Now, the sea changes.

Whatever the merits of the argument, this is the beginning of that period in which the Civil War and slavery become entwined in every public space and every public discourse. We saw it in the recent decision by the Park Service to make mention of slavery as part of their battlefield tours; in the decision to create a Civil War museum in Richmond with Blue, Gray and Black perspectives; in the content of the new movie, CSA, that drives home the idea that a victory for the South would have meant the extension of slavery into the modern era.

The current controversy in Georgia, to prohibit the public display of Rebel uniforms by reenactors in a Christmas parade, will soon affect reenactors everywhere.

The controversy generated by Howard Dean's comment that he wanted to appeal to Southern whites with Rebel flag decals in their pickup trucks attracted so much opposition for this reason: a large part of the public sentiment has already been conditioned to accept that arguments of "Southern Heritage" may not be applied to the symbols of a "pro-slavery" government. That has been the point of the sustained attack on Confederate flags. People must find another way to express "Southern pride" and no political party is now going to allow one of its leaders or spokesmen to endorse use of Confederate emblems to express heritage.

Those people who have worked so hard for so long to keep the South's Civil War heritage separate from slavery in the public mind and in public spaces will be systematically undone. The state flags battle is lost - the flags have a bureaucratic entropy to defend them, nothing more. There will be no exceptions. Rebel monuments, narratives, and public remembrances will soon pass into memory. Attacks on flags and mascots by political groups are now park and museum doctrine. Regional schools will soon follow Georgia in teaching state history from Reconstruction forward. Even the pop historians, who dominate Civil War publishing with their lavish praise of Rebel generals, will be forced into using caveats and hedges with an eye to the larger picture.

I have no sympathy for the symbols of the Rebellion and every sympathy for its victims, and yet the mechanics of this change seem remorseless. The injustice the display of these symbols inflicted on a black population is now visited on the white descendants of Rebel soldiers -- they are now in the position of the modern German. Forced to issue disclaimers about forefathers. Compelled to make ritual denouncements of a previous regime. Discouraged from public expressions of pride in a disgraced cause.

They were not - historiographically - ready for the change. There were no compromise formulas ready, there was no compensating story they could tell themselves or us.

This is historiography, alive, operating on the grandest scale.