When I last took weekend blog duty here, I coincidentally had an article in The New York Times in which I noted that the US Army had ten bases named after Confederate generals, and argued that we should rename them as soon as possible. My point, in a nutshell, was that people who make war on US Army soldiers shouldn’t have US Army bases named in their honor. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back or anything, but as arguments go, I thought that one was impregnable.
Shortly after the piece ran, the Dallas Morning News asked me to do a customized version of the piece for their readership, focusing on Fort Hood, which is near Dallas, and on John Bell Hood, the gallant, romantic, and often ineffective rebel leader. I fancied that the argument was still unassailable. As it happened, I was under bombardment for a week.
“You are a DIAPER HEAD, nothing more,” one man wrote; kook and faggot also got aired out. Several people made a point of my ancestry. “How long has your family been here from Poland?? What do you know about southerners??” Some wanted to assure me that they were open-minded. “Each of us is intitled [sic] to one’s opinion, and my opinion is that you should keep your opinion to yourself and mind your own business.” Some thought I had a secret agenda: “Why do we keep changing history just to please the blacks?. They are the most racist bunch out there, and our government continues to bow down to them.” Some wished for me to take up another topic: `If you’d really like to alter a name where it might make some real sense, try getting the Germans to change Volkswagen (Herr Hitler’s ‘peoples’ car) to something else. I just pray to God almighty that we never have a Ft. Obama.” And some wondered why I was attacking southern heritage. “You are with the “crowd” that want anything “southern” eliminated from American History.”
Such comments baffled me the most. Southern heritage has contributed as much and arguably more to American culture than any other region. Twain, Poe, Welty, Faulkner, Elvis, Leadbelly, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Carson McCullers, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, ZZ Top, Washington, Jefferson, Davy Crockett, Loretta Lynn, Levon Helm, ACC basketball, SEC football, Tennessee Williams, barbecued ribs–I could go on for an hour. Why do some people want to identify `southern culture’ with the ignoble losers of the confederacy?
Among the critical letters, however, there were many encouraging notes, including one last night from Harold Walkow of New Jersey. He liked the article so much that he has started a petition on whitehouse.gov. You can find it here. The White House has promised a response to any petition that gthers 100,000 signatures in a month. Hey, sign up–let’s have some fun!