Sins of the Fathers
In July, a 62-year-old white man named Frank Earnest, one of the country’s most ardent defenders of Confederate monuments, traveled 200 miles from his Virginia home to Washington, D.C., and got in line at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You could say he stood out among the throng of visitors, most of them black. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Frank sported a thatch of chin whiskers straight from a daguerreotype — a fulsome goatee reminiscent of Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, a rebel hero of his. In the lobby, as he emptied his pockets at a metal detector, I waited for the attendant, a cordial woman, to notice his key fob, bearing the Stars and Bars and the legend “Don’t Mess With Dixie.”
She flashed him a wary glance: “Don’t mess with Dixie? What’s that supposed to mean?” Frank, a spokesman for the nation’s largest Confederate heritage group, replied evenly, “Means don’t mess with Dixie.” Otherwise, he managed to hold his tongue, a triumph of willpower in his case. With the legacy of his rebel ancestors under constant assault by “nutty liberals,” and with the future of Confederate monuments in jeopardy, he is easily irritated and given to bitter sarcasm.as usual, Frank, in a gray suit, wore an array of Confederacy-themed lapel pins, including two replicas of the Stars and Bars battle flag. I suggested he take them off to avoid any hard feelings in the museum, but he refused. “It would be hypocritical of me,” he declared, breathing heavily as he lumbered toward an escalator. Frank, who is slowed by dire respiratory ailments, paused to rest against a wall, and as he leaned there, defiantly unreconstructed, he seemed a museum piece in his own right, a living relic up from the post-bellum ashes.
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