God, Country, and Declension Narratives

Paul Harvey

Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory asks: Do these young Boy Scouts know why these flags look different from all the other flags placed on the graves of soldiers on this Memorial Day?

Perhaps a good Memorial Day activity for everyone would be to look again at Charles Reagan Wilson's Baptized in Blood, followed by a brief review of David Blight's Race and Reunion. When these boys get a bit older, I'll put that on their reading list when they take my course. I bet they can hardly wait.

While you're at it, see "Declension Narratives in Civil War History" at the same blog, which references Tim Burke's discussion of declension narratives in general. I post here because religious historians, of all folks, should be familiar with declension narratives, right Perry Miller?

Burke writes:

A very large number of the popular narratives of decline and fall that have circulated in American society for the last thirty years or so, for example, take conditions that were a brief, specific consequence of the post-WWII reorganization and affluence of American society and start to reframe them first as a general part of the entire 20th Century, then as something basic to American history all the way back to colonial settlement, and then leap the Atlantic and usually plow straight for the Aegean, coming to rest in Greece, Rome or Jerusalem.


Randall said…
It would be great to have a documentary film on this subject that was somewhere between Confederates in the Attic and Baptized in Blood. I've shown part of Sherman's March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation. But that doesn't seem to do the trick.

Hands down the best satire of neo-Confed zaniness is this classic bit from Mr. Show: http://youtube.com/watch?v=u2XlSXcwJ3o
Robert Cornwall said…
This is indeed a disturbing picture -- and the question must be asked: Isn't there something odd about these flags you're setting up?

It is funny that the issue of patriotism is often raised in the south, and yet loyalties to the Confederacy and its "ideals" is in my mind anti-American (dare I say that?). Obviously I have a pro-union sentiment these 143 years after the end of the Civil War, but defense of slavery forever taints the Southern cause.

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