Jan 23, 2009

Is it just a symbol?

"It's a Southern thing. You wouldn't understand".

Every time I talk about the issue of the Confederate flag being raised in a seemingly celebratory manner on public land the discussion usually ends with this statement made by the proponent of the symbol. All parties agree to disagree and our merry way we go.

I've never understood the love for the flag at all. This probably should come as a surprise to no one as I'm not southern, have little ties to land, and have a limited education on it's history other than war, slavery, etc. Besides a few visits to the region I've never been that immersed in the culture nor the lifestyle. Besides once dating a Southerner (yes the accent is hot) any claim to know the mind of one would be a lie.

Now that I got that out of the way.....

Few symbols such as the Confederate flag have sparked controversy for so long. The debate on whether it should be held on public land at the expense of taxpayers, or if it should be flown at all, varies. A lot see the flag as a symbol of hate. They see the stars and bars and are immediately reminded of our dark history of slavery, racism, and all things associated with people who wear pointy sheets.

Honestly that's not my first reaction to the flag. My opposition to the flag has little to do with the region's history on slavery. When I first gaze upon it I think of a nation that seceded from the Union. They were at one time enemies of the Constitution, it's process, it's government, and it's people that swore to protect it. That initial gut reaction makes me believe that this symbol should not be celebrated in any way.

That being said we should never forget that part of our history so a bit of me wants it as a reminder to all that even though our system can be a great one at times it can also fail on a massive scale. Congress' failure to debate the slavery issue, even going so far as to ban talk of it on the floor, is just one example. I'm sure there are many out there that only associate the flag with Bo Duke, which scares me to no end.

Many argue that the Confederate flag is just a symbol and shouldn't be taken so seriously. Of course everyone says that until they see a swastika being spray painted on a synagogue or a burning cross on the lawn of a NAACP member. Symbols have a way of resonating deep emotions especially when used in a manner they feel is promoted by their own government.

Sure I'll never understand the mindset of someone who appreciates the Confederate flag being flown next to Old Glory, or in any manner actually. You would think any argument for it's display would be made by only Southerners, but I can assure you that's not the case. Many Northeners disagree with me and buy into the romance of the rebellion. All of them, strangely enough, claim to have a love and/or respect for our Constitution, but will gladly support the flag of a nation that was once it's enemy.

Romanticism of a past that may or may not have actually existed is something I can wrap my head around, but I'll be damned before I give the flag any acknowledgement other than a history lesson. If preserving culture was that paramount I'm sure there are many things people in the South should be proud of and want Northerners to learn (yes beyond those sexy accents). Having that flag waved around though does them no service and keeps perpetuating the war as the first thing we think of when looking at the area's history.

Now granted if someone wants to raise the flag on their lawns or in the back of their imported pick up trucks I'm okay with it. I may not like the symbol, but it's a free country and the First Amendment protects your right to do that. A right, I might add, that many have died for. Enjoy it by all means. Private displays are one thing. Public displays supported by taxpayers, especially when the image is included in state flags, is another. A nation that makes any attempt to destroy the foundation of our Republic deserves no celebration by our government.

It is a Southern thing indeed and it's something I'll never understand. In a lot of way I'm grateful for that.

"The flag that was the symbol of slavery on the high seas for a long time was not the Confederate battle flag, it was sadly the Stars and Stripes." - Alan Keyes


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm Canadian and my direct ancestors were basically serfs under a feudal lord. When I see that flag all I see is the General Lee and then Daisy Duke. You see where I'm going right? That accent is totally hot.

Kelli said...

As one of many G.R.I.T.S.-- that means Girls Raised In The South, I have to defend the Confederate flag. When I look at it, I am reminded of a time when the South was gentile and so were the people who lived there. We were a group of people that stood up when we disagreed with the masses and succeeded from the Union. You have to admire the courage it took to do that. Although, you've made it clear that you don't-- even though, America was founded on people forming their own governmental system. You don't hear me complaining that the Hawaii state flag has a Union Jack on it.

The guys with "the pointy white hats" did not use the Confederate flag as their symbol they used a variation of an iron cross inside a circle (http://www.adl.org/hate_symbols/groups_kkk.asp).

Kelli said...

Okay ... one more thing ... just so you know, the flag that you are referring to is not the "Stars and Bars"- it had three stripes and 7 stars and resembled the US Flag ... the flag you are referring to is the "Battle Flag of Northern Virginia"- it wasn't created until later and 6 more stars were added. You can read about the history here ... http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/Confederate_Flag.htm

Also, I meant to mention before ... I once owned that bikini. And yes, our accents are sexy.

Anonymous said...

awe.. I need to come back to the blog world!

SW ;)

Pablo G said...

Yes, Southern accents (Southern Belles) are incredibly sexy.

Mattbear said...

Educated southern accents are sexy. "Why Mr. Perkins, I didn't know y'all were going to be at the cotillion!"

Uneducated southern accents make me want to punch the owner, regardless of gender. "Ya'ant to git down the store an git me some marlboras?"

There is a big difference between the two.

For certain people from the south, the Confederate flag is (ironically) a symbol of personal freedom...doing it your own way, being a rebel. It's an attitude rooted more in the beat-down of the Reconstruction rather than the Civil War itself, so those people aren't tieing it to slavery and the Civil War so much as a general feeling of being the underdog and having to fight for yourself and what you believe in.

It's a question of perception, and somewhat selective memory.

The southerners who support the flag don't want to think about slavery, racism, and all that. (and if you think racism wasn't a bigger problem in the south than the north after the war, listen to MLK's "I have a Dream" speech. He bitches about Mississipi and Alabama, not New York or Wisconsin. And I think the man knew a thing or two about racism in this country)

The northerners don't want to admit (and often weren't educated about) the damage done to the south after the war. (And if you think higher poverty and illiteracy rates and less education in the south - to this day - are a problem of their own doing, you haven't studied enough about the Reconstruction)

-Mattbear, born southern, raised northern, and hates the Confederate flag, even though he likes Dukes of Hazzard.