Mike the Mad Biologist

Over at the News Blog, Steve Gilliard links to a post about the idiocy of a public high school in Kentucky that is displaying a Confederate flag* in the school cafeteria (Kentucky was never a Confederate state: eastern Kentucky, in particular, was staunchly pro-Union). In the comments at the News Blog, one commenter left an excellent reminder of what ‘the Unpleasantness Between the States’ [/snark> was really about (italics mine):

Why the hell are we flying flags from the Confederacy? Have we forgotten what the Civil War was?

During the Civil War nearly 200,000 men died in action, more than half a million died as a consequence of the war, and over 400,000 were wounded–many permanently disfigured and crippled by missing limbs–all because the South demanded slavery be allowed not only to remain, but to grow and expand throughout the nation.

Under this flag, millions of lives were utterly ruined because some people believed were not only legally entitled to own and rape and mutilate and torture and degrade their fellow human beings, but they also believed our nation should EXPAND sanction of this evil practice and they were willing to kill to do it. The adherents of slavery who had already caused untold suffering upon millions of their fellow men, women, and children decided they were willing to kill hundreds of thousands more rather than forfeit their right to own, rape, mutilate, and degrade their fellow human beings.

That flag is the symbol of our nation’s greatest failing, slavery. There has been no mistake in this nation’s history that has caused as much human suffering. I don’t know what’s more shameful: that we as a nation supported and bolstered this indefensible cruelty for so many generations, or that when the time came for us to give it up, a million men who called themselves Americans chose to fight and kill their fellow citizens rather than give up their right to torture their fellow Americans.

If I were in a foreign country and someone hung that flag on the wall, I would take it as a personal insult.

That thing shouldn’t just be taken down, it should be BURNED. It’s an insult to every American, Northern and Southern.

Jesus, if you want to honor “southern tradition,” build a porch, have a lemonade, and go bring a pie to your neighbors.

What I’ve always found puzzling is that the argument on behalf of the Confederate flag always revolves around “southern tradition”, “culture”, “pride”, “way of life”, “history”, or some other hooey. The huge percentage of blacks (between 15-40%) in the antebellum South–and the Jim Crow South too–are completely invisible. Yet how can you think of the South without black people?

So let’s be clear: when these defenders of the American Swastika say “Southern”, they actually mean Southern and white. Blacks, I guess, aren’t ‘real’ Southerners. I guess Ralph Ellison’s estate isn’t going to go broke anytime soon. This is a subtle, but insidious, form of subjugation: the denial of the ‘other’s’ existence. I say, find a Confederate flag and burn it if that’s what it takes to break through their thick skulls.

*To call the Confederate flag “Bars and Stars” is insulting: that was the name of the original flag of the Thirteen Colonies. Anyway, “The American Swastika” is far more catchy.

A related note: If you don’t think the Confederate flag is about race, then why the hell did one of the students refer to the African-American students as colored? Why not call them ‘dusky hued savages’ too? Dear Intelligent Designer.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark
    December 13, 2006

    There is a willful ignorance involved in defense of the confederate symbols. These people ignore the elephant in the room. Except, that is, when they use the confederate battle flag to mean exactly and intentionally what it means: as a symbol of racism.

  2. #2 Jessika
    December 13, 2006

    I live in Oklahoma, and see quite a few of the American Swastikas around every day. (Love that name for it, by the way.) We weren’t a state yet, but many of the Indian tribes signed an alliance with the Confederates and participated with their military efforts.

    You are correct though. I have yet to see an African-American with one on his/her ballcap, or as a sticker on their truck (inevitably all stickers are on pick-up trucks), or on a worn out t-shirt. I loathe the use of it, and don’t like the association with “Southern Pride”.

  3. #3 quitter
    December 13, 2006

    I especially like how the commenter was particularly accurate about the cause of the civil war, which is subtly different from it being just “about slavery.” It wasn’t just slavery but expansion of slavery to newly acquired lands from the Mexican American war. Slavery in the slave states was not at issue, and the states’ rights argument is totally BS because no where is there any evidence from the political battles leading up to the war that anyone was seriously talking about ending slavery in the states. The abolitionists wanted it, sure, but in terms of the political dispute leading to the war it was all about the territories.

    In the southerners view, they had fought in this war, this land was claimed with their blood, and therefore they had a right to occupy it with slaves. Further, sealing off the southern states and surrounding them with free states would lead to the eventual elimination of slavery and they felt it had to expand to survive.

    So, states rights my ass. That’s a flag of hate. And I’m a southerner who lives in the South, and know the types who wave that flag, known them my whole life. 9 out of 10 times, if you get them drunk, you’ll see who they really are – closet racists. About 1 in 10 is just honestly confused and has bought into the bullshit about what that means. Damn traitor flag if you ask me.

  4. #4 Joshua
    December 13, 2006

    Traitor Flag! Too right!

    And yet these are many of the same people who want to call opponents of President Bush “traitors” or “un-American”. Last I checked, we hadn’t attempted to secede from the US.

  5. #5 Andrew Wade
    December 14, 2006

    “*To call the Confederate flag “Bars and Stars” is insulting: that was the name of the original flag of the Thirteen Colonies.”

    It is the first official flag of the Confederacy that is called the “Stars and Bars”. The Confederate battle flag will be what you’re thinking of, it tends to be referred to as the “Southern Cross” rather than the “Stars and Bars”, and is rather different in design than the first official flag of the Confederacy. But “The American Swastika” works for me. Whatever the original meaning of the symbol, it means nothing good around these parts (Toronto).

  6. #6 Clayton
    December 14, 2006

    What I’ve always found puzzling is that the argument on behalf of the Confederate flag always revolves around “southern tradition”, “culture”, “pride”, “way of life”, “history”, or some other hooey.

    So let’s be clear: when these defenders of the American Swastika say “Southern”, they actually mean Southern and white.

    While in many if not most cases this is true. There are notable exceptions. I saw one of these men interviewed he cited the exact things you mentioned “southern tradition”, “culture”, “pride” and so on. If you don’t follow the link I guess I should tell you, he was black. He dressed in a confederate uniform and walk around town carrying the flag and talking to people. It was kinda bizarre. While certainly a minority, they obviously don’t see the flag as an “American Swastika.”

    http://www.thetandd.com/articles/2004/04/07/news/news1.txt
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkmDGfUvHZo

    What the Kentucky school is doing is pretty stupid though.

  7. #7 Mark
    December 14, 2006

    ” …it means nothing good around these parts …”

    What a symbol means to people is its meaning. Despite the fact that the swastika was used as symbology in ancient cultures, and whatever it might have symbolized then (there is a hotel near Albuquerque in New Mexico decorated with swastikas dating from before WW II and the Nazis), the swastika means Naziism today. And the same is true of the confederate battle flag. Whatever it might have meant to anyone at any time in the past, today it means rasism, because that’s what it means to virtually everyone who knows anything about it.

  8. #8 Christensens Clones
    December 15, 2006

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  9. #9 Christensen Clones
    December 15, 2006

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  10. #10 Christensens Clones
    December 15, 2006

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  11. #11 skunqesh
    December 15, 2006

    Krispy Klone! you’re not alone!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messianic_complex

  12. #12 llewelly
    December 15, 2006

    I think I’m being blocked …

    By your own fumbling fingers no less.
    But never fear. You overcame your weakness. Your vile and pitiful delusions are on display for all.

  13. #13 Blackgenocide com
    December 16, 2006

    Stop by and find out who the real NAZIS are!

  14. #14 Becca
    May 21, 2008

    It’s definitely about as tasteful as a swastika. I do know particular individuals who use both decorations and who were not particularly racist… but it still makes me wince. Particularly the ones on the back of pickup trucks (for the record, I am not of the opinion any flag belongs on the back of a truck).

    It’s interesting you think of Kentucky as leaning pro-Union; one of the things that really struck me as odd (despite *knowing*, intellectually, what Gettysburg meant) was passing the Mason-Dixon line in southern Pa on the way to Maryland. It makes me wonder if perhaps although we speak of “the north” and “the south”, the alliances truly weren’t solid blocks of geographically continguious like-minded people, particularly in these parts.

    I think framing the civil war as “entirely about the expansion of slavery” isn’t quite as awful as saying WWI was “entirely about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand”… but it’s not really accurate either. It’s a lie-to-children. I agree that the “states rights” argument has a definite slimy after-the-fact rationalization feel, but I cannot tell whether I would think differently if the people putting forth that argument didn’t strike me as having a vested interest in rationalizing slavery along with the rest of it.

  15. #15 Alex
    January 20, 2009

    That is nothing but a lie. Literally single digits of the Southern population owned slaves. Slavery hurt the overwhelming majority of white and free black Southerners. It cost them jobs, thus money, which totally undermined their financial quality of life. Of course that can carry right over to physical quality as well. For example, you have a bad crop and can not pay all your bills/taxes so you lose your family farm. Now you’re homeless in an age where there was no Red Cross, Salvation Army etc to help.

    Then there is the real fact that slavery was going no where. Abe Lincoln said so in his first inaugural speech. In fact it gets far more sinister than that. In his first inaugural speech he openly gave his -okay- for a 13th amendment (which passed Congress two days earlier) to become “irrevocable”…what did this amendment intend to do? Well, it simply was to protect slavery and most of all its right to expand for all time to come. God, I am sick after reading this history revisionism about freeing slaves and that all Southerners had them etc. It is all lies and myths aimed only to make the United State’s actions of brutally invading the Confederacy and committing horrific acts against civilians ‘legitimate’

    If it was about freeing slaves why did Lincoln call the Emancipation Proclamation a mere “war measure”? Why did it not even cover the whole Confederacy? Yes, it specifically exempted large areas in Virginia and the whole State of Tennessee. Why did it not take effect until halfway through the war? Why didn’t the 13th amendment destroying slavery become Constitutional Law until half a year after the wars end?! Why was it not even -in the works- until almost wars end? Hardly a war to end slavery.

  16. #16 steve jungers
    February 4, 2009

    Innocent human beings actually see the swastika spinning clockwise in the center of their field of vision 24/7 everyday of their lives. Molest that. The swastika is the original symbol of a higher intelligence. Just look what we have done to it. Just look how we have hated it. Hitler was probably the biggest jerk that ever lived. Thanks to Hitler, a very dumbed down humanity now views the swastika as trash. That feeling of despair that we all have is a result of this root human misunderstanding. I have seen the swastika since 1989, spinning away everyday in the center of my field of vision. My soul is so damaged by the common misunderstandings of this subject that I must consider myself to be of no consequence. If people only knew. The Hopi Indians seem to have known….