I had planned to write about today’s 6/3 Supreme Court ruling that basically guarantees that Obamacare won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. At least not until people realize how basically broken it still is and we go to single payer. But I can sum up my feelings on that with this.
So instead of that, I’m going to dive right in on the Confederate flag thingy.
As we all know, it’s a very popular image throughout the south; or at least it was as of two weeks ago. Now it’s rather rapidly retreating into history, rather like the Army of the Confederacy itself.
I’ve always thought it very weird that people, and for that matter, state governments, would fly the flag of a rebel army that lost a war against our country over 150 years ago. It just never made any real sense to me. I’ve always regarded people like Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin, “Stonewall” Jackson, and others, as traitors to the United States. These were men who fought for a hideous and evil cause; that of preserving slavery.
Now is when the defenders of the south will cry out, “No! It was about heritage! It was about preserving states’ rights! It was about a way of life that was held sacred!” Yes, it was about those things. It was about a heritage of slavery, the right of states to set their own laws about slavery, and a way of life that centered on slavery. And that slavery was racially-based. This was, in every way possible, a war to preserve slavery and racism. It was an evil war with an evil goal.
Lest you doubt me, allow me to present the Mississippi Declaration of Secession, wherein they laid out the reasons they were leaving the Union. Here’s paragraph two.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
The people back in 1861 knew what they were fighting for. So keep that in the back of your mind as we continue on here.
The Confederate battle flag, and indeed all the symbols of the Confederacy, is a racist emblem that’s designed to evoke a past where blacks were property and slavery was the order of the day. If you fly it, I will reach the not-entirely-unjustified conclusion that you are a racist asshole.
Now maybe you fly it because your great-great grandpappy fought for the Army of Northern Virginia and you feel some pride in this. Let me remind you of two things. One: It’s really fucking weird to take any pride in something that you had nothing to do with. Two: Your great-great grandpappy fought to defend slavery and racism.
For those of you who continue to dismiss how damaging it still is to fly this flag, I want you to try to imagine something. Try to picture yourself just as you are now, but black and living in the South. You leave your home (at the intersection of Robert E Lee Blvd and Stonewall Jackson Avenue), for work in the morning (a home that’s likely in a neighborhood that’s mostly black, and probably fairly poor), drive to work on the Jefferson Davis Highway, past your city’s Confederate War Memorial (does it have a civil rights memorial? Probably not), past the state capitol building, which proudly flies the Confederate Battle Flag just a bit higher than the other flags (including your state flag, which has the Confederate flag incorporated into it), and finally you arrive at your job at Nathan Bedford Forrest Elementary School.
I don’t know about you, but if I were a black person under those circumstances, I’d start to get the impression that maybe I wasn’t welcome.
Now the next thing I’m going to say might piss off a few people, but, fuck it, when have I ever really worried about that? So here we go: The Confederate Battle Flag is equal to, and has the same basic symbolic meaning, as this flag:
Now it’s true that the South didn’t engage in a massive, organized genocide that set out to kill black people. No, instead they destroyed cultures, separated families, and did not, in fact, engage in mass-murder of blacks, but only because that would have made it hard to force them into slave labor; something the Nazis did with Jews and others.
There is no fundamental difference between the Nazi flag and the Confederate flag. Both are symbols of evil intent and evil deeds. Yes, some good men fought for “their country” on the side of the Confederacy, but the “good German” concept is alive and well, and I’m sure many people would say, “Yes, my uncle fought in the Wehrmacht, but he wasn’t an actual Nazi! I mean, yeah, he joined the party, but it’s what you did back then!”
Take that example I cited above and instead picture a Jewish person living in Germany, with all the above names and symbols replaced with Nazi ones and tell me that wouldn’t be terrible. Tell me that the government shouldn’t remove all that stuff. The Confederate symbolism is the same.
The South lost the war. They lost. They lost it 150 years ago, and putting it behind them is the best, most healthy thing they could do for themselves. Finally putting a stake in the heart of the romantic struggle is the best thing that could ever happen. I hope this has finally done that, and for those of you still longing for that great ante belleum past, please keep in mind what you’re really longing for is a day when whites owned blacks, and racism was the rule of the day.