Sunday, November 19, 2017
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Southern Heritage? Harassing foes is more like Southern cowardice

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This is quickly becoming the statue controversy that came to dinner, drank all your liquor, offended everyone at the table, passed out on the couch and refuses to leave.

That would be, of course, Memoria In Aeterna, which is Latin for "Slaves? What slaves?" the Confederate monument honoring treason, racism and revisionist history that has been polluting public land in front of the old Hills-borough County Courthouse on Pierce Street.

The community has been through a lengthy and often contentious debate over the fate of the thankfully departed statue for several months now. And finally, thanks to an outpouring of public donations, funding was raised to move Memoria In Aeterna, which is Latin for, "I Say, I Say, I Say There Boy!"

In time the structure will be relocated to a cemetery, owned by the Brandon family, which graciously stepped up to help resolve the controversy.

But that hasn't stopped groups like Save Southern Heritage, or the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from launching their own Pickett's Charge to prevent the inevitable, perhaps proving once again these folks still can't figure out when they've lost.

Even as workers began the process to remove the monument, legal challenges were still pursued and rejected by a judge. But perhaps the most ridiculous of them all has been a lawsuit filed by Save Southern Heritage against many of the critics of Memoria In Aeterna, which is Latin for "The South Will Lies Again," who spoke out against the monument at a recent public hearing last month.

It seems the Save Southern Heritage people got their juleps in a wad since some of the critics of the memorial had labeled them "white supremacists" and other less than glowing terms.

"Our group does not condone racism and as such our group does not support any group or person that does," notes the Save Southern Heritage mission statement. Well that's very nice.

But when you have an organization that seeks to recast the Civil War as merely a dispute over states' rights, without taking into account that the conflict was entirely predicated on preserving the insidious institution of slavery, it does make it rather difficult not to view those associated with Save Southern Heritage as being less than honest when it comes to racial tolerance.

This would be a bit like someone belonging to Save Aryan Heritage arguing that even though they aren't anti-Semitic, but still believe the Holocaust was a hoax, they aren't really Nazis.

For all the fake feel-good jibber-jabber about being anti-racist and pro-respect for everyone, Save Southern Heritage hardly bathed itself in the warm Kumbaya glow of tolerance and open-mindedness when it went out of its way to use its website to publicize the names, phone numbers and street addresses of the monument opponents who spoke out at the public hearing.

The list also identified some of the speakers as "angry black woman," or "resentful black man," or "Muslim," or "LGBT" to describe citizens who simply exercised their First Amendment rights to speak their mind. Whew! No bigotry there!

Clearly outing the identities of the speakers, along with Save Southern Heritage's efforts to define those they didn't like in a negative way, was an effort to intimidate its critics and create a chilling effect to suppress future speech.

How ... Dixie of them. Indeed many on the Save Southern Heritage McCarthyesque blacklist reported receiving harassing and threatening phone calls.

Save Southern Heritage wanted to have it both ways. By listing the names, phone numbers and addresses of those who raised their voices in opposition to the monument, the group gave a tacit, wink-wink, nod-nod greenlight for some of its more slack-jawed yahoo supporters to go ahead and harass away till their withered heart's content.

And at the same time, Save Southern Heritage claimed it had no responsibility "for any consequences resulting from the use of the information herein."

Is this how Save Southern Heritage defines southern heritage? How cowardly. How gutless. How sleazy. How monumentally lilly-livered.

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