Ever since the tragic, criminal shooting of nine people at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, I have been holding my tongue.
When the shooter was arrested in North Carolina, I kept silent.
When it was said that he’d stated he wanted to fire the first shots in a race war, I kept silent.
When he was shown in photographs waving a Confederate “Battle Flag”, posing at Confederate history sites, burning and stepping on an American flag, and wearing a jacket with flags of pre-apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, I kept silent.
When a racist and hate-filled “manifesto” was published on the Internet, I kept silent.
Even when a board member of the National Rifle Association blamed the pastor of the church, who had served as a State Senator, for this horror by voting against a measure that would have allowed firearms in churches, day care centers, and other public places in South Carolina, I kept silent.
It wasn’t easy, but I kept silent.
But when the discussion turned to the matter of a Confederate flag flying over a war memorial in the state capitol, and how it was not being lowered to half staff, while the U.S. and State flags were, and how people were defending the “Southern Cross” flag (for so the actual name of that battle flag is, not “stars and bars”) as a symbol of Southern heritage and the valor of Confederate troops during the Civil War, that did it. I had to speak up, and put my two drachmas in.
I have spent some time researching the history and symbology of the flag in question, and the mindset of the people who venerate it as the symbol of the “Lost Cause”.
I will be answering some of the “talking points” they brought up as thoroughly as I can.
And, just in case someone questions my credentials to do so, we have recently found through a combination of DNA and genealogical research that my biological father, whom I never met (since he left before I was born), was a collateral descendant of Robert Edward Lee of Virginia, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America. While on my mother’s side, I am related to several known Canadian and American patriots, some of whom fought in the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, a/k/a “The Rough Riders”, in the Spanish-American War, and who volunteered in the First and Second World Wars. In fact, I lost an uncle in the Korean Conflict, about two weeks before the Treaty of Panmunjom.
So you can’t say I don’t have “a dog in this fight”; I have one on both sides.
First of all, it was NOT “The War of Northern Aggression”; the states that seceded from the Union were refusing to abide by the Constitution of the United States, and were trying to selectively “nullify” (their words) actions of the Congress as a whole that they disagreed with. Prominent among these laws were tariffs which these states saw as a threat to their ability to profit from their system of slave labor.
Here is an interesting side note to the whole business… If Eli Whitney, a Northerner, had not invented the cotton gin, the economics of cotton growing would not have been sustainable, and neither would the slave economy.
The accusations are that the Civil War was not about slavery, but the economy of the South. It was about the economics of maintaining the system of slavery that maintained the aristocracy of plantation owners.
The Confederate battle flag is being held up as a symbol of the Southern Heritage, and the valor of the fighting men who championed the cause of “state’s rights” and “state sovereignity”, and as a symbol of the gentlemanly virtues of the antebellum South.
This flag was and is a symbol, without a doubt… a symbol of slavery, of treason, and of hatred. It was a “quaint” reminder of the losing side before the 1940’s, but also used as an intimidating force to those who tried to exercise the rights they had gained from the War and the Constitutional amendments immediately following. In 1948, the “Dixiecrat” party of disaffected Southern Democrats tried to splinter the Democratic Party in a Presidential election year, unless the nominee, Harry Truman, capitulated to their pro-segregationalist ideas. The Confederate flag, as we know it (the “Battle Flag”) was one of their symbols.
The upsurge of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s also saw the use of the Battle Flag, the burning cross, and the lynching tree as their symbols of maintaining the “power” of white men in the South. Noted Southern politicians such as George C. Wallace of Alabama and J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (the “Dixiecrat” candidate in 1948) used the flag for their own purposes, being virulently anti-Federal interventionists, pro-segregationists, and supporters of the doctrines of “nullification”, “secession”, and even out-and-out disobedience to the laws of the land, as written by the Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court.
And there are still those who reject the realities of the Twenty-First Century, and wish for the comfortable lies of the Nineteenth… those who believe the “Yankees” are out to “get them”, those who believe that the War never ended, and who still want to fight to establish their Utopia.
It’s unfortunate that no amount of reason will make these people see the truth. Their heads are stuck so far up their denial that even calling them Cleopatra is an understatement.
I should be writing more.
This is something I do not dispute.
Now there’s an incentive for me to write more… The Clarion Writers Workshop, which moved from Michigan State University in East Lansing to the University of California San Diego within the past few years, is holding their sixth Clarion Write-a-Thon. They explain it using the walkathon model as an example; the more steps toward a goal that the writer gets, the higher total of pledges the writer piles up to go to charity.
My Beautiful Wife, who holds a much higher opinion of my writing talent than I do, has convinced me to sign up to participate in this endeavor; I have set myself a goal of 75 script pages completed by the end of the period – 22 June to 1 August.
For your part, I ask that you go to the site, Clarion Write-a-Thon, and pledge something to my account. If you pledge fifty cents a page, and I complete all 75 pages I have undertaken to do, you would be donating $37.50 to charity.
Not an exorbitant amount, right?
You are free to pledge any amount you wish, and there are a choice of 69 authors (so far), including myself, who have signed up. If you don’t want to pledge for me, then maybe there’s another you do want to pledge to.
Hey, I’m easy.
Just do this, okay? Thanks.