In August 1984 I matriculated at the University of Virginia Law School in Charlottesville, where I would live for the next three years. Coming from California, I remember being both amused and mildly scandalized by my first encounter with the “Cult of the Lost Cause.” The first shock came at seeing the memorials in the center of town. “Lest we forget” was carved in granite under Robert E. Lee’s equestrian statue.
Meeting authentic Southerners for the first time gave me a taste of their pride of heritage that I had never encountered in California. I remember my new friend from Louisiana insisting adamantly that the South had a legal right to secede from the Union. It seemed a curious point to be so passionate about, but I didn’t argue. Then later in class, one student asked about a law case from the “Civil War era.” At hearing this question, the professor stopped writing on the chalkboard and turned around with an affronted look and said: “Sir, are you referring to the War of Northern Aggression?” The professor knew he was being cheeky, but he was not joking. These Southerners at UVA Law School were certainly not racists, but their defiant pride placed them in subtle complicity with the antebellum South’s legacy of slavery and rebellion.
Feeling proud of being a Southerner is certainly not bad, in and of itself. Yet as our culture has evolved, we have come to the point where defiant Southern pride must be better moderated by a sense of reflective remorse. Memorials to the Confederacy have always been morally questionable, but now that they have become a lightning rod for the most vicious elements of our society, their place in our public squares and shared civic spaces needs to be reconsidered. Going forward, the best purpose most of these public monuments can serve is through their symbolic removal. Or at the very least, where they remain on display at politically significant locations they could be exhibited in a very different (and more contrite) situational context. These changes will be an important symbolic, and hopefully historically final, defeat of everything the Confederacy stood for, including the ugly racism that is its unavoidable legacy.
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From Developmental Politics: “Taking an evolutionary perspective on our political problems helps reframe our hyper-polarized political condition as a golden opportunity to bring about the next emergent level of our civilization’s development.”
From Developmental Politics: “The higher purposes which we recognize as *transcendent* have a kind of magnetic power that draws us forward. As Oxford philosopher Iris Murdoch wrote, ‘we are spiritual creatures, attracted by excellence and made for the Good.’”
Emerson’s insight, that “every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact,” reveals the connection between exterior physical energy and interior ‘value energy.’ In fact, ‘the good’ in itself can be most accurately conceived of as an upward current of perfecting energy.
Although every infant begins life with the same basic form of biological “human nature,” the extent to which their consciousness develops is largely determined by the culture in which they are raised. Human nature itself thus evolves through the evolution of human culture.
Managing the polarity of liberal and conservative values is not simply a matter of meeting in the middle or compromising. Working to both challenge and *support* our political opponents is a new approach to politics that is pragmatic and transformational at the same time.