A Long and Slow Surrender
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 A Long and Slow Surrender

It all started with a disagreement with my friend. She stated, very matter of factly, that all the Confederate Monuments needed to come down. Now.

My immediate gut reaction was, “No damn Yankee is going to tell me what to do with my statues!” I struggle with my reaction because I really have no connection to these monuments. I do understand the conflict that they represent.

I was taught the Lost Cause Myth in multiple History classes. My AP American History teacher, Anne Owens, is pictured in my Junior yearbook, peering over her half-eye glasses with her hand clutching her neck. The caption reads, “You mean the South lost?!” The Lost Cause implies that the South was fighting for States Rights, Southern Heritage, Secession . . . anything but Slavery. I bought it. And that's what explains my reaction to my friend's declaration. I am conflicted about my Southern Heritage.

Being a Southerner carries a complex weight within the United States of America. It’s a weight that Southerners are aware of when traveling above the Mason Dixon line and west of the Mississippi River. When visiting my Dad’s side of the family in Washington State, I was constantly reminded that my Southern accent and my proper use of “yes ma’am” set me apart geographically from my blood relatives. My Mother cringed when I would adopt the nasal, pinched cadence of my cousins’ accents to keep from being labeled as “talking funny.”

I was always aware that the North and the South were two very different places within the same country. I often felt that Northern attitudes toward the South were mostly misconceptions, but came to understand that those misconceptions had dark truths behind them. These dark truths have a lot to do with the Civil War. We're far from being past the Civil War in this country. I've read the Letters of Secession from all the Southern States. One could glean States Rights from them. But the Mississippi Declaration of Secession states very clearly that the institution of Slavery was of extreme importance. Here's an excerpt:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical
regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted
to work out our ruin."

It was very hard for me to accept that the Lost Cause was just that . . . lost. Re-examining the history that I grew up with hasn't been easy. It's actually been quite painful. It's unbearable at times. I've been photographing the South for a long time. This work has been more difficult, more enlightening, and more satisfying than any I've done over the last 22 years. One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Kate Campbell, has given me considerable inspiration in her song, Look Away. It's a song of regret for the past and hope for the future. The refrain goes like this:

It's a long and slow surrender
Retreating from the past
It's important to remember
To fly the flag half mast
And look away . . .look away . . .look away

­In these photographs I have begun to explore my conflict with my Southern Heritage. My disagreement with my friend has led me to explore Confederate Monuments and the religious conflicts, racial issues, and rural connections that Southerners of all kinds experience around them.


It IS a long and slow surrender.