Why retell Lee's story today? Because that story makes it clear that the history of the Confederacy is a mixed history, not entirely a racist history, but rather full of good and bad just like any other history. Like our country's history. Like the history of any religion.

This brings us to Brad Paisley's song "Accidental Racist," which has generated controversy based on the false assumption that the Confederate flag stands only for hate. The prevalence of this assumption means only that a contemptible minority has succeeded in smothering much of the reality of Confederate history.

In the "Accidental Racist" video, Paisley wears a tee-shirt with a Confederate flag and contemplates the ambiguity the flag embodies. "I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done," he sings. "Our generation didn't start this nation, and we're still paying for mistakes that a bunch of folks made long before we came.

That generation, he said, is "caught between southern pride and southern blame."

An unyielding condemnation of the Confederate flag speaks to an intellectually lazy decision to ignore whatever we reflexively abhor. As our country moves to being post-racial, we ought to take the opposite course, which is to seek to understand all of our history, not just the portions we find convenient and comfortable.

In this endeavor, Paisley makes a very significant contribution.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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