“For Phidia, marble is the cosmic stuff that is crying for form…but for Michaelangelo, marble was the foe to be subdued, the prison out of which he must deliver his idea as Siegfried delivered Brunhilde.” — Oswald Spengler

IV.

Virgil stood at the podium in East Nashville Park in front of the fundraisers and audience, near the East Nashville Park surrender marker.

“You know, Aristotle once said that courage is the bedrock of all human virtue, because it is the foundation on which all other virtues rest. We are all here to celebrate the courage of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who valiantly defended his people in battle. Standing by his side was the honorable Patrick Britt, one of the 47 black Confederates that showed considerable bravery supporting General Forrest in this battle. In an interview after the war, General Forrest proclaimed that there was no better Confederate than Patrick Britt…”

Rhett watched his little brother with pride. It had not been easy to get to this point. 18 months; the original budget was $10 million, but that soon grew to $15. Many of the city council members had balked. Martha Streetford, the blonde-haired Republican with two adopted Haitians, put up the most vocal resistance. Rhett hired a PI and former marine to stake out and find out exactly what Martha and her husband, a prominent local hedge fund manager named Lindsay Streetford, did with those Haitians behind closed doors. Not even attempting to be salacious, but it involved a basement dungeon adorned with ping-pong paddles and nipple clamps. Lindsay couldn’t get off unless he injected the boy with methamphetamine.

When Reverend Tarvis McCallister, another city council member, was found with a twink undergoing heart palpitations a block off Fifth Avenue, Rhett received a text from the front clerk. Rhett magnanimously offered to cover public relations cost in exchange for support on his application approval. Rhett also offered to build the Charley Pride Statue in Frederick Douglass park. In essence the compromise was civic nationalism at the core.

“And I want to commemorate the vision of great minds like Robert Oppenhauer, Vennevar Bush, and Enrico Fermi who saw the future of energy in nuclear power. It was the clean energy of nuclear that turned the Tennessee Valley Authority from a well-intended national punchline to one of the few profitable government agencies. The cheap energy nuclear power attracted manufacturing jobs from around the country into the great state of Tennessee. General Forrest, Vannevar Bush, and Patrick Britt embody the vision and daring of the great public projects that make our state great.

“Lastly, I want to recognize the sins of our forefathers and disavow the hatred of those who support racism and the Ku Klux Klan. With the help of the fine people of East Nashville, we wish to ceremonially bury these relics of racism.”

A ceremonial metallic “coffin” filled with Klan hoods was lowered by two black men fashioned as grave diggers singing a work song. Rhett and his safety inspector from the Soddy-Daisy power plant, Lee Maynerd, watched intently as the coffin was lowered. They had worked diligently on the design of the entire memorial and wanted everything to be pitch perfect.

VI.

bedford part 2

As Virgil continued his speech, on the other side of East Nashville was Lamarcus Robinson, one of the few specimens of humanity to capture the primal conflict between the Last Man; that is, Man’s desire to dedicate himself to creature comforts, and the Uberman, or Man’s desire to impose his will and values on the world indefinitely. Really, Lamarcus was, in one individual, both the pinnacle of evolution, a sort of apotheosis of vitality and morality in the human condition, and the apex of the long arc of history bending towards infinite justice.

“SHEEEEIT, MUFUG better have mah money. Grandmama didn’t raise no fool.”

Indeed, Lamarcus Robinson’s grandmother certainly did not raise a fool. Lamarcus hadn’t spent much time outside of the Fifth Ward public housing, but at 25, he run da joint. The mufug in question is Tyreke Tomlinson or TT Boy. TT Boy trying to make excuses why he comin’ up short on today’s payout.

Algebra Johnson then started walking up to the corner.

“Sup TT Boy, Lamarcus,” Algebra chided.

“Chillin, chillin. Sup.”

“Check it, I just found a financial opportunity for some legit dough, maybe a chance at a rack. Pegslist is offering $30 an hour for street activism today, but we gotta act quick, they say limited spots only,” said Algebra.

Algebra, LaMarcus, and T.T. Boy take LaMarcus’ Honda to the Antiracist Action headquarters, which was a modest abandoned barbershop in East Nashville. In a makeshift office, they meet Dr. Egelman, professor of Diversity Studies and the director of the East Nashville branch of Antiracist Action. Dr. Egelman greeted the trio warmly and invited them to a cup of coffee. Eyeing the large metal thermos, Lamarcus declined.

“I’ll get right to the point, gentlemen,” Dr. Egelman began. “There is a commemoration of new statue that has just completed today…do you know who they are commemorating?”

“General Forrest,” Algebra replied, steely-eyed.

“General Nathan Bedford Forrest,” said Dr. Egelman. “These Nashville boys still think they can intimidate you with their racist past, and here at Antiracist Action, we want you to take a stand. We have brought in members from all over the Northwest and the Midwest to assist in today’s protest. But, we are looking for some local talent to spearhead the operation. I mean, you aren’t going to allow them to put a statue of General Forrest in your neighborhood, are you?”

Lamarcus eyed the Professor skeptically. He sure looked like some of the shady landlords he had heard about neglecting they tenants.

“I don’t like it, but I don’t want to stick my neck out and get arrested for nothin’,” Lamarcus said.

Egelman grinned. “It’s low risk, high reward,” he said. “Antiracist Action has recently secured the election of a district attorney here in Nashville that is very friendly to our cause…you’ve heard of David Shapiro?”

“I seen the yard signs,” Lamarcus said.

“Good, well, I have it on his word that activists working under the Antiracist Action umbrella will have carte blanche immunity. Moreover, he pledged that any bond that is set for a criminal action, should you be arrested, would be waived. Do you know what that means?”

Lamarcus never heard of bond being waived before. “Why don’t you go ahead and say what you gon’ say, Eggman,” he said.

Dr. Egelman’s nostrils flared defiantly. “It’s Egelman, and if you want to play ball, I suggest you get with the program,” he said. After a beat, he continued, “It means the bond payments, which Antiracist Action pledges to cover by the way, go to the defendant.”

“That means we get paid?” Algebra asked.

“Is it starting to make sense, gentlemen?” asked Dr. Egelman.

“Aight, but, if you want ‘local talent’ for your protest, what incentive I got to be the star in your show? $30 an hour is pocket change for a program like this.” Lamarcus countered.

“Ambitious, I see. Well, we will provide the rope and equipment you need to take down the statue, and if we can document you taking leadership position in dismounting General Forrest….I can personally offer a $2,000 reward for each of you.”

Lamarcus, T.T., and Algebra exchanged looks, “All right, DOCTOR Egelman, I’d say we have a deal,” said Lamarcus.

VII.

bedford part 2

After the speech, Rhett and Virgil celebrated with a modest brunch at East Park, and Virgil announced a formal ball that night in Ashland City. All are welcome to join with turkey legs and a mini re-enactment of the Battle of Nashville. Virgil saw this as an opportunity to cross-promote his Ashland City office.

Rhett was beaming as Virgil and Carolyn started preparing to leave.

“Are you sure you don’t want to join us, Rhett? Tt’s going to be quite a shindig,” said Virgil.

“Well, Virgil, me and Lee are going to hang back in case there are some protests,” replied Rhett. “Shouldn’t be a big deal, though, and I’ll meet you tonight. You did great, Virgil; I’m proud of you.”

Later, in the mid-afternoon, the protestors and counter-protestors started to trickle in. Rhett had expected some commotion, but had not thought it would come so hot and heavy. Despite he and Virgil’s best efforts to maintain a whisper campaign on the Bedford Memorial, and despite the careful preparations he made with Lee beforehand, he had no inkling of how big the crowd would get. Social media seemed to rile up both sides considerably.

On the pro-Bedford side, the main contingent was the Loud Boiz, a group of Canadian Ultra-Zionists with a heavy alt-media presence. Much of the leadership of the Loud Boiz consisted of GenXers who were attracted to other men but held fast to traditional gender roles. Working in tandem with the Loud Boiz were the Khaki Tikis Dickeys, all wearing matching white shirts and brown pants and carrying tiki torches. Then there were the Tuff TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), militant lesbians with shields emblazoned with images of Camille Paglia and a hyper-masculine Joan of Arc.

A smaller but more physically buff group called the Sonnenrad Chads wore motorcycle helmets and also had shields and clubs, this time with the Sonnenrad symbol. The only people who even seemed to be wearing Confederate colors were the Dylan Roof Koreans (DRK), K-pop looking Korean youths, each with a matching blonde bowl cut of their namesake. After a brief inquiry, Rhett understood that the motives of the DRK were more financial than ideological. Most of the laundromats in East Nashville had been owned by their parents and their livelihoods were constantly harassed and threatened by the antifa and BLM crowd.

It was about 3PM when one of the officers approached Rhett and Lee, saying, “Listen, I have word from up top, the mayor, saying he wants us to stand down. I know this is important to y’all, I just want to give y’all a heads up,” he said.

Rhett and Lee surveyed the irregulars, and they approached a group of a half dozen of the Khaki Tiki Dickeys.

“Hey, boys, thank you for coming and helping us and the police protect our heritage. Any of you boys from around here?” Rhett asked.

The group of young men, boys really, all looked in different directions at each other, bewildered.

“Vell, I am from New Jersey,” said one of the KTDs.

“That doesn’t sound like a Jersey accent to me,” Rhett replied. “What’s your name?”

“My name Ivan, Ivan Turin, am from Moldova original,” Ivan replied.

Rhett turned to Lee, “Is anyone on our side…American?”

“Well, most of the Americans are in Ashland City. But lookit this one,” said Lee as he pointed at one of the Sonnenrad crew.

One big hunk of farm boy with long blonde hair flowing beneath his Sonnenrad painted helmet.

“Hey you with the spinning wheel, are you from around here?”

“Murfreesboro. Why?” the Sonnenrad boy asked.

“You ever been deer hunting?” Rhett asked. “Thing is, if things get hot, these clubs won’t get you very far.”

“I can handle a gun,” the Sonnenrad boy replied.

Rhett approached a couple of the Dylann Roof Koreans with the same proposition as Brad Sonnenrad. “Boys, we may need a couple of hands up on the rec center to protect General Forrest. Once they get Forrest, your laundromat and restaurants are next. Can either of you handle a gun?”

Two brothers, Sung-Ho and Dong-hyun Kim, both dressed in Confederate gray trench coats, smiled at each other. “You mean like this?” Dong-hyun said, revealing an AR-15 underneath.

“Yeah, this could work,” Rhett replied. “This might get hot quick, boys; we need to get a superior position to protect Bedford. That means the rec center; we need to infiltrate and barricade the exterior entrances. We need a man on the roof facing each perimeter, maybe a second on the south side. I want to keep an open lane to Bedford and can support any side needing help. We need to barricade the stairs, too, and set up.” The young men, looking for a leader, fell in line and they headed to the rec center.

On the other side of the street, Lamarcus and his crew were bemused by some of the protestors that they threw in with. Pitmommies, tranissaries in clown-ass makeup actin’ the fool. One group looked aight; they called themselves the Fanon Fisters, they had black and brown fist images on they T-shirts. Lamarcus didn’t know who dafuq Fanon was, but the men looked black and proud, even if they weren’t from the hood and likely were CIs. They were flanked by the Nyerere NyanNyans, black men cosplaying like some Japanese manga broad. They wore uniforms sort of like a blue cheerleader outfit with streamers coming out of their fake braids and chanting:

“Hit or miss, I guess you never fist, huh?”

The Nyerere NyanNyans had formed based on the anti-colonialist thought of Robert Nyerere and emblazoned on their cheerleader outfit was “World Tour: Johannesburg, Zimbabwe, Nashville.” Lamarcus pulled T.T. and Algebra aside and said, “Look, I ain’t here to play make pretend with deez crackers. I came to take down Bedford and get paid.”

“But these crackers are in our way,” Algebra replied, acknowledging the counter-protestors.

“I know, I’m saying we hang back until we get a chance to crack through. You strapped, right?”

The Loud Boiz and the like were shouting slogans and the Fanon Fisters were chanting counter-slogans and throwing bottles and debris at each other, a giant mass and swerving mosh pit.

The protests continued on the street north of the park, and the police were beginning to visibly exit. Rhett and Lee walked briskly to his 1996 Ford F-150. He had a camper hood, and when he popped the trunk, Rhett had four guitar cases in the back, containing 3 AR-15s and a .308 for himself.

“Ready to start picking, boys?” Rhett asked. Rhett, Lee, the DRK boys, and Brad Sonnenrad walked briskly to the rec center. The doors were locked, but Rhett broke a bathroom window and shimmied in. Lee handed him the rifles. They began barricading the entrances with sofas, jimmying chairs under doorknobs and chaining doors together. Weight sets jammed next to vulnerable windows. It was a makeshift job as they knew they had to act quickly.

“Let’s all get to the roof and set up on each cardinal direction. I’ll run support on whoever needs it. We need to start with warning shots, but if there is any return fire we have to take them out.  Coordinate with your skirmishers on the ground and prevent crowds from multiplying. We can appear bigger than we are if we are vigilant and pick off individuals…but listen, just shoot warning shots first unless they start shooting first.”

Algebra, T.T. Boy, and Lamarcus were in the crowd when the police announced the stand down. The Fanon Fisters began chanting “reparations now, all whites must die.” When the police left, the assembled gangs continued their orchestration; they’d sort-of advance, then the “leaders” would make the “hold me back” gesture, then retreat. The Loud Boiz were swinging batons with American and Confederate flags. The Nyerere NyanNyans countered with modified bolo weapons fashioned out of Ben Wa balls. The NNs would hop on the back of the Fanons like Voltron and would rush the Loud Bois while swinging the bolos. One of the NyanNyans still had some Astroglide residue on his bolo and it hit his neighbor with an unfortunate bit of friendly fire. The Ben Wa ball cracked the temple and he collapsed off of his fellow Fanon. While soldiers on both sides livestreamed the event, Lamarcus turned to T.T. Boy and Algebra and said, “Aight, that’s our break.”

Lamarcus, Algebra, and T.T. Boy skirt around down the edge of the crowd on the east edge of the park, and a small group of youths with tiki torches begin accosting them.

“You will not replace us!” they shout. But Lamarcus didn’t read the protocol. He pulled out a Glock and said, “Get dafuq outta here.”

Simple as that, Lamarcus and company breach the flank of Bedford’s protection. The Fanons and assorted Tranissaries followed Lamarcus’ lead. The police followed their orders to stand down, and any of the irregulars approaching were easily persuaded by Lamarcus’ Glock.

Meanwhile, on the roof of the rec center, Dong-hyun Kim, a second-generation American in full Confederate gray, eyed the procession through his scope as Lamarcus and his crew approached General Forrest. Dong-hyun tossed his impeccably pristine bottle blonde bangs to one side and called out.

“Guys, they’re moving in on General Forrest!”

Rhett whipped his head back to Dong-hyun. “Don’t let ‘em take down that statue. Fire a warning shot if you have to. General Forrest has to stay up!” Rhett said, his trademark swagger markedly absent.

bedfordLooking through his scope, Dong-hyun saw three black men with ropes and a larger crowd behind them, and an ancestral and spiritual memory, a fugue of horse archers riding across the steppe, a vision of Leningrad under siege, even the spirit of General Nathan Bedford Forrest inhabited Dong-hyun for a brief moment, and he targeted the smallest man, who was now wrapping a noose around General Forrest, and he squeezed.

T.T. Boy was standing on top of General Forrest’s horse and had just wrapped the noose around the General when a Creedmore ripped through his chest with a sickening crack. T.T. Boy was knocked off General Forrest’s horse. He fell into the crowd and begins sucking wind.

“Aw shit, T.T. Boy got hit!” Algebra proclaimed. Bedlam reigned as protestors and counter-protestors scrambled frantically from the statue. Nyerere NyanNyans began weeping performatively before the ubiquitous cellphones, pulling out fake nails and braids as cantaloupes in their bras oscillated pendulously. “OH, THE INJUSTICE! STOP THE HATE, STOP THE HATE!” The rented mobs begin running for cover, and as Algebra held a dying T.T. Boy in his arms, Lamarcus said he would go get help. But Lamarcus had a burning heat inside him that he needed to extinguish. He had to knock General Forrest off that horse.

Few of the skirmishers on the ground had guns and Lamarcus had a wide berth. He advanced southward on 7th Street in search of a vehicle he could jack to take down Bedford.

Meanwhile, on the roof of the rec center, Rhett and company were facing some fire from some unknown assailants. “Lee, is that a pistol or a rifle?” Rhett asked. If it were a pistol, Rhett figured, at least it couldn’t be a SWAT team member. It seemed to be coming from the north side, but from the ground.

“Sung-Ho, Dyun, do your boys know how to make Molotovs?”

“It’s just a rag in a liquor bottle, right?” Sung Ho replied.

“Make sure it’s glass, son,” said Lee. “Call on your boys and see if they can whip some up; we need a flame barrier down below and maybe for defense.” With T.T. Boy bleeding out at the foot of General Forrest, many of the protestors ran off, but a few brazenly approached the rec center. Unlike Rhett, they had Molotovs at the ready. Rhett blasted one Trannisary right through xir silicone implants as xhe was ready to launch one at 20 yards away. Rhett was facing east, towards Bedford, when he saw an Amazon delivery truck racing up 7th street.

“Dyun, hit the truck, boys, I need help on the east side!” Rhett hollered.

For Lamarcus, it was beyond the $2,000 in cash; he wanted retribution for T.T. Boy, but did not realize the greater destiny laid out for him. 7th Street led right up to the south side of the park. AR-15 and .308 rounds began pelting his Amazon truck, but Lamarcus held a steady hand and hit the statue head on, knocking General Forrest and his horse off his pedestal.

“DAS RIIIIIIIIIITE!” Lamarcus roared defiantly.

The well-laid designs of the General Forrest Memorial was, what Rhett had thought, a bit of insurance. Built into the design was an open circuit which was completed only if four sensors in the base of the statue detected when Bedford’s foundation would be pulled upward. Upon completion of the circuit, hidden beneath the Klan outfits in the mock coffin, an exploding bridge-wire detonator triggered a series of slow, then fast explosions compressing a tamper of Uranium-238 around a Plutonium core. Rhett, along with Lee, had been making plans for the last decade to obtain trace amounts of the enriched Uranium from the Soddy-Daisy plant.

The casualties would not have been so bad had the crowd not been so large. Across the Cumberland River, there were no more than broken windows past 5th Avenue. The fireball, bright and radiant, evaporated some 30,000 of the protestors and counter protestors. Rhett and Lamarcus, for a brief flash, were united and ultimately one. All the guests and workers in the downtown hotels were bombarded with gamma rays. Fallout reached as far north as Kentucky, salting the Earth for a century with up to 1,000 rads per hour. It was only a few city blocks that were obliterated, but for a million plus citizens of Nashville, the image of that mushroom cloud was indelibly burned into their hippocampi.

At Ashland City, Virgil was sipping mint juleps with Carolyn at the preservation ball when the cloud burst into the sky.

“Rhett,” he said with concern which quickly turned to anger.

There goes the Nashville office, he thought. And most of his residuals. Ashland City was 25 miles outside of the city limits of Nashville; at this distance, the plume of the mushroom cloud looked like a vivid rose sprouting out the Cumberland River. Virgil instinctively started doing the math; half of Nashville would have radiation sickness, with teeth and hair falling out and dying by the end of the month.

Then the power went out. People started scrambling, worried another bomb would drop, but Virgil, in his gut, knew it was over.

“Who could have done this; who would want to destroy Nashville?” asked Carolyn.

“I don’t know, honey; maybe it was antifa,” Virgil replied.

It was a month later, after the power slowly came back on and the news of an unprecedented terror attack on American soil subsided, that Virgil visited Rhett’s one-bedroom bungalow on Flat Top Mountain near the Soddy-Daisy power plant. He wasn’t sure what to expect. The living room was spare, spotless and efficient. No television but a clean laptop, a set of weights, and a single homemade bookshelf. Primers on nuclear physics and non-proliferation, Engineering manuals. A worn King James Bible. On the coffee table, a single key for Regions Bank. Virgil picked it up; it was for a safe deposit box. The note inside said:

Well, Virgil, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

I wanted Beford and his illicit cargo to be an amulet, to ward off our enemies, but in a worst case scenario, things got hot fast. I knew you wouldn’t be prepared for the worst.

I know you are a church-going man, but everyone’s taking the wrong lesson about King David, that because God honored King David, his people should live in harmony in Zion forever. David was a scoundrel that cucked his own general and delivered him to his enemies. But by his sheer will and talent, he caught the ear of God and fought for his people with all his heart.

But Nashville is our Zion, Virge. Our foundation myths, people like Andrew Jackson and General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the wild-eyed Scots that settled this territory. Once the foundation myths are erased, our fate is sealed. And so, I say as King David did:

“Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it, yea, let him tread down my life on the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust, Selah.

“Arise, O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thy self because of the rage of mine enemies, and awake for me to the judgement that thou hast commanded.

“Oh, let the wickedness come to an end, but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.”

Rhett left some of the passwords to his crypto exchange and Virgil had found a considerable sum. He was next of kin, but in light of the current predicament, he opted to quietly merge the assets with his own.

The power plants of the TVA were swiftly mothballed. Rolling blackouts and draconian and punitive regulations on power consumption. The strip malls all went vacant and gas prices went through the roof. The long-term effect was contrary to the intentions of the rulers; the people stayed hardened and became anonymous and underground, became one with the hardscrabble country. In Ashland City Pentecostal, a small wooded grotto behind held a copper casting of a man in sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts and combat boots. An inscription at the foot of the statue says, “In honor of Rhett Wortham, who valiantly defended his countrymen in the New Battle of Nashville. May the people of the Cumberland Valley sing his name.”

***

For all installments of “Bedford’s Last Stand,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1