ally, unobtrusively, yet irreversibly andrnfirmly. No more restaurants serving foreignrnfood, no more playing with cardsharps,rnno more American Express billsrncomputed in euros, no more Germanrnlasagna, Belgian shopping, and Russianrndemocracy, no more conversations aboutrnnothing. No more leaving Venice.rnA big red and yellow butterfly has justrnalighted on my Toshiba portable computer.rnIt must be an omen, a sign that Irnam right.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondentrnLetter From Texasrnby William MurchisonrnRoll, Jordan, RollrnSo the anti-Confederate backlash comesrnto Dallas . . . but, then, maybe not.rnMaybe that isn’t fimdamentally whatrnhappened when the Dallas school board,rnin June, voted to rename mostly blackrnand Hispanic Jefferson Davis ElementaryrnSchool for Barbara Jordan, the late Houstonrncongresswoman.rnHere, likely, is what happened: Withinrnthe community at large, a failure of nervernoccurred, a moral power outage, leavingrnresidents plunged in darkness. The samernfailure of nerve afflicted New Orleansrnover a year ago, when die name of the infamousrnslaveowner George Washingtonrnwas removed from an elementar)’ school,rnto be replaced with —I don’t recall andrndon’t care to; Sojourner Truth or somernlike luminary.rnYou could say, and I wouldn’t arguerndie point, that on both occasions the antebellumrnSouth received deliberate kicksrnin the groin, and that this form of reprisalrnwas unfortunate and unjust. Davis,rnWashington: prisoners in a kangaroorncourt due to peripheral association withrnthe peculiar institution of slavery.rnMalarkey! Also, you can bet your bottomrndollar this species of malarkey is sure tornspread, two large Southern cities havingrncapitulated so cravenly.rnHowever, the reputahon of Our GloriousrnCause isn’t my prime concern at thernmoment. I’m no nostalgic Confederate,rnI have to confess, despite the veneration Irnpay my Confederate great-grandfathers,rnalong with Marse Robert, Bedford Forrest,rnand—a parhcular hero of my familyrn—Bishop-General Leonidas Polk.rnI don’t reenact. I don’t visit battlefields.rnFor the most part 1 don’t even readrn(though I stock in my reference library)rnbooks about The Waw-uh. AppomattoxrnCourthouse pretty well setfled all that.rnEven at this late date, the whole businessrnis intensely painful to me, given the unhealed,rnperhaps unhealable, wounds itrnleft. Heartily do I endorse Rhett’s assertionrnto Scarlett, following the Gettysburgrndisaster: “Waste always makes me angry.rnAnd that’s what this is—sheer waste.”rnThis isn’t even to mention a few thingsrnthat make me angrier: ignorance, cowardice,rnand hypocrisy. Which traits arernon conspicuous display in our belovedrnSouthland, thanks to the Davis andrnWashington controversies.rnNow, to begin with, we’re talking herernabout education. Well, about publicrnschools at least. You might expect, in ttierncontext of a controversy over the namingrnof a school, some attention to historicalrnaccuracy. Ah, no.rnI’m dropping New Orleans and Washingtonrnat this point, this being a “LetterrnFrom Texas.” Let’s talk just about JeffersonrnDavis Elementary School. The parentsrnwho originally proposed the namernchange spoke of the school’s namesake asrn”a Confederate officer.” One BarbararnKleinman, writing the Dallas MorningrnNews about the matter, called Davis “arnConfederate war soldier.” Hold on here.rnWe’ve got opinions on Davis’s right tornlend his name to a school, and we don’trneven know what job he held during thernwar? For fliat matter, we don’t know thernwar’s right name? Makes you wonderrnwhat goes on, or doesn’t, inside JeffersonrnDavis Elementary School and doubflessrna lot of other local public schools.rn”The name sends a very bad message,”rnsays Se-Gwyn Tyler, who represents therncity council district in which ex-JeffersonrnDavis Elementary is located. Well,rnma’am, do you really know that? Everrnread a biography of Davis? Know wherernhe lived, what posts he held before thernwar? How historians evaluate him? Ifrnthis is the standard of knowledge regnantrnat the decision-making level in Dallas,rnhow can one be sure the Davis critics arernright that Barbara Jordan is the ideal rolernmodel? What do they really know, beyondrnhearsay, concerning the late congresswoman?rnThat she was black? Ah.rnThat, of course, explains much.rnBut the question isn’t whether Dallasrnshould honor a black Texas congresswomanrnwith a large national, if not international,rnreputation. The question is,rndoes the desire to honor said congresswomanrndrive competing criteria into arncorner? Are we just to sit quietly while arndead man is vilified and misrepresented?rnWhile history itself is distorted? We’rernnot to utter a peep or reproach? Not sornmuch as a civil objection? That vv-ouldrnseem the case. Back to that failure ofrnnerve I mentioned at the outset.rnThe major fault in the Davis matter, itrnseems to me, doesn’t attach to those whornsought a name change. The major faultrnattaches to those who sat through thernname-change procedure with eyes andrnmouths resolutely closed, believing apparenflyrnthat expiation was a larger pub-rnHe good than truth.rnFailure of nerve indeed! Cowardicernon the half shell. But what a characteristicrnmodern offering. Hush, we mustn’trnoffend. Well, aettially, it’s all right to offendrnthose who retain some reverence forrnthe dead; we just mustn’t offend membersrnof cultures and subgroups arguingrnfor affirmahon.rnA great intellectual silence descendsrnover modern society. We can’t talk aboutrneverything; we certainly can’t talk in arnspirit of honesty. And we know it. This isrnwhat rankles: We know we can’t, and wernpass itoffasof nogreator immediate consequence.rnFailure of nerve.rnWliat ought to have happened in Dallas?rnWell, on the Jordan-Davis question,rnthere ought to have been a real discussion,rnsome intellectiial interplay betweenrnthose who maintained one viewpoint andrnthose who maintained another. Somernscholarly exposition would not haverncome amiss. The Sons of ConfederaternVeterans spoke up for Davis, but we allrnknow about them. Why, they sing “Dixie”rnwithout tinge of embarrassment!rnThe scholarly exposition of which Irnspeak should have been conducted at thernrequest of the school board, ittilizing historiansrnboth pro-Davis and anti-Davis.rn(By the way, numerous white historiansrnbelieve Davis himself to have been thernreal Lost Cause.) Representative Jordan’srnmerits and demerits —doubfless even shernhad some of the latter—should likewisernhave been aired. An intelligent attemptrnto do the intelligent thing might havernbeen essayed. Both sides in the dispitternhaving been heard respectfully, intelligenfly,rnan informed decision could havernOCTOBER 1999/37rnrnrn