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The United States of the Offended

December 6, 2002

Contrary to Tom Daschle's belief that conservative talk radio is out to get him and it's an evil entity, I must admit I am an avid listener. I listen to Rush, O'Reilly, Hannity, Imus (until he gets on my nerves - which is usually after about five minutes) and Neil Boortz. Almost every afternoon, I have radios turned on in every room of my house while I work and, today, wrap Christmas presents. It was during the Boortz show I heard something that made me drop the Scotch Tape in the floor.

For those who don't know, Neil Boortz broadcasts his show from Atlanta, Georgia. He has a nice little sound bite disclaimer:

WARNING! Do not believe anything you hear on my show, or anything you read on the Internet unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true -- or you have actually taken the time to verify the information with another source. That's called "doing your homework."

Boortz talks about issues affecting the South on occassion, and when he mentioned a story about a Vanderbilt University professor calling soldiers of the Confederate Army traitors, I did my homework.

Assistant professor of Mathematics, Jonathan David Farley, wrote a scathing and controversial commentary piece for The Tennessean - Nashville's paper of record. Farley wrote, "Every Confederate soldier deserved not a hallowed resting place at the end of his days but a reservation at the end of the gallows..." The article, titled "Remnants of the Confederacy glorifying a time of tyranny,'' published in the November 20 edition has brought a firestorm of protest from southern heritage groups and individuals from all over the country. This article capped off months of brewing wrath over Vanderbilt University's removal of the word confederate from Confederate Memorial Hall, a dormitory built in 1935 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Further, Mr. Farley states in his article that modern-day Southerners who deny the Civil War was about slavery are ''the new Holocaust revisionists,'' and the Confederates were ''cowards masquerading as civilized men.'' Over 1,500 angry e-mails and several hundred phone calls flooded the offices of The Tennessean which provoked the good professor to proclaim that people were upset because they were not used to an African-American man "looking them directly in the eye." The teacher must be a student of the Jesse Jackson Handbook of Deep Pocket Talking Points.

Let's take a look at Farley's argument. One has to assume that the Civil War, (or as known around these parts as the War of Northern Aggression,) was fought strictly over slavery. It's what we were taught in public school, and no doubt, what our children are being taught now. To clarify, it was a war of secession over state's rights issues, one of which was slavery - but was in no way treasonous. To say otherwise is a slap to any veteran of any war, foriegn or domestic.

Now, let's take a look at Mr. Farley. Originally from Rochester, N.Y., the 32-year old is a graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities. His parents, immigrants from Jamaica and Guyana, are both academics. He arrived in my fair state in 1997 after a stint at UCLA-Berkeley - the hotbed of radical liberalism. Shown on Farley's university home page (www.math.vanderbilt.edu/~farley) is a photo of him posing beside a poster of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. A man he refers to as "a hero." Mr. Farley is also a member of the Green Party, and fielded a failed bid to run for Congress finishing a dismal fourth in the state race this year. The Green Party, both the U.S. charter and its international counterparts, call for non-violent solutions to problems. Calling for a hanging of a war vet just doesn't fit, does it?

What provoked Farley to these outrageous claims is not clear. Maybe it's the "in" thing to do considering that almost every state in the South rid itself of any display, mention or hint of the Confederate battle flag. Reparations is actually being taken seriously, as city and state governments are revising policy based on if a company might have profited from slave labor. Forty acres and a Lexus, joked a Chicago city councilman recently. Enough is enough.

When asked to comment about Professor Farley's observations, Michael Schoenfeld, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for public affairs responded: "Professor Farley is speaking as an individual, he does not represent Vanderbilt University's policy, and his statements are neither supported nor endorsed by the university." Too much more equivocation on anyone's part, and next thing you know, we'll be changing the country's name to the United States of the Offended.

This is not a freedom of speech issue. While most will defend Farley's right to express his opinion, it's a different ball park when history is revised in an attempt to force social and political change just because you feel like it. Or just because your opinion is such based on centuries of hatred and disgust over practices which are held in contempt by any rational person today. If Farley's point was that slavery was bad - well no kidding. But to extort change using tactics such as this editorial to force businesses to pay "guilt money," to have people lose jobs over history's mistakes, or to have a college campus - or state house for that matter - kill off a piece of American history is asking too much.

 

© 2002 Lori Cutshall

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