23
Jul
15

stone mountain

StoneMountain.

Following the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds, the NAACP must really be feeling its oats. Now the organization has shifted its sights to Georgia’s Stone Mountain, 15 miles east of Atlanta, where a massive 825-foot stone outcropping features a bas-relief carving of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on its north face. It is the biggest bas-relief in the world. The NAACP doesn’t know or care how, but it is calling for the monument’s removal.

I am not a fan of the practice of defacing our natural heritage by carving into mountains the images of political and cultural leaders, whether it is the men who led the Civil War insurrection (as at Stone Mountain), popular American presidents (as at Mount Rushmore), or a warrior who resisted the steady onslaught of the white colonizers of the American West (as at the Crazy Horse Memorial). Such examples belie an unseemly arrogance and misunderstanding of mankind’s place in nature that will probably be our undoing as a species, Abu Simbel notwithstanding (I sometimes wonder if Ramesses the Great isn’t best understood as the Donald Trump of the ancient world?).

Yet I cannot help but think that this latest demand by the NAACP is an example of its own political overreach and hubris. It certainly is a distraction that will prevent society from addressing more substantive and practical results of racism… like assuring access to affordable quality housing, a proliferation of good jobs and a living wage, inner-city schools that provide adequate educations, etc. And it will needlessly piss some people off who are already feeling like their way of life, their hegemony, is under assault. You cannot force people to like you. Through force, however, you can get people to hate you more.

I cannot help but think that this is a particularly inflammatory demand, especially considering that Stone Mountain is the site of the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915 (which used to have a permanent easement to hold its ceremonies there). No amount of sandblasting can obscure this historical fact.

But maybe this is what the NAACP and others want. What other side issue could better inflame passions, introduce strife and friction between the races, promote a grand strategy of divide-and-conquer?

In 1958 the State of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain. The area around the monument was landscaped for recreation and Walker Kirtland Hancock was retained in 1963 to oversee completion of the artwork, begun in 1923 but never completed until 1972. Recognizing the need for sustaining tourist dollars, the park land now includes golf courses, a railroad, an artificial lake with a Mississippi river boat, a museum of automobiles, and exhibits of Southern history. In the 1980s, a former Six Flags manager was brought in to oversee the park and developed it into a profitable tourist and conference center focusing on Southern and Confederate culture, with the carving receding into the background. For the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park hosted cycling, tennis and archery events.

I say let the crackers have their theme park. Richard Rose, the president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP claims that “the state should not be supporting or condoning white supremacy with my tax dollars.” Yet the place draws over 4 million visitors a year and is Georgia’s biggest tourist attraction. A spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which maintains the park, says the property is self-sufficient. Park maintenance and operations are covered by revenues, not tax dollars.

Rather than allowing this reminder of the past to become a wedge between the races, the state of Georgia could just transfer ownership of the memorial from the state to the Stone Mountain Memorial Association—a nonprofit—for a price, even. These kind of swaps and transfers happen all the time.

There are many proposals circulating right now for adding the images of Martin Luther King,

Maybe this would provide the space for us to focus on issues that really count.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Bob Marley performing “Go Tell It On The Mountains”

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2 Responses to “stone mountain”


  1. 1 Frank Manning
    July 23, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    I have to admit, Dan, that I agree with everything you have written here. This piece is brilliant, and totally on the mark.

    I was one of many thousands who signed online petitions and raised our voices demanding the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s State House grounds in the aftermath of the Charleston church massacre. The flag itself didn’t bother me. What bothered me was why it was flying there: To express state opposition to the concept that African Americans should be equal in all respects to European Americans. Who of us who personally witnessed the great Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s can ever forget how horrific the Southern opposition to equal rights had become? It was to show support for that brutal, barbaric, at times murderous opposition that that flag was flown at the seat of South Carolina’s state government. And for that reason we demanded an end to that show of support. To their credit, the political leaders of South Carolina saw the light and did the right thing.

    But now liberals and leftists of all types have gone totally overboard. Canceling reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard TV show because the heroes’ car has a Confederate flag painted on its roof, pulling computer games that simulate famous battles because the Confederate armies fly—duh-uh—the Confederate flag, even wanting to dig up Confederate generals who are long dead and buried. I am the great-great-grandson of a sergeant in the Union Army, a man who put his life on the line to preserve the Union, free the slaves, and crush the iniquitous Southern rebellion. And I draw the line at eradicating an important part of our history and denying and vilifying the heritage of fellow Americans whose ancestors were on the other side of that titanic struggle for the soul of our nation. Enough is enough already. Stop the knee-jerk masturbatory idiocy and recognize that what happened did indeed happen. The ignorant Southerners who still think African Americans are inferior need to be educated, not poked in the eye and kicked in the ass.

  2. 2 Aimee
    July 24, 2015 at 9:56 am

    This is very personal for me. I went to Stone Mountain Elementary and graduated from Stone Mountain High School! I grew up less than a mile from the park and spent a great deal of my childhood there. I don’t like what they’ve now turned the park into, however it’s still an historical monument. The confederacy is still part of history. It happened! We as people, can’t just wipe out the parts we don’t like to suit our daily offenses.

    It’s my understanding that Stone Mountain is protected by the state of GA and can’t be altered!! I would join in the fight to protect it! It’s wrong what they’re trying to do. And for the record, I am a white cracker, and my ancestors were not slave owners!!


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