I have a fascination with knowledge. Knowledge, for its ability to inform, captivate and clarify. Reading this collection of the Lee letters gave a new look into an old hero. In the South, many have caricatured his memory to that of a hero of State’s rights. However, his life and legacy was and is much more complicated. He was distant to many but incredibly intimate with family. He was a man of his upbringing.
Like the engineer General Lee was, this book is structured from a strong base and expands to give a fuller view of the man. It does not over sentimentalize but humanizes by exposing both his incredible strength and destructive failings. He was an advocate for self-discipline and quality education, but only for white Americans. He was a racist; he was paternalistic with a wicked temper.
In contrast to the fairy tale that the post-war South cultivated and many white supremacists advocated, he was not a state’s rights advocate. The book, Reading the Man by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, eloquently demonstrates how the post-war Lee and others tried belatedly to portray a State’s right agenda outside of their advocacy of the continuation of slavery but his writings have betrayed him.
This is a story in his own words of a man that was ambivalent and racist, who preferred to maintain slavery or dispose of the slaves because like his Virginia peers he thought blacks to be inferior. He was not a righteous warrior. His cause, the cause of the Confederacy was not just.
In the end, he was like many today, indifferent to the suffering of non-white Americans because fundamentally they think us inferior. They believe that keeping us subservient is in our own best interest. The paternalism is clear and is killing us.
Go ahead, read this book and examine our current state of affairs, and you too will realize that our country has not come far enough. Later in his life, General Lee suggests that the struggle was more important than the possibility of victory. Too many of us have not come to that realization.
The struggle is real, and those who choose not to join have chosen the side of indifference and death.
There is a continuing fight all over the world today. It is mental, intellectual and physical. I’m not talking about terrorism in its State and Non-State forms. I’m talking about the continuing fight for equality and civil rights. This fight is getting simultaneously easier and harder. The right to embrace our individual sexual orientation is to me a basic human right that is worth defending. Although homosexuality has gained much wider acknowledgment and in many countries is no longer a sentence to death or deprivation, there is still much to do. The improved prospects have been won by hard intelligent work. As with any progress, only vigilance will maintain the momentum and keep our society honest. Many will disagree but I will continue to wholeheartedly support the equal rights of all in our society.
The deprivation of rights from any member of our Society makes us all less free. Fortunately the fight for the future is already won because a much maligned generation, generation Y, has fully embraced equality. The continuing battle is to define a clear and open future for those who are unfortunately living under less equitable systems. Many in our culture still have not gotten the “memo” but the momentum is not with them, this movement is irreversible. As irreversible as the general direction of progress is, there will be setbacks. These setbacks will be reminders of how far society as traveled. I am proud to be living in an age where we are having the discussion about living up to the ideals of equality expressed in our constitutions. The march of progress is evident in the many same-sex couples that are out and open. I am proud and happy to take care of the same-sex couples in the hospital. Many are older and the acknowledgment of their decades old relationships is something that many wanted to see but never expected. They have all lived extraordinary lives because their love survived the ugliness of an intolerant society. Other groups can claim similar experiences and we should celebrate together the maturing of global culture.
As a young person growing up in a proudly homophobic society I saw many around that were different but never judged nor did I defend. I was confused by the incongruity that was religious society. On one hand extolling the love of Christ while also calling for the death and persecution of others. It was obvious to me that the love of Christ should extend to all his creatures, but that was not the a prevalent opinion. This divergence is still a puzzle to me. Older and not necessarily wiser I would not change the culture of my up bringing, but I say now with much confidence that we had it wrong. I never spoke openly about my opinion, but treated all around me equally. The truth is that there are people of varying orientations in the Church and our Father has directed us to love all equally.