Impossible To Forget an Open Wound
American's obsession with the Civil War has produced well over 60,000 different books. Two road narratives that contain journeys covering nearly the same concepts but by very different authors are Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz and South of Haunted Dreams by Eddy L. Harris. These men are both educated and experienced. Beyond this they share nothing. Each man goes on his own trip, and finds the South an open wound that in their own way, everyone is trying to forget.
Eddie Harris' trip is a personal voyage. He has been to Africa and didn't find his roots. He is determined that his roots can be found traveling the South. He goes down on the lookout for racism and he does find it. The public memory of slavery and the Civil War very apparent to him. The public memory is when common memories become public and a visible in the landscape.
Just after crossing the Mason-Dixon line signs of the public memory can be seen. "Confederate battle flags flutter along my route. They hang from front proches. They dangle in pickup truck rear windows. They are pasted on car bumbers, decorate caps and jackets... They are a constant reminder. The South" (Harris 38). Harris cannot let himself be comfortable in a society where people display symbols that could mean they wished he was still a slave. There are plaques that glamorize battles and a "culture that enslaved millions of African Americans" (63).
He finds these signs of an unhealthy society everywhere in his journey and with his pessimistic eye, it is doubtful he misses much. While being ignored in a restaurant in Kentucky, Harris begins to look through a pile of old school books. In an American Law book he reads an...