The PC police have found a new target. Not satisfied with monuments and flags, the Maryland general assembly recently voted to alter the lyrics to the official State song, James Ryder Randall’s “Maryland, My Maryland.” Lincoln apologist Christian McWhirter penned a piece for Time magazine that labeled the song “dissident.” This is true if using the standard definition of the word, opposition to official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state. Anti-Hitler Germans were dissidents. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, and the rest of the founding generation were dissidents. Anti-Lenin and anti-Stalin Russians were dissidents. Demonstrators at Tiananmen Square were dissidents. It seems dissidents are those usually on the right side of history. Obviously McWhirter disagrees.
He also opined that because the song was “pro-Confederate,” it is also “pro-slavery and pro-secession.” I would agree that “Maryland, My Maryland” is pro-Confederate and pro-secession. Randall openly advocated Maryland secession, but pro-slavery? Not a word in the song is dedicated to the institution. As for pro-secession, so what? It seems McWhirter not only opposes free-thinking but self-determination. Even McWhirter’s hero Abraham Lincoln thought secession was perfectly acceptable in 1848, “…Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better– This is a most valuable, — a most sacred right — a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world….”
McWhirter also wrung his hands in angst that the poem expresses “patriotism” to the “failed Confederacy,” classifies Lincoln as a “despot,” and calls Northerners “vandals.” This is heresy in modern America, and to McWhirter it cannot be silenced quickly enough. Of course, Lincoln was a despot and Northerners did vandalize the South, so both statements are true.
As for Randall, “Maryland, My Maryland” made him famous, but he claimed one of his other poems written shortly after the war, “At Arlington,” to be his best. This work is both a denunciation of military reconstruction and a moving eulogy for the Confederate dead buried there. It is also a stirring call to action. The annotation at the beginning of the poem could have been written in 2016. Gone are the actual bayonets, but make no mistake, current efforts to cleanse the American landscape of all things Confederate is a modern reconstruction. As McWhirter unknowingly illustrated–I am giving him benefit of the doubt–this will also erase self-determination and opposition to authoritarianism from American political discourse. We might as well start toasting “God Save the Queen.” At least then Americans would be consistent in their disdain for all things “dissident.”
At Arlington is printed below.
On the day that the graves of the Federal soldiers buried at Arlington were decorated, in 1869, a number of ladies entered the cemetery for the purpose of placing flowers on the graves of thirty Confederates. Their progress was stopped by bayonets, and they were not allowed to perform their mission of love. During the night a high wind arose, and in the morning all the floral offerings that had been placed the day before upon the Federal graves were found piled upon the mounds under which reposed the thirty Confederates.
The broken column, reared in air
To him who made our country great,
Can almost cast its shadow where
The victims of a grand despair,
In long, long ranks of death await
The last loud trump, the Judgment-Sun,
Which come for all, and, soon or late,
Will come for those at Arlington.
In that vast sepulchre repose
The thousands reaped from every fray;
The Men in Blue who once uprose
In battle-front to smite their foes
The Spartan Bands who wore the grey;
The combat o’er, the death-hug done,
In summer blaze or winter snows,
They keep the truce at Arlington.
And almost lost in myriad graves,
Of those who gained the unequal fight,
Are mounds that hide Confederate braves,
Who reck not how the North wind raves,
In dazzling day or dimmest night,
O’er those who lost and those who won;
Death holds no parley which was right
— Jehovah judges Arlington.
The dead had rest; the Dove of Peace
Brooded o’er both with equal wings;
To both had come that great surcease,
The last omnipotent release
From all the world’s delirious stings.
To bugle deaf and signal-gun,
They slept, like heroes of old Greece,
Beneath the glebe at Arlington.
And in the Spring’s benignant reign,
The sweet May woke her harp of pines;
Teaching her choir a thrilling strain
Of jubilee to land and main,
She danced in emerald down the lines.
Denying largesse bright to none,
She saw no difference in the signs
That told who slept at Arlington.
She gave her grasses and her showers
To all alike who dreamed in dust;
Her song-birds wove their dainty bowers
Amid the jasmine buds and flowers,
And piped with an impartial trust;
Waifs of the air and liberal sun,
Their guileless glees were kind and just
To friend and foe at Arlington.
And’mid the generous spring there came
Some women of the land, who strove
To make this funeral-field of fame
Glad as the May-God’s altar-flame,
With rosy wreaths of mutual love
Unmindful who had lost or won,
They scorned the jargon of a name
No North, no South, at Arlington.
Between their pious thought and God
Stood files of men with brutal steel;
The garlands placed on “Rebel sod”
Were trampled in the common clod,
To die beneath the hireling heel.
Facing this triumph of the Hun,
Our Smoky Caesar gave no nod,
To keep the peace at Arlington.
Jehovah judged-abashing man
For in the vigils of the night,
His mighty storm-avengers ran
Together in one choral clan,
Rebuking wrong, rewarding right;
Plucking the wreaths from those who won.
The tempest heaped them dewy-bright
On REBEL graves at Arlington.
And when the morn came young and fair,
Brimful of blushes ripe and red,
Knee-deep in sky-sent roses there,
Nature began her earliest prayer
Above triumphant Southern dead.
So, in the dark and in the sun,
Our Cause survives the Tyrant’s tread,
And sleeps to wake at Arlington.