Rewriting history, especially to erase the stages of progress, is a dangerous practice.

The featured image of this post compares the original cover of Mountain Music by the band Alabama with the censored version now used for music streaming services.  I should specify that I’m not alleging the band and the companies that manage its music were forced to make the change by a government agency, but censorship it is, nonetheless.

In January, I argued that Americans on the political left are wrong to insist that nobody be allowed to see the Confederate Flag as a symbol representing Southern cultural heritage disconnected from the Civil War.  The meaning of symbols can change, and we should not assume the absolute worst intent in somebody who makes use of a symbol to which we respond negatively.  The Mountain Music modification drives the point home and illustrates the depth of our loss when we discard historical perspective.

Here are some of the lyrics from “Changes Comin’ On,” a song on the Mountain Music album:

Ford unveiled the Mustang
Things looked good in Detroit for the people there
And I could feel the changes comin’ on
From Atlanta, Doctor King told the world he had a dream
People followed him
And daddy said my hair was getting long

I could feel the changes comin on
People started singing different songs
Searchin’ for the place where they belong
I could feel the changes comin’ on

No doubt, young progressives will find an excuse to scoff, but that this song was on an album adorned by the Confederate Flag points to something important.  You erase a whole lot of people — good people — when you hide their complexity.

To my eye, the juxtaposition of “Changes Comin’ On” with the Confederate Flag is a powerful indicator that the forces of tolerance, pluralism, and respect had won so thoroughly that the separatists couldn’t even claim their own symbol.  Their progeny had changed their beliefs, and the United States had absorbed their flag as regional marker.

As always, with pluralism, and as used to be characteristic of the United States, that absorption came with an invitation to evolve and be honored.  By the 1980s, we were able to raise up the good and American values that had gone so wrong in the Civil War, as distinct from the racism and dehumanization that had always been at odds with our founding principles.  We were moving on to a better future.

We impoverish ourselves when we draw a big red X through the possibility of such changes, and the past decade or two have shown the division and danger of such impoverishment.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
1 month ago

When considering the South, slaves and dislike of blacks, or racism, it should be remembered that slaves were “capital”. Frequently they exceeded the value of the land they worked, Freeing the slaves would/and did bankrupt the South. When the British freed the slaves, they paid for them. So did we, with 750,000 dead.

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