Southern Party doesn’t begin to speak for me

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 1999

At first glance it may have looked like any one of the dozens of Civil War reenactments that dot the countryside in the South.

Men walked around in the familiar Confederate gray uniforms.

As Confederate flags waved, &uot;Dixie&uot; was sung. It seemed like the perfect tribute to the soldiers who fought more than 100 years ago.

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Even the conversation seemed to be part of the reenactment – until you realized these guys are serious.

At a tiny Flat Rock, N.C., inn where Confederate troops actually lodged during the war, it suddenly sounded a little like 1859 instead of 1999 on Saturday at the inaugural rally of the Southern Party.

With about 150 people in attendance, many dressed in Confederate garb, the party kicked off its plan to prove the old Confederate prophecy that &uot;the South will rise again.&uot;

The group hopes to slowly get enough members of their party elected in order to secede from the United States and form a separate Southern nation.

Now at first glance, I didn’t pay the group much attention, I mean the group’s leader, George Kalas, is from Texas for pete’s sake. And snobbishly I’ve never really considered Texas as part of the South.

Our world is filled with all sorts of people with all sorts of ideas, so the group has every right to do whatever it is that they plan.

But the more I thought about the party, the more it bothered me.

What bothered me was not its hair-brained notion to take over the South and secede again, but that it purported to speak for &uot;the South.&uot;

Well, this is one Southerner who thinks it’s a ludicrous idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I am as proud of being from the South as I can be. I’m the first one to point out the best part of the South to folks criticizing us – all roads that come into the South, go right back out – thus sending them on their way.

Both sides of my family’s roots sprouted in the South.

I had relatives on both sides of my family who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and I’m proud of them.

And, although the Civil War was not really about slavery, most folks still associate the two. I had relatives that owned slaves, too. I’m not proud of it, but it’s a fact.

Though party members were quick to say that their mission had nothing to do with race, it will undoubtedly draw suspicion.

As you can see from the tiny photograph above this column, I am white. And that means I have no idea what it’s like to be a black person.

But I imagine that seeing a bunch of guys in Confederate uniforms marching around talking about secession would probably disturb me. I guess I’d liken it to a Jewish person seeing folks with swastikas on their clothes goose-stepping about and talking about achieving political purity.

It’s really seems sort of comic, almost sad, to think that these guys are really serious.

But that’s exactly what makes them dangerous – no one believes they can do it.

It may seem ludicrous but a few years ago, I’d have bet everything I owned that wrestler Jesse &uot;The Body&uot; Ventura would never have been elected to any political office – let alone governor of Minnesota.

While the Southern Party has every right to pursue its dream, it still doesn’t seem fair that it can use the word so dear to my heart for its own political gain.

It’s ashamed we can’t simply trademark the name &uot;Southern&uot; and keep ignorant people from using it at will.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat.