One of the more disheartening aspects of the “tolerance” crowd is that some members are rather intolerant when faced with opinions that differ from their own.
Take Morgan Clendaniel, the editor of the online website Co.Exist, owned by business magazine Fast Company.
While Wikipedia describes Co.Exist’s mission as covering innovation-related topics, the name carries with it the concept of co-existence, which suggests mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests.
Clendaniel would appear to be among those who believe co-existence is great – until a viewpoint they disagree with comes along.
Consider a recent piece by Clendaniel titled “While We’re Doing The Flags, Here Are Some Other Confederate Things We Should Get Rid Of”.
In it, he writes, “… the reach of the Confederacy – and the almost-insane tone-deafness of organizations and politicians who celebrate its history – goes well beyond the flag and hides in other insidious ways throughout the region.”
In a nutshell: Clendaniel really, really, really doesn’t like Jefferson Davis, who served as the president of the Confederate States of America.
Clendaniel begins by taking to task social fraternity Kappa Sigma for having “one – and only one – honorary member: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, racist, and traitor to America.”
Kappa Sigma made the mistake of wishing Davis Happy Birthday in 2013 on its national website. The fraternity was also castigated by Clendaniel for recently welcoming a new member and identifying him as the great-great grandson of the Confederate leader.
The fact is that most anyone born in the 19th century would be considered a racist by 21st century standards. Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, William T. Sherman, etc., ad infinitum. Who knows how our own views will stand up to the test of time?
As for Davis being a traitor, the Founding Fathers would also fall into that category – certainly the British saw them in that light.
Next up on Clendaniel’s hit list is US Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran, who represents Mississippi in Congress, has come out in favor of his state changing its flag to remove the Confederate battle flag in its corner. However, that’s not enough for the Co.Exist editor:
“ … when the senator goes to the U.S. Senate chamber, he sits at a desk that was once used by Jefferson Davis, when Davis was a senator from Mississippi, before he betrayed his country by leading a breakaway republic based on maintaining the institution of slavery,” he writes.
Clendaniel is also irate because Cochran “spearheaded a Senate resolution in 1995 that officially makes Davis’s desk the desk of the senior senator from Mississippi. Thad Cochran made a law that he has to have the desk used by the President of the Confederacy.”
Finally, Clendaniel takes on Stone Mountain, which features 190-foot tall likenesses of Davis, Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
“It’s in a park owned by the state of Georgia, which also features a replica of a working plantation and other tourist attractions. The park is on Robert E. Lee Boulevard,” he writes. “Just in case you think the potential racism of a memorial like this is merely symbolic, you should know that the monument was an official gathering place for the KKK for many years, where they burned crosses and held rallies. Now there are laser shows “to honor our troops” that are projected on the monument to three men who spent years fighting and killing American soldiers.”
Clendaniel is among those who have no intention of stopping at erasing the Confederate flag from public view.
He concludes his articles thus: “The flags are an excellent first step. The statues and monuments may be next. But Confederate ephemera has seeped deeply into the institutions of the South, and even the whole country, in much more subtle ways than just flying a flag. It will take a long time, and a lot of effort, to root it out.”
There’s been a great deal written about the place of Confederate symbols in American life in recent weeks. Some, such as Andy Hall’s piece looking at the controversial idea of moving Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s body from a Memphis, Tenn., park and Craig Swain’s post pondering calls to remove Confederate monuments, including one in his home area, are well-considered and thoughtful.
I’ve always found much to admire in the adage “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Today, there appears to be a growing segment of the populace that not only is unwilling to defend the rights of others to hold differing views, but is adamant that those individuals be forced to conform, either through shame or coercion.
Why does the argument over Confederate memorials matter? Because whether one approves, disapproves or is indifferent to the actions of Confederate States of America, it’s part of our shared, common history.
Just as importantly, there is something very totalitarian about purging monuments and symbols that have fallen from political favor. And once you start down that slippery slope there’s no telling where it will lead.
(Top: Charleston Monument to Confederate soldiers who died at Fort Sumter during the Civil War, defaced last month.)