January 23, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
The Memphis Monuments Issue and the Crisis of Our Western European Culture
Back on January 13 of this year I wrote in the MY CORNER installment about the flagrant and outrageous violation of several state laws that has occurred in Memphis, Tennessee. There the city fathers, in the darkness of night, illegally removed monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and a bust honoring Captain Harvey Mathes of the 37th Regiment Tennessee Troops, also disturbing the gravesite of Forrest. Ignoring state law, civil law and statutes protecting cemeteries, Memphis officials, of their own volition, decided that the wishes of the citizens of Tennessee expressed in the laws enacted by their legislators, didn’t matter one damn bit, if those wishes stand in the way of fanatical political correctness and the unchained and unhinged ideological desire to destroy symbols of our tradition, symbols that honor our ancestors and their immense, sometimes mortal, sacrifices.
I also wrote that this openly culturally Marxist initiative in Memphis was not simply an assault on Confederate symbols and imagery. Rather, it represents just one aspect of a generalized attack on all of our European Western and Christian traditions and inheritance. For the symbols, statues and monuments honoring the Confederate soldier and his epic struggle cannot be disconnected from the symbols, plaques and memorials honoring and commemorating all the other soldiers and events of our history.
For almost the entirety of the 153 years since Appomattox, most all Americans, North and South, have understood that. General Lee, for example, was acknowledged universally as not only one of the world’s greatest military leaders, but a man of supreme nobility of character and admirable honor who epitomized what it was to be “le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche” [“the knight without fear and beyond reproach”], as the famous 15th century French knight, the Chevalier de Bayard, was termed. In all military academies, his strategies were studied; presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Dwight D. Eisenhower considered him a model in every regard, including his humanity so deeply infused with Christian virtue.
Over above the more military considerations was the understanding that by and large the Confederate commanders leading what eventually became a “lost cause,” as well as their troops, were noble exemplars of the finest and best traditions of our Western heritage. They were and are not separate or isolated from that heritage. Yet, because the modern Progressivist mind has decreed from its parapets of power the horror of racism to be America’s central historical theme and since the South, and in particular the Confederacy, represents that ineradicable “sin,” it has been the Confederate soldier and other symbols of the Confederacy and of the South that have become the first target.
But it is just that: the first target, and by no means the only target. For the goal and object of those fanatical Progressivist revolutionaries is to completely erase or pervert most all of American history and the iconography that accompanies and symbolizes it. This is strikingly clear in other, concurrent efforts at “cultural purification,” including the removal of a plaque at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, honoring George Washington (he was a slaveholder, you know), efforts to remove monuments honoring Christopher Columbus (he was a “white oppressor” of the native population), and Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan priest who brought the Gospel to Indians in California (he was illustrative of colonialism and the “white man’s burden”).
What additional targets are in the Progressivist and cultural Marxist playbooks? Let’s see, Fort Bragg should become Fort Al Sharpton; Jefferson City, Missouri, should become John Brown City; and perhaps Washington State will be renamed Leon Trotsky State. Sound too extreme, too incredible? Just ask our grandparents of fifty and sixty years ago if they could have imagined what we are witnessing today….
The Progressivist revolutionaries understand instinctively that if you remove the visible and real symbols of a culture you deprive it of its requisite and healthy expression and inhibit its memorialization. Destroy the memory of who we have been, of our legacy and those traditions and beliefs that gave us life and meaning, and you critically, probably fatally, castrate our civilization, sever our connections to our past…and we become fodder, flotsam-and-jetsam for the widespread type of indoctrination we see today in our schools and colleges, and being imposed on us by our entertainment and media, and swallowed like sweet but infectious swill by our politicians. And in the end, you replace twenty centuries of culture, of belief and faith by a new and vile culture brewed in the stinking and poisonous cauldrons of Hell, itself.
This, then, is what we are up against.
So, you may not believe that what has happened and what is happening in Memphis affects you? After all we simply must get ready for the Superbowl (and that awesome Superbowl party)! Or, get the kids prepared for that next soccer game, right? And Leith Motors has that new 2018 Toyota I’ve been wanting….
But inaction in these matters, even if benign or innocent, inevitably conducts us to the extirpation of our culture and to the end of everything we hold dear and of value.
In many ways we are like the frog cast into a pot of at-first lukewarm water. In the beginning, the frog swims around, carefree, not realizing that the burners are being turned up gradually. And soon the water is boiling, but it is too late for the frog, who is cooked and his life extinguished.
So, go about our family duties, certainly. But if we do not become engaged in whatever way that we can, we shall assuredly be like that frog…and all the soccer practice and Superbowl watching we once enjoyed, well, they will only be fleeting and burning memories as we and our families are swept aside to the squalid ash heap of history.
It is that simple and that clear.
The MY CORNER column from January 13 has been picked up—I rewrote and revised it, and it is now published on The Abbeville Institute site (a site I strongly recommend). And I pass along this version today:
Memphis and the Assault on Our Western Christian Inheritance
By Boyd Cathey on Jan 22, 2018
The city fathers of Memphis have been engaged in police state tactics and patently illegal actions, taking down the historic statues honoring General Nathan Bedford Forrest and President Jefferson Davis and the bust memorializing Captain Harvey Mathes of the 37thRegiment Tennessee troops. Despite the Tennessee Heritage Law and the decision of the Tennessee Historical Commission which should have prevented such offenses, the cultural Marxists who dominate the government (and who have re-enslaved and placed the city’s black citizens back on the—this time Marxist—plantation), the city fathers have outrageously ignored and violated the law.
While many establishment Republican leaders in Tennessee, just like their pusillanimous GOP co-cowards in most other states, prefer to look the other way and thus have failed to take the legally dictated measures (for fear of being called “racists”), the national Sons of Confederate Veterans has and is launching several major lawsuits to ensure that the laws of the State of Tennessee, not to mention the wishes of a majority of citizens of that state, be obeyed.
How, you may ask, is this legal action in Tennessee important in the overall context of what we should call “the battle for Western civilization?” Very simply the response is this: what is occurring in Memphis—and in other cities and states across not just the South, but the nation as a whole—represents in microcosm the multilevel and multifaceted assault on the entirety of our Western and Christian traditions, our heritage and our legacy.
From the very initiation of the current attempt to “cleanse” our environment of symbols of our past—that is, those symbols that the culturally Marxist Left finds offensive or inconvenient to their Progressivist narrative, those symbols that illustrate another narrative, a broader vision of our historic Western Christian heritage—from the beginnings of this assault, the cultural Marxists have clearly selected those targets that they believed would be easier to destroy and demolish…as their first step.
If last year after Charlottesville, or, if after the Dylan Roof attack in 2015, the fanatical Left had made an immediate and generalized concerted effort to take down and remove all monuments and plaques honoring, say, President George Washington or President Thomas Jefferson—both of whom were slaveholders—their campaign would have failed, would have collapsed. Public opinion was not yet ready for such radicalism and, despite decades of Progressivist disinformation and ideological miseducation in our schools and media, would not have countenanced it.
But Confederate monuments and symbols: Ah, there was a target that could be tarred and feathered with more essential public support! Already there were dozens of establishment “historians” in major universities infected with the ideological virus of cultural Marxism, for whom “racism” was seen as the driving force, the central characteristic of American history. And the Confederacy? There was a ready-made target, a putative nation that was, so they wrote, “founded on racism.”
While a frontal attack on Washington and his historical and cultural symbolism at this time would have probably failed, an attack on the Confederacy, its heroes, its monuments and its memory, was seen as more productive and potentially successful.
But—and this is the essential point that absolutely must be understood—the attack on all things Confederate (and implicitly, Southern) was and is just a FIRST STEP, a first step in the complete “purification” of America, a complete and total purging of ALL of our historic symbols and of our historical memory. And eventually, the total transformation of the historic nation, itself.
What those who split hairs and endorse taking down Confederate monuments while at the same time defending the Washington symbols fail to understand is that the defense of the monuments honoring Generals Lee and Jackson is part of a seamless defense of the entirety of our Western and Christian heritage and traditions. Defending symbols of the Confederacy and its soldiers, and a defense of our other national symbols, cannot be separated.
This has been the fatal error of the “Neoconservatives,” those pundits and scribblers mostly in Washington or in New York who now dominate the so-called “conservative movement,” its think tanks and journals, Fox News, and who provide the meagre intellectual gruel for most establishment GOP thinking. Accepting implicitly the essential cultural Marxist narrative about race and racism, they are impelled by succeeding logic, to come to similar conclusions as their supposed enemies over on the “farther Left.” Accepting the egalitarian myth that “America was founded on the ideological principle—the unrealized idea—of equality” (a principle which is demonstrably and historically false), they remain prisoners of their circuitous logic.
So, they attempt to split hairs like all temporizers in history. They countenance a “little bit of revolution,” while attempting (always unsuccessfully) to resist the full effects and results of their initial if tepid agreement with the Revolution’s premises.
The late Senator Jesse Helms used to say that the only thing you find in the “middle of the road is a dead chicken.” In the end, whether it be the temporizing Kerensky in Russia in 1917 or the Girondistes during the French Revolution, our history is littered with the unlamented carcasses of dead chickens, of those who tried to have it both ways.
A defense of monuments to General Lee is, in fact, a defense of Western Christian tradition. Not to understand that is to seriously fail to comprehend what our Western Christian tradition is all about…and only enables our fierce and frenzied enemies who seek, in their darkest designs, to destroy it and us.
So, against Memphis the national SCV has filed legal actions, actions against enemies of our history and our inheritance.
SCV Commander-in-Chief Tom Strain, in an official statement from the International Headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, announced that:
“…several court actions against the City of Memphis [had been filed] to combat and rectify the despicable crimes against and theft of Confederate statues on the night of December 20, 2017. On that night, the City ordered police and cranes into Forrest Park and Confederate Park and forcibly removed the Forrest Memorial Equestrian Statue, the Jefferson Davis Statue, and the bronze bust of Capt. Harvey Mathes, 37th Tenn. Infantry. The Forrest gravesite was also damaged. The statues were taken to an undisclosed location….
“The SCV Court filings against the City and ‘any and all co-conspirators’ include requests for a Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction. These actions, filed in (Nashville) Chancery Court, call for the defendants to exercise all duty and care for the 3 statues and prohibit the defendants from further damaging, moving, selling, or in any way harming or otherwise disturbing the statues and the Forrest gravesite pending further legal action. It is likely that additional lawsuits will be filed, to combat violations of the Tennessee Heritage Act and to pursue damages incurred under the laws…. It is our opinion that the City and its cohorts committed numerous violations of state law, civil law, cemetery law, and a host of other illegal acts in what appears to be a sham scheme to remove the Confederate monuments and to circumvent Tennessee law.
“Though the state attorney general has offered no help in prosecuting these crimes, the SCV has called on the Tennessee Legislature to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue charges against the Memphis mayor, city council, and all those involved in the thefts and/or damage to the Parks and monuments.”[January 12, 2018]
And Commander Strain asks that those who believe in our traditions and heritage access the SCV web site and make contributions to the Heritage Defense Fund. But not only for Lee, Forrest and the other long-dead Confederates, but for our Western and Christian heritage, itself. For that, in truth, is the real target.
About Boyd Cathey
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.