Growing up in Southern culture, the last gasp of the Confederacy as it turns out, my familial elders and the status quo bureaucrats running the state educational system, sought in varied ways to shape my thinking about the world. Both groups made sure I revered one guy from one hundred years prior, General Robert E. Lee. By the mid-sixties when the Civil War roots of our community, state and region were uprooted politically by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the social weeds they were, Robert E. Lee remained somehow immune from any racist dispersion which tainted his contemporaries or the renegade status of many Southern leaders from both nineteenth and twentieth century’s. Anybody remember George Wallace?
In reading of Lee in varied accounts both primary and after the fact, he is renowned for two things; military brilliance and personal integrity. Many people attain prominence for either abilities or their character. Fewer are those respected for both. It is curious to me how Lee could throw away a future with the moral high ground side, the most likely to be and was the winning side, arguably the “right” side in order to join a rebellion dedicated to an ill-fated--and generally now accepted as immoral--cause but is recalled by history without judgments of profound denial or stupidity. Why this Teflon coating?
Here’s a man who makes a clearly radical decision in support of a discredited and even hated by many regime, yet he remains a well remembered and honored character in the history being told by the winning side.
What is the mitigating dynamic here? Is it that he chose honor (in the form of love for his home state) and dedicated himself to duty? Really? Honor and duty mattered that much…these matter now?
Ah, the twist and turns in the Wild Wood!