The Confederate battle flag will likely no longer fly over the South Carolina capitol, which is fine by us. As far as we’re concerned the Confederacy was a horrible idea, its “peculiar institution” of slavery was a moral outrage that could only be atoned by our nation’s bloodiest conflict, and its successful secession from The Union would have been one of history’s greatest calamities, so its flag has no reason to fly over the public grounds of any of the United States of America.
Having said that, we also admit to some annoyance with all the attention the matter has lately received. The long-overdue decision to furl the Confederate battle flag followed the horrific shootings by a deranged white racist of nine black Americans as they worshipped in an historic Charleston church, which is a matter of far greater importance and probably had nothing at all to do with the piece of cloth that had been flying for the past many decades over the state capitol, and the tragedy is being used for political purposes that make even less sense.
The recent opposition to the flag’s presence on the capitol grounds has been led by the state’s Indian-American and Republican governor, its white and Republican Senator, and another black and Republican Senator, and yet the usual media are predictably pressing all of the Republican presidential candidates with the usual accusatory tone about their stand on what was until the past week a state matter of minor significance to the nation at large. Meanwhile, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, which was the party of the Confederacy and the party that dominated South Carolina’s politics when it re-started flying the Confederate battle flag in 1961 to signal its defiance of the civil rights legislation that most Republican legislators were supporting, and whose past failed presidential campaign featured the symbol on its buttons down south, and whose husband’s successful presidential campaigns did the same, is meanwhile being praised in the nation’s most prestigious newspaper for her “courage” in jumping on the latest bandwagon.
The unavoidable implication is that the Republican Party, the party that was founded on its opposition to slavery and led the defeat of the Confederacy and provided the most votes for that civil rights legislation, is as irredeemably racist at the nutcase who killed those nine worshippers. There are more substantive arguments to be made for this assertion, given the current Republican party’s opposition to affirmative action and longstanding resistance to social programs and usual support for aggressive law enforcement, but it’s no wonder that much of the media would prefer to seize the opportunity of a flag that the Republicans had nothing to do with. Affirmative action assumes blacks can’t compete on meritocratic terms with whites, and most Republicans do not, the past half-century of social programs have caused two-parent black families to become a rarity, and only Republicans seem willing to acknowledge this fact much less talk about solutions to its dire social and economic consequences, a retreat from aggressive law enforcement has resulted in far more murders than any deranged white racist could ever effect, and only Republicans seem to believe that these black lives also matter. That constant conversation about race that the Democrats are always urging but never participating in will continue long after the Confederate battle flag has been permanently lowered from the South Carolina capitol grounds, mostly because of a fashionably diverse coalition of Republicans from that much-criticized state, which has been handling its racial controversies with greater calm and careful deliberation and Christian love than has followed similarly contentious incidents in states generally considered more enlightened, and we can readily understand why those harping on about the defeated and disgraced battle flag of a long-gone Democratic cause would prefer not to talk about the rest of it.
There are also the predictable efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from everywhere else, as well, and these are more problematic. It is one thing for a state government to collectively decide it will no longer honor this symbol on the public’s grounds, and another to decide that individual citizens can’t display it on their pickup trucks or baseball caps or southern rock album covers. The efforts seem to be succeeding, with almighty Wal-Mart declaring it will no longer sell any merchandise bearing the symbol and nearly-as-powerful E-Bay declaring the same policy, which is apparently making it hard for political memorabilia collectors to buy and sell those old Clinton-Gore and Hillary Clinton badges, and will eventually prevent someone from buying or selling an old “Dukes of Hazzard” lunchbox with its depiction of the stars-and-bars-adorned muscle car the titular yokels drove around in, and it now seems likely that freedom of speech will suffer yet another slight contraction.
It’s not that we’re sympathetic to Confederate battle flag-wearing folks, just that it’s still important to acknowledge a right to disagree. We’re here in Kansas, which even before the Civil War endured the days of “Bleeding Kansas” to become a loyal member of the indivisible Union as a Free State, so on the rare occasions you see the Confederate battle flag around here it’s usually adorned to some redneck or his pickup truck. “Redneck” is one of those ambiguous terms, as it is sometimes affectionately used to describe a hard-working and fun-loving and charmingly unpretentious good ol’ boy, but more commonly to imply a violent and racist and determinedly ignorant problem, and in this case we intend the latter definition. Still, we’re willing to assume that further into the south you’ll find the former variety of redneck displaying the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of all the many more admirable qualities of his southern culture, which has for a while now been luring many blacks away from their up-north and Democratic jurisdictions back to their ancestral homeland, and we note that the Hillary button with the symbol even added the usual explanatory phrase “heritage not hate,” so we don’t want to deny them the expression of that pride.
We’ll let the worst sorts of rednecks wave that flag as a symbol of their race hatred and ongoing defiance of the Union, as well, because their hatred and their chosen representation of it are probably better ignored than banned. Those biker gangs that have been such a problem in Waco, Texas, and other places for the past decades wear old Nazi symbols on their uniforms not because they have an intellectual affinity for the tenants of Nationalist Socialism, or because such anti-authorian types have any desire to live under such a strictly authoritarian system of government, but because they know those symbols are deeply offensive to the society they rebel against. If the hammer-and-sickle of the old Soviet Union were just as universally reviled, which it should be, you’d see that on those leather jackets as well. When you can’t buy something at either Wal-Mart or on E-Bay its supply is greatly restricted, an increased demand is sure to follow, and the value of even the most odious product will therefore increase.
The controversy will soon be forgotten, of course. We hope the tragedy that caused it will long be remembered, but we don’t expect that the bigger issues will soon get their due attention.
— Bud Norman