A Truly Lost Cause

One hundred and fifty-five years at Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia, the Confederacy is continuing to suffer defeats. Monuments to Confederate soldiers are being removed from public spaces, sometimes at the order of local officials and sometimes because of angry mobs tearing them down, and the Marines and the Navy and even the NASCAR racing circuit have recently banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
The top military brass also want to change the names off 11 military installations that are for some reason named after Confederate soldiers, but President Donald Trump has declared he won’t even consider it. Trump has also oppose the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, and for a guy who grew up in New York City seems to have a certain affection for the Confederacy.
Perhaps it’s for political reasons, but if so we think it’s a miscalculation. The Confederacy sympathizers among Trump”s voters wouldn’t mind if he declared all the monument controversy a state and local issue he needn’t take sides in, and his stands on behalf of the “Lost Cause” are unlikely to win him any new voters. Most Americans have a very negative opinion of the Confederacy, are glad that it lost the Civil War, and don’t see why men who fought a war against the United States to preserve slavery are being honored.
Perhaps Trump’s defense of the Confederacy is for personal reasons, but we’d hate to think that.

— Bud Norman

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

A Kuwaiti-born immigrant named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed four servicemen on Thursday at a recruiting center and another military site in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but don’t jump to any conclusions that it might have anything to with Islam. There’s always a chance it was caused by some Confederate battle flag emblazoned on a passing pick-up, or something that some Republican presidential candidate might have said about immigration, and in any case it couldn’t have had anything to do with what everyone knows is a religion of peace.
By now the ritual is all too familiar. Someone named Muhammad commits mass murder at a military installation or some other obviously symbolic target, has announced to his friends and the internet and anyone who will listen that everything he does is motivated by his understanding of Islam, millions of Muslims with a similar understanding of the faith “tweet” their congratulations or celebrate in the streets or otherwise express their approval of the slaughter, and polite opinion and the official pronouncements insist that it has nothing to do with Islam. By now the far more impolite average American’s instinctive opinion is that it must have something to with Islam, somehow or another, but the official record and the most massive of the mass-media will somehow veer around this increasingly inescapable conclusion.
This particular Muhammad died during his mass-murder spree, which will absolve the authorities of the unpleasant necessity of charging him with terrorism rather than the mere mass-murder charges that might be more conveniently brought against someone motivated by a Confederate battle flag or a Sarah Palin graphic or some other domestic provocation that doesn’t require apologetics, and although the investigation will likely be forced to concede that Islam did have something to do with it  somehow or another the carefully-worded report won’t require widespread news coverage. In the meantime the four Americans who were gunned down while serving their country in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be easily forgotten as the four Americans who were gunned down while serving their country in Benghazi, Libya, and there will be stories about how America hasn’t suffered 9/11-style attack during the current administration, just the occasional pesky cases of “work place violence” at Fort Hood and shootings at a recruiting center in Arkansas and this one in Tennessee and cars being driven into pedestrians in a couple of towns and a beheading in Oklahoma and unspeakable carnage all across areas of Iraq that had once been pacified and almost civilized by American military might, and much celebration that the Iranian theocracy and its very bellicose understanding of Islam has promised the Great Satan that it won’t get a nuclear weapon for at the least the ten years or so that it will take them to acquire the ballistic missile systems that America’s politely indulgent understanding of Islam has now allowed to buy from their newly-acquired Russian and Chinese friends.
There are no doubt many Muslims who do subscribe to that Religion of Peace of version of Islam that we keep hearing about, every time some some self-proclaimed Muslim commits mass murder, and we wish them well. The best possible outcome would be that they somehow convince their co-religionists to reach a similarly placid understanding of Islam, and persuade them to live in peace with a western world that is anathema to their generations-old understanding of right and wrong, and are able to point to America’s capitulation to a Shiite Iranian nuclear bomb and the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy in Egypt and elsewhere as proof of its good intention, but barring that unlikely possibility some frankness will be required among the both the officials and their mass-media accomplices. A widely-held understanding of Islam is utterly incompatible with the values that both the left and the right of western civilization, is causing the all-too-frequent deaths of Americans and far more massive bloodshed throughout the rest of the world, and cannot be peacefully be resolved without capitulations to a medieval theology that goes way beyond repealing same-sex marriage and women’s suffrage and is offended even by the more old-fashioned morality of the Christian right, and some resistance must be offered.
We can’t say where to begin the bombings, as the threat is by now far too diffuse and well-armed in the deserts and well-hidden in the suburbs and too politely ignored by official pronouncements and mass-media commentary, but at a frank acknowledgement that this has something to do with Islam, somehow or another, would be a good start.

— Bud Norman

Lowering the Stars and Bars

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