Originally Posted by Janos
Thanks, but that's also an unfair shot. I think that is part of the stereotype that can be defeated with education. The Klan also uses a cross and the US flag, and no argues to ban them. The Sons of Confederate Veterans has, on several occasions, published proclamations asking the KKK to stop using the flag, but unfortunately since the end of the war there is no one to sue the Klan for using it. I wish they would stop using the Southern Cross flag (and dissolve themselves).
Well put, Janos.
Has anyone else read the book I recommended a couple of months ago? "The Confederate Battle Flag" 'Americas Most Embattled Emblem'.
A well written book on the Confederate Battle Flag throughout the years following the War into today's society.
It focuses on both sides of the issue. It even cites experts as having said that the battle flag was never used by Confederate veterans during the first rising of the KKK, because it was a revered symbol. The UDC and the SCV have fought since the second rising of the KKK ca. 1920, as Janos states, to legally have the KKK stop using the flag as a symbol that they have stolen.
Mr. Shelby Foote stated in one of his last interviews, his ideas behind the flag. He says, "Well, we and our ancestors should have stopped those yahoos back then (talking about before the symbol was picked up by hategroups), but we failed to do so.
There was Federal legislation passed to protect the US flag from such happenings.........what happened with the Confederate flag? It was forgotten.
If people actually study the meanings of the flag and its uses as it was designed, they find out that the UDC and the SCV do not believe that it should be used at any time or for any reason other than to commemorate our brave soldiers who fought and died under the emblem. They dont believe in the mass marketing of the symbol which began ca. 1940 and continues to this day.
As an end note, I will add............Go out and show two pictures to someone.......anyone........use the Confederate Naval Jack and the 'Real' Confederate Battle Flag........I guarantee that 99.9 % of them will say that the Naval Jack is the Battle Flag..............when in all actuality the Battle Flag is 36" x 36".........a total square........not oblong as the Navy Jack is.
I have posted an interview with Foote and put in bold some of his points of view on this. I have also put in bold some other things that I hope you enjoy.
Shelby Foote, a native of Greenville, Mississippi, was the author of five much-admired novels when his career took one of the richest detours in literary history: He spent 20 years writing a three-volume history of the Civil War that many regard as one of the great achievements in modern letters. More than a dozen years after the last volume was published, Foote became certifiably famous when his Delta drawl and handsome presence dominated Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The Civil War.” Foote, now 83, remains a Mississippi original: Images of Marcel Proust and bluesman Robert Johnson adorn his study, where he still writes with a pen dipped in ink. Associate editor Bill Kauffman interviewed Foote at his home in Memphis.
TAE: The holy warriors against tobacco haven’t convinced you to give up your pipe, I take it?
FOOTE: It took me 20 years to write The Civil War, and I wrote it seven days a week, six hours a day. I wrote it with a cigarette in my left hand and a pen in my right hand. At a conservative estimate of a pack and a half a day of regular Chesterfields, I figure I smoked 150,000 Chesterfields in the course of writing The Civil War, and I’m here to tell the story.
They did convince me to give up cigarettes when I had angioplasty, but I’ve been smoking my pipe three times as often as before.
TAE: Do anti-smoking zealots remind you of the mid-nineteenth-century fanatics, whether fire-eaters in the South or abolitionists in the North?
FOOTE: Fanatics we couldn’t do without, but God knows they make a lot of trouble. I can no longer engage in any conversation about the Confederate flag, because you’ve got the black fanatics on one end and redneck yahoos on the other. We people in between—who, I suspect probably are a minority—can’t be heard for the racket. So I stay out of that fuss, except to say that I’m for the Confederate flag flying anywhere anybody wants to fly it at any time. If they have a referendum in a state that says “Take the flag down off the state capitol,” I think they ought to take the flag down. But the flag to me represents many noble things. It is strange to me how they can single out the Confederate flag and not have any objections to, say, the Japanese flag and the march on Bataan.
There seems to be no understanding that the Civil War was really an argument between one form of society and another form of society. There’s no way I can get people to see that the soldiers were not much concerned about slavery on either side.
Now they’re talking about compensating black for their ancestors’ labor while they were in slavery—that’s almost as absurd as charging them for their passage from Africa here. Many blacks Americans, if their great-great-grandfather hadn’t come over here in chains, would be one of the skulls in Idi Amin’s collection in Uganda, or God knows what.
I really do understand the pain that an intelligent black feels when he sees the Confederate flag, because the Confederate flag, back in the ’60s and ’70s, was carried by yahoos who represented everything that had held them down and abused them.
By the time I was 24, I realized there was not a shred of clothes on my back, not a mouthful of food in my stomach, not a book on my shelf that didn’t come out of exploiting blacks. And I was as thoroughly ashamed of that as I could be. I was an exploiter of blacks indirectly. The woman who was closest to me in my life—certainly I had more to do with her than I did with my mother or anybody else—was named Nellie Lloyd. She came to work for us for three dollars a week, and at the end of 25 years she was making $18 a week. Now, that’s outrageous; but my God, she meant a lot to me.
TAE: In 1970 you wrote of Klansmen who had appropriated the flag: “I tell them to their faces that they are the scum who have degraded the Confederate flag, converted it from a symbol of honor into a banner of shame, covered it with obscenities like a roadhouse men’s room wall.” Is the Confederate flag today still degraded, or have the recent assaults on it given it a new dignity?
FOOTE: It’s still mainly abused and absurdly defended. And I understand blacks’ feelings when they see the Confederate flag. The real villains are Southerners who knew what that flag truly stood for and allowed yahoos to carry it.
What happened during the period of the Northern students coming down to the South during the civil rights struggle was that to people down in Mississippi they were a pretty scruffy-looking group, and we thought, “They’re sending their trash down here to make trouble for us. Let our trash take care of it.” And our trash did, in a terrible way, like the murder of those three civil rights workers.
We should have stood up and said that those people ought not be allowed within 100 yards of the Confederate flag, let alone use it as a symbol for all they were doing. But we didn’t. It’s hard to take when people define you as corrupt people and scum. So you lash back.
This country has two profound sins on its soul. One is slavery—that’s a sin that we will probably never be able to cleanse ourselves of—and the other was emancipation. They told four and a half million people, “You are free, hit the road,” and made no provision for education. Just told them to go out, and of course they drifted back into sharecropping, which is a form of peonage, and it was just a disaster.
If the South had not lost the war, I’m sure that slavery wouldn’t have survived into the twentieth century, and it’s possible that it might have been brought to an end in a more gradual, less disastrous way. Many of the troubles we’ve got today with black communities are from their being released into the world without being prepared to deal with it.
TAE: Was the diaspora of Southern blacks into Northern cities a tragedy for both North and South?
FOOTE: It was certainly a tragedy for the South. I’m going down to Greenville tomorrow, and it breaks my heart to go down there: The subtraction of the blacks has changed society entirely. It’s not as leisurely as it was; it lacks the grace that it had.
I speak the way I do because my nurse taught me how to talk. Now, the influence of mass communication has modified accents all over the place.
TAE: General Nathan Bedford Forrest is still memorialized in Memphis. Is it possible any more for white and black people of goodwill to sit down and figure out how to treat men like Forrest?
FOOTE: It’s extremely difficult. I’ve got a good friend here, a graduate of the Yale Law School, a black man who says from the time he was a teenager walking past Forrest Park and seeing that statue of this ex-slave trader and imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, his purpose in life was to get him removed from that park.
And I say, you don’t know anything about Bedford Forrest. He was one of the finest men ever lived, in many ways. Plus being a true military genius. To take Forrest out of Forrest Park is as if the women in Paris got together and took Napoleon out of the Les Invalides because he wasn’t nice to the ladies. But I couldn’t get it across to him. He feels real pain at seeing this city more or less worship what he considers the worst oppressor of them all.
TAE: After the Civil War, a compromise was obtained in which the North acknowledged the bravery of the Southern soldiers and the valor with which they fought for a cause in which they believed, while the South acknowledged that maybe it was for the best that the Union was preserved. Has this compromise finally broken down?
FOOTE: It has. Senator Moseley-Braun (D-Il.) persuaded her fellow Senators to disallow the use of the Confederate symbol on the Daughters of the Confederacy stationery in Alexandria. It wasn’t a Confederate battle flag; it was just a Confederate symbol. Well, that’s disruptive of the compromise, which really worked to a considerable extent.
Some highly intelligent men—the agrarians, for instance—still regret enormously that the South didn’t succeed in secession. The poet Allen Tate described the Civil War as an attempt by the North to put the South into Arrow collars.
Some of that has happened. But I don’t know that it wouldn’t have happened to the Confederacy, too. What’s more, the Confederacy probably would have exploded into pieces: [Georgia Governor] Joe Brown and some of those other governors were fixing to fly apart again.
Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, believed that the erring sisters would return to the fold. He especially had an idea that a war with Mexico would reunite the North and South. But Lincoln made the thing—Lincoln is a true genius. It is absolutely incredible that he was able to define the war in a way to hold the Union together, being careful not to alienate the border state people while he’s placating the New Englanders. He said at some point, “I hope God is on our side, but I must have Kentucky.”
TAE: In the Civil War trilogy, Jefferson Davis is presented as a man of integrity and character and purpose. Was Davis the equal of Lincoln?
FOOTE: You matched him against genius, which is unfair. Davis had faults and Lincoln had faults, but Lincoln always learned from his faults, and he was able to turn them into virtues.
Davis had this code of honor that literally was disruptive. For example, some superior officer came to him and reported that some brigadier was unfit for the job and should be relieved from duty. This brigadier was a good friend of Davis’s, and Davis fired him. And the man came to see Davis and said, “How could you, my old friend, do this to me?” Davis didn’t say, “Your superior told me that I have to get rid of you.” He said, “You’ve got your orders.” That’s the code.
Lincoln would have found a way around all that. In the first place, he probably wouldn’t have fired him. And Davis had this stiffness that gave him tremendous integrity, but it interfered with his efficiency as President. He also spent too much time on small things; night after night working on stuff that somebody else could have done. Lincoln didn’t do that.
TAE: Union General George McClellan has gotten a bad rap from his age down to ours. Is it possible to view him as a decent man who shied from a war of attrition, who lacked Grant’s and Sherman’s brutality and wanted to spare civilians the horror of total war?
FOOTE: I think you can make that case very well. The main thing to remember about McClellan was he created the instrument with which Grant won the war. It was McClellan who made the Army of the Potomac. Also it’s overlooked how much his men loved him. He and Robert E. Lee and Joe Johnston could all have a big scramble over who won the most affection. The nearest competitor on the Northern side would be Sherman, not Grant. Grant never courted anybody’s affections.
Grant is a man worth studying. He never accepted blame for anything ever at any time. That’s what made him so steady on the line. The other thing is, he worried very little about what the enemy might do to him; he always thought about what he was going to do to the enemy. He’s a superb soldier; he’s brave. And yet he’s a complicated man in a lot of ways.
He couldn’t eat meat unless it was cooked to a char because he didn’t want the sight of blood. My God—the Army of the Potomac had more casualties than Lee had in his whole infantry and artillery combined. And he kept going all the time; never thought of turning back, didn’t even cross his mind.
TAE: The National Park Service has begun de-emphasizing battles at battle sites and instructing visitors in the “real cause of the war”: slavery. What do you think of this?
FOOTE: It is outrageous. What went on on that battlefield ought not be cluttered up with all these things. You want to understand that battle, you’d better study the battle.
What’s more, if they’re going to talk about slavery at any great length, they’re also going to have to talk about the Constitution and God knows what else. I have no objection whatsoever to instructing people about the evils of slavery or the tricks and trades of the Constitution; I think that’s all good. But when you’re studying the battle, you’ve got to get all of that out of your mind and concentrate on the men who did the fighting, who didn’t give a damn about the Constitution or slavery while the battle was going on.
TAE: Was it for the best that Lincoln won in 1860?
FOOTE: Yes. I think that it’s best that the country didn’t split in two; I do believe that firmly. And Lincoln was the one who kept it from splitting in two. I’m not saying that some other man couldn’t have done it, too, because the occasion does make the man. Lincoln was made great by the war. Bedford Forrest, if it hadn’t been for war, would simply have been a very efficient alderman here in Memphis.
The thing I just wish so fervently is that after Shiloh, both sides would have said, “Wait a minute.” They had 24 percent casualties at Shiloh. That’s the same as Waterloo. There were 100,000 men on that field, and 24,000 casualties. We should have said “Whoa, wait. We’re going to kill all the young men in the country if this keeps on.” And though they didn’t know it, they had another ten Waterloos down the road.
TAE: Have you seen any good Civil War movies?
FOOTE: Gettysburg was a good job, if he had just gotten Longstreet a better beard.
TAE: It’s very good, though Martin Sheen plays a fey Robert E. Lee.
FOOTE: I happen to know, from talking to Horton Foote, that it is the dream of Robert Duvall’s life to play Robert E. Lee. Why they didn’t get him, I don’t know. Duvall would have been superb.
But I like Martin Sheen. He communicated Lee’s nervousness, his being off stride, and that was very bold and brave of him to do that. He didn’t communicate Lee’s dignity, but he communicated the most important thing at Gettysburg.
TAE: You wrote the first two volumes of the Civil War trilogy during the genesis and then the critical years of the civil rights movement. Did the antics of Bull Connor and Orval Faubus and suchlike have any effect on the writing of the books?
FOOTE: In the bibliographical note to the second volume, which came out in ’63, I thanked Wallace and Faubus and [Mississippi Governor] Ross Barnett for making me better understand the problems that caused the Civil War and for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing in their action much that was least admirable in the position my forbears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln.
TAE: Were you at all sympathetic to the states’ rights arguments that these guys were making?
FOOTE: I’m sympathetic to the states’ rights people only in a pragmatic way. To have the same speed limit in Vermont that you have in New Mexico is ridiculous.
I’m a yellow-dog Democrat, a true believer in everything that the Democratic Party stands for. I still admire Franklin Roosevelt tremendously for saving us from fascism or communism. I’m inclined to think the government can solve all problems; I have found out that that’s a long way from true. The central government does a very bad job if you turn education over to them: You wind up either with a bunch of academics who think they have the answer to everything or politicians who will do things for political reasons, and it’s a bad scene.
I have found out over the last 50 years that the government can create as many problems as it solves, but I’m still a good, solid Democrat. One thing I admire about the Republicans greatly is their intense concern for the individual as opposed to the state. They’re always out to protect the individual.
When television first came on in the early ’50s during the Eisenhower campaign, I said, “Now we can now look the creature in the face while he’s lying to us, and we’re going to be able to tell.” And I was wrong as I could be. The man is packaged on television for you to look at, and you can be fooled very badly. The result is, in an election, I no longer vote for the man, I vote the party.
TAE: Do you watch much TV?
FOOTE: Yes, I watch the news every night. I watch talk shows like Chris Matthews, whom I despise. I love watching him because he’s so awful. Chris Matthews, he’s bouncing on his ass with delight at giving the President trouble. And that vexes me.
TAE: You like the President?
FOOTE: Yes. I think Clinton has made a hell of a President. He’s also a hell of a fool, but that goes with it.
TAE: Politicians today don’t even speak their own words.
FOOTE: That’s quite true, and it’s always been to a degree true. Lincoln’s speeches were mostly by himself, but the “better angels of our nature” was Seward. I said Lincoln was a political genius; he’s other kinds of geniuses, too. He’s a writer very close to the caliber of Mark Twain.
I have found that children are no longer required to memorize the Gettysburg Address in school, and that dismays me to think of young people wandering around without those rhythms in their brain. Memory work is frowned on now in schools: that’s crazy. I’m very old-fashioned. I do not know what’s going to happen as a result of being able to get all the information you want with your index finger on a computer. I can’t begin to say how many things I discovered while I was looking through books for something else.
TAE: You don’t use a computer?
FOOTE: I don’t have a computer, I don’t have e-mail, I never wanted any kind of secretary or typist or anything like that. Partly for the reason I’m talking about
: I made huge numbers of discoveries doing my own research.
TAE: Were you in Memphis when Martin Luther King was shot?
FOOTE: I saw King get off the airplane as I was leaving to go to Virginia. I started to go up and speak to him, shake hands with him, tell him I was glad he was in Memphis. But he looked so frightened that I thought that if I walked up to him, they would think I was some kind of an assassin, so I didn’t do it. I’ve always regretted I didn’t do that.
TAE: Would you say you’re a Southerner before you’re an American?
FOOTE: I’m a Southerner first. There’s no need in denying that; I simply am. When I see a list of people killed in an airplane crash, I look for the Southerners on board.
And of course I’ve got racism in my bones; I’m against it and I counteract it as best I can, but if I had on clean clothes and was standing on a curb waiting for somebody and a Cadillac passed and splashed mud on me, and it was all blacks in the Cadillac, I would say, “They never shouda let them up.” That’s in your bones and you can’t get rid of it, but you can counteract it, which I do.
TAE: In your correspondence with Walker Percy, occasionally you’ll casually write “nigger.” Do you think that 50 years hence, as we grow morally loftier, literary critics are going to say, “Foote was beyond the pale using language like that”?
FOOTE: You get back to what hurts people’s feelings, which is never a good thing to do. And I don’t think in my whole life I ever called a Negro a “nigger” to him, unless I was joking the way they do with each other.
I’ll tell you when this race thing will straighten itself out. I’ll know that it’s solved when black writers stop being black writers. I don’t know of a single black writer who isn’t consumed by the fact that he’s black. I believe in people writing about what they know about—God knows, everything I do is Southern—but I’ll know that we’ve got some kind of equality when I can no longer recognize a black writer by glancing at the page.
Johnny Cochran, in the O.J. Simpson trial, was absolutely indignant because some witness said he recognized a Negro voice over the telephone. Well, that’s absurd. I recognize a Negro voice over the telephone all the time. And the worst racist in that courtroom was Johnny Cochran.
TAE: Did your elevation to celebrity status after the Ken Burns series vex you or did you find fame easier to take than you’d expected?
FOOTE: Both. It’s irksome when it’s a disruption, but it’s pleasant, too. It’s an affirmation that you’ve done something that will be here after you’re gone. It’s nice to get a good table in a restaurant; it’s nice to have people tell you they like your work; it’s nice to have firemen waving at you; that’s the good side.
The other is the disruption. People will come up to you and call you by your first name whom you’ve never seen, or call you all hours on the telephone; I’m so stubborn I won’t take my name out of the phone book, so I run into all kinds of trouble.
Freud said all men have three urges that make them do what they do: the desire for fame, the desire for money, and the love of women. He didn’t mention inspiration or any of that. He was wrong to leave something out: there’s a great pleasure in good writing. To engage in art in a way that pleases you is an enormous satisfaction.
TAE: Which of his trio is the most powerful?
FOOTE: The desire for fame. We all want to say, “Kilroy was here.”
TAE: Your maternal grandfather was a Viennese Jew. Did you ever feel Jewish at all?
FOOTE: I went to the synagogue as a boy. I went to Saturday school, so that I know the Shema Y’israel and so on. But no, I never felt Jewish. And I always knew the disadvantages of being Jewish. I’m three-quarters Episcopalian, and it seemed to me I was going to have a much easier time in life being an Episcopalian than I would as a Jew.
TAE: Have you ever been tempted by the religious impulse?
FOOTE: No. That’s left out of me. I have very little concern with life after death. Thomas Hardy said “I’ve been looking for God for 50 years and if he was there, I would have found him.”
TAE: What do you think of writers being subsidized by the government through things like the National Endowment for the Arts?
FOOTE: I’m very much against it. I’m for subsidizing the arts—opera, the theater, symphony orchestras, and so forth—but I think creative people should be left alone. It takes away from what you’re doing. Even a grant does that. I think just making enough to pay the light bill is an affirmation of your commitment.
American poetry, as far as I can see, is as dead as a doornail. The reason is that all the American poets are on college campuses, and they sit around talking about their work—which a writer knows you’re not supposed to do—and jumping the coeds, which is time-consuming.
TAE: You once said that “small town America in 1910 is still my notion of the happiest time on earth.” Why is that?
FOOTE: It was before all the new things like the telephone, let alone the radio and so forth, which came in to clutter up our lives. I can remember a time about 1920, with men in the evening out watering their lawns with a hose, and there was a strong feeling of family; front porches were used in hot weather. It just seemed like a cozier time and a time when there was more mutual understanding.
That may not be true, incidentally; but it seemed to me so.