Saturday, January 19, 2008

What is the South?

Robert E. Lee (Jan. 19, 1807-Oct. 12, 1870)

The piece above, "Mercie's Lee," is an ink and pastels study of the statue of Robert E. Lee that is on Monument Ave. in my neighborhood. Three years in the making, French sculptor Jean Antoine Mercie's strikingly dignified Lee Monument was unveiled in 1890.

"What is the South?" writer Paul Greenberg asks.
...On this Lee's Birthday, the South seems only a lingering shadow of the great civilization-and-barbarism she once was, but that ended ... when? April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse? With the last great Southern novel, and which was it? When cotton was dethroned? When industry overtook agriculture, when the city took over from the country? Did the South end with the coming of air conditioning or of the two-party system? Or when the race issue ceased to be The Issue, and became just another Northern-style ethnic competition and/or collaboration? The answer to that question always seems to come down to this: The South ended with the previous generation -- which fits in well with the common perception that each generation becomes a little less Southern, a little more Americanized. It's like Zeno's Paradox about the hare who always halves the distance between himself and the tortoise, yet never catches up: Southernness is always fading yet never disappears. Our children will doubtless say it ended with us even as it continues in them.
Click here to read "Lee and the Lingering South."

-- Art by F.T. Rea

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