Someone on social media commenting on my article yesterday about the Army reversing its prior opposition to renaming bases to get rid of the names of Confederate traitors told me I was being too optimistic in assuming it would actually, finally happen. I responded with the old Dylan lyric: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” But I was wrong. I somehow forgot the identity of the commander-in-chief.
“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”
Now, it’s possible Trump is just flexing his super-patriotism muscles in the run-up to Independence Day and anything anybody says that suggests our armed services or country needs to change is going to provoke a hate-rage. But given the topic and the context — is keeping the name of a traitor on a military facility what makes it magnificent and fabled? — it’s just as likely that in this difficult time, he is retrieving the especially ugly side of his character he displayed during the 2017 disturbances in Charlottesville, when he lectured those angered by Confederate memorials to “cherish our history” and made the “many fine people on both sides” claim in the debate after the fact. It wasn’t a good sign when he announced the day and location of his first full-on, post-pandemic Trump rally: June 19 in Tulsa.
Trump is erratic enough that it didn’t occur to his secretary of Army to run it by the boss before expressing an “openness” to the base name changes. And he may well be ill-informed enough that he has no idea that, far from connoting power and winning, some of these base names indicate the opposite. Fort Pickett was named after an inept commander who was charged with war crimes. Fort Bragg was named for another incompetent general “known for pettiness and cruelty.” Fort Gordon was named after a Ku Klux Klan leader. Every damn one of them was a loser in a bad cause. And their names were attached to military facilities not to honor their courage or skill but to support the big lie of the neo-Confederacy, the whitewashing of the lost cause in order to perpetuate Jim Crow and the terrorism that created and maintained it.
At the time of his Charlottesville remarks, I concluded that Trump had basically joined the neo-Confederates. Is going back down that road his next step? If he pitches a fit over NASCAR banning the display of the Confederate flags at its racetracks, we’ll know for sure.