WASHINGTON – “Sacred heart of Jefferson Davis!” the Southern matriarch of the fictitious Burnside family exclaimed in the 1950s hit film, “Auntie Mame.” That line about the president of the Confederacy was sort of funny then, when Jim Crow was firmly in place in the Democratic Party and the statues of the generals of the traitorous Confederate States sat defiantly on their pedestals throughout the Old South.
It develops that the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, thinks these statues are “beautiful” and are part of a “culture” that needs to be preserved. Where on earth did Trump develop his affinity for the “culture” of the Confederacy?
Trump was raised in Queens County, and forced to attend what was then the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Next was Fordham University, run by the Jesuit fathers in the Bronx, and on to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia.
Could it have come from any of his three wives? Not very likely.
Here it is 52 years after the enactment of the civil rights laws, with strong Republican support, and this Republican president is selling sentimentality about the Old South, where he never lived. This was a culture of total bondage for millions of African-Americans, who existed on remote plantations without even having a recorded name, much less freedom. And zero protection from our laws.
This was a “culture” of human mutilation and maiming; some existing with their heads in cast-iron cages; forced separation of families; men, women and children living under the lash; and fear of arbitrary death. Despite a few television series, their horrifying story still hasn’t been told.
Long after the defeat of the Confederacy, when Jim Crow and the lynching of blacks was in fashion, these “beautiful” statues went up throughout the South: Gens. Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson and the raider John Singleton Mosby. There is even a street in suburban Virginia named for the atrocious William Quantrill, whose troops murdered scores of Unionist civilians in Lawrence, Kan.
There can be only one meaning to these strange relics to the black man and woman. It is: Watch out. We whites are still in control.
The demonstrations by Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on the University of Virginia’s hallowed lawn in Charlottesville opened up a whole new field of opportunity for the haters among us. They were there to protect the “beautiful” statue of the traitor Lee, it was said by Trump. The behavior of the Nazis and the KKK on one hand and some left-wing radicals that included the obnoxious (to some) “Black Lives Matter” militants were equally bad, he said.
Ridiculous. The time for parsing, for hair-splitting is done, over.
The Nazis were carrying shields brandishing “death’s head,” or Totenkopf, in German, of Hitler’s 3rd Panzer Division of the Waffen-SS, or storm troopers. These SS troops were the scum of the German army – killers, guards recruited from the Nazi concentration camps and units that wantonly murdered civilians in Poland. Their ceremonial head was the murderous Heinrich Himmler.
The night before, the Nazis and the KKK joined in a torchlight parade around the campus, some chanting anti-Semitic slogans as they passed a synagogue, some carrying large Nazi flags. That flag – red field, white circle with a swastika – is not symbol of white nationalism, Mr. President. It is a death threat.
Trump’s embrace of the “beautiful” statues and the “culture” they represent is an open invitation to Nazis and the KKK for more militancy. It is a black mark on the Republican Congress that so few members have separated themselves not just from the president’s behavior, but from him.