by Eric Bergeson, July 13, 2010
Stone Mountain just east of Atlanta, Georgia is an enormous granite dome, five miles around at the base, circled by sheer gray cliffs which rise out of the Georgia forest.
The mountain looms as large in history as it does in the Georgia landscape. Carved on the side of the mountain is an enormous bas-relief sculpture of three heroes of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, along with their horses.
At the base of the mountain is a man-made lake surrounded by an amusement park with children's rides, gift shops, cafes, hotels and museums.
Facing up to the sculpture is a long fairway of lawn surrounded on either side by trees which shade thirteen terraces, one honoring each state of the Confederacy.
Our group of teachers was to eat on the Kentucky terrace and then watch the laser show from the same perch once the sun went down.
One problem, noticed by the few teachers: Kentucky wasn't part of the Confederacy. It never succeeded.
In fact, the history books record eleven Confederate States, not thirteen. Missouri, too, was counted as a Confederate state by the amusement park people, even though only a tiny, disputed portion of that state left the Union.
Welcome to the twisted historical world of those who advocate of the Lost Cause view of the Civil War.
Lost Cause proponents don't even consider the Civil War a civil war. They call it “War Between The States,” or “The War of Northern Aggression.” It was a war between two nations, not a war which tore apart one.
The Confederacy, according to these revisionists, was the more honorable, Christian, American and refined society. It was defeated, not out of any great matter of principle, but simply because the North had greater resources in men and material.
Earlier on our trip at Ft. Sumter, the island fortress which witnessed the first shots of the Civil War, several in our group heard Abraham Lincoln referred to contemptuously by visitors as “Dinkum,” or “Pinkum,” or other such epithets.
Apparently, the war isn't over.
The amusement park at Stone Mountain becomes an even more interesting holiday pilgrimage for southern families when one learns that the second Ku Klux Klan was formed on top of the mountain in 1915.
The re-founding of the Klan presaged thousands of lynchings in the south. Hundreds of postcards survive of smiling whites showing off burnt body parts of dead black people.
But that dark and evil history is swept under the rug at the Stone Mountain amusement park where attendees are treated to a laser show which glorifies the Confederacy as a bastion of freedom.
After dark, the laser light show continued the rewriting of history. In a bizarre twist, Davis, Lee and Jackson gallop off on their horses to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written by Julia Ward Howe as an abolitionist pro-Union anthem.
To claim the Battle Hymn for the Confederacy takes a lot of gall.
Later, as Elvis croons a sad song containing the phrase “your Daddy’s gonna die,” soldiers are shown on the side of the mountain going off to battle, apparently never to return.
The message of the show is unmistakable: The South is superior in matters of honor and military glory. Those who died attempting to create a Confederate nation did so honorably.
Moreover, it is the South’s noble tradition that is carried on today by the brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In all this, not a word is mentioned of the real reason for the Confederacy: To defend the “freedom” of southern plantation owners to keep humans in bondage based upon the color of their skin and to defend the freedom of all southern whites, plantation owners or not, to subjugate, abuse and humiliate an entire race.
Never once will you hear these Lost Cause advocates say in public what is implied by their nostalgia and their choice of shrines: Slavery was a benign institution, the foundation of a superior society. It should never have ended.
The revision of Civil War history to minimize the importance of slavery is no small matter. When the Texas textbook committee votes to include Jefferson Davis' inaugural address as required reading, they do so to honor a traitor and an enemy of human freedom.
They, along with those who display Confederate flags on their pickup trucks or dormitory walls, should be recognized as the retrograde bigots they are.