Monday, April 19, 2004

Heritage, Not Hate!

So. Saturday morning I was sitting on my couch, drinking my frappucino-and-coke and eating my bacon, when I read in the local paper that Saturday was the big day - the day on which the entire city of Charleston would virtually shut down to celebrate the accomplishments of a handful of men who bombed a United States Navy ship.

No, silly, not the Cole bombers - I'm talking about the men who piloted the Hunley submarine and delivered a fatal blow to the USS. Housatonic during the Civil War.

"Got-damn!" I thought to myself. "If I were worth a damn as a blogger, I'd have made the 90 minute drive to Charleston and come home and blogged about my personal observations!" But that would have cut into my beach time, and in fact I am not worth a damn as a blogger. So I settled for watching part of the proceedings on Charleston's CBS affiliate, which carried the day's events live.

The proceedings started out with a funeral procession down the Battery and through downtown Charleston. It was an extraordinary sight and I'm sure television didn't do it justice: About four housand Civil War re-enactors, mostly Confederate, natch, and eight horse-drawn caissons, and groups of widows in widow's weeds and hoop skirts and veils, all marching solemnly through downtown Charleston.

Among the marchers were South Carolina state senators Glenn McConnell (who gave up his law practice a few years ago to sell Civil War memorabilia at his North Charleston store) and David Thomas, who dressed as three- and two star Confederate generals respectively. So Commander Flight Suit isn't the only politician with no actual battle experience who likes to play soldier.

McConnell was guarded by an on-duty SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) officer, also dressed up as a Confederate officer.

McConnell, the driving force behind the six-day funeral event and Hunley Commission chairman, led the procession with Randy Burbage, president of the Confederate Heritage Trust and a commission member.

Several SLED agents guarded McConnell, including one dressed as a Confederate officer. The senator at least once acknowledged friends in the crowd by raising his sword and ordering a salute by the color guard.

Not surprisingly, the event was for some an opportunity to defiantly wave their flags of heritage (not hate):

Aside from color guards, many but not all of the re-enactors kept their battle flags furled in accordance with military protocol.

Despite admonitions from organizers that the event was a funeral, not a flag rally, many along the route waved all manner of Confederate flags.

"I love my flag, and I don't abide by political correctness," said Everett Moriarty, 71, of Hiensville, Ga., as he handed out small battle flags to bystanders.

Free Confederate battle flags? Now that's Southern hospitality! But then, Charleston IS the most polite city in the United States.

It doesn't surprise me that backwards-looking Charleston would shut down for a day for a big Confederate love-fest, and I don't begrudge Senator McConnell his Civil War-re-enactor hobby. I think it's kind of interesting. But the presence of an on-duty SLED officer in Confederate officer regalia comes a little too close for my comfort to giving an official State of South Carolina endorsement to the Lost Cause. Which I find ironic, seeing as how we're in the middle of a war ostensibly to liberate an oppressed people, and the Confederacy was all about keeping an entire people enslaved - no matter what the revisionist historians say.

Revisionist historians such as the Episcopalian priest who delivered the eulogy and who said he knew the (I paraphrase from memory) "historically accurate" reason for the war. I'm betting he doesn't think slavery was part of that "historically accurate reason. (The Hunley crew were given a big incense-flinging Whiskeypalian church service. I'm not sure, but I believe it took place Friday before the procession; Channel Five in Charleston aired parts of it Saturday in a lull while the 17-block procession bottlenecked Animal-House-parade style at the Magnolia Gardens cemetery).

But I digress. Where was I? Anyhoo, it was an amazing spectacle. My favorite shots were the ones that unintentionally juxtaposed the Confederate marchers with rows of SUV's parked on the street, or with shorts-clad tourists rushing in front of the cameras to take pictures. Channel Five's coverage was seriously marred by the utterly inane, information-devoid, nonstop babbling of its "personalities." Unwilling to let any moment of the procession go unfilled with blather, lest viewers be allowed to contemplate and draw their own conclusions, the hair-sprayed commentators kept up a ceaseless stream of banal jabbering. My favorite parts were when the pompous anchor Bill Sharpe babbled on at some length about how quiet it was, and how silent and reverent the spectators were. I paraphrase again, but he said something like, "I've never seen it so quiet, it is just incredibly quiet here, the people around me, the people behind us aren't saying anything, it's just total silence, the people are being very quiet and respectful and blah blah blah blah blah." On and on and on. One can only imagine what the people in his immediate vicinity would have liked to do to him.

My other favorite moment was when Channel Five's man-on-street stopped a young guy in the distinctive gray-with-black-stripe Citadel uniform and asked him what branch of the armed services he was in. Bejus.

I missed Senator McConnell's homily, delivered at the gravesite, 'cause I didn't want to stay inside all day watching this orgy of Confederate sentimentalism. I went to the beach.

Next time something worth blogging happens in Charleston, readers, I will go down there and view it in person, unless it happens on a gorgeous Spring day with blue sky and a bright warm sun and no humidity and a cool breeze that would caress me if I were to go to the beach instead.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?