If any son of the South is honest with himself -- any white son of the South, that is -- sooner or later, he comes up hard against the truth of his "Southern heritage."
Namely, that all the popularly defined aspects of "Southern pride" are nothing to be proud of. For Southerners -- particularly we of a certain age -- this conclusion generally is reached, if it is ever reached at all, after a lifetime of equivocation, denial and trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.
There indeed is a bottom line, and it is this: The antebellum South, and all of the supposed "gentility" that surrounded this eternal Tara of our mind's eye, was built on the backs -- and at the cost of the freedom, dignity and lives -- of millions of African slaves.
It came at the cost of everything by which Americans self-define, and only after twisting the white man's soul into accepting good as evil and evil as good.
THERE WAS no noble cause. There was no honor in defeat. Our ancestors fought -- and died -- for a damnable lie, and the flag they rallied around just as well could have sported a big "666."
Lincoln was right; Jeff Davis was a traitor, and Sherman did what he had to do. The Lost Cause was damn well lost, because a people had damn well lost their minds . . . and perhaps their souls.
These things are all quite obvious. The white Southerner is able to state the obvious only after his own personal Antietam -- for enculturation and "tradition" will put up a hell of a fight -- and among the dead must be one's "pride" over a "heritage" that well earned its place on history's ash heap.
That, however, is a fight few have the stomach for.
IT'S EASIER to pretend there's something much more noble about your great-great-grandpa fighting "the Yankees" in the Confederacy's "Lost Cause" than there is about Heinz's father fighting the Allies in Adolf Hitler's.
That your forefathers' "bravery" was braver than that of the Serb militiaman who fought to rid Bosnia of Muslims and Catholics.
At least in Germany, nobody has built an entire tourist industry on sepia-toned nostalgia for "the good ol' days" of the Third Reich, and it didn't take 144 years before University of Munich students were forced to quit chanting "Heil Hitler" after the marching band's rousing rendition of "Deutschland über alles."
Not so at the University of Mississippi.
At Ole Miss, students and football fans are determined to prove the truth of native son William Faulkner's observation that "The past is never dead. It's not even past." And at today's football game against LSU, as reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, they're even going to get some help from the Ku Klux Klan:
The Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan plan a rally before Saturday's LSU-Ole Miss football game to protest Chancellor Dan Jones' decision to bar the school band from playing "From Dixie with Love," a medley that some fans finish by shouting, "The South shall rise again."
Jones ordered the band on Nov. 17 to stop playing the medley that blends "Dixie," the Confederate Army's fight song, with the Union Army's "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
The band has played the song during Ole Miss football games for about 20 years.
Jones said the chant supports "those outside our community who would advocate a revival of segregation."
Jones' decision has stirred up the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which plans a 10 a.m. rally in front of the Fulton Chapel before the 2:30 p.m. start of the game.
"This is not a white or black issue at all. It's freedom of speech. They've got a right to say what they want at the game," said Shane Tate of Tupelo, the KKK's North Mississippi great titan.
Tate said his group, part of the Southern Alliance of Klans, which claims more than 7,000 members, plans a short, peaceful demonstration.
"I'm just going to bring a few guys, show up and get our message across and then leave," he said.
Tate said he expects between 20 and 100 Klan members to participate.
He said his group does not allow Nazis or Skinheads, who are considered more violent segregationists than the modern-day KKK.
"We're Christians," he said.
In a press release announcing the rally, the organization said Jones' decision was an "attack on our Southern heritage and culture."
YEAH, JUST LIKE the Nuremberg trials were an attack on German heritage and culture . . . that is, if the Nazi regime and its "lost cause" were the only parts of German heritage and culture anyone cared about.
At today's football game, LSU doesn't need to bring the Fighting Tigers, it instead needs to bring the reincarnation of its founding superintendent . . . William Tecumseh Sherman.
Of course, that would be a mighty tall order for a university that -- 148 years after Sherman resigned to lead a Yankee army and march across Georgia -- still can't bring itself to name a building for its founder.