The Division That Unites Us In Continuing Controversy

CSA_flag[1]All of my life I’ve heard nauseous quips, such as, “the South will rise again!” and “Lee surrendered; I didn’t!” Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in August of 1970, I grew up mostly in southeast Alabama. Now, mind you, I was never fully accepted as a Southerner because my whole family was deemed “damn Yankees,” but I’ve certainly soaked up enough of the old Confederacy to speak knowledgeably and confidently on controversial subjects, like the public display of the Confederate flag. Before launching into this (once-again) hot topic, one caveat: My parents, siblings and I were never treated horribly by anyone here in the South; after all, my father (and family) were invited down by born-and-bred Southerners for professional reasons … so, I suppose, having been invited we might not have been “damn Yankees;” rather just “darn Yankees.”

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_1861-1863.svg_[1]At any rate, during all of my “growing up” years, I imbibed the deep South culture — from wealthy aristocracy to the middle income merchant class to poor “white trash” and, well … the others — so it comes as no surprise to me whatsoever to hear the same, tired, old, worn-out defenses of “the Flag.” After the travesty in Charleston, South Carolina — for which I penned a tribute and where the Civil Way began, interestingly enough — one should think the overwhelming majority of 21st century Carolinians would gladly thrown down the last vestige of ethnocentric, racist symbolism. Well, one who does not reside in the South would possibly think so, but not I; oh no! I know better! The issue here in the Caucasian South runs far, far deeper; despite living in an upended, transient, techno-society. The old South won’t rise again, you see, because the old South never really went down … no, not really even underground. During the days of sharecropping, the KKK (which is alive and well), and segregation (which was never remotely “equal”), the face of the old South was perfectly visible. It is visible today, even if it is now mixed in with a larger crowd of more varied faces than ever before, which leads us straight into our subject.

It’s really no wonder so many Southerners want to keep flying the Confederate flag when and wherever they can, for as long as they can, especially now. Psychologically, it affords them some sense of (false) security, i.e. “the South is still ours; the blacks and Latinos and Orientals just need to keep their place or get the hell outta here!” (Although they use more pejorative terms to describe members of other races, of course.) Well, I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know that I can recommend a cure or therapy; however, I can address some of the arguments for flying the Confederate flag. Really, it’s just a simple matter of remembering history, and, no, I don’t mean recalling that the South lost the Civil War (or, as some down here still call it, the “War for Southern Independence.”) I’m referring to more recent history. You see, perhaps the most common argument in defense of flying the Confederate flag is that it’s “part of our history and heritage.” But apart from the fact that the flag reminds one of a particularly baneful part of Southern history and heritage, there are some important points to be made here because this argument is really a ruse.

You see, the most popular Confederate flag — the one people almost exclusively see, the one in question, which is displayed in the upper right corner — is not the Confederate flag; it is the Confederate battle flag. If one were concerned to honor the history and heritage of the South by flying an older flag, the better and more reasonable choice would be the national flag of the Confederacy, the one displayed above just beneath the battle flag, (though even this would be, in my humble opinion, egregious except for, perhaps, in museums and historical parks and the like.) But, no, this is not the case; rather, it is the battle flag supporters wave and honor, cling to and celebrate. It’s not always been so in the post-bellum South; neither flag was hoisted after the war until the 1960s during and in reaction to the Civil Rights movement and, very particularly, integration. And when Governor George C. Wallace raised the Confederate battle flag over the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, his message was very, very clear. “Segregation yesterday; segregation today; segregation forever!” Along with poll taxes, marginalization, suppression, and oppression everyday, in almost every conceivable way… And he, along with many others — men and women, high and low — were willing to fight for the South’s “unique way of life,” as they referred to their stratified, malignant society. This is what the battle flag meant in the 1960s… It stood for segregation, racism, and the possibility of another civil war. This was lost on no one at the time, either.

Another argument in defense of flying the Confederate battle flag is a combination of individual and states’ rights, that is: States and individuals ought to have the liberty — and by the Constitution are allegedly given the right — to fly whatever flag they please. This is, at best, spurious. After all, we are talking about the flags of rebelling states, which lost the civil war they incited. Whatever arguments might be brought forth in defense of the old South, the fact remains the war was fought and finished, and the Confederacy lost. These states were then reincorporated into the United States of America as states, not as the conquered Confederacy, and these states are states within this one nation today. There is, therefore, no justification by this line of argument for flying either the national or the battle flag of the Confederacy upon or within any government or other public building, facility, or land — with the exception of museums and such — and it is arguable that this ought to apply to private lands and facilities as well. Obviously, or it should be obvious, we are not talking about football flags or the innocuous fleur-de-lis or the flag for one of the branches of the Armed Forces. The Confederate battle flag is a baleful symbol of inflicted pain and suffering remembered vividly by hundreds of thousands, even millions, who are still alive and living in the South. It is, in an all-too-real sense, the prima symboli of the massacre at Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Finally, the very idea that the Confederate flag could possibly wave atop capitol buildings and other public facilities without overtly and grossly antagonizing large portions of people who are equally as Southern is as absurd as it is offensive. It is far past time to take down the Confederate flag(s) for good to never be raised again!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “The Division That Unites Us In Continuing Controversy

  1. You state a case that is not new, but it is well written and clear, old friend. However, I think that folks may be missing the point. This is not at all about what it appears to be about – legitimate grief and grieveance. Satan had control of that young man in Charleston, no doubt, but I wager he is also in control of many of those who are battling to have that symbol removed. Personally, I have ancestors who fought, and I honor their efforts. They were courageous. And I don’t look at it through the lens of racism and hatred, I admit. After all, Mr. Lincoln himself did not want to end slavery for he felt that those blacks were not ready. And of course the last minute compromise he tried to make that would ensure that the slavery remained an institution in the country attests to that as well. But that is really not the point. But you make whatever attributions you wish – it is your privilege. I think that had I or you been around at that time and lived in the South, there is a very very good chance that we would have ended up fighting for the South (unless of course we lived in Crossville!). One thing is clear – this is an issue for the state of South Carolina. The issue will be resolved by South Carolinians. I am very much in favor of states resolving their own issues without outside interference. And it is interesting to me to hear the clamor of voices from all over calling for this flag to be removed. Your reasoning and your wonderful, heart-wrenching poetic tribute, for example, are valid and moving, but, ultimately, it is for the people of South Carolina. When Mitt Romney out nowhere (or somewhere in Utah) calls for the removal of the flag, I have to wonder what his motivation is, as do I wonder about Gov. Jindall and others. Even SC Gov. Haley’s actions are somewhat odd in that it is the prerogative of the general assembly. She is prohibitied from running again, and, as an immigrant hereself, has no real appreciation of the history. Of course, in India, there is caste system into which people are born and from which they are unable to free themselves, so she may have that appreciation. But, when you look deeper, the motivations are mixed and really politics and the votes for 2016 seem to be reasons close cousin to the outrage and empathy elicited over the shootiings. And on the other side the Al Sharptons and others are motivated in similar ways. That same flag in SC was at issue back in the year 2000, and at that time Thomas Sowell, the renowned economist of African heritiage, gave his view on the matter, and 15 years later it still has a ring of truth. To me, that flag is simply a flag, and one which very easily could be taken down and removed from the public square never to offend again. But if it is removed in what to some is a knee-jerk reactionary fashion to a real tragedy, what will be next? Will the expediency of votes be the impetus for seeking the removal of certain passages from the Bibie that are offensive to some people? We can’t say for sure, I know. But, I wonder. Though I may yet end up seeking forgiveness for an arrogant or unsympathetic view, I leave you a link to one persepctive – Thomas Sowell ( http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell012000.asp ) from the year 2000. Please let me know if link doesn’t work and I’ll send you the article directly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s