You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 23, 2010.

On this day I’m thinking more of England than of her patron himself.  I suppose this is because I’m still a rookie Catholic.  It’s not a question of overcoming some previously-held Protestant scruples, since orthodox Anglicanism does not consider veneration of the saints to be idolatry, it’s just that such practice is not natural to me and is something I have to be concentrating on in order to remember it.

At any rate, I am thinking of England.  Poor, poor England.  She’s had the stuffing kicked out of her by two world wars and 60-odd years of socialism.  She’s being demographically inundated by immigrants.  She’s culturally exhausted, socially and morally adrift and sinking into geopolitical irrelevancy.  I very much fear that as a pillar of Western Civilisation, she is doomed.

But she was once THE pillar of Western Civilisation, at her best reaching a height that has never been surpassed or reproduced, and for that, she must always be honored.  

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I see where the gentlemen of Kappa Alpha have decided to tone down their Old South celebrations:

Thomas Williams, president of the [University of Alabama] chapter of Kappa Alpha, said in a statement Thursday that the members chose to cancel the Old South parade after deciding that it was not “in congruence with our values as an organization.”

Williams said they made the decision after consulting with alumni, the fraternity’s national office and UA student affairs officials.

“We support an inclusive campus environment, and as an organization we chose not to participate in an activity that we knew other members of the community found offensive,” he said.

University officials did not specifically ask the fraternity to end the practice. In 2009, after the parade interrupted the 35th anniversary celebration for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority, AKA alumnae sent a letter to UA President Robert Witt requesting that the administration end Old South celebrations.

Dean of Students Tim Hebson said UA officials are pleased KA members found a way to honor their history while also showing that they want to be cooperative and compassionate members of the UA community.

“The members of the fraternity understand that when traditions hurt others, even unintentionally, it’s time to change them,” Hebson said in a statement. “This year, they are committed to upholding the ideals of their founding fathers while demonstrating respect for everyone on campus.”

An internal memo posted on the Kappa Alpha Order’s Web site from the KA executive council to all chapters and alumni said that KA members could not wear Confederate uniforms at Old South balls or parades. The memo from Executive Director Larry Weise was dated Jan. 21.

“In today’s climate, the order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens,” Weise said in the memo.

Kappa Alpha was founded in 1865 at Washington & Lee University, formerly known as Washington College. Chapters hold Old South week celebrations to honor their founders according to information on chapter Web sites. Members dress in Confederate uniforms to honor founders who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

As a Dubyanell Man myself and knowing something of the traditions of the place, I think I can say that General Lee would approve the change on the grounds of good manners. 

I must say that I am personally somewhat ambivalent about the whole question of Southern Pride, perhaps because I enjoy history so much, perhaps because although born to a Yankee family, I grew up in Texas and have one foot in both camps, so to speak.  It’s a complicated thing, after all, involving multiple layers of competing cultural values and sensitivities, some of them good and some of them obviously very bad.  One bright spot about this story is that KA decided to stand down voluntarily and that there is no wretched legal action involved.  When these things get into court, they have a habit of polarizing and embittering people, making the overall situation that much worse. 

The whole biznay reminds me of a story about Mrs. Robbo.  Like most women, she has a tendency to make things more complicated than necessary.  But once in a while she is capable of flashing out an almost ingenious simplicity.

First, you have to understand that Mrs. Robbo was born on Lon Gyland and raised in southern Connecticut.  Before coming to the great Commonwealth of Virginny for college, she had never been south of Mason/Dixon and barely west of the Hudson.  And like many, many people of such background (at least in my experience), she simply never thought about the Civil War, much less the more general history of North and South.    

One evening in her first year at Sweet Briar (long before she and Robbo met, of course), Mrs. Robbo and some of her friends decided to go slumming over at Hamster-Squidney Hampton-Sydney College.  Squidney was in those days (and still is, so far as I know) one of the last holdouts of what one might call Confederate Romanticism, its student body composed largely of good ol’ boy types from ‘Bama and other parts of the Deep South.   Almost every dorm room, so I am told, proudly displayed the Confederate battle flag.  If one mentioned “the War” it was automatically assumed that one was speaking of the War of Northern Aggression.  And from what I gather, the War was mentioned a lot.

At any rate, as the evening progressed, young Miss Yankee found herself in a dorm room full of Squidneys, all of them sipping Beam and talking about “the War”.  The story goes that after listening to their talk for a great while, she suddenly blurted out in her rayther New Yawk accent, “I don’t get why you talk about the War all the time.  I mean, you all lost.”   

The room, I am told, was reduced to incredulous, helpless silence.

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