The most successful defenders of the Lost Cause are currently getting everyone caught up talking about statues and place names for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. We've even gone off the rails so far in New Orleans that there's a "serious" discussion over the meaning of the fleur de lis and whether the city should abandon the symbol.The Lost Cause mythology is a bedtime story treated as real public history. It's time for the sons and daughters of the Confederacy to grow up. There is no slippery slope here. Anyone making that argument is intentionally trying to muddle the issue.
How does it help the so-called Confederacy to talk about bad parts of slave-owners? Well, despite their complex and often troubling places in American history, Washington, Jefferson, & Jackson were all Presidents of the UNITED States of America. There is definitely a need to further scrutinize their mythological histories with their historical realities, but not when the topic of conversation is focused on the so-called CONFEDERATE States of America and the cultural legacy of the Lost Cause in the South. Suddenly, you're rhetorically defending men who tried to destroy the United States through rebellion by referencing men who all used their office to put down rebellions or respond to threats against the United States.
Furthermore, consensus history already includes a lot about George, Tom, & Andy's slave owning, Native American fighting, and general hypocrisies. New Orleans already took names of theirs off local public schools. Most of us learn that the story of George Washington & the Cherry Tree is apocryphal - it is one of our first lessons in the difference between what we tell children at bedtime and what is the real story.
None of this is to say the mayor is doing some great thing simply by allowing himself to be dragged along by the activists who have seized a moment to make these corrections. In fact, he's doing exactly what we worried he might do when this process began. He's taking the opportunity to pass out favors to political allies who are themselves questionably deserving figures.
And, of course, the mayor and council are fresh off turning two city streets into monuments for bigots just this year.
What I can't stomach about this current campaign by Landrieu is his blatant hypocrisy.If there really is any sort of "slippery slope" it appears to be angled uphill.
Just last month Mayor Mitch Landrieu championed the effort to rename two sections of our city's streets after the late Rev. John Raphael Jr. and Pastor Robert C. Blakes. The effort passed through City Council in a 4 to 3 vote.
I went to City Council chambers and spoke against the move on behalf of NOSHA - New Orleans Secular Human Association. I cited two main points on why my fellow humanists and I felt the tribute was inappropriate. The first reason is that in the case of Raphael the street is now using a religious moniker in its official name, "Rev. John Raphael Jr. Way". This is a clear violation of church and state as taxpayers' dollars have now gone to enshrine a particular religion in our city, in perpetuity.
But the most important issue I raised is that both of these men were hostile towards the LGBT community having made numerous bigoted remarks against gay people. Raphael went so far as to rant at his own brother's funeral and suggest that his death (he contracted the AIDS virus) was a punishment by God for his evil, gay lifestyle.
How is it that, in June, Landrieu can support renaming city streets after two notorious bigots while lobbying to remove monuments that have been in the city over a century, citing bigotry, one month later?