We would like to bring to your attention a good essay by columnist Paul Greenburg, written in honor of General Lee’s birthday. While we have misgivings about Mr Greenburg’s assertion that the name ‘Lee’ is enough to unite Southerners as once it did (because of the ongoing vilification of anything associated with the Old South and because of the ‘acid bath of capitalism’, as one writer has put it, which destroys all tradition and memory, among other reasons), it is still very much worth one’s time to read.
It begins in this way:
It was wholly a pleasure to get your reminder that Lee's Birthday is the 19th, though it is scarcely necessary in my case. I look forward to it every year, when I get to refresh my acquaintance with the General's memory. I am transported from the ever-changing present to the unchanging past -- from today's fluid superficiality to a contemplation of values that never change. Values like duty, which Lee called the sublimest word in the language.
There is a thrill of subversion to celebrating Robert E. Lee in this so-different time. It's like unveiling a Byzantine icon in some faceless museum of modern art. Remarkable thing, modernity. Especially its art, which can be the ideological equivalent of whiteout. It can take the blasphemous, the profane, the supposedly daring and disgusting, and convert it all into the utterly boring. How does it do that? Maybe it's the modern, now the postmodern, soon to be the post-postmodern, absence of continuity. If there's no shared past, no common standard, there's no way to desecrate it. The shocking becomes simply the meaningless.
It's no wonder that doing this annual Lee column has come to be a highlight of my year. For one day, the glitz and clatter of the unceasing 24/7 news cycle is shut out. I've spent more than one night into the early morning hours nursing a cup of coffee, fortified by a pile of Lee biographies and Civil War histories, thinking on the general, his life and character, and, most of all, about why he should still matter, why the old gentleman still speaks to us, not just in his words and deeds, but in his silences. They resound timeless, alone, grave yet the greatest comfort. No wonder they still draw us to him, like a deep river in a dry land.
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The rest may be read here (you must scroll down to find it):
(Image from Wikipedia)