Celebrating Confederate Heroes Day in East Texas

The official state holiday is a day for Confederacy apologists to strut their stuff.

Did you hear that Rebel Yell in the air yesterday?

On Thursday, three days after Martin Luther King, Jr. day, Texas commemorated Confederate Heroes Day, an official state holiday that falls on Robert E. Lee’s birthday. (Actually, some folks jumped the gun a bit. The Corsicana Daily Sun published a paean to Lee on Monday, MLK day.)

Sadly, Confederate Heroes Day has fallen on hard times, its celebrants confined largely to the the dwindling ranks of Confederate pride groups… and Jerry Patterson.

But there are still pockets, in East Texas especially, where the Lost Cause is kept alive. In Longview, the Sons of Confederate Veterans had a particularly poignant waving of the bloody banner this year. Guns were fired. Period costumers were worn. Speeches were given. Consider this account of American history (revised edition) proffered by one Tom Clinkscale, commander of the North East Texas Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans: 

The America founded by George Washington and his allies was consigned to history by the winners of the Civil War, the keynote speaker at a Confederate Heroes Day service said Wednesday.

“It’s Abraham Lincoln who is the father of what we currently call the United States,” Tom Clinkscale, commander of the North East Texas Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told some 75 people gathered beneath the Confederate Heroes Monument on the Gregg County Courthouse lawn.

Clinkscale separated America’s history into two incarnations — pre- and post Civil War.

“The forms of government of those two were very, very different,” he said. “The U.S. (today) is, in fact, a socialist democracy.”

Clinkscale said the founding fathers “went to great lengths” to make sure the new country was not a democracy in which a simple majority can impose its will on a powerless minority.

“All the South has ever desired is that the Union established by our founding fathers be preserved,” he told the group, which consisted of many in period dress and hailing from Paris, Texarkana, Marshall and elsewhere in East Texas. “Our southern ancestors had an idea of preserving that republic.”

Got all that?  To review: The South wasn’t fighting to preserve that peculiar institution, but to uphold the most sacred ideals of the Founders and to keep the Union together. The Confederacy and all her modern-day defenders, you see, are the real victims.

Because the Confederacy lost that noble fight in 1865, we’ve been living under socialism. No, not the kind of plantation socialism that involves white people owning black people. No, this kind of socialism):

Clinkscale drew his audience into the present day with actions he said exemplify the federal government’s social democratic nature — the Patriot Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama’s acceptance of a portion of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act allowing indefinite detention of Americans.

But, alas, not everyone is a fan of Confederate Heroes Day.

Robert Bailey said he and his fellow men in gray often are misunderstood. The commander of the Longview-based Sons of Confederate Veterans Walter P. Lane Camp said a woman in a courthouse office had expressed surprise upon learning of the impending Confederate Heroes Day service. It wasn’t on the courthouse calendar, she had said.

“I said, ‘Lady. It wouldn’t be politically correct to put it on the calendar,’ ” Bailey said. “But, we hear it a lot. People say, ‘They’ve all got to be racist, got to be bigots.’ … You find that from time to time, but this kind of thing picks you back up.”

I’m sure the Sons are fine people. But, then there’s this, a newsletter put out this month by a Bonham-based chapter of the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans that contains an article entitled “The Hidden History of Slavery”:

The Multiculturalists, dominant in media and education, continuously use the issue of Black Slavery as a psychological baton to beat over the heads of White people, children in particular, to damage any concept of ethnic pride that they have (while at the same time, encouraging ethnic pride amongst Blacks, Asians, etc.).

To reinforce the point, the article quotes noted white supremacy scholar (and convicted child porn collector) Kevin Alfred Strom as well as William Pierce, the dear late leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and author of the book that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

And then there’s this take on the Ku Klux Klan by one Ronnie Atnip, self-described “hobby historian,” member of the Fannin County Historical Commission and member of the Bob Lee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans:

The Ku Klux Klan was organized after the war as a fraternal organization but out of necessity arose as a defense mechanism to the Union League. The KKK didn’t arrive in Texas until mid 1868 so the Lee party didn’t have the benefit of their help.

Sir, your white hood is showing beneath that gray uniform.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is the editor of the Observer.

Published at 11:00 pm CST
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