Sunday, June 21, 2015

You lost. Get over it.

It's been more than 150 years since Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia lost the Battle of Appomattox Court House and ended the Civil War, but it appears there are still Southerners who haven't figured that out. The state of South Carolina, for example, persists in flying the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the state capitol grounds. Why?

The whole obsession with the battle flag has always puzzled me. Even before I learned that Bedford Forrest and the Ku Klux Klan revived it as a symbol meant to strike fear in the hearts of former slaves during Reconstruction, I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to brag about being on the losing side of history when it came to an issue like chattel slavery. What kind of mental gymnastics does it take to convince yourself that your great great grandfather died fighting for some noble cause when that noble cause was to preserve human bondage?

Actually, I know the answer to that one: states' rights. Every time the subject of the war come up, someone waving a battle flag will start blathering on about states' rights while conveniently forgetting that the right the Confederates wanted to preserve was the right to keep slaves. The states that wrote declarations of secession all were explicit in naming the right to keep slaves as their motivation. So did the individual state constitutions. As I wrote in a post back in February, there was absolutely no doubt back in the 1860s as to what motivated the secessionists to secede.

Nonetheless, every time the subject of removing the flag comes up from public places where it's still proudly displayed, people persist in ignoring its actual history. Is it really that difficult to admit that past generations, people's parents or grandparents, were racist assholes but we're now living in more enlightened times? There's always a lot of blathering about a "glorious cause" and Southern pride. What the heck is there to be proud of in committing an act of treason because you want to keep people in chains? And then to insist on wrapping yourself in a flag that was the preferred symbol of the Ku Klux Klan? You might as well be walking around wearing a tee-shirt proclaiming "I'm racist as hell."

In short, it's long past time for South Carolina to jettison some of its more unsavory baggage. Whether they will, though, is doubtful. If anything, it's probable the nation-wide pressure on the state to remove the flag will just cause enough of the legislators to dig in their heels to prevent it from coming down. The war may have ended in April 1865, but some people still don't want to admit they lost.  

3 comments:

  1. The problem is that the Confederacy did not lose the war, they won, as this article points out: http://weeklysift.com/2014/08/11/not-a-tea-party-a-confederate-party/

    The article says if you thinkin terms of "1815" and end the war in 1865, the Confederacy lost but if you think in terms of Iraq or Afghanistan and go to the end of reconstruction in 1877, the Confederacy won. America, and especially the Blacks, has been paying the price ever since.

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