The Great Lie and the Real Controversy

The following address was delivered as part of a symposium at the 150th anniversary of the burning of Winnsboro, S.C., in February 2015, sponsored by the Winnsboro Historical Society. It is published here for the first time.

By preface, I have one common-sense comment on the manufactured controversy over who burned Columbia. An army who torches and pillages every town and hamlet from the S.C. coast to the N.C. border is not going to skip the wealthiest and most hated place on its route. It would take an imbecile to be persuaded of this, especially in light of hundreds of eyewitness accounts showing the manner and details of the intentional burning of the city and Sherman’s own final admission.

The only controversy I see is over the motives of the people today who would call the source of the burning a controversy. Why do they persist in the face of fact? The first question we might think to ask is what do these people have to gain?

Giving answers to that question might indeed be controversial. I’ll state the real controversy by listing a few possibilities for why the persons persist.

These people who tell the big lie do so because of one or a combination of the following:

1. Their jobs depend on it, especially in a government, journalist, or university position. Job security is no small matter today.

2. They have been taught in a dumbed-down anti-Southern public (that is, government) school where it is fashionable to bash the South, enforce Marxist interpretations, or dismiss history altogether unless it furthers the prevailing Agenda.

3. They are dishonest at heart and think that distorting the truth is cute. The tell-tale sign is a sarcastic attitude, and a sly look out of the corner of the eye.

4. They support the big government lie that U.S. policy has never resulted in anything but the noblest deeds done for the noblest reasons. They must further they myth of American (particularly Northern) righteousness.

5. They are aware that the American Empire is built on the base of the big lie of noble action (including the greatness of Lincoln) and that any crack in that base would eventually bring down the edifice faster than the Soviet’s wall in Berlin.

6. They know their ancestors were guilt of war crimes and do not want to be descended from arsonists, thieves, thugs, murderers, and rapists.

Of these six reasons, I would be most sympathetic with the last, were it not for the holier-than-thou hypocrisy of these descendants of the arsonists, thieves, thugs, murderers, and rapists. The descendants of Puritans, now thoroughly secular, still have to have guilt, but the guilt must always be someone else’s.

About James Everett Kibler

James Everett Kibler is a novelist, poet, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he teaches popular courses in Southern literature, examining such figures as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Wendell Berry, and Larry Brown. Born and raised in upcountry South Carolina, Kibler spends much of his spare time tending to the renovation of an 1804 plantation home and the reforestation of the surrounding acreage. This home served as the subject of his first book, Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story, for which he was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Nonfiction in 1999 and the Southern Heritage Society’s Award for Literary Achievement. More from James Everett Kibler

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