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More on Rep. Joe Wilson and the Politics of Intolerance
Looking into the background of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, after his heckling of President Obama last night, I came across this:
Joe also has been a member of the Columbia World Affairs Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sinclair Lodge 154, Jamil Temple, Woodmen of the World, Sons of Confederate Veterans, ....
This is an organization that, as the SPLC has detailed assiduously, has been taken over in the past decade by radical neo-Confederates who favor secession and defend slavery as a benign institution. Leading the takeover is a radical racist named Kirk Lyons, who's been an important legal figure on the far right for some years.* [More below]
In more recent years, the takeover has led to an outright internal civil war. Andrew Meacham at the St. Petersburg Times detailed the internal rift last year:
Experts say the divisions within the Sons vary between two extremes. On one side are the traditionalists, members who focus on cleaning up Confederate grave sites and conducting Civil War re-enactments.
On the other side are the so-called Lunatics, up to 2,000 members who deride traditionalists as "grannies'' and belong to camps named after notorious Southern figures such as John Wilkes Booth and Jesse James.
John Wilkes Booth members have been known to put pennies in urinals, making sure to leave the Lincoln side face-up. Other Lunatic groups have removed the U.S. flag from their halls and banned the Pledge of Allegiance, says Walter Hilderman, who several years ago created an anti-Lunatic group called Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"The problem is it's supposed to be a patriotic organization," says Hilderman, 59. "You are either that or you let guys in who want to secede."
As Heidi Beirich at the SPLC reported, this rift has led to Lyons himself coming under harsh attack from his own right flank. The SCV is a serious mess.
Now, add this to the fact that Joe Wilson, as a state legislator, was one of only seven Republicans to go against their own party and vote to keep the Dixie Rebel flag flying over the South Carolina capitol:
The flag came down that year after Republicans in both houses went for a compromise that would put it on Statehouse grounds at the Confederate Soldier’s monument. The “Magnificent Seven” of Senators who voted to keep the flag up included current Congressman Joe Wilson (who I served with in the 218th Infantry Brigade of the National Guard.)
A clearer picture of why this congressman might so virulently breach protocol and loudly interrupt an African-American president's speech to Congress by calling him a liar does start to emerge, doesn't it?
Our nation, and its people, will be digging out from the logic and very real political impact of the reign of the Southern Strategy for years and years to come.