Among the many properties destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was Beauvoir, the seaside Mississippi estate where disgraced Confederate president Jefferson Davis (he was indicted for treason and stripped of his American citizenship following the Civil War), lived out his final days.
Beauvoir is where Davis spun out his outrageously bullshit post-war history of the Confederacy, giving rise to, among other notions, the ideas that slavery had nothing to do with the “War of Yankee Aggression.” And that the South was actually the victimized party in the war, despite the fact that it was the South that actually started by the Civil War by attacking American troops at Fort Sumter in April 1861.
Yeah, and Japan didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor, either. That’s basically the logic of Davis and 150 subsequent years of Confederate revisionists.
But the bigger outrage today is that the U.S. government has now awarded Beauvoir and its Sons of Confederate Veteran caretakers $14.5 million to reconstruct the ruined estate. The plans include construction of an imposing and elaborate Jefferson Davis Presidential Library.
Weirder still is that the money is coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, aka FEMA.
I wonder how many houses and apartments in New Orleans and around the Gulf $14.5 million might build or repair? Once again, “heckuva job,” FEMA.
The story outlining this bizarre use of federal funds appears in the May 2012 issue of Harper’s magazine beneath the headline, “Unreconstructed: The federal government builds a shrine to its archenemy.”
You need an account to access stories on the Harper’s website (and the article isn’t even posted yet, anyway). The author of the piece is Daniel Brook. Here’s a link to Brook’s website. It’s worth picking up the mag off the shelf to read the two-page piece.
According to Harper’s/Brook, once the Jefferson Davis library is finished the entry will bear the Great Seal of the Confederacy and the Latin motto “Deo Vindice” (“God Will Vindicate”).
The Beauvoir madness and hypocrisy is reminiscent of grudge-bearing, division-promoting Confederate monuments splattered all over the South, several of which I cover in Better Off Without ’Em.
In Abbeville, South Carolina, for example, the inscription on the Confederate monument in the middle of town is basically a declaration of eternal sedition: “The world shall yet decide, in truth’s clear far-off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray and died with Lee were right.”
Unbelievable. Imagine statues of SS soldiers inscribed with quotes from Mein Kampf in every little town in Germany.
By the way, Abbeville’s stately monument wasn’t erected in the emotional aftermath of war in 1865, but in 1906 and then in a ceremony replacing the original with a new one in 1996.
“The world shall yet decide in truth’s clear far off light, that the soldiers who wore the gray and died with Lee were right.”
Not that the soldiers were patriotic. Or courageous. Or true to some ill-begotten sense of duty. They were right.
The only possible interpretation of this statement is that the cause for which the South fought—dissolution of the United States in order that the South might preserve slavery and, thus, the economic underpinnings and political clout of its privileged class—was a morally righteous mission that still resonates today.
A lot of people hear the title Better Off Without ’Em and assume the book is nothing more than a Yankee assault against rednecks, mucous snorters and sleeveless simpletons.
But the real point is that “better off without ’em” cuts both ways.
Maybe martyrdom is just part of the regional character, but if southerners really feel so strongly about venerating the ideals and carnage launched by a bunch of slaveholding elites with their heads so far up their asses that they started a war with a far larger, wealthier and more mechanized force that today they’d build a $14.5 million shrine to honor those ideals rather than help fellow citizens in need, why not go ahead and live in that country instead of having to just fantasize about it?