Tolerance, or a Morning among Indignant Southrons
Offended by a pattern of anti-Confederate sentiment from The
Palm Beach Post,
Monday morning West Palm Beach’s Sons of Confederate Veterans assembled
over thirty members in front of the Post to convey their
Contemporary defenders of the Confederacy are widely considered
tantamount to Neo-Nazis, so a gathering of them would imply nothing
short of a fascist rally.
The individuals I met and saw didn’t resemble the Sturmabteilung
or Squadristi so much as straight-talking Americans of a
Jeffersonian bent. As diverse as they were resolute, these men and
women championed their cause with uniqueness and passion.
Some wore ties, others did not; some wore period attire, others
did not; some found merit in secessionist aspirations, others did
not; some vocalized their sentiments with placards, others with
Such expressive multiplicity hardly accords with the lockstep mindlessness
part and parcel of fascism.
Of course, the protestors’ anti-fascist heterogeneity is fully
in the Southern grain. Eugene Genovese observes in The
Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American
Conservatism, "From George Mason to John Randolph to
Calhoun and on to [Richard] Weaver and [M.E.] Bradford, every southern
conservative of note has recoiled from the tenets that became fundamental
The protestors’ individualism moreover reflects their forebears’
disposition, summarized by W.J. Cash in The
Mind of the South:
To the end of his service this [Confederate] soldier could not
be disciplined. He slouched. He would never learn to salute in
the brisk fashion so dear to the hearts of the professors of mass
murder. And yet and yet and by virtue of precisely these unsoldierly
qualities, he was, as no one will care to deny, one of the world’s
very finest fighting men.
The protestors weren’t uncritical of the Confederacy, either. I
spoke with one man, Don Young, who deplored the ephemeral government’s
despotic tendencies and favoritism toward the planter class (e.g.,
exemption from conscription through the "Twenty-Negro Law").
Among the many affirmations during Monday’s protest, there was
also a pregnant silence: No one from the West Palm Beach SCV prescribed
legal intervention against the Post. While the protestors
could have emulated the civil rights paradigm of "express your
opinion and be sued," they instead implicitly recognized the
Post’s constitutional liberty while exercising their own.
This is the definition of tolerance. (I’d conjecture several of
the protestors are familiar with Jefferson’s observation that freedom
of the press is "the first shut up by those who fear the investigation
of their actions.")
The SCV members are philosophical capitalists. They seek conceptual
exchange and competition in a marketplace of ideas.
Ostensibly tolerant organizations such as the NAACP, however, promote
a command ideology where coercion displaces competition. (See campus
speech codes, Title VII, Title VIII, etc.) Peel off this puritanism’s
wholesome patina to find an anti-social, aggressive underpinning:
Dissent from political correctness and face dispossession.
you’re really American, you have to respect her right to express
her individual point of view." So said Commander Larry Powell
of the West Palm Beach SCV with regard to Henri Brooks (the Tennessee
state representative who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance).
So robust in Powell and his compatriots, this respect is absent
in much of America.
Kantor [send him mail]
and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida