From Neo-Confederate to Antifa
I was born in Jackson, MS, the year Reagan took office. I grew up in a rural corner of Copiah County, MS, and went to school in the small town of Wesson. I became interested in history, war, and identity at a very young age. Both of my grandfathers were WW2 vets. One was an Army drill sergeant, the other a sailor who ended up a sharpshooter, fighting and bleeding with the Marines, on the campaign to conquer Okinawa. I would ask them about their experiences and would listen, in awe, while they regaled me with military stories. I knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps when I grew up. Add copious amounts of John Wayne movies and you end up with a gung-ho kid ready to do battle against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Due to my fascination with warfare and history, and growing up in Mississippi, I became a student of the Civil War. I attended reenactments, read magazines (this was before the internet age), books, and even received Civil War flash cards in the mail, detailing different leaders and battles during the war. My walls were covered in maps of battles and Confederate battle flags. I even had reprinted Confederate money. I was hooked. My identity not only as an American, but as a Southerner, began to take shape.
In my early teenage years, I read a book that influenced me dramatically. It’s called The South was Right. I borrowed an autographed copy from the author’s mother, who lived across the street from me. She used to baby-sit me when I was younger. Every day, I would get off the bus at her house and have a snack of graham crackers and peanut butter with sweet tea. I’ll never forget how good her sweet tea was! To this day, I don’t know the brand she used, or how she made it, but it always tasted better than the kind we made at home. If you don’t know, sweet tea is to Southerners what craft beer is to everyone else. You’re always on the hunt for the best!
On the front cover of the book was a picture of her twin sons dressed in their Confederate uniforms. They were serious reenactors. Between the front and the back covers of that book was the most aggressive and unapologetic defense of the Confederacy and its soldiers I had ever read. The South had been dealt a horrible defeat, twice. First on the field of battle and second in the history books written by the Northern victors. Defeat was one thing, but slander in the history books was quite another. It was my first step into the Neo-Confederate culture of the Lost Cause and Confederate apologetics.
A few years later, I made a pilgrimage trip to Beauvoir, the retirement house of Jefferson Davis in Biloxi, MS. In the gift shop, I bought a very humble-looking gray book simple titled, The Grey Book. The Grey Book is a collection of essays compiled and published by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the early 1920s. It was an organized response to parallels between the Hohenzollern dynasty of the German Empire and the Confederacy written during the Great War. The Grey Book became one of the key texts that ushered in the cult of the Lost Cause.
After my visit, I began wearing C.S.A clothing and engaging in conversations with my fellow students over the “truth” of the history we had been taught. I joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans, being able to show that my great-great-great grandfather was a Confederate soldier in Mississippi. I became a believer in the gospel of the Lost Cause, and how the South had been abused and scapegoated for the sins of the country. I pledged allegiance to the Confederacy, in my head, at every school gathering. Secession was not only a state’s right, it was incumbent upon people to sever ties with any government that they considered tyrannical. I was proud to get my class ring and see the Confederate flag displayed on one side of it.
A handful of years later, I was standing over my large Confederate flag with a can of black spray paint. The flag was on the ground and I stood there readying myself to do something that, a few years earlier, I would have clobbered someone for doing. This was a watershed moment for me, and for the evolution of my identity. I was ripping apart a large chunk of my identity.
How did I get there? In a word: class. The most important thing that I learned in the years between graduating high school and standing there, with a can of spray paint in my hand, was that things were how they were because of a capitalist system that exploited and used all of us, black and white. I realized that the Confederacy didn’t stand for the “great Republic” that I had dreamed of, but rather a feudalistic society based on inhumanity and cruelty. A slave society is not one to be validated and lauded.
The rest of the antebellum United States was not, however, a bastion of equality and justice. In fact, all countries participating in Atlantic trade were involved, to varying extents, with the slave trade. Even if their flags weren’t flying over the slave ships, they were profiting from the bodies being sold. So, as they say, “don’t get it twisted” — the Confederacy was not the sole evil behind the realities of slavery in the Americas.
How does “Antifa” relate to this story? “Antifa” simply means “antifascist”, which, politically, includes a whole host of different groups. Antifa is not a singular organization but rather a world-view, in much the same way as different political organizations, Republicans and Democrats for example, can be “democratic”.
Fascism is a turn-of-the-20th-century response to capitalism, in much the same way as communism was. Fascism was, and is, called the “third way” between capitalism and communism. This sort of comparison is very simplistic due to there being multiple strains of socialism/communism, some of which have ancient roots, and others of which developed only with Industrial Revolution, when many craftsmen were being replaced with machines in the Western world. The most famous — or infamous — of these latter strains is “Marxism,” but Karl Marx did not invent socialism. It was not his idea. I won’t go into the heady ideas of what has become “Marxism,” there are whole libraries written on that topic. Suffice it to say, one does not need to be on the “left” to be antifascist.
Antifa does not resist white supremacists, without apology, because its members are all right-wing, left-wing, or even socialists. It is because white supremacists preach genocide. Bottom line. There’s no wiggle room. You may not agree with how they do it, but, in the end, we are all a lot safer because some people put themselves in danger to keep the biggest threat, yes the biggest, to domestic safety in this country in check. For those that think a “free” society can’t descend into the madness of Nazism, I encourage you to Google “Wiemar Republic.”
My grandfathers, and probably yours, too, fought against fascism in WW2. Being Antifa is simply another way of being patriotic. Being patriotic means caring about all Americans, regardless of where they are from, or what they look like. Whether they are newly-immigrated, or have been here for centuries, we are Americans and, thus, deserve the protection and respect of every “flag waver” in the country.
The comparison that many are making between Antifa and the Neo-Nazis is ahistorical and ludicrous. Antifa is literally standing between white supremacists and their goal of killing or deporting huge sections of our country’s population. In other words, they are the most ardent opponents of white supremacy and genocide — two essential pillars of Nazism and Neo-Nazism. As far as I’m concerned, white supremacy isn’t an issue of free speech, it’s about whether or not one is actually committed to the people of this country. It’s obvious that Neo-Nazis, the Alt-Right, or whatever else they call themselves do not. They may have the right to march and say what they want, but Americans also have the right to tell them what they think about it. That’s where Antifa and other patriotic opponents of white supremacy come into the picture. Am I implying that the Alt-Right are traitors to our country? Nope. I’m saying it