I keep a list of potential blog topics on my iPhone. These ideas can come from anywhere. They typically spring from something I’ve seen, read or experienced. Sometimes my ideas come from readers; thank you for that. When life overtakes me, as it has done of late, my ideas sit unattended. Even with the benefit of a time surplus, many fledgling blog posts never hatch. That’s just the way it goes. For me, anyway. I might get to them on a rainy day. Often enough, the central theme of my intended topic is no longer relevant and so the notes section of my iPhone is reduced by one line.
About two months ago, I traveled to the Southeastern United States. I dutifully proceeded to the rental car agency to pick up my vehicle. I got an epic upgrade. This made me smile. I started driving, eventually making my way to an interstate. Along the side of the interstate, just beyond the frontage road, was a humble home adorned in a curious manner. The home didn’t stand out in any way save for the enormous Confederate Flag flapping in the breeze on an industrial grade flag-pole. This did not make me smile. Quite the opposite, actually. It felt like a world-class gut punch. More accurately, and for the benefit of those who played football in the 70s or 80s, it felt like I went up to block a field goal with arms extended, and an opposing player buried the crown of his helmet directly below my sternum.
Perhaps I’ve tipped my hand. If you already think you disagree based on my reaction, I can only ask that you keep reading.
So there it sat. On my iPhone. My great idea for a passionate blog post. Confederate Flag is how it read. It sat some more. I stared at it most every day. Now there is a substantial row in the wake of a tragedy. My hesitation has made me appear, not as a visionary, but as a reactionary. For that, I apologize, and I ask that you further indulge me.
I’m compelled to tell you that my recently frenetic pace has not permitted me the luxury of reading any of the numerous articles on this topic. From what I gather, they are focusing on the states’ use of the flag in one form or another. I’ve also avoided reading these articles in order to maintain some purity of thought. I want my raw thoughts on the matter to be fully exposed. If that means I’m not as well researched or polished, so be it. I hope you’ll be accommodating regardless.
What happened to me on that surprisingly cool but characteristically humid day in SEC territory? I was upset. I was upset because I couldn’t think of one valid reason for the man/woman/family or whomever lived in that house to fly that flag. Not a single one. Do they have the right to fly that flag free from criminal harassment? You better believe it. But I also have the right to voice my opinion on the matter, on this blog or elsewhere. They have their freedom; I have mine. I’ve fought to defend both.
My next order of business is to fly a lead-pursuit profile to intercept my soon-to-be antagonists. They will claim I am using generalities to cast aspersions on the South and those who inhabit her. I am doing no such thing. One of my two parental units is very Southern. I spent parts of my youth and every summer with her family in the deep South. I loved it. The landscape, the people, and the way of life have more admirable qualities than I could ever recount here. People smile and exhibit tremendous hospitality. The food is awful for you but it tastes so wonderful. Southerners know how to slow life down so it can be savored like a tall glass of sweet-tea. They know when to ditch out of work early to go fishing. The men wear a coat and tie to church, even when the heat is stifling.
I would even wager that there are a great many African Americans who are proud to be from the South, and who also embody the incredible qualities I detailed above. Several come to mind immediately.
But that’s not the entire story. In another time, quality of life in that part of the country was not at all evenly distributed. I cannot put that any more gently. You know what happened. I know what happened. There is no reason for any of us to pretend otherwise. That pain lives on, and the widespread presence of the Confederate Flag perpetuates it. You will notice that I did not talk about the battle flag of Northern Virginia (or whatever). Although that might be a worthy discussion in another venue, in this example, such pedantry is nothing more than a mechanism for avoiding the real issue.
In my worldview, there are only two reasons to fly the Confederate Flag. There is legitimate preservation of history, and there is everything else. Legitimate preservation of history is a valid reason. Everything else is rubbish. If you are conducting a Civil War reenactment in a gray uniform, fly those colors. If you work at Gettysburg or any other sacred site where so much American blood was spilled, fly those colors. If you are tending to a graveyard for Confederate soldiers, fly those colors (please fly the American flag as well). There is no reason to run from our history. Instead, we should preserve it and remember it so we never allow ourselves to return to such an awful place. While this awful time in our history should be acknowledged, it’s something entirely different to celebrate it.
My everything else (and hence rubbish) category consists of any Confederate flag on a tattoo, on the back window of a car or truck, at a home, or any other similar display. Germane to the current media landscape is my firm belief that there is no possible explanation for why the Confederate flag should be flown over any government building, be it local, state or federal. Save me the states’ rights and “heritage not hate” discussion. It’s hollow. You can be justifiably proud of ancestors who served or died on the side of the Confederacy without lifting up their cause. I do not think all Confederate soldiers were evil and seditious any more than I think all Union soldiers were magnanimous and righteous. Do you honestly believe there weren’t soldiers in blue uniforms who were every bit as racist as their adversaries in gray? Maybe more? Vast numbers of those young man were involuntarily pressed into service based on where they lived and nothing more.
Moving to the modern day, I don’t believe that everyone with a Confederate flag on the back window of their pickup truck is a racist. I believe some of them are. I believe the rest have a misguided view of what heritage means and have failed to consider the perspective of those who don’t look upon that era with such fondness. Shackles, bondage, beatings and oppression can have that effect. It is time we move away from that darkness, and not back toward it.
This is a sensitive and passionate topic. Please share your opinions with respect. Contrarian views are acceptable, hate is not. Simply be kind, and all will be well.