Greetings Cosmic Americans!
Well, the SCV is at it again. This time, as part of the nation-wide (and indeed, international) effort to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial, The SCV has proposed a Nathan Bedford Forrest commemorative license plate for the state of Mississippi (or...if you live in Mississippi - a commemorative "tag").
Now we all know about good ole Nathan Bedford Forrest. Prewar slave trader, Confederate commander behind the infamous Fort Pillow massacre of black Union soldiers, postwar Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and the man who novelist Shelby Foote once called one of the two true geniuses of the Civil War (a distinction shared, according to Foote, with Abraham Lincoln - oy gevalt).
Now the SCV officially denounces all hate groups who use Confederate imagery to promote racism. Fine - but their choice of Forrest as a man worthy of accolades? I am not sure I see how they can get around the whole racist thing on this one. I mean....Forrest????? He was the head of the KKK for goodness's sake! What the hell??
For those of you who are a little irritated (or rather, greatly offended) that Forrest might actually find his way to a Mississippi plate, you may be able to relax a little. When asked to comment on the proposal, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, told the Associated Press, "It won't become law because I won't sign it."
So it seems that Mississippi's elected officials have come a long way since the last big Civil War celebration, the centennial between 1960 and 1965. We all know what that state was like in the early 1960s, right? Not such a good place to be raising a fuss about keeping a white "hero" out of sight.
These days the SCV are struggling to keep race and images of slavery out of the commemorative scene and away from the press. They may be struggling in vain - even in Mississippi. Despite their greatest efforts, SCV members may just have to admit that race played a crucial role in the war - and that although they promote "heritage not hate," their cause (with Nathan Bedford Forrest 100% on board) was intricately connected to preserving racial slavery.
PS - thanks to Chris Hall for reminding me about this one!