As Baltimore is preparing to honor a coprophagic crossdresser, the city’s double-equestrian Lee-Jackson monument is coming down. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who presided over and encouraged the riots following the death of Freddie Gray last year, is expected to direct its removal from Wyman Park where the monument, the site of many Lee-Jackson Day celebrations, has stood since 1948. Not so bold as to demand the outright destruction of such works of art, the mayor and those who are contemptuous of Maryland’s history are sparing and “recontextualizing” some Confederate memorials but will decommission the most “offensive” ones. The generals in all likelihood will be sent to Chancellorsville Battlefield in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, a state whose own Confederate memorials are threatened.
The attack on all things Confederate in Maryland and the Stalinist purging of these artifacts are “justified” with the canard that the state at the time of the “Civil War” was respectably “loyal” and “Northern” as evidenced by the “fact” that more Marylanders wore blue than gray. But, as historian Wayde Chrismer says, there is no “faster way to an asylum” than to try to determine how many Maryland Union soldiers were indeed Marylanders. Ten thousand were German and Irish mercenaries and 7600 free and bonded men of African descent who were Union conscripts or “volunteers,” the latter often encouraged to enlist at bayonet point. And an indeterminate number of New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians and other Northerners were recruited about the Mason Dixon and designated as Marylanders to fill the state’s quota.
Occupation created the false image of strong unconditional Unionism in Maryland; in New Orleans and surrounding parishes; and in other Southern territory held by the Yankees. In determining sentiments on dissolution, an occupied Southern state cannot be compared validly to an unoccupied Southern state. Though no one will ever know just how many authentic Marylanders served the North, it was no more than 18,000, and certainly not 60,000, an absurd figure bandied about to various ends.
And because records are lost or sketchy, and many Marylanders joined Virginia or other state regiments, no one will ever know just how many of those from Maryland fought for the Confederacy, but most historians agree it was around 25,000.
The only way to rid themselves of Maryland’s “odious” Southern past, “the history that dare not speak its name,” to borrow a phrase from Chronicles Magazine’s Taki Theodoracopulos, cultural cleansers have decided that all reminders of that past have to go. Slated for removal along with Lee and Jackson are Baltimore’s statue of Roger Brooke Taney and Rockville Courthouse’s Confederate soldier.
And for decades the haters of Old Line State heritage have tried to rid themselves of what one Washington Post staff writer referred to as a “lurid” state anthem. One of the most popular Southern battle songs, “Maryland! My Maryland!” has miraculously escaped revision or retirement, unlike Kentucky’s and Virginia’s songs, but in the General Assembly at the moment there is one more move, in fact the eighth such attempt, to revise the “Marseillaise of the South.” Governor Larry Hogan, who supported the recall of the Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans’ battle flag-emblazoned license plates, surprisingly, has said he will veto any legislation altering the state song. Hopefully the very powerful House of Delegates speaker Mike Miller, who opposes changing the song, will influence some of the members of the Democrat’s veto-proof majority, and the song will be saved for a little while longer.
As Maryland’s history and heritage are evanescing, the culture of Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and Sister Boom Boom is ascending. In Baltimore there is a virulent repudiation of the philosophically and theologically sound Christian underpinnings of Western civilization, and a manic push to imbue with normalcy aberrations destructive of that civilization. Journalists pay the same gushing deference to the commemoration of a bizarre transvestite “star” as a 1960s society page reporter would have afforded to a debutante’s cotillion. Their tendentious pieces are inadvertent dark parodies that would have been SNL skits thirty years ago, their matter of fact tone in writing about the disturbing behavior of a deranged drag queen in and of itself a device to discourage dissent on the part of what they consider unhinged and ignorant throwbacks enraged by Baltimore’s new diversity.
While the mayor’s Confederate Monuments Commission is recommending the banishment of Lee and Jackson, the city at the recommendation of the Public Art Commission is preparing to raise a memorial to Glenn Harris Milstead, who portrayed the character Divine in several John Water’s films. The committee called Divine an “icon” and his monument “appropriate” and a boon to tourism. Commission member Elissa Blount- Moorhead, a New Yorker, was “appalled,” that such a shrine had not been proposed until now. The memorial’s design will be inspired by what the Baltimore Brew describes as a “daringly disgusting” scene from Water’s Pink Flamingos in which Divine, to celebrate winning the Filthiest Person Alive award, scoops up “fresh” dog feces off a Baltimore street and consumes it. The monument will feature a replica of that which Divine ingested in his triumphant moment.
But all the bland speak of arts committees, the banality of modern journalism cannot render tributes to such enormities anything other than what they are: a chilling descent into the grotesque, the immoral. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said of Baltimore that it was “warm but pleasant…civilized…gay and rotted and polite.” But now there is only the rot.