I’m reading a book called Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.
Its subtitle is “Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War,” and in it the author travels through the modern South talking to people about the Civil War, what they know of it and what it means to them. Horwitz, who spent years as a war correspondent in places like Bosnia and Iraq, is surprised to find so many people (eccentric and otherwise) who are intensely passionate about that ancient conflict. They aren’t interested in seceding anymore so much as they are interested in remembering and romanticizing the Lost Cause of the Old South. I admit I’m a sucker for Civil War books, but this is a great read.
I am a Southerner, and I’m glad the South lost that war. It fought for the wrong reason and lost for the right reason.
But what a story!
It’s damn near impossible to read about the run-up to Gettysburg or Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg and not be swept up by the drama of it. And I’ll tell you one thing the South has that the North does not: we know what it means to have lost a war. And I’m not talking about any Vietnam did-we-lose-or-didn’t-we ambiguity. We were whupped fair and square, invaded, defeated, and occupied. Strangely, there is a perverse comfort in that. The South stood up for what it believed and was pinned to the floor. The burden’s off. All Southerners, eccentric and otherwise, are welcome to relax in the warm and weathered lap of humility. It makes it a little bit easier to kick back and live a life.
You want some bourbon? Drink some bourbon. You want a smoke? Light up a goddamned cigarette. A little blustery Uncle Sam is all well and good, but it helps to be able to chuckle.
The Cause is Lost, but the memory endures. I’m glad the cause lost, but I’m glad the memory endures.
This week, we are grateful to St. Frank for sharing a word with us about cigarettes and enduring memories.