Fifty Years From Now….

So I was reading a historians’ panel by which the New York Times brought its Civil War Sesquicentennial feature to a close, and ran across two rather arresting comments when the panelists were asked what might change by the time of the Bicentennial. The first, unhappy thought is from Yale’s David Blight:

The only thing we might be certain of is that if as a world community, as a species, we do not do something serious and soon to reduce greenhouse gases, and therefore stop global warming, then the commemoration of the Civil War in 2061 will likely not be held in Charleston to remember Fort Sumter, because that city may be under the sea. Perhaps, ironically, by 2061 we will have a new Lost Cause with which to contend: the long, failed effort to thwart the power and greed of climate change deniers

Yikes.

A happier thought was expressed by Jamie Malanowski (a former PA Weekend Blogger):

In February 1961, 100,000 people, most of them ardent segregationists, showed up in Montgomery, Ala., to mark the centennial of Jefferson Davis’s inauguration. In Charleston S.C., in December 2010, about 400 people showed up for a secession ball.

We still battle with many of the same issues that brought about the Civil War, and perhaps will continue to do so in 2061. But an increasingly diverse, multiethnic America will find itself celebrating the South that produced Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King Jr., Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams, Peyton Manning and Muhammad Ali, B.B. King and Johnny Cash, Coca-Cola and whoever invented barbecue — all pillars of modern American culture – and stuffing Nathan Bedford Forrest into the attic.

Let’s hope Malanowski’s right and Blight is wrong. But I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.