Posted on | August 9, 2010 | 57 Comments
A genuinely devastating ad from the Hayworth campaign that even Ace of Spades admits is kinda awesome:
What did Crazy Cousin John admit lying about? The Confederate flag. That’s something that no one should tolerate, no matter how you feel about the Confederacy.
Just so that there is no unnecessary misunderstanding here, let me explain why this is so personal to me: According to the geneaology the Senator provided in his book, Faith of My Fathers, we are indeed distant cousins, a kinship traceable to a common ancestor recorded in the 1790 Census of South Carolina. As I often tell friends, his ancestors went to Mississippi and became wealthy planters, while mine went to East Alabama and became redneck dirt farmers.
A Fighting Legacy
John McCain’s ancestors were officers of Mississippi regiments in the conflict that polite Southerners call “The Late Unpleasantness.” However, I trace my own connection to the Confederacy through my great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother’s father) Winston Wood Bolt who served as a private in the 13th Alabama Infantry. He was captured when his regiment was outflanked by the Union’s famous Iron Brigade in the opening attack of the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, and spent two years as a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware.
Among my papers is a copy of an order signed by the 13th Alabama’s regimental commander, Col. Birkett Davenport Fry, authorizing a small payment to Private Bolt for rations during a period of furlough in the winter of 1862-63. My great-grandfather had gone home to Randolph County on furlough and returned with a new recruit: His brother Robert Bolt, who escaped capture at Gettysburg, but subsequently lost an arm when he was wounded in the 1864 battle of the Wilderness.
Most signficant about Col. Fry’s order for payment to my great-grandfather is this: When Winston Bold was required to sign the order acknowledging receipt, he signed his name with an “X.”
He was entirely illiterate. Here I am 150 years and three generations later, a journalist and published author who reaches thousands of readers daily. Yet I consider myself rather inferior to my unlettered ancestor, who withstood the trial of war and thus shared the distinction of being “a man of gunpowder reputation,” as an obituary writer said of Col. Fry.
Certainly it behooves me as Winston Bolt’s great-grandson to honor his service and to do what little I can, as a writer, to defend his good name. Such advantages of education as I have are, after all, largely the legacy of his grandson William McCain, my own father.
‘Putting on Airs’? God Forbid!
As a child, I often visited the family farm north of Wedowee, Ala., where my father grew up, near where Winston Bolt is buried at Ava Methodist Church. I remember well my Grandma McCain — Winston Bolt’s daughter, Perlonia — as a woman with cornflower blue eyes and strong chin who cooked on a wood stove, drew water from the well and tended her own vegetable garden well until she was past age 80.
My father’s two older brothers had died (in an auto accident, I believe) in the 1920s and, though he had three sisters, he was my grandmother’s only surviving son. When war came in 1941, my father enlisted and became an Army sergeant. He thereby qualified for the G.I. Bill, and graduated from the University of Alabama. Because he had been wounded by German shrapnel while fighting the Nazis in France, my father was medically certified as suffering a disability which, according to a postwar act of the Alabama legislature, qualified his sons for free tuition and books at any state college. So my education at Jacksonville (Ala.) State University was paid for, as it were, with my father’s blood.
Conciousness of this legacy therefore obliges me to speak well of those whose sacrifices made possible so much of what I have and they did not, and it would be the height of churlish ingratitude if I were to “put on airs” and pretend that I were somehow superior to them. So when somebody starts putting down Southern rednecks, it kind of riles my blood: “You’re talking about my people!”
People will not look forward to posterity, who will not look backward to their ancestors. . . . We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government; nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as they will be after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity.
— Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Just as my Alabama farmboy father served in World War II, both John McCain’s father and grandfather served with distinction in the U.S. Navy. Like all Southern men of their generation, the senator’s father and my father were conscious that their performance of patriotic duty to a reunited nation was important to preserving the good names of their ancestors, which they would pass along untarnished to their own sons. To our fathers, the fact that our ancestors had fought in the cause of Southern independence was a source of great pride no matter what any Yankee might say about it.
We can argue 19th-century politics all day long and you can call me every name in the book, and I’ll give it right back at you or silently smile at your ignorance, as it suits my fancy. However, if you expect me to denounce my own great-grandfather — who is not here to speak for himself — your expectations are as foolish as they are insulting.
You are free to defecate on the graves of your ancestors if you wish, but forgive me if I refuse your suggestion that I do likewise.
So when I consider John McCain’s opportunistic prevarication on the Confederate flag issue, I can only conclude this way: A man who will, for political advantage, purposefully lie about a subject that touches upon the good name of his own ancestors is a man who cannot be trusted.
UPDATE: Eloquent young Cubachi says:
It is no secret that I am no fan of the king of RINOs Senator John McCain. His pathetic campaign in 2008 where he laid kid gloves on Obama and left Sarah Palin defenseless was the worst thing I’ve seen in a long time, not to mention his record in the senate. . . . When it comes to attacking conservatives, McCain is at the top of his game, lies and all.
There’s now a Memeorandum thread.