Starting Wednesday afternoon and continuing into Thursday, Austin Houston Crockett Bowie Bonham III called my office a total of eleven times, requesting that Gretchen schedule an emergency telephone consultation with me as soon as possible. Actually, “requested” and “as soon as possible” put it rather mildly – as regular readers of this Web log know, Austin is from Texas, wealthy, and accustomed to having his way.
“That [expletive] cowboy is driving me nuts,” she complained. “Can’t we bump somebody or work late or something, please?” The compromise arrived at was to start business early on Friday; 6:00 AM, to be precise. Since Austin was calling from Texas, which is in the Central Time Zone, of course, that meant he had to call my office in Washington DC at 5:00.
Austin: Hello? Tom? That you, damn it?
Tom: Sure enough, good buddy. Now, tell me, what’s so all-fired important that both of us had to get up at oh-dark-thirty to talk about it?
Austin: Nothing less than a grave injustice done to the dignity of the Confederacy, that’s what!
Tom: Gee whiz, I thought the last grave injustice done to the dignity of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis disguising himself as a woman in an attempt to avoid capture by Union cavalry at Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865.
Austin: That’s a damned Yankee lie, Tom! The real truth is, upon hearing Union gunfire, President Davis merely seized his wife’s overcoat from a wash line as he exited the encampment, throwing it over his shoulders as he retreated to higher ground in order to bravely make a resolute and honorable stand against the enemy!
Tom: And how come he didn’t grab his own overcoat from the wash line, may I ask?
Austin: Because it was still soaking wet from the torrential spring rains which fell the night before!
Tom: Um… okay, Austin. Thanks for the clarification. I guess my point wasn’t so much about President Jefferson Davis as it was about the Confederacy ceasing to exist about one hundred and fifty years ago.
Austin: Don’t delude yourself, my friend! The Confederacy lives on the hearts of millions of us here in the great Southland!
Tom: Metaphorically, yes, I suppose it does.
Austin: Lemme tell you, good buddy, there ain’t nothin’ metaphorical about it!
Tom: Well, one man’s metaphor is another man’s reality, I guess. So – what’s this injustice to Confederate dignity you’re talking about, anyway?
Austin: Haven’t you heard about what they did yesterday in New Orleans?
Tom: They? I’m sure lots of things happened in New Orleans yesterday, Austin. Please, tell me, who, specifically, did what in New Orleans yesterday?
Austin: Yesterday, Tom, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove the Confederate monuments!
Tom: All of them?
Austin: The most important ones, that’s for damn sure! And what difference would it make if they removed one Confederate monument or all of them? It’s… it’s… an unforgivable, reprehensible, criminal act and an indelible slur upon Southern civilization and all the sacred principles for which it stands!
Tom: I must say, Austin, that’s mighty flowery language from such an ordinarily plain-spoken person as yourself.
Austin: When I get riled up about people doing unforgivable, reprehensible, criminal stuff to the memory of the Confederacy, Tom, you bet your family jewels I can get all flowery about it if I have a mind to.
Tom: So I hear, and quite clearly. Which monuments are they talking about removing?
Austin: Four of them – and they ain’t just talking about removing them, either – they’re certain sure fixin’ to do it!
Tom: Which four?
Austin: Well, there’s the statue of General Robert E. Lee in Lee Circle, the statue of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard in City Park, the statue of President Davis at the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway, and the Crescent City White League Obelisk on Canal Street.
Tom: Excuse me – but did you say “Crescent City White League?”
Austin: Yeah sure.
Tom: Really? Tell me, Austin, exactly what part of the Confederate armed forces was the Crescent City White League?
Austin: Well, now, the Crescent City White League wasn’t, you know, officially and all, part of the Confederate Army, I guess.
Tom: It certainly wasn’t. The Crescent City White League was an outlawed racist paramilitary organization that overthrew the New Orleans city government in 1874. They occupied City Hall, the Louisiana State House, the armory and most of central New Orleans and held it for three days until federal troops arrived and forced them out. And that obelisk you’re talking about wasn’t erected until 1891 – twenty-six years after the Confederate States of America had ceased to exist.
Austin: Yeah, so?
Tom: So how could the Crescent City White League Obelisk possibly be considered a Confederate monument?
Austin: Well, uh… most of the members of the White League were Confederate veterans. That counts, don’t it?
Tom: Only if you think the Civil War was still going on in 1874.
Austin: Okay, tell me, goody buddy, is the Korean War still going on?
Tom: Yes, technically, there’s only a cease fire.
Austin: Right – so if the Korean War is still going on, how come the War of Northern Aggression can’t still be going on, huh? Riddle me that one, Mr. Inside-the-Beltway Genius.
Tom: Well, Austin, I think most historians would agree that capture of the Confederate government, together with written, duly signed and witnessed instruments of surrender from all major Confederate battle groups, followed by complete occupation of all Confederate territory by Union troops, would, collectively, constitute an effective end to the War Between the States.
Austin: And they would be wrong, good buddy! That captured Confederate government never surrendered, and neither did all of the Confederate Army units, neither, nor did the Confederate Navy, for that matter! Look here, good buddy, the Palestinians have their country don’t they? Ain’t it in the United Nations and all? Same idea – the Confederacy ain’t nothin’ but occupied territory!
Tom: I suggest we agree to disagree on that particular point of geopolitical contention and that instead, you tell me why, as a Texan, you give a hoot in Hell what happens in Louisiana; because the last time I checked, every other state in Dixie hates and despises Texas, and Texans generally maintain that the feeling is entirely mutual.
Austin: Well, now, we Texans are mighty proud of the Lone Star State and we ain’t shy about lettin’ other folks know that, but what are you talkin’ about here, sayin’ that all the other Southern states hate us? What kind of evidence you got to back up a statement like that?
Tom: The presence, in approximately two million men’s roadside and truck stop restrooms from Virginia to Arkansas, of the famous Southern graffito, “Here I sit, buns a-flexin,’ giving birth to another Texan.”
Austin: Oh, [expletive] all, Tom, it’s Yankees that come down from New Jersey and New York and New England and write that stuff on the restroom walls. Everybody knows that!
Tom: You’re saying its a Northern conspiracy?
Austin: Well, yeah, but I ain’t sayin’ it’s all of ’em, ’cause Kentucky and Missouri and Maryland ain’t even really Yankee states to begin with, and what with all the Ku Klux Klan members that live there, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio barely qualify, and everybody also knows that Yankees from Minnesota and Wisconsin are too damn polite to write anything like that about anybody, anywhere.
Tom: So what about Iowa?
Austin: You know what “Des Moines” means in Miami Algonquin Indian dialect?
Austin: All right, then – nobody from Iowa would write that stuff on a restroom wall either, because even a bunch of dumb corn farmers got enough sense to know that people who [expletive] in glass outhouses shouldn’t go around throwin’ stones.
Tom: So you really care about this monument issue over there in Louisiana, then?
Austin: Of course. Sure I do.
Tom: May I ask how come?
Austin: Because look what the true Southern patriots over there in Louisiana had to go and do about it! They had to go to court! And now they’re going to have to fight tooth and nail with a bunch of damn Yankee sympathizers and [expletive] lovers to keep it from happening!
Tom: And you want to avoid development of those circumstances in Texas?
Austin: Now you got that expensive brainpower of yours wrapped around the right question! You know how many Confederate monuments there are in Texas?
Tom: Not offhand.
Austin: Seventy-nine! Big suckers, Tom – thirty, forty, fifty feet tall! Some of them worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars in today’s money, too! Why, the one in Dallas is sixty feet tall, made of solid granite and worth over a million! It’s got four statues, Tom – count ’em, four – it’s got General Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis, General Stonewall Jackson and General Albert Johnston! You think we wanna let some gang of Northern scum-suckers come down here to Texas and stir things up like they did in Louisiana and tell us to tear it down? Not just no, not just hell, no; I say [expletive] no! We true Texans gotta stop this thing before it starts. And that’s why I called you, Tom, so you could tell me how we’re gonna do that!
Tom: I see. Um… okay… in case, I recommend you get out in front of the issue.
Austin: Get out in front of it how?
Tom: First of all, you and your… associates… need to identify the groups that are likely to campaign for the removal of these various monuments.
Austin: And how do you reckon we go about doing that?
Tom: I would never, of course, suggest that you or any of your wealthy friends bother with doing it yourselves, but I would propose that you hire some qualified professionals to search the Internet, particularly the Web and social media, for announcements and conversation threads pertaining to banning or removing the monuments. That would be the most cost-effective method, I believe, because those conversations and announcements would be the products either of individuals belonging to or sympathizing with such groups; and, in many cases I’m sure, of the target groups themselves.
Austin: Okay, then what?
Tom: Then you and your wealthy friends have your hired Internet professionals analyze the membership of each group so identified.
Austin: Analyze them how?
Tom: Demographically and philosophically, mostly.
Tom: So you can then hire some more professional operatives to infiltrate them.
Austin: Oh, I see – kinda like spies or secret agents or something?
Tom: Essentially. Once you have your agents in place, they can provide you with regular reports on what each group wants to do, which local politicians they plan to pressure for action, which monuments they are going after, what their petitions will say and when and where they will be collecting signatures for them, and so on and so forth.
Austin: Okay, and once we know all that stuff, then what?
Tom: Well, first of all, locate vulnerable members of each group – people with arrest records, perhaps, or histories of domestic disturbances or adulterous affairs or gambling problems or substance addictions or… ah… overextended financial commitments. Then, as each group attempts to mobilize, use that information to… shall we say… influence… those members to… um… thwart… the group’s actions.
Austin: Oh, yeah, now I get it! And if they don’t get it, we can hire some other professionals to make damn sure all their friends and neighbors find out about all their dirty little secrets!
Tom: Now, now, Austin, you never heard me say anything like that, did you?
Austin: No, no, of course not! I said that. And it’s a free country and I can say what I want!
Tom: Spoken like a true Texan.
Austin: Thanks. But look here, Tom, me and my friends got plenty of money to devote to savin’ our sacred Texan Confederate monuments, see, only I don’t think we got the… what you’d call… uh.. the know-how to find them there… professionals you’re talkin’ about. Anything you can do about that?
Tom: Sure. I’ll work up an operations proposal over the weekend and send it to you by COB Monday. It will include detailed instructions and a list of suitable vendors.
Austin: Hmm… so, you done stuff like this before?
Tom: Definitely. My clients for that kind of services are usually federal agencies and foreign governments, but work like this for… private entities… does come along once in a while, too.
Austin: Okay, then, that sounds great. Save us a lot of… you know… trial and error and [expletive] like that. Who? Oh, nobody, honey-bunch, just some business I’m takin’ care of! Yeah, I know it’s mighty early to be doin’ business, but they’re in a different time zone and it’s business hours over there! Listen, Tom, looks like I woke the wife up here. I’ll call you back after I read that thing you’re gonna send me and… yeah, it’s that guy Tom, the one in Washington, what about it? Well, so what? It’s my money, ain’t it? Damn! Thanks, Tom. ‘Bye!