Monday, October 14, 2019

Jackson And Lee

I have framed pictures of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in my garage. I have to explain it from time to time and up to now, I've always been surprised when the question arises and stumble with my response. This is partly because my deep love for the two men has become second nature to me. I'm writing this to codify my thoughts so I can provide a concise answer.

Lee and Jackson make me a better man.

When I ponder some imprudent action or am tempted to give in to vice, I can imagine General Jackson's disappointment in my behaviors. An orphan by age five and a widower early in his adulthood, probably no more than 1% of the population had as rough a life as Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Almost no one in American history accomplished as much. Jackson's prodigious feats of self-denial and self-discipline as well as his deep piety led to his successes.

Inspiration from Stonewall Jackson's life makes me want to be more disciplined and have a deeper faith.

When I am unkind or think ill of someone, particularly anyone in my family, I feel the spirit of Robert E. Lee gently remonstrating me to be more charitable. A kind and loving man, devoted to his wife and children, stories of Lee's humility and magnanimity are numerous. I've read most of his letters, kept and published after his death by one of his sons, and his humanity shines through them all.

Inspiration from Robert E. Lee's life makes me a gentler person.

Since all things are viewed these days through the distorting lens of Social Justice, I'll add this quote from another of my inspirations.
Booker T. Washington, America’s great African-American educator, wrote in 1910, “The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday school were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”
I knew that about Jackson, but I did not know that about Lee. In fact, while in the field with the Confederate Army, Jackson made sure that a portion of his pay was sent to maintain the Bible school he and his second wife had established and led for local slaves. Working through his own metanoia on the subject, Jackson figured that while slavery would always be with us, he would do what he could to see that the black slaves would be his equals in paradise.

Yes, I could have chosen other inspirations, but then I'd be a different person. Jackson and Lee work perfectly for me. Maybe someday, I'll take down those "problematic" photos and put up pictures of Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres. Everyone will then agree that I am filled with virtue.

And on that day, I'll chuck the whole self-improvement thing. After all, that's the chief benefit of being Socially Conscious - the ability to fantasize about what a great person you are while not actually doing a blasted thing.

"I'm so disappointed in KT, Thomas. He was unkind to his wife."
"Indeed, Robert. He also blew off the gym this morning."


ligneus said...

Thankyou for this. It's the kind of thing I wish I could have read and understood when I was young. I think I have followed those precepts or tried to thanks to a good upbringing but it would help to see them personified and to have those two great portraits as a reminder.

K T Cat said...

ligneus, what a very kind thing to say.

I find myself very imitative. When I read a biography, if it's someone I admire, I find myself trying to take on their characteristics. It's been temporary in the past, but with Jackson and Lee, it became permanent, almost totemic. I don't know if it's my rampant Dixiephilia or if I'm just a total nut, but it feels right, if you know what I mean.

As for when you do it, I don't know. What hair is left on my head is pretty gray, my friend.


ligneus said...

When I first read your blog I imagined you being a younger person and the image persists in spite of knowledge to the contrary.

K T Cat said...

LOL. I love you, man. If I could, I'd come and visit you. Mom is ailing these days, so travel is out of the question.

ligneus said...

Well Toronto Ont is a long way to come to visit little old me, Appreciate the thought.
I hope your mom can still appreciate having her family around. Next month it will be fifty years since my mum died, that's nuts. I remember her in '64 sitting in the kitchen reading the paper and she said, I can't believe it's fifty years since the first world war started. These 'fifty yearses' go by way too fast.

K T Cat said...