The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Paul H. Yarbrough Freelance Writer
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“The night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” (1971) is a song whose lyrics are somewhat mystical though, generally agreed, a song well-disposed to sympathetically viewing the South after its cause (never a lost one to those of us rich in Southern blood–we will never surrender what we are) was beaten into the dust many years past. At least one reference is to General George Stoneman, (a typical Yankee of the New England achene spirit) who waged war on civilians, not separating men from women and children, nor divorcing contraband from silverware. Other lyrics are left to the interpretation of the listener, while the rhythm is solid and far-reaching to Southerners.

Interestingly, the song was written by a Canadian, Robbie Roberts, and the most popular version (played with great heart), which has sold millions, was recorded by Joan Baez who also played “We Shall Overcome” for President Obama at a White House invitation.

Recently Geraldo Rivera in a courageous demonstration withdrew his association with Yale University due to the self-righteous name change of Calhoun Hall by the powers-to-be at that weak-kneed sister of higher learning (higher than what: Berkley, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss?–I have placed the Dixie Curse on the Black Bears, nee Rebels). Anyway, though I rarely agree with Mr. Rivera, I do salute his stance and his explanation which drew on the concept that judging people from past events by today’s concepts is poor thought processing.  As well, such contemporary processing  denotes historical venality if not outright fraud.

All of the above is to say, the current rowdiness over Southern monuments is directed at Republicans because of their fusion with Southern Democrats from the far-past-Goldwater-burst-of-glory. The South was bad because it “owned” slaves and the North was good because it did not “own” slaves except when it sold them. That is the argument, notwithstanding the clear light of history available to any who would consider Southern history; and the fact that slavery was not the reason they drove old Dixie down!

But the Republicans from the northeast need their Southern step-brothers (blood will never connect them) or they have nothing other than a minority party. But the trick has been to get their Southern wing to reject their heritage so they will appear politically pretty (pretty, not correct). Hence the scalawags e.g. McCain, Graham, Rubio, Cornyn—and the king of craftiness via his Southern roots, Haley Barbour. Hence Dixie has not only been driven down, it has been wiped from the papers and airwaves and schools and now we are all good in the eyes of heaven. American Exceptionalism say we can’t say it, sing it,  write it , and by god, we better not get caught thinking it.

Recently I watched an interview on a cable news station. The host is one of the few men on these news/comment hours who has an exceptional thoughtfulness and intelligence that comes through as honest and commanding. His guest was a fellow (whom he knew) who wanted to drive home the concept of federalism and sell the point that the cities had rights apart from their state, and this somehow was part of federalism, and hallelujah! sanctuary cities were protected by the Tenth Amendment.

Unfortunately, the host stumbled and said (paraphrasing), such actions were what started the Civil War (sic). I really wish he would put his fine mind to studying the Southern view of history and perhaps he would learn an appreciation that it was a dark night when they drove old Dixie down– and federalism along with it.