Friday, July 3, 2015

Yes, the continuing debate can be tiresome but it needs to go on until it is done

I am a white, middle-aged woman. I lived through desegregation and the Civil Rights movements, and even then I could see the white, middle-aged, heterosexual, Christian men, making up the nation's power base were afraid. I see it again now. There hasn't been this much fear in the right-wing since the Jim Crow laws were struck down. Except, of course, when our first African American president was elected.

 Slavery was abolished after the Civil War, women got the vote, and gay marriage has been legalized. Those were good steps but all too often white right wingers try to pull the teeth from any freedom not directly serving them. They find it impossible to believe or accept that no one race, creed or gender orientation is better than another. They refuse to give up the premise of white manifest destiny...the ideology that allowed them to push Native Americans from their lands...but I'm here to talk about symbols.
Yes, the continuing debate over the Confederate flag can be tiresome but it needs to go on. You can't stop the fight until change is accomplished for the greater good.
Let's start with the Nazi flag. According to the Holocaust encyclopedia, 'The swastika symbol was used 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia.'
Yet you won't find the Nazi flag flying in Germany these days. Why? Because Hitler and the Nazi's turned it into such a symbol of hate and oppression that it sickens us to look at it. It is not flown as another way to honor Jews and all those killed under the regime. The red flag with the black hooked cross on a white disc, once a positive symbol was bastardized during WWII and will always be connected with horrific Nazi ideology and deeds.

Likewise the Confederate flag has become a symbol of racism at its worst. It is a reminder that we once considered it acceptable to enslave other humans. To this day, it is often employed to represent discrimination and the hatred of non-whites. So it doesn't really matter if you had relatives who fought for the south. Those who fought for the south should not be honored any more than those who fought for Hitler. Were all Nazi soldiers bad? Of course not - just as all southern soldiers weren't slave holders. 
I was born and raised in southwest Missouri. Those below the Mason-Dixon line consider me a northerner. Most of the other states consider me a southerner or close enough. People from my state had relatives fighting on both sides of the war. As a kid I was entranced by stories of Antebellum plantations and imagined wearing a hoop skirt like Scarlett O'Hara while saying, "fiddle-dee-dee."
But that was a child's view, maturity and watching the fight over desegregation forced me to realize it didn't matter if slavery was the sole cause for southern succession or not. If freedom from slavery was the end result then it was the most important factor.
If that wasn't bad enough, however, let's get to another reason why the Confederate flag is to be despised. From the moment the surrender was signed at Appomattox, southern bigots took their discrimination and exploitation of African Americans to increasing extremes. Throughout the 50's, 60's, and 70's the US government was required to send troops to strike down Jim Crow laws and to enforce desegregation. I am old enough to remember this rampant bigotry. I saw signs for 'white' and 'colored' only signs at gas stations in the south. I watched the nightly news showing footage of rabid looking white southerns shouting slurs and mobbing fellow American citizens to prevent them from eating in restaurants, drinking from a water fountains, or entering schools based solely on their race. 
The Confederacy started by white men who believed they'd a right to own another human. The flag is carried by the KKK, by Neo-Nazi's as a symbol for white supremacy. This is why its irrevocably connected to racism. This is why it should be removed from public view.

Cry heritage all you want, you won't convince anyone who doesn't already share your myopic view. So yes, slavery and discrimination is why the Confederate flag should be abhorred and why this symbol should be removed from products. It's why television shows featuring the flag shouldn't be aired. Yes, I'd like to see all monuments to Confederate soldiers be removed from public and put in museums. Street names honoring Confederate soldiers should also be changed. We don't name streets Hitler Ave., Grand Wizard of KKK Blvd, or Bigot Street. That would offend us. So why should African American citizens have addresses like Stonewall Jackson or Robert E Lee?

If you still can't understand the need for change...if you must keep your flag of hatred - well, you're an American. You have the freedom of expression as long as it doesn't infringe on another person's personal freedoms. So feel free to hang it proudly in your dining room, wrap yourself tightly in the warmth of its cloth to sleep, or put it in your closet and pray to it daily. Your choice.
Don't, however, offend those who believe in true equality by forcing the sight on those who suffered under it. The flag doesn't only offend the ancestors of slaves but it hurts those who are forced to continually fight for equality.
Publicly removing this flag, giving up re-runs of the Dukes of Hazards television show, and renaming streets honoring those who fought to keep slavery is small potatoes to what our African American citizens have put up with throughout years of intolerance and injustice. It wasn't as if the Africans chose to come here. We sought them out, captured them, and forced them to be packed on ships like sardines. They were sold, beaten, raped, and forced to give up their religion and customs at the landowners whim.
Then when the Union won the Civil War and abolished slavery, white racists made their lives a living hell. They are still suffering rampant racism.
Taking down this flag from public view is a small thing in comparison. It is way past time to recognize Manifest destiny for white, conservative, heterosexual Christians is over. 

1 comment:

  1. You ascribe the ills of the world in a very cavalier manner to "white, conservative, heterosexual Christians" which you lump together as the "Right". Interesting.

    However, socialism is the ideology of the Left and it was the National Socialists in Germany (the Nazis) who perpetrated the heinous crimes of the Holocaust. These crimes were exceeded only by the international socialists, the Communists, again the ideology of the Left.

    Now, let's look to your assertion that "Christians" tormented blacks with slavery and racism. Yes, the Democrats who fought for slavery, then used Jim Crow laws, terror (the KKK), and legal legerdemain (poll taxes, literacy tests, and even marriage licenses) to subjugate freed slaves, were self-described Christians. But then, so were the Republicans who formed a party for the sole purpose of ending slavery, fought a Civil War to preserve he Union and end slavery, fought Jim Crow Laws, and passed the Civil Rights Act. This does leave us with a perplexing problem. Did Christianity have anything to do with it?

    Conservatives? Again interesting. You belie your prejudice by throwing out this accusation. Conservatives of late have been focused strictly on reducing the size of government, fiscal responsibility, and preserving Constitutionally guaranteed liberties for all individuals regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

    Now we are left with a flag, invented by Democrats to represent the cause of slavery that they championed. Personally, I am opposed to any and all public displays of the Confederate battle flag, especially in any context that would cause people to believe that it is sanctioned by government or decent people in general. However, as an expression of an individual right of free speech, even when it demonstrates the idiocy of the individual displaying it, I would not object. Indeed, I appreciate those who identify themselves as idiots. It makes them easier to spot. We do the same with Nazis who are allowed to dress up in WWII ear uniforms and march under the Nazi banner.

    The truth is that this who ruckus began with a tragedy that had nothing to do with the Confederate battle flag. Now, instead of applying our energy to solving the issues of violent behavior, we waste time arguing over the Stars and Bars. What a waste...