i-5ad6261606fc18cd8c9636b8b7b0f66c-hangconfflag.jpgAs art or as political statement, I have no beef with the installation shown here. It is an artwork produced by John Sims entitled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”

Neo-Confederates disagree. The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science refused a request to remove the artwork:

The request was made by Bob Hurst, commander of the Tallahassee camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Hurst said the exhibit violated a Florida law that makes it illegal to “mutilate, deface, defile or contemptuously abuse” the Confederate flag. The law includes an exemption for decorative or patriotic purposes, but Mr. Hurst said Mr. Sims?s work was not art.

The Confederate flag represents the history of racism and slavery that continue to haunt American society. Never mind the free speech issue, setting a symbol of a failed rebellion outside the realm of public debate and display serves only to defend and aggrandize the horrific harm done to this nation by people who used that flag as a rallying point for racism and brutal slaughter of their fellow women and men in battle and in cotton fields.

I don’t know why it is, but I often feel like, regardless of who won on the battlefield, the Confederacy somehow managed to win the war of ideas. The concept of antebellum nobility, the genteel Southern lifestyle defended in sovereign states is a myth, and a harmful one. States certainly are entitled to wide latitude regarding internal affairs, and can serve as useful testbeds while a national consensus forms.

There was never a testbed on slavery. The South would never permit a state to freely reject slavery, and that refusal bred Bloody Kansas and ultimately the Civil War. Our concept of antebellum Southern gentility is equally fictional, concocted by novelists and movies. For a century after slavery’s official abolishment, slavery’s legacy persisted with just enough changes to avoid federal interference. It nearly took another bloody war to finish that job.

The scars of two centuries of institutional racism still fester, however hard we try to mask the stench with sugar magnolias and mint juleps. The Confederacy and the idea of the Confederacy richly deserve to be buried. As Tacitus wrote: “Traitors and deserters they hang upon trees.”


  1. #1 Mike Silverman
    March 17, 2007

    I don’t know why it is, but I often feel like, regardless of who won on the battlefield, the Confederacy somehow managed to win the war of ideas.

    That is because they did. Check out this map.

    And although the makeup of the House and Senate have changed since then, it still seems like the South has way too much of an undue influence on America. We should have let them secede. Then the rest of the US would be more like Canada and the CSA would be a third-world country.

  2. #2 Colugo
    March 17, 2007

    It’s long past time to trash the Confederate flag, emblem of sedition and slavery, and the heritage of the Confederacy itself. “Heritage not hate”? Rather, hate the heritage.

    Confederacy revisionism is a bipartisan problem.

    Wikipedia page on George Allen:

    “Allegedly, Allen has displayed the Confederate flag, in some way, from 1967 to 2000. Allen wore a Confederate flag pin for his high school senior class photo. He displayed a Confederate flag in his family’s living room until 1992. Allen has stated that the flag was a part of a collection of flags. In 1993, Allen’s first statewide TV campaign ad for governor included a Confederate flag. … Allen has confirmed that the pin in his high school yearbook was a Confederate flag. …
    In 1995, 1996, and 1997, Allen proclaimed April as Confederate History and Heritage Month and called the Civil War “a four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights.” The proclamation did not mention slavery…”

    Jim Webb, speech at the Confederate Memorial

    “And so I am here, with you today, to remember. And to honor an army that rose like a sudden wind out of the little towns and scattered farms of a yet unconquered wilderness. … That returned to a devastated land and a military occupation. That endured the bitter humiliation of Reconstruction …
    I am not here to apologize for why they fought, although modern historians might contemplate that there truly were different perceptions in the North and South about those reasons, and that most Southern soldiers viewed the driving issue to be sovereignty rather than slavery. …
    Perhaps all of us might reread the writings of Alexander Stephens, a brilliant attorney who opposed secession but then became Vice President of the Confederacy, making a convincing legal argument that the constitutional compact was terminable. And who wryly commented at the outset of the war that “the North today presents the spectacle of a free people having gone to war to make freemen of slaves, while all they have as yet attained is to make slaves of themselves.””

  3. #3 Colugo
    March 17, 2007

    Come to think of it, Webb was still a Republican when he made that speech. In any case, the hell with the Confederate flag.

    Movie recommendation: Glory (1989)

  4. #4 Mike Haubrich
    March 18, 2007

    I have always had a hard time with the concept of the glorification of the confederate flag. It is the standard carried by traitors.

    They believe that they are the vanguards of freedom, and yet these states fought a war to destroy the constitution of the country they had agreed to form four score and seven years before.

    As far as I am concerned, if the suthun states still want to secede, they can.

  5. #5 Roy
    March 18, 2007

    It took me years to find out that when southerners talk about ‘the romance of the south’, they mean they wish they had their slaves back. Ironic, that, since if slavery were reinstated, only the rich would have slaves, and the wistful ones would be poor white trash trying to compete with unpaid slaves.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    March 18, 2007

    Mike Haubrich writes:

    They believe that they are the vanguards of freedom, and yet these states fought a war to destroy the constitution of the country they had agreed to form four score and seven years before.

    But that’s not how they saw it Mike. They argued that it wasn’t they who were revolutionary, but the Northerners. The Constitution at the start of the War clearly did not outlaw slavery, the Founders hoping it would eventually die a natural death (even Lincoln said in the beginning he wasn’t out to outlaw slavery where it already existed). They saw the North’s efforts to curb it (e.g. by bringing in more anti-slavery states and refusing to back Fugitive Slave laws) as anti-Constitutional. Even the Supreme Court agreed that not only did he North not have the right to suppress slavery in the South, they really didn’t have that right it in the North either. The South were the ones defending the Constitution in the wake of Northern aggression, or so they argued. Whether you or I would buy this argument or not is a different story.

  7. #7 Mike the Mad Biologist
    March 18, 2007

    Don’t hang the Confederate flag, burn it.

  8. #8 Oldfart
    March 18, 2007

    When I was a young boy in upstate New York, the Confederate flag was a symbol of REBELLION. It had nothing to do with slavery. Rebels carried the flag and what young boy worthy of his salt was not a rebel? People revere the confederate flag for many reasons. Only politically correct and closet racists would feel guilty enough to attempt to ban it.
    It is a part of American history, whether you like it or not.

    I’m also amused by the PC people who think that the War of the Secession was about slavery.

  9. #9 quitter
    March 18, 2007

    It was just a matter of time before some moron showed up to deny the link between slavery and the civil war. Talk about closet racism. These old canards always show up in these discussions, like “slaves in the US weren’t treated badly”, and “it was a war of Northern Aggression”, and “it was about states’ rights.”

    I love it. It’s civil war denialism. Somehow it was a war of northern aggression when the South fired the first shots at Fort Sumter. Somehow it wasn’t about slavery when every single debate in congress, in the press, from politicians, from the confederates, from the slaveowners, was about slavery – specifically the expansion of slavery into the territories and as slavery in the slave states was never challenged! Bleeding Kansas? The compromises of 1820 and 1850? The speeches made on the floor of congress about the right of Southerners who fought in the Mexican war to take their slaves into newly acquired territories? Arguments, made on the floor of congress, that not allowing whites to maintain slavery was degrading because without the slave class poor whites had no one to look down on? The last straw of electing the abolitionist Lincoln? None of these facts seem to penetrate the denialist mind. It is astounding how carefully they must maintain their ignorance about our history in order to maintain these views, because just about any investigation into the origin of civil war hostilities is centered around slavery.

    Why do southerners (of which I am one) still care about pretending their antebellum existence was moral, or that they were not culpable for the war? Slavery was going to destroy the country eventually, it was a backwards and horrible institution that led to nothing but cultural decay, rot, and viciousness. I will never understand this cognitive dissonance southerners still have to this day about accepting their past. It’s not a big deal, it was 150 years ago, it’s not your fault, get over it.

  10. #10 WickyWoo
    March 18, 2007

    It’s simple. The South plays the same games they did 150 years ago to start the civil war in the first place

    The rich, consumed in greed and contempt for brown people and those poorer than they were use religion and the ignorance of the poor whites to manipulate them into fighting battles that only end up making them richer and enforcing feudalism. They’ve even managed to make serfs who celebrate their piss poor lot in life.

    The South should have been punished to such an amazing degree that none of this ever would have happened, starting with the hanging of all Confederate elected officials and officers, and the enslavement of all who wore the uniform to rebuild the south so they can experience what they were fighting for, under the exact same conditions they treated their african slaves too, especially including copious whippings and beatings. Voting rights denied for all Southern states until every person who participated in the rebellion was dead. They had to suffer, because a conservative will never learn without it. When does a conservative learn? When you reason with him, or slamming his head into a wall? I assure you it’s the latter.

    There is no “southern heritage”, unless it’s the heritage of abuse, hate, ignorance and murder.

    Anyone who flies that flag is supporting a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of half a million or more people. Immediate arrest and a public beating should be the result, and at least a decade in prison. You celebrate it, you get what you ask for. And if Fox News says anything, you just ask “why are you supporting the terrorists?”

  11. #11 Josh
    March 18, 2007

    No one is talking about banning the Confederate battle flag, at least not here. I fail to see why a closet racist would want to ban it, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Yes, lots of kids in New Jersey, where I grew up, would have a confederate bandanna or whatever, often not realizing what the history of the flag was. That sort of historically uninformed symbol-selection seems dangerous in a lot of ways, even setting aside the issue of the Civil War. A swastika or the SS lightning bolts might look cool and rebellious to a kid of the right age, and that’s no excuse for resurrecting those symbols.

    As quitter says, the various economic and political disputes that led to the Civil War were all, at their root, linked to slavery. The North was wealthy and industrialized, and that gave them more and more influence over the national economy, to the South’s detriment. And why didn’t the South industrialize? Because that requires skilled laborers, not untrained slaves.

    In the North, poor laborers voted with their feet, moving off of farms and into industrial areas. In the South, slaves couldn’t make that choice, and slave-owners had no incentive to invest in industry. The South refused to abandon its outmoded way of life, a way of life intimately tied to the practice of slavery.

    Regional disagreements over every aspect of national policy can be traced to the South’s unwillingness to flex on slavery. They knew that that issue would be decided by the Senate, and so it was necessary to fight and wage war in places like Kansas to ensure that the Senate was always evenly balanced between slave states and free states.

    It is the institutionalization of that line which led to the War. And that line was drawn according to slavery, nothing else.

    Of course it is part of American history. I just wish it would stay there.

  12. #12 Cajiedog
    March 19, 2007

    Boy, have I been reading a bunch of crap from a bunch of media educated fools. Whew! You all stink.

    From the first shot about Fort Sumter,which has been proven to have been Lincoln engineered as an excuse to invade South Carolina to your comments about slavery and Southern industry. We built an Army from scratch you dummies, including arms,a Navy and even a sub-marine (ever heard of the HUNDLEY).

    The bottom line reason for Lincoln’s War was money! Follow the Money. Find out who engineered this WAR and WHY.

    Read the Proof in – “Blood Money, The Civil War and the FEDERAL RESERVE by John Remington Graham c2006. paperback 93 pages (Pelican Publishing Company). Author John R. Graham is a member of the Minnesota Bar, a former law professor, experienced trial lawyer, A specialist in British, American, and Canadian constitutional law and history.

    Mr. Graham exposes the moneyed interests pulling the strings of national politics for their own personal gain at the expense of Americans’ fundamental rights and liberties. He also, presents a reasoned and constitutional means to recover those rights and liberties.

    Had the South been allowed to leave, we in the South would NOT have usurping money grubbing stockjobbers, Wall Street warmongers, and benevolent tyrants. I love the Confederate Flag and all it stands for, a FREE NATION and not an EMPIRE.

  13. #13 Cajie
    March 19, 2007

    Another thing: you said: specifically the expansion of slavery into the territories……

    How many blacks did you let come into your state? Look at the 1860 population census. The 1880 Census, the 1900 Census. The 1910 Census.

    If states like yours had not bottled the blacks up in the South so you wouldn’t have to deal with their issues there would not have been a WAR. You even passed laws barring blacks from your states; Any black better be out of town by sundown. Sweep around your own back door.

    Furthermore, after the War your states were promised by the new Lincoln USA governemnt that blacks would be bottled up in the South, a la Reconstruction.

    Read: FREE BUT EQUAL – another book by a Chicagoan.

    It is no surprise that during the Civil Rights Riots it was your cities that were torched and not those in the South.

  14. #14 Cajie
    March 19, 2007

    I guess I was mad when I typed that last message, and blew the title. The Book is on Amazon.com

    Free but Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War (Hardcover)
    by V. Jacque Voegeli (Author)

    is an inquiry in Midwestern perceptions towards African Americans during the Civil War. Voegeli’s book covers the following midwestern States: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin during the war years of 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1865.

    For those of you who believed the Midwest symbolized the devoutly religious and piously tolerant Yankees who passionately opposed slavery will be traumatized after reading Voegeli’s book. As disturbing as Voegeli’s study is, his readers will come out of the experience with a deeper understanding of the variable attitudes held toward African Americans in the Midwest during the Civil War.

  15. #15 WickyWoo
    March 19, 2007


    If they south hadn’t attacked Ft. Sumpter, they would have been protesting and screaming they didn’t do it. Instead they screamed, yelled and celebrated.

    I realize living in the South, you’ve been taught to believe the myths of the Confederacy. The real history doesn’t back it up. It doesn’t matter if these morons lived in Chicago, the KKK was founded in the North! Bigots live everywhere.

    The fact that you still talk about states like they’re different countries betrays you as a child of the complete Southern Pride myth.

    State’s Rights is a relic, and should have been eliminated a long time ago. It’s never been used to do anything but abuse people, and on the rare occasion someone tries to do somethign good with it, the other states violate the Constitution by legistlating ignoring their legal requirements to honor contracts in other states

  16. #16 quitter
    March 19, 2007

    My state(s) (Virginia and Maryland) were slave states. I am a southerner, but I’m just not deluded. I’m also not media educated, I’m college educated and studied the civil war and reconstruction extensively in college.

    Once again all we here are denialist arguments. You do not address Kansas, you do not address, the fact that the 1820 and 1850 compromises were war-delaying measures about slavery. You do not address the fact that all anyone was talking about before initiation of hostilities was slavery, and expansion of slavery into the territories.

    People these days can write whatever they want, allege some conspiracy about how Lincoln was a megalomaniacal capitalist fiend (belief in conspiracy the sure sign of a defective intellect) and whatever. The fact is you’re just a denialist and there is no point discussing anything with someone for whom evidence doesn’t matter.

  17. #17 MB
    March 19, 2007

    Man, how come you got all the intelligent commenters? :) I got linked by AOL and the resulting comment thread is a cesspool of hate (and suggestions that I ought to hang with the flag).

  18. #18 Josh
    March 19, 2007

    I live in Kansas today, I went to school in Chicago, I grew up in New York/New Jersey and in Oregon before that. I’ve voted in three different states. I am a citizen of the United States, not of any one state.

    To my knowledge, my ancestors immigrated between the 1880s and 1920s, so I find it odd that you would hold me personally accountable for actions taken in the 1850s or ’60s. I know that Kansas welcomed black refugees from the South, as did Oklahoma, Nebraska and the Dakotas. The Great Migration to the North offered a taste of freedom.

    I don’t doubt that the Midwest was racist in that era, Midwestern Senators were close allies of the Southern bulls in blocking many civil rights laws well into the 20th century. Being racist is a different matter from waging war to defend the putative right to keep humans in subjugation and slavery.

    The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of that act of rebellion, a rebellion organized to defend an abhorrent practice. Southerners used the excuse of race riots to block civil rights laws and to justify segregation and oppression of Southern blacks. But those riots were born of a desire for true equality. The North gave people a taste of what freedom could mean, and they rightly wanted its full measure. The South gave them none, and told them they deserved none.

    The South perpetuated its racist practices and its ideology of oppression for a hundred years after the Civil War, a war fought over the status of that same ideology. The South wanted to be able to export that oppression to new territories, and to steal free men and women from other states into slavery. The North refused to subordinate its states’ rights to the South’s oppressive demands, and the South lost.

  19. #19 Reed A. Cartwright
    March 19, 2007

    As I watched the debate of the battle flag in my home state one thing became clear to me, the anti-flaggers were incapable of putting forth arguments that could persuade even moderate flaggers. Couple this with the fact that the anti-flaggers that got the most air time were not from Georgia, and a large percentage of persuadable people were turned off.

    Basically yankees had zero insight into how to make a persuasive argument to southerners. Anti-flaggers focused more on condemning, deriding, and misreading the south then they did on uplifting it. One may even think that this was on purpose, because if the south actually changed, who would they have to insult? Zig-zag Zell before he went crazy in his attempt to save the now dead GA Democratic party, actually wrote a good opinion in the NY Times about this phenomenon.

    Arguments against modern southern politics that focus on deriding the south are going to encourage moderate southerns to become defensive and defend policies they they probably wouldn’t defend otherwise. Insulting a people makes it difficult to persuade them.

    Here are two different talking points about the battle flag, can you guess which one is more likely to be effective?

    “The Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery, hate, and murder and should be removed from the state flag.”

    “The Confederate flag is not an inclusive symbol. The state flag should represent all citizens of the state, not just some citizens.”

    You can get into plenty of arguments as to whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery, hate, and murder. But I have yet to encounter someone who would argue that it is inclusive.

  20. #20 Josh
    March 19, 2007

    Reed, you make an excellent point. Getting pissed is not a good way to win an argument. My intent here is certainly not to criticize modern Southerners or modern Southern politics.

    Proponents of using the Confederate flag in state flags or of flying it publicly generally argue that it is used to represent something about Southern heritage. Which is reasonable. Kansas has bison on its flag, even though Kansas bison are all reintroduced. It’s about heritage and history and symbolism.

    But what heritage, what symbolism, does the Confederate battle flag represent? A magnolia flower, or a stately cottonwood could represent Southern ease and gentility. The battle flag represents open rebellion, and to many people now and at the time, does stand for slavery, segregation and oppression. The most generous interpretation possible is that it glorifies a national division so profound that it gave birth to much of what makes modern warfare so unchivalrous.

    I agree with your assessment of what arguments are effective in political debates about public endorsements of the Confederate battle flag, and if I ever have to argue against such endorsements, I’ll stick with your second argument.

    The issue here is whether that flag deserves to be protected from criticism, and in that context, I think it’s important for people to put forward what it represents to them.

    To some (like Oldfart above), it represents rebellion in any form. I find that historically anachronistic, since it dates to a very particular rebellion, fought in a manner and for an issue that I find repugnant.

    I like Slacktivist’s comments on this issue:

    This is why I’m impatient with the whole “‘I’ statements” approach. It has its place, I suppose, in family therapy and the like, but it undermines responsibility. It aims to force us to phrase statements in a way that cannot provoke offense, but it winds up also forcing us to phrase statements in a way that makes their content irrelevant.

    Thus, in the name of “civility,” I’ve been told that I shouldn’t say, “FEMA’s response to the flooding of New Orleans was a national disgrace.” Instead I should say, “I think FEMA’s response …” or “FEMA’s response made me feel …” And suddenly we’re not talking about FEMA anymore, but about me. An objective declaration is reduced to a subjective preference and thus I’m relieved of responsibility for the truth or falsehood of my claim.

    This seems to me to be is a cowardly, irresponsible way to talk. It is, in other words, uncivil.

    I think it’s worth having this debate before it becomes a modern political issue again.

  21. #21 daprez
    March 20, 2007

    Whatever people want to think the Confederate flag represents it is undeniable that it clearly represents one thing. A bunch of LOSERS!
    Thank General U.S. Grant, General W.T. Sherman, General G.G. Meade, and General P.H. Sheridan (to name just some of the notables) for destroying the armies that tried to defend the abomination of a society that supported slavery.

  22. #22 Stephen Uitti
    March 20, 2007

    The confederate flag was before my time. What bothers me is the American flag.

    It appears to me that the American flag has been flying at half mast for years. Years.

    So, when former president Ford died, what did we do? Fly it at half mast? It was already at half mast.

    Enough is enough.

  23. #23 xyzaffair
    March 21, 2007

    The confederate flag is a symbol of treason, plain and simple. Although Lincoln’s stance of welcoming back the Southerners with “no malice” was honorable, it allowed the traitors to re-enter and implant their ideology – from Jim Crow to Nixon’s Southern Strategy to the Enrons. But, just as 2006 elections proved, we will smite them again. Like waiting for the antibodies to react, we only need patience.

  24. Just below is the text of a comment, I hope will come to the attention of the director for the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science:

    “As if this museum doesn’t have enough problems with regard to the Confederate Battle Banner.

    “Some busybody claims that I should be upset about one of the send-ups of the Confederate Battle Banner. Specifically, it is practically a duplicate of the photograph I use as an icon for my blogspot website. Wood’ja (?) buh-leave!

    “I actually proposed the design to be used by Republicans, intent on saving their party from becoming a regional party, completely restricted to the former Confederate states. Should that happen, the only national party will be the Democratic Party.

    “If that busybody’s claim should happen to be true, we may need to talk. By the way, it’s easy enough to check. One need only click on the bold hewhoisknownassefton said text.

    “Somewhere in my website, there’s information about how to get in touch.”


    oh, yeah, almost forgot, here’s the hyperlink to my blogspot website:


    and one more thing, you’re getting this e.mail, because I googled “John Sims” and “Confederate”, and then your website came up . . .

  25. #25 air bud
    February 18, 2008

    sure the confederate flag stands for hatred, racism, segregation and the like but only isolated in this country. think of all the things that happened under the american flag worldwide. which one is truly more horrible?