Saturday, September 24, 2005

Confederate Flag Brouhaha

(Forgive me if this post is off-kilter. I just spent 45 minutes typing the original post, only to lose it without saving-- AAAAAAAGHHH! It will be impossible to capture the original spirit of the post, but I will try, because I love you, and because I'm so darn stubborn.)

Thank you, The State for demonstrating the way that the whole argument over the Confederate flag has become ridiculous.

For starters, the flag over which they are fighting is not the Confederate Flag, it is the Confederate battle flag. The first flag of the Confederacy looked surprisingly like the flag of the United States. It had 3 red and white stripes, representing the 3 states of the Confederacy that were original states in the United States, and a blue background in the corner with stars representing all Confederate states. Check it out:

The Confederate battle flag, which most people know, was only created later to avoid confusion on the battlefield caused by the similarities between the Union and Confederate flags. The First National Flag of the Confederacy is a much less divisive emblem, and one which (shamefully) many of the "proud southerners" claiming to want to honor the memory of their Confederate ancestors would not even recognize. Consider yourself better educated than more than half of our legislators and most of the writers for The State.

Now to the Sons of Confederate Veterans...

It is a fact that the Confederate battle flag was raised over the South Carolina State House during the height of the Civil Rights movement as a slap in the face of social progressivism and the movement for racial equality. The battle flag has been emblazoned on the bumper stickers, t-shirts, and tattooed arms of loud and proud southerners for decades. Often, it accompanies some sort of racist slogan like, "I Wish I'd Picked My Own Damn Cotton." Ironically, the ancestors of most of these rednecks most probably did pick their own cotton, as it is likely to be a miniscule few descended from the plantation class. Don't get me wrong-- I myself descended from a long line of southerners who picked their own cotton and tobacco and whose only whipping post was the occasional misbehaving son or daughter. But I'm not inviting public scrutiny into the possible hypocrisy of my racist declarations when compared to the reality of my lineage.

It is a fact that the Confederate battle flag, however noble its origins, is now a symbol that inspires mixed reactions among Americans. While it is a symbol that our Confederate ancestors honored, it has since been hijacked by racists and bigots, in addition to the few Confederate descendants who are genuinely wanting to honor their ancestors. The United Daughters of the Confederacy uses the First National Flag of the Confederacy in its insignia, and in so doing has avoided the whole "heritage vs. hate" dichotomy. Why must the Sons of Confederacy march carrying the Confederate battle flag when there is an option with fewer negative connotations?

My ancestors fought under the banner of the Confederate battle flag. They also stood teary-eyed, gazing proudly on the first national flag of the country they were defending. I feel no betrayal in my choice to honor the flag that more purely represents the ideals on which the Confederacy was founded-- the ideals my ancestors held so dear. If I can honor them and honor my heritage without bringing up in others reminders of the fear, anxiety, and horror of racism, then I am willing to do so. That best exemplifies the Christian compassion I'd like to think my ancestors would have wanted for me. The fact that the SCV cannot see this, and in so doing, is driving away the less-radical descendents of Confederate Veterans is sad. It simply promotes the popular misconception that all who honor their southern heritage are stubborn, narrow-minded, uneducated, backwoods rednecks masking their racism under the guise of historical preservation. I want no part of that.

Shame on The State for promoting ignorance, and shame on the Sons of Confederate Veterans for putting obstinant "tradition" above the best interests of the organization.

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