Today, our family celebrates Lee-Jackson Day. We celebrate Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s commitment to their country, the South. We celebrate that as successful and revered servicemen in the U.S. military (ranking as colonel and major respectively), they took the narrow path, risking their careers and reputations, and the comfort and security of being gentry, all in defense of their home, Virginia. We celebrate their service in the Confederate States of America, which peacefully left a voluntary compact it saw as an overbearing and unconstitutional central authority.
We celebrate Lee and Jackson as the embodiment of the quintessential “cavalier” – a cultural construction that defined the characteristics and expectations of Southern manliness: honor, courage, duty, and volunteerism. We celebrate our veteran ancestors, who also exemplified these self-sacrificial qualities, as did the Southern people, who showed unbelievable strength during such an unfathomable struggle against invasion and total war.
We celebrate those who spoke up for and lived out the Southern tradition during Reconstruction, as well as the brave rebels who still do. We celebrate the agrarianism of Southerners, who juxtaposed themselves and this hard but dignified life to the cold modernity of the industrial North. We celebrate Southerner’s commitment to family, faith, and community, and their stand against the ever-encroaching puritanical zeal of their northern neighbors.
We celebrate all that the South has given to America, from Jeffersonian federalism to William Faulkner, Jamestown to jazz, Patrick Henry to country ham, Tennessee Williams to Eudora Welty, Belle Boyd to Booker T. Washington, John Taylor of Caroline to country music, George Mason to Madam C.J. Walker, Flannery O’Connor to sweet tea, the blues to bluegrass, and Southerners’ sweep-your-own-front-porch attitude to states’ rights. As historian Brion McClanahan says, we celebrate that “The South is America.”
We celebrate a time when all Americans appreciated Confederate heroes. We celebrate a time when there was a real effort of reconciliation between North and South. We celebrate a time when civilized men could honor each others’ service, whether Yankee or Rebel. We celebrate a time when Northern presidents gave speeches that paid tribute to both the Blue and Gray, and when calendars printed in the North showed Lee-Jackson Day as an American holiday.
We celebrate a time when “Dixie” was sung at football games, the Battle Flag was flown without fear of reprisal, and Confederate monuments weren’t spray-painted by ignorant barbarians. We celebrate a time when Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings would proudly perform, “I’m American by birth, and Southern by the grace of God.”
We celebrate a cause that isn’t lost, for independence and self-determination are just as crucial today as they were in 1861. We celebrate not being bullied into erasing our past and to expanding our knowledge of true history. We celebrate that, despite what we’ve been taught in government schools and in the media, there is so much to celebrate. And we celebrate because we’re unReconstructed.