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Southern Cultural Pride

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Civil War display with confederate flag at Charleston  Museum
Civil War display with confederate flag at Charleston Museum
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) June 28, 2015: On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a twenty-one-year-old white man, went on a killing spree in an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. He killed nine African Americans and wounded a tenth who survived. He has been arrested by the police and is now in jail.

In pictures of himself that he had posted on the Internet, he had posed with the Confederate flag as a symbol that represented his personal cultural identity as a white supremacist. His photos have ignited an intense debate about the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy.

No doubt the ideology of white supremacy that was involved in slavery.

No doubt the ideology of white supremacy has not been vanquished in the United States.

Therefore it is a good idea for us to have a public debate about the public display of the Confederate flag. That flag is part of our American cultural history, just as the ideology of white supremacy is. In general, we should try to be as clear-sighted as we can be about our cultural history. We should give credit where credit is due. But that does not mean buying into the ideology of white supremacy, as the young shooter in Charleston did.

The Canadian literary critic Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), himself a convert to Roman Catholicism (in 1937), gives credit where credit is due to the Old South by side-stepping the white-supremacist ideology in his article "The Southern Quality" in the journal SEWANEE REVIEW, volume 55 (July 1947): pages 357-383.

McLuhan's "The Southern Quality" in reprinted in the book THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE: THE LITERARY CRITICISM OF MARSHALL MCLUHAN 1943-1962 , edited by Eugene McNamara (1969, pages 185-209).

McLuhan's books THE GUTENBERG GALAXY: THE MAKING OF TYPOGRAPHIC MAN (1962) and UNDERSTANDING MEDIA" EXTENSIONS OF MAN (1964) were part of the intellectual ferment of the 1960s that anti-60s conservatives denounce vociferously.

Concerning anti-60s conservatives, see Philip Jenkins' book DECADE OF NIGHTMARES: THE END OF THE SIXTIES AND THE MAKING OF EIGHTIES AMERICA (2006).

In the book THE PURITAN ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN SELF (2nd ed. 2011; 1st ed., 1975), Sacvan Bercovitch, a Jew, argues that the American self has its origins in New England Puritans.

But in "The Southern Quality" McLuhan argues that the agrarian culture of the Old South was not deeply imbued by the values and views of the New England Puritans. On the contrary, he argues that the culture of the Old South somehow represented the spirit of Cicero and Erasmus, not the spirit of Ramist dialectic that Perry Miller reports dominated college-educated New England Puritans.

In the book VARIETIES OF TRANSCENDENTAL EXPERIENCE: A STUDY IN CONSTRUCTIVE POSTMODERNISM (2000), Donald L. Gelpi, S.J., does not happen to advert explicitly to Ramist logic. Instead, Gelpi refers to the dialectical imagination of American Protestants (pages 82, 132, 164, 172, 174, 192, 193, 206, 223, 224, 280, 281, 282), which he contrasts with the analogical imagination of Roman Catholics. But unlike McLuhan, Gelpi does not discuss Southerners.


Concerning Cicero's influence on the Jesuits, see Robert Aleksander Maryks' book SAINT CICERO AND THE JESUITS: THE INFLUENCE OF THE LIBERAL ARTS ON THE ADOPTION OF MORAL PROBABILISM (2008).

More recently, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. As a result of that ruling, I do not expect the public debate about same-sex marriage to stop. No doubt it will continue.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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