Dennis Baxley to attend pro-Confederate banquet

BAXLEY

State Sen. Dennis Baxley is scheduled to appear at a September banquet put on by a Save Southern Heritage Florida, a pro-Confederate group.

Baxley, a Republican who represents Sumter County and parts of Lake and Marion, is on the slate for a panel discussion on the “War on the South” during the Sept. 2 event in Temple Terrace. Also participating in the panel are Orlando-area radio host Doug Guetzloe and H.K. Edgerton, a black supporter of the Confederate flag.

Save Southern Heritage was formed in 2015 “in response to the knee-jerk Anti-Southern institutionalized bullying and ‘Erase-ism,’” a word coined to describe the removal of Confederate monuments from public land. The group argues that the Civil War was not fought over slavery.

Members of the group were also present at the “Unite the Right” gathering of far-right grous in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, where tensions culminated in a 20-year-old white supremacist killing a 32-year old woman and injuring 19 others when he drove his car into counter protesters.

In an interview with the Miami New Times, Baxley said he plans to “condemn racism, bigotry, and violence” at the event, but made clear he was against the removal of Confederate monuments. He also told the paper that he believes removing such monuments is a catalyst for violence.

St. Petersburg and Gainesville moved monuments without protest this week, and Hillsborough County plans to do the same with a monument in front of the county courthouse annex, pending a private fundraising effort.

“We place monuments with an expectation of permanency,” he said. “Taking them down is triggering something not healthy for us as a people.”

Many such monuments in Florida were erected decades after the Civil War by pro-Confederate groups looking to sanitize and glorify Southern soldiers and generals by including language describing the secessionist’s cause as “just” or “right” while labeling its military dead “martyrs.”

Baxley, an Ocala funeral director and descendant of a Confederate soldier, said he wasn’t “going to relitigate that” and added that he would feel the same if “someone defaced a monument of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

The conservative lawmaker ran into similar controversy earlier this year when he blocked efforts by black Democrats in the senate to pass a bill creating a monument to Florida victims of slavery.

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Baxley said he blocked that bill because the memorial would “celebrate defeat.” He didn’t specify for whom. When he tried to walk back his statement he said instead of a memorial to “celebrate adversity, (he’d) rather celebrate the overcomers of that adversity.”

Save Southern Heritage Florida is charging $29.50 for tickets to the event, which includes a three-course fried chicken, salmon, and pasta dinner.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


4 comments

  • Peter Harding

    August 16, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    If we entertain that the Civil War was not fought over slavery the next big reason was that the southern states wanted to secede from the Union. That was not a “smart decision” so we should not have monuments to stupidity, to borrow the Senators logic.

  • Andrew Nappi

    August 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Good for you Dennis. Stand your ground!

  • Fred O'Neal

    August 17, 2017 at 10:59 am

    It’s impossible to generalize the motivations of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. That they all fought to preserve slavery is unlikely since less than five percent of Southerners owned slaves at the outbreak of the Civil War. Moreover, those who owned 40 or more slaves were exempted from military service. I think it is more likely that soldiers in the Confederate army fought to defend their own homes, their own farms, their own families and their own communities, rather than to defend someone else’s right to own slaves.

    I say that because I think it’s important to remember that there were only seven states in the Confederacy at the time Lincoln called for an invasion of the South. There remained eight slave states in the Union. However, Lincoln’s call for putting down the Confederacy by force of arms caused four of those states (North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas) to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. And when Lincoln’s promised invasion came, “total war” (a phrase coined by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman) came with it. “Total war” means there is no distinction between soldier and civilian. All living in the South are “the enemy,” thereby justifying the burning of towns, cities, farms, crops, homes – much as what happened to Dresden and Hiroshima in World War II. I think it’s logical to assume that those who hadn’t taken up arms already in defense of the Confederacy, took up arms after Lincoln’s promised invasion came not to protect slavery, but to protect their families, their homes, their farms, their communities from being destroyed in this “total war.” Those are the soldiers who I see as being honored by statues erected in the very same communities they tried (but often failed) to protect.

    The conclusion that most soldiers fought for the Confederacy to protect against invasion is reinforced by the book “Born Fighting” – a history of the Scots-Irish written by Sen. James Webb (ret.), Va., who, coincidentally, was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. In his book, Sen. Webb states:

    “History has a way of boiling itself down into generalities. The farther we move away from an event, the more we tend to condense its lessons. In recent decades the reasons for the Civil War have been reduced in the minds of most Americans into a simple sentence or two. The Civil War, we are taught, was about slavery, … The Union, we are now told, was on the side of God and the angels, its soldiers dedicated to eliminating this dark stain on the human spirit. The Union Army, we are reminded again and again even in these modern times, marched to a “Battle Hymn,” [which states]“As He died to make men holy, let us fight to make men free, His truth is marching on …”

    “By implication, the soldiers of the Confederacy were with the forces of darkness and evil fighting to preserve a system that denigrated the human spirit and made mules of men. But the truth is, as always, far more turgid, and to understand it one must go to the individual soldier. Why did he fight? …

    “Why, then, did [the Confederate soldier] fight?

    “It seems odd in these modern times, but the Confederate soldier fought because on the one hand, in his view he was provoked, intimidated, and ultimately invaded, and on the other, his leaders had convinced him that this was a war of independence in the same sense as the Revolutionary War. For those who can remove themselves from the slavery issue and examine the traits that characterize the Scots-Irish culture, the unbending ferocity of the Confederate soldier is little more than a continuum. This was not so much a learned response to historical events as it was a cultural approach that had been refined by centuries of similar experiences. The tendency to resist outside aggression was bred deeply into every heart – and still is today.”

    “… King Edward marched into Scotland to subjugate its people, but he was resisted and ultimately expelled. … The British sent an expedition into the Appalachian Mountains to punish and lay waste to whole communities for not supporting the Crown, and their predictable reward was to be stalked, surrounded and slaughtered. And now a federal government, whose leadership and economic systems were denominated by English-American businessmen and intellectuals, was sending armies into the sovereign territory of the Southern states to compel them to remain inside a political system that their leaders had told them they had every right to reject.”

    “The lesson regarding [Confederate soldier] William John Jewell’s death, plus the hundreds of thousands of others in [the Civil War], is far more complex than those who simplify his service into racial slogans wish to make it. He and his fellow soldiers took an oath and then honored the judgment of their leaders, often at great cost. Intellectual analyses of national policy are subject to constant reevaluation by historians as the decades roll by, but duty is constant, frozen in the context of the moment it is performed. Duty is action, taken after listening to one’s leaders and weighing risk and fear against the powerful draw of obligation to family, community, nation, and the unknown future. We the progeny who live in that future, were among the intended beneficiaries of those frightful decisions made so long ago. As such, we are also the caretakers of the memory, and the reputation, of those who performed their duty – as they understood it – under circumstances too difficult for us ever to fully comprehend. No one but a fool – or a bigot in their own right – would call on the descendants of those Confederate veterans to forget the sacrifices of those who went before them or argue that they should not be remembered with honor.”

    • Jeff Jones

      August 17, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Wow Fred, that is the most cogent response I have yet to read on this whole monument mania that is sweeping the south. Clearly you are a scholar on the “civil war”. I have been studying the events myself for some 45 years now and it drives me crazy that most people boil it down to “the north was good, the south was bad and the war was about slavery”. I wrote a LTTE myself the other day that touches on some of these same themes, namely that many southern soldiers were literally fighting to save their homes, mills, and farms from being burnt to the ground. If people were aware of the many horrendous crimes committed by the union armies against the civilian population of the south, maybe they would understand why the survivors would want to honor their dead fathers, brothers and sons with a humble monument.

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