Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 202/365 The Past Isn't Really Past

This post is dedicated to the current governor of Virginia, who lives in the land of cotton and wishful yearning. After reading the local paper today, I can almost forgive the governor for his poorly worded procalamation of Virginia's Confederate History Month.

After all the governor is suppose to be in touch with his constituency, no matter how backward they are.

Today's paper has a half page article with two large photos providing complete coverage of a burial of a local war veteran, complete with full military honors, invocation by a USAF Chaplain, local pillars of the community, a Cross of Honor installation, a large funeral wreath, a salute by military riflemen, multi-generations of the deceased family in attendance, and several speakers that attested to the worthiness of the deceased.

Was this a service for a recent casualty of the conflict in Afghanistan or Iraq? Gulf War? Vietnam? Korea? World War II? World War I?


This was a re-burial of a Confederate Private who died in 1916. The Confederate Cross of Honor was unveiled ovcr his grave, various members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy attended in full Civil War dress and the military salute was provided by riflemen from the local branchof the Sons of Confederate Veterans (also in period dress). One of the Historical Society ladies sprinkled dirt on the grave from the last place of residence of the deceased, and another portrayed the grieving Southern widow. The great-great-grandchildren presented the family funeral wreath to the gravesite, flanked on either side by large floral wreaths from the UDC and SCV. Military "Taps" were played, and a haunting version of "Shenandoah" was played. Then the Confederate States National flag was presented (folded) to the granddaughter of the deceased soldier.

This is normal in the South.

They cannot let go. It is a melancholy addiction to the fading past, a yearning for a life they never experienced, a mass display of a all-encompassing post-traumatic stress disorder. The only explanation I can imagine is that the Civil War was such a devastatingly traumatic event, that it still leaves its psychic scars on the children of the South. The effects were so widespread, the memories and loss so deep, that even now, four generations later, these descendants still feel the need to support, to validate, and to justify.

So it seems our governor is, in fact, totally in touch with some of his constituents. They, in turn, are the ones not in touch with present-day reality, preferring instead to bury themselves in 1864.

Lest my readers think me a transplanted Yankee, I offer my Southern "pedigree": a great-great-grandfather who fought next to Stonewall Jackson from the start of the "War Between the States" until Jackson fell at the Wilderness; another great-great-grandfather who led the local militia during the mountain skirmishes in southwestern Virginia; a great-great-grandmother who hid in the woods while her home was being burned by Yankees (and who managed to shoot a couple of them); a great-great uncle who died as a prisoner of war at Camp Chase,Ohio; and numerous long-dead family members, any one of which would qualify for one of these Confederate burial ceremonies.

My point is: I would never have one. They are my family, my history, and my heritage. Like any person in any time period during any national event, each of them had an opinion and a reason for what they did, or didn't, do. Their time period is not mine. There is no need to explain or justify their actions. They were there, and did the best they could.

And I refuse to pretend that I have the slightest idea of how they managed to live through the horrific events of the Civil War, or to cheapen it with reenactments of devastating bereavment.

I'll leave that to the governor.


  1. excellent. exactly. rip, the horrors. upward and onward, brothers and sisters, all.

  2. Wow! I grew up in SC and now live in NC and have never heard of anything like this before. Sounds very strange to me. I understand respecting the dead and honoring those who have gone before, but this seems a bit much. But I really can't judge...I do things that I'm sure others think are strange (: I like to go outside in the middle of the night, light candles, pray and watch the clouds go by...not something you see often (: