RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Thursday, January 14

SONG OF THE DAY: Dead Confederate

There was a dude from Charlottesville, Virginia, who got rich as fuck working with the stock exchange in the early 1900s, named Paul Goodloe McIntire. Towards the latter part of his life, like most people who got obscenely rich, who started being a “philanthropist” to throw everybody off the fact he shouldn’t have ever gotten that rich off stock market speculation. Large chunks of his money were given to University of Virginia, which he attended for a single year before leaving to go to New York and get paid. He also gave a good bit to the city of Charlottesville, most notably in parks and statues, including the giant park that still bears his name right on 250, with a relatively new skate park in there. But the place where his statues and parks came together was what was once known as Lee Park, and now has some other name that I can’t remember but is either Justice or Progress or Biden 2024 or something like that.
The statues he commissioned bear mentioning as a whole, since the entire lot of them have not stood the test of time. The one most folks probably see easiest is the Lewis and Clark monument, where Main and Ridge Streets intersect, which famously (for local activists and concerned folk) has Sacagawea cowered down behind them in a less than honorific fashion, which the recontextualizing of history has taught us them dudes might’ve been fucked out there in the western “wilderness” indigenous nations without her guidance. Similarly, a half dozen blocks to the west, there’s one just to George Rogers Clark, which similarly is kinda fucked, depicting dude standing over top a lot of other folks, including some cowering beneath his great white greatness and whiteness. This one is near where my office used to be so I used to walk up there and sit sometime, but to be honest, this was not an early pick for lunchtime fuck-off bench within walking distance of the office back then. Lots of gardens tucked away on a major full of itself university like UVA. I wouldn’t put the Clark statue park on my draft board, it’s a walk-on that might play special teams, at best. But it’s a problematic statue in retrospect.
The other two statues commissioned by McIntire are far more obviously fucked – a Stonewall Jackson one put right outside the courthouse in 1921, with a giant dedication where folks were flying the Confederate battle flag (as popularized by stubborn idiots to this day). A couple dudes allegedly smashed the angels at the foot of this sculpture, but I don’t believe the charges at all. I bet it was Q Anon folks who did it, but tried to make it look like anti-fascist activists did.
And of course that last statue is the most well-known – the Robert E. Lee monument erected in a park right by the downtown library, where McIntire bought up that block back in the day, demolished everything on it, and turned it into a public park, with a lost cause statue, nearly four decades after the Civil War was over. A local teen activist named Zyahna Bryant led the call to have the monument removed, and other activists began rallying around that. Eventually, self-serving politicians got involved to make a cause of it as well, and the whole thing became a culture wars flashpoint to cause the park to be chosen as the site for a Unite the Right rally in August of 2017. (A month before this, a Ku Klux Klan rally was held at the Stonewall Jackson monument, with strong police protection for the Klan, and anti-racist protesters getting tear gassed and arrested. I’ve got a thing I wrote about that day here.) Unite the Right became known to most of the world as “Charlottesville” because of the bullshit we got to experience here firsthand, which was namely a bunch of nazi racists and fascists openly meeting hoping to at the least intimidate people, but more likely kill a lot of people. They were armed for assault. Luckily, with no help from the government or police – both of which chose to use the “ignore them” tactic, which included police standing down the day of the event – local and regional antifascists organized a resistance to their presence, which likely saved a lot of lives. The day will be known though for Heather Heyer being murdered by a racist in a Dodge Charger, but anyone who was there that day knows many people who were affected by that vehicular rampage, jumped out the way, got hit, or were involved. (Shout out to Tim Sauce, local rapper, who was on the streets that day, and in July, and when he got locked up on separate charges briefly after all this, got to hold a little one-on-one session with the driver of that Dodge Charger on the inside. Tim Sauce is a hero.)
Anyways, the actual removal of the Lee monument seemed more important after all that, but has never happened. It got covered for a while with giant tarp, but rednecks kept coming to tear it open. It’s surrounded by orange fencing and signs saying you’ll be prosecuted, and has been the site of multiple incidents since 2017, that I can’t even begin getting into. Shit, I even had a giant fucking Nazi fuming at the mouth as he was being detained by police on the one year anniversary, yelling at me that he had the duty to dispatch of anyone who went against the Constitution, with a confederate flag dangling out his pocket. An activist poet I know had confronted him in that park, very bravely, up in this giant racist’s face, putting herself at risk. She got a stiffer sentence than he did, by the way. He also was walking free a couple hours later after his arrest, a few blocks from my apartment at the time, after telling me aggressively how he had a duty to kill people who thought like me. Probably relevant is that apartment was one block from where the local shithead who invited Unite the Right to Charlottesville in the first place once lived, and did a lot of the organizing for it. So the shit is all around us, and has been ever since August 2017. That’s just the sediments of history since 2017. The monument itself, not erected until 1924. Lost cause statues were erected in abundance around that time, throughout the south, not in remembrance of southern history so much as to work in tandem with Jim Crow laws and the legalized repression of black people as opposed to outright slavery. The monuments were ominous warnings that ain’t shit changed. So even before 2017’s events locally, those monuments are not meant as a symbol of pride, but as one of foreboding.
Of course, pro-southern “heritage not hate” people have laundered the immorality of slavery in the south’s plantation system through all sorts of means, so that the Civil War was somehow about the freedom to go bass fishing without a license, or some shit completely unrelated shit that pretends slavery had nothing to do with it.
Many places have rightfully, since 2017, tore these statues down. Some were taken down by the people themselves. But the Lee monument in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, remains – a giant middle finger of stubborn resistance to accepting all people as equally worthy of the basic human rights of life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness.
After the dumb shit that happened in Washington, DC, the other week, a lot of pundit types have written “the lessons from Charlottesville” and how what we experienced should have been a warning to everybody else. The idiot mayor of Charlottesville at the time, Mike Signer, has even used it to ramp up his media appearances to sell self-serving books and try to further his political career, even though he was entirely useless in fighting Unite the Right, despite activists telling him exactly what was likely to happen. Basically, the political establishment doesn’t hear the people, much less serve them, but also the ragtag pack of clueless nitwits who raided the Capitol building, allegedly as self-described patriots, also don’t serve the people, as a whole, but instead their propagandized core of those who have mutated white supremacy from its foundation into some strange more diverse white supremacy based on the benefits of western civilization, which basically means capitalism, along with believing all the American exceptionalism mythologies. Of course, just like the Lee monument and its claims of being there to honor a great historical figure, these belief systems can give the surface appearance of being honest, but their built on a far more flawed and fucked up foundation.
I say all this as a man who grew up in the rural south, wore shirts with confederate flags on them as a kid, even did a zine for a number of years called The Confederate Mack during my younger edgelord days, in an attempt at that time to “own the libs” or shock the hypocritical suburban kids I found myself surrounded by as a first gen college student. “Own the libs” didn’t exist then, as it was a decade before the internet got poppin’, thank god, because my digital footprint would be a fucking train wreck. (I mean, it already is, but this is after great personal growth and maturity and breaking of cycles.) But I can also say, as a 47-year-old white male who still lives in the rural south, fuck those statues, and fuck that flag. They serve no purpose of good whatsoever, and all these motherfuckers saying “We have to remember our history” the loudest tended to not be the best students of any sort back in school.
The dimwit kid across the road from where I lived for two decades, where my family still lives, he grew from a dumb kid who loved horses to a grown man-child who has a confederate flag in the front yard with a spotlight on it. And when I’ve talked to him, he has that blank look in his eyes of those who have digested far too much nutritionless information, the online equivalent of McDonalds drive-through intelligence, where you think you’re learning new and truthful facts, but actually just getting fed a bunch of shit that’s not healthy for you in any way and doesn’t contain the building blocks for actual truth, just simulations to give the taste and appearance. There’s a growing army of these types, as was evidenced by what happened, and I’m not really sure how you fix it. You can’t just simply “educate” people who already feel like they’ve been educated in a bold and more correct way than you offer. They’ve been brainwashed, for lack of a better term, and unfortunately America’s rugged individualism means folks automatically look at deprogramming themselves of the brainwashing as a type of brainwashing itself. You know, like how actual news is now fake news, and how anti-fascists are known by most old people, including your grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles, as the fascists. Erecting monuments to confederate heroes happened a century ago. They’ve got far more complex tools building their armies of blank-gazed supporters now. And we’re not going to be able to reach a lot of these people, because it’s a century later, AND WE STILL HAVEN’T EVEN TAKEN DOWN THESE STUPID FUCKING RACIST MONUMENTS.

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