Turner Classic Movies recently showed “Gone with the Wind” and a documentary about the making of the movie. The documentary brings out how obsessed the whole United States was with the book and the movie, not just the South. Part of its appeal is the love story, but part of it is the portrayal of the Old South. The Southerners were portrayed as fighting for their homes and their way of life, not to preserve slavery, although slavery was an important element to their way of life. Of course, relatively few Southerners lived on plantations, but those who did represented a gracious, polite, beautiful lifestyle that almost everyone admired. In the movie, the black slaves and the white masters were not enemies. This was probably truer for the slaves who worked in the household than those who worked in the fields, but it is probably a more accurate portrayal than the hatred that many people today claim existed. After the war, the slaves had been freed, but many stuck with their families. Many of those who did not were taken advantage of by carpetbaggers who came down from the North and used the freed slaves for their own personal gain, politically and financially.
The hatred that blacks are showing today for Southerners is not a result of the old slavery days; it is part of a new struggle for political and financial power. No one alive today was ever a slave. Most blacks are six or seven generations removed from any ancestor who may have been a slave. Segregation may have delayed and hindered their rise, but it was not slavery. They were free to move to the North, the West, or to rebel against segregation in the South. Legal segregation has now been gone for several generations. Slavery and segregation are not the reason for any failure of blacks to become equal to all other races in America today. This is illustrated by the fact that many blacks are equal to the members of any other race today. Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are examples of blacks who rose from poverty to be successful leaders of the nation. Barak Obama is a special case whose upbringing was not typical of most blacks in America.
The Confederate flag appears in “Gone with the Wind,” and it was not characterized as a symbol of racial hatred. It was part of a war. Courage in battle used to be respected for itself; today almost nobody in the US has any firsthand experience with combat. Only about one percent serves in the military, most of those from lower classes who serve mainly because they need the money. Of those who serve, the Navy and Air Force don’t see real combat; their lives are seldom at risk. So, that cuts down the percentage of Americans familiar with combat. Mainly Marines and Army infantry shoulder the load of combat with the enemy, along with the small group of members of the Special Forces from all branches. So, the people who disparage the Confederate flag and the veterans it symbolizes have no idea what it is like to fight for their country, and probably would not fight for it. As a Vietnam veteran, my views are colored by my coming home to widespread contempt for all veterans as baby-killing war criminals. Today there is publicly much more sympathy for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, but I think a lot of it is political correctness, words of praise, but inward contempt or indifference for people that they think could not succeed in the civilian economy. Contempt for the Confederate flag is just a part of a more generalized contempt for the military. Otherwise, why don’t graduates of Ivy League schools join the military in large numbers? Where are the elites who want to make American safer and stronger? There aren’t any.
But there were some in 1860, both in the North and the South. “Gone with the Wind” celebrates their patriotism, and I am glad that it does, because it is a trait that is dying out in America.