In the article “The Confederate Mystique”, Andrew
O’Hehir discusses the emergence of proto-nationalist movements in the called
“Southern States” of the U.S.A. following the white supremacist protest in
Charlottesville, Virginia on the 11th of August of 2017.
O’Hehir picks up Ulysses S. Grant’s struggle during
the civil war, the peace signing, and his memory today, as a way to show that
the morality of the Southern “cause” was already highly questioned by its
After a brief introduction regarding the deeds of
Grant, O’Hehir formulates what is, for him, the issue at hand:
That is how the
great military hero of the Civil War and the 18th president of the United
States (…) saw that flag that now adorns so many front porches, so many dorm
rooms, so many rear windows of Silverado pickups. It was a symbol of “the
stupendous crime of treason.”
O’Hehir believes all Confederate symbols to be not only abhorrent and
dangerous but also criminal, questioning President elect Trump on his defense
of the Confederate monuments when standing against their demolition.
The author goes on to argue that Grant’s memory has been let go, often
times being remembered negatively, whilst Robert E. Lee, hero of “Southern
Aristocracy”, seems to be remembered as a “dashing Virginia gentleman”, a hero
and a martyr.
O’Hehir continues pressing that the ideas of a romanticized moral South and
a demonic liberal North are very real, proceeding to compare this century long
idea with the concept of “Make America great again”, which O’Hehir claims to
also be a fantasy easily digestible.
A reference to Victor Fleming’s Gone
with the Wind is made, in which the writer points out the dangerous
sanitization performed upon the Southern personalities in the film. This is
followed by two occurrences experienced by the author, a first one in which an
older family member from the South expressed her ignorance towards the fact the
people of colour felt that the Confederate flag was hurtful, and a
second occurrence in which a beach towel was being sold with the Confederate
flag and a Cannabis leaf on it. Both incidents reinforce the author’s idea that
the mystification of Southern heritage is incited largely by a sense of
injustice towards people’s living situation together with a general ignorance
of its cause.
Andrew O’Hehir goes on to recall the surrendering of Robert E. Lee to
Ulysses S. Grant, and how people retell, in a highly biased way, that historic
moment, in which Grant, the so called dirty peasant, unjustly forced Lee, the
southern gentleman, to surrender. The author quotes from Ulysses S. Grant’s
Personal Memoirs, in which Grant admits the difficulty of seeing Lee’s demise,
explaining that though he fought with bravery, the cause he had defended was
While the author’s arguments are compelling and somewhat intuitive, the article
could have had a more human depth beyond being a simple chronicle or opinion
article, if some form of contact had been made with African American people, specifically
anyone living in a Southern State. A focus group could have been highly
beneficial with explaining the issue beyond the spectrum of pop culture
analysis. Contacting a non-profit organization focused on the protection and
empowerment of the African American communities could also have helped by,
perhaps, setting up an interview with victims of ethnic oppression, volunteers
or with the people in charge of groups like Black Lives Matter, or the NAACP
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), allowing the
creation of a more personalized article that dealt more directly with the
issues at hand.
Fundamentally, research initiatives as the ones referenced previously could
have been helpful to better understand the real life, everyday consequences of
the development of the South’s toxic infatuation with the former Confederate
States of America.