Weekend in New Orleans- Confederate Edition
Blog update: After starting off the year writing regularly here, I regained the rhythm and momentum to return to finishing my book about APU and my loss of faith. I'll now be posting here once in a while as thoughts pop into my head, seldom as that is.
When Keiko told us she was going to be living in New Orleans for several months while filming a new TV show, we knew we had to visit. We had been saying for years that we wanted to go to New Orleans and see the sights and eat the food. So, we talked with a bunch of friends and we made plans.
As we walked through the New Orleans airpot, I was struck at how diverse the tourists were. I don't know why I thought I would only see white and black people. I knew I was going to the South. Louisiana. But we were walking through the terminal amongst Los Angeles folks, so lots of asians, latinos, black people, and some white people. Cool. We got a Lyft and headed to the Lower Garden District. Again, diversity. A vegan restaurant a block from our historic hotel that looked like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
We immediately acknowledged that our only cultural reference to this part of the country was Disneyland and those insipid House of Blues clubs.
It occurred to us that the "nice" parts of New Orleans, the French Quarter, the Lower Garden District, Uptown...these were not actually representative of the rest of the state. To their credit.
After walking to a coffee shop near our hotel to enjoy a breakfast worthy of Highland Park or Silverlake (fresh-roasted coffee, avocado toast, greek yogurt and fruit), we walked over to the National World War 2 Museum. It was a rainy day, so despite there being the first parade of the Mardi Gras season, the museum was packed. We didn't feel like waiting in the long, winding line, so we walked across the street to a small building that said it was a Civil War museum. Cool. We paid the 10 bucks and went in.
Again, my assumptions were incorrect. Every Civil War display, television show, documentary I've seen has shown both sides of the war. Slavery is at the center of the whole thing with flawed humans on both sides of a moral issue. We turned around after paying the nice lady and I immediately felt something was off. A huge confederate flag loomed over us on the far wall.
Our brochure was all about the various forms of the Confederate flag. The gift shop (really just two walls in a corner) sold dozens of Confederate flag souvenirs. We watched the introductory video in the back. 2 minutes in, and the blood drained from my face. This wasn't a "Civil War" museum as the rest of the world might understand it. This was a shrine to the Confederacy. You can see for yourselves. http://confederatemuseum.com
I know. I'm an idiot.
We noted that the building housing the museum was Confederate Hall, and the museum, until recently was actually called, "The Louisiana Confederate Museum." Fuck. Me.
The fawning video with requisite banjo music told the history of the museum interspersed with the stories of how it obtained artifacts, clothing, weaponry and writings of the "brave patriots" of the Confederacy.
In the entire fucking place, there is not a single mention of slavery or black people. They did have a copy of the movie, "Song of the South" in the gift shop.
After my revelation, I then looked around at the people in the place. White people. All of them. They looked with keen interest, oohing and aahing at the pictures and displays. After I got over the worry that I might be lynched for defiling a white woman for being married to Geri, I wondered if they were looking at their own histories. I tried to make eye contact with them, a quizzical look on my face, to see if they could be swayed to feel uncomfortable.
Because white people visiting a fucking Confederate Museum SHOULD feel uncomfortable. Anyone should feel uncomfortable here. This was a war fought over the enslavement of an entire people group. Today's Trumpian Nazis proudly wave Confederate flags because those fucking flags stand for everything a Nazi stands for.
We walked the small museum, reading the letters, marveling at how diminutive the uniforms were. The uniforms of the soldiers and officers would be a size Extra Small at Old Navy today. I imagined punching the men wearing them.
On this morning, for this 20 minutes, I was in the South. An unabashed, racist shithole. So much pride. So much work to lionize evil people. So fucked up.
Anyone in this museum with the slightest sense of common decency can't help but think for a moment why there are no "Nazi Museums" like this in Germany. There are no great halls of remembrance linked to the German Travel Bureau for the brave patriots who fought for the Nazi way of life. No Nazi uniforms encased with Bibles and diaries telling the stories of how they lived and died.
And why not? Because common decency. Germans are decent enough people to flush that part of their heritage down the toilet. They don't rewrite the history and sterilize it the way the South does. The Civil War has, apparently been renamed, "The War Between the States." Such a bland, non-descript name.
In Germany, it's illegal to promote Nazi...anything. But in the American South, treason rooted in deep racism is still celebrated and is a source of great pride for most of its white inhabitants.
It occurred to me that the laughable notion that the "South will rise again" is actually happening. They have put their faith and trust into a New York billionaire would-be carpet bagger, but they are rising. I guess we "elites" shouldn't have been so dismissive of the down-trodden pride of a people of such...nah, fuck that. We have to beat this shit down again.
Fuck the Confederacy.