This Saturday – November 6 – marks the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln. I know this only because I recently read a NY Times OP-ED by the writer, Tony Horwitz. Horwitz is a journalist and the author of Confederates in the Attic, which is a funny, fascinating look at the enduring legacy of The Civil War.
If you’re interested in reenactors, remembrance and why racism still exists, read this book!
Horwitz’s latest OP-ED makes you consider the power and impact of selective memory – something we’re all too familiar with, especially during this current election cycle. He writes:
“Earlier this year in Virginia, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery, while the state’s Department of Education issued a textbook peddling the fiction that thousands of blacks had fought for the South.”
After I graduated from college in 1989, I worked for a summer in Galveston at a surf shop. We sold swimsuits, boogie boards as well as seashell tchotchkes and postcards. One weekday a tour bus pulled in to the parking lot and a large group of tourists started to disembark. It was a slow day so you’d think the manager would be pleased to see a big group descending on the shop. These customers were all older African-American ladies from Houston. The manager looked out at the parking lot and then turned to me and said, “Looks like we got a busload of niggers.”
He said this freely and openly, as if I’d laugh along with him. Ha ha. You’re so funny you crazy white man.
I was speechless.
When our history of slavery persists as the elephant in the room and the FBI registers over 7,500 hate crime incidents for 2008, you have to wonder: Why is it so difficult for us to get past race, gender and sexual orientation?
I’m not being facetious here, but I’m now going to segue in to talking about the new Kings of Leon video. Watch it here:
Now is it just me or does anyone else find this video not only pretentious but horribly questionable? We’re talking bad taste here. Really.
Am I overreacting? Am I being overly sensitive? I don’t know. I think it’s odd and just not appropriate, this sunset-lit, golden time scene of four Southern white boys treating a bunch of black children to a barbeque. We’ve got Caleb, in his suspenders and kerchief, looking like Johnny Reb, we’ve got pies and fishing in the creek and we’ve got a fricking gospel choir. A gospel choir!
It smacks of pretension, dubious intentions and an overall preacher-heathen aesthetic that I thought had gone the way of Birth of a Nation. I want to ask the director, Sophie Muller, “What the f*** were you thinking????”
But I also have to ask myself, “Why are you so upset?” Is it liberal guilt? Is it because I can’t get past it? Am I too caught up in racist imagery that I only see:
Southern white guys + black children = plantation life
I can accept U2 and a gospel choir (Eh, they’re Irish, they talk a lot and they’re in love with Graceland and Muddy Waters), but I can’t accept four guys from Tennessee. Am I guilty of some kind of reverse racism here?
In a short ‘making of’ segment about the video, Nathan says, “…Gospel music was a big part of us so to be able to come back and revisit that part of our lives in this stage of our lives is pretty special.”
You know, I don’t know.
What do you think?