of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, in which Richard Weaver would have compared the lives of famous Northerners and Southerners just as Plutarch compared the lives of famous Greeks and Romans. Two other intended chapters have been published separately: ‘Two Orators’ (which contrasts Daniel Webster’s national theory of the Union with Robert Y. Hayne’s federal theory) and ‘Two Individualists’ (which contrasts the alienated individualism of Henry D. Thoreau with the ‘social-bond individualism’ of John Randolph of Roanoke). Not one of Weaver’s North-South distinctions have anything to do with race and slavery.
 Consider the contributions of the Virginians alone: George Washington (‘The Father of His Country’), Thomas Jefferson (‘The Father of Democracy’), James Madison (‘The Father of the Constitution’), and George Mason (‘The Father of the Bill of Rights.’ Not to mention Richard Bland, Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, the Lees, the Harrisons, and the Randolphs, and many more.
 ‘Historians have been debating for decades about the character of American slavery,’ the historian Thaddeus Russell commented after watching the ‘Roots’ remake in 2016. ‘Please do me a favor and read them.’ Indeed, the popular assumption (as exemplified by both versions of the melodramatic and sentimentalist ‘Roots’) is that American slavery was defined solely by physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites. This anachronistic moralism, or ‘presentism,’ is a projection of black self-pity and white-self-hatred onto their past. As Mr. Russell put it, ‘Remarkable how many people, with scant historical knowledge, think the more brutal the depiction of slavery the more accurate it is.’ The truth is that while there was surely physical and psychological terror against blacks by whites (motivated by fear of a racial insurrection á la ‘St. Domingue’ or Haiti, not racial hatred per se), economic incentives and ethical imperatives made slavery a far more humane system than anyone who gets his/her history from ‘Roots’ would ever believe. (Mr. Russell’s book, A Renegade History of the United States, has an informative chapter on slavery which is rooted in evidence instead of ideology.) So while the macabre, Mandingo-esque fetishes of Kara Walker are promoted to the public and pronounced ‘genius,’ the ‘Uncle Remus’ folklore collected by Joel Chandler Harris has been purged from the public and pronounced ‘racist’ (e.g. the literal memory-holing of Disney’s ‘Song of the South’ movie and now ride). The end result is that authentic African-American experiences have been replaced with an inauthentic dialectic which may correspond to ‘politically correct’ opinions but which is nevertheless historically inaccurate. ‘The 1619 Project’ by The New York Times is an attempt to make this presentist moment permanent.
 In retaliation, the local Federal commander in Kansas committed ‘collective punishment’ against four counties just across the border in Missouri, virtually depopulating them by deporting the people from their homes and destroying whatever property the deportees could not carry with them. One of the deportees was Pres. Harry Truman’s mother, who could recall how her family’s farm was burned and they were forcibly removed.
 American Christianity can feel, for lack of a better word, ‘hokey.’ I myself have always felt alienated in Evangelical Protestantism, including/especially its ‘Fundamentalist’ forms. In my opinion, this very American form of Christianity is to blame for the modern stereotype of the sanctimonious, sophistic, and superstitious Christian. Although evangelicalism and fundamentalism are nowadays associated with the American South, these were, in fact, Northern movements which spread to the South. Prior to this religious reconstruction, ‘the Real Old-Time Religion’ of the South, so to speak, had more in common with the Christianity of Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.
 The tragic dimension of Southern history (an alternative experience of failure, poverty, and a belief in one’s own sinfulness as opposed to the mainstream American experience of success, prosperity, and a belief in one’s own righteousness), means that the South has more in common with the rest of the world (which has also experienced such conflict) than with America the self-proclaimed ‘exceptional’ and ‘indispensable’ nation. ‘Yet America, for once in its brief and not always glorious history, must try to learn that its own experience is peculiar, that it has been unusually fortunate in coming to maturity in an epoch of untypical peace and prosperity, and that it cannot continue to judge the world by the norm of its own mythology,’ argued Sam Francis. ‘This lesson is perhaps what the South, and only the South, can teach America – has in a sense always tried to teach it, and has never succeeded in teaching it.’
 The nomination and presumptive election of the quintessentially status quo candidate and quasi-senile Joe Biden is a depressing vote of confidence in the system after the brief opportunity that Donald Trump on the Right and Bernie Sanders on the Left appeared to represent.
 Robert Penn Warren was no triumphalist Yankee, however, and was just as critical of Northern self-righteousness from winning the War (what he called the ‘Treasury of Virtue’) as he was Southern self-pity from losing the War. According to Warren, these ‘psychological’ costs were of ‘a kind more subtle, pervasive, and continuing, a kind that conditions in a thousand ways the temper of American life today.’
 Aside from the fact that authentic expressions of African-American folk culture are condescendingly censored as ‘racist stereotypes’ (e.g. Disney’s memory-holed ‘Song of the South’), the fact is also that black people are as much the heirs of ‘The Southern Tradition’ as white people. Eugene Genovese addressed this important issue.
In ‘The Southern Tradition and the Black Experience’ (his acceptance speech upon receiving the Rockford Institute’s ‘Richard Weaver Award for Contributions to Scholarly Letters’ in 1993), Genovese argued that black people’s unique history made them equally African and American:
Other peoples contributed much to the development of an American national culture, but despite acute discrimination, they were not condemned as an inferior race, and they were able to progress and consolidate their gains through the steady accretion of political power. Not so for Africans and their descendants. Africans arrived with Europeans at the beginning of our history. Everything was done to separate them from their religions, languages, and general culture. Worse, unlike European immigrants, they were repeatedly driven backward and prevented from consolidating political and economic gains. Yes, they were offered the Christian religion, the English language, and the Anglo-Saxon political tradition, but they were simultaneously barred from full participation as equals and told to accept their place as menials and as, at best, second-class citizens. In the event, by forging a distinct Afro-American culture, which should not be confused with the manifestations of moral decadence now celebrated by a cynical academia and mass-media, blacks survived the ordeal of slavery and segregation spiritually as well as physically. We need to understand the black experience as that of a people at once American and yet a people apart. Historically, it has been an experience that offers rational grounds for both integrationist and black-nationalist ideologies.
In response to the essay symposium which Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Azusa Christian Community initiated when he published ‘On the Responsibility of Intellectuals in the Age of Crack’ in The Boston Review, Genovese reiterated what differentiated the African-American experience from the experience of other peoples in this country:
The customary discussions of the black experience as a ‘class,’ ‘national,’ or ‘colonial’ question each offer useful insights but invariably prove partial and inadequate. The black experience in America has been unique, that is, without parallel in the experience of other peoples. Others were absorbed into an American national culture that they enriched by their Old-World experiences. Blacks came as slaves whose masters imposed a strange new religion; assaulted their family relations and indeed denied them legal sanction for any family at all; and did everything possible to destroy their African cultures while denying them access to much in white American culture. As a rich and many-sided scholarship has demonstrated, blacks survived not only physically but also spiritually. Against all odds, they forged a culture that interpenetrated with white culture and yet emerged as an Afro-American culture apart.
According to Genovese, ‘Black Studies’ scholarship had documented ‘the emergence of a black community that lived in intimate contact with whites, contributed to a general Southern and American culture, absorbed much from whites and Indians too, and, withal, forged a black culture significantly distinct, significantly autonomous, significantly African-influenced, and nonetheless specifically American.’
Although Genovese, in 1997, defended some of the work that ‘Black Studies’ were doing, he was opposed to their ideological construction of an artificial ‘Afro-centrist’ identity for black people, their rejection of a black ‘American’ identity, and their general deconstruction of ‘Western civilisation’ itself:
The rage over Afrocentrism is merely the latest version of this decades-old story. No time need be wasted on the blather that aims to denigrate the great civilization of the West while it presents a child’s version of Africa as well as Asia and pre-colonial Latin America. But once again the unwillingness of universities to promote full, open, honest debate has had ironic results. For not only are integrationists, black and white, being silenced: It is by no means clear that Afrocentrism, as normally preached, contributes to a serious black-nationalist interpretation of the black experience in the United States. Arguably, it encourages a black racism that would assimilate the black experience in the United States to a transnational racial myth and thereby render incoherent all attempts to construct a rational black-nationalist perspective on American history.
In his response to Rev. Rivers, Genovese also pointed out that African-Americans have had uniquely negative experiences with the most unexceptional aspects of Western civilisation (i.e. the bad things that it has had in common with every civilisation) but have also had uniquely positive experiences with the most exceptional aspects of Western civilisation (i.e. the good things that makes it different from other civilisations):
There is, nonetheless, a great danger in yielding to a black-separatist repudiation of American nationality as there is in yielding to a one-sided integrationism. Recall that Du Bois himself never wavered in his allegiance to Western civilization while he pioneered in African studies. And here we need to take the measure of the nihilistic denigration of Western civilization, which would deprive all Americans, white and black, of a precious heritage. Today, from the heart of the establishment that controls our universities and media, we hear calls for the repudiation of Western civilization itself as something uniquely horrible. Our children are being taught that the West has been racist, sexist, and imperialist. They are not being taught that the same could be said about every other great civilization and no few not-so-great civilizations. The undeniable truth is that the West has been unique in only one respect. It alone, thanks largely to its Christian heritage and a derivative doctrine of freedom without parallel anywhere in the world, has generated mass-movements against racism, sexism, and imperialism, and exported them across the world. The struggle of black people for equity and justice, notwithstanding all defeats and frustrations, has constituted an inseparable part of this legacy. Does, for example, anyone in his right mind advocate a separate black path of development unillumined by the Christian tradition of spiritual freedom, to say nothing of the personal and political protections of the Common Law?
In his speech at the Rockford Institute, Genovese gave an example of how the Southern political tradition could benefit African-American interests in this country (that is, a degree of political autonomy if not full political separation) but has been effectively denied to them by white liberals because of its ‘racist’ history:
When Lani Guinier tried to raise urgent questions about the distribution of political power, she, in effect, raised the very questions forcefully posed by the political theory of John C. Calhoun and his pro-slavery compeers – most notably, the doctrine of the concurrent majority. For in truth, racists or no, the Southern conservatives were the first to raise most of the burning questions in the early days of the republic, and we have much to learn from their efforts. The question remains: Is it possible to separate the healthy core of that thought from the indefensible framework in which it was originally presented? I have no idea how Ms. Guinier would have responded to this challenge if she had been given her day in court. I do note, as no few others have, that the liberals who control the White House and Congress went to extraordinary lengths to suppress the issues.
No one was a more thoughtful scholar of ‘the world the slaves made’ and ‘the world the slaveholders made’ than Genovese. Since his death in 2012, however, academic hacks out to make a name for themselves have begun labeling him an ‘apologist’ for ‘white supremacy.’ Such outrageous and preposterous defamation says more about his critics than it does him.
This piece appeared at the Abbeville Institute site on August 10, 2020.
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James Rutledge Roesch lives in Florida. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, as well as the author of From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States' Rights in the Old South.