For the first time in a while, I don’t need to cite an online article for a topic. By now, anyone in the continental US has heard about a civilian shooting a bunch of other civilian and the flag that is taking the blame for it.
Lets get this out of the way: a flag didn’t kill anyone.
Sure, the NRA is taking it’s fair share. So are the parents of the
boy guy that did the shooting. There’s also the racial undercurrent about the hate crime angle of it all. Although to be honest, could you shoot anyone in cold blood, if there’s not at least some bit of hate involved?
One person can be blamed with shooting up a church and it’s congregation in South Carolina.
But why are people going after the
Confederate flag the Confederate Army of Tennessee flag as well as the person involved? Because popular culture has shifted. And since it has, people should be trying to get rid of this flag when it’s related to governments.
I actually support the right to fly whatever flag you want, provided it’s on your property. If someone was flying a Nazi flag on my block, I might give some dirty looks and would definitely keep my son away from the house, but it’s that person’s legal and constitutionally protected right. Same if someone was burning a US flag on their property. Freedom of Speech is a tricky business folks, but it’s pretty clear cut and both of these things are protected by law.
However, the uproar is that South Carolina flies this CSA flag as their state flag. If the majority of voters in South Carolina have voted to fly that flag, that is also their right, as there is no federal law preventing that flag from being flown. Yet. Sure, it’s obnoxious and it’s offensive to people, but again, the law is clear.
So why does is this flag so important to the South anyway? Is it to honor the men lost in the civil war? Is it being flown to remember the history of the state and a means to respect the tradition of the south, since other southern states have incorporated this CSA flag into their own?
I think it’s all three. I think the south is proud of their rebellion and their history and their gumption. They rallied around this symbol to proclaim in a loud voice that they were rebelling against an oppressive government. Remember, the Civil War was not only about slaves or civil rights. It’s why it took this country an extra 100 years to fix itself after the war ended. The Civil War was about money, politics, governmental style, and tradition. The South didn’t want to abolish slavery; the North didn’t want it to expand to the border states. At the time of the declaration of war, our president-elect was in favor of keeping the slave laws in place where they already existed. Even the Emancipation Proclamation was focused on slaves in the CSA and not the border states. Indeed, if you look at the posture of the Senators and Representatives that succeeded from Congress, they thought of themselves as the freedom fighters that our own colonial forefathers were, when rebelling against England. If they had won the Civil War and kept the CSA alive, that is how they would be portrayed; if we were still in the Commonwealth of the UK, George Washington would have been branded a traitorous upstart.
Over the last 150 years, we’ve been teaching students less and less on the causes of the war and making it a much simpler history: it was all about slavery.
Add to this message the fact that a ton of hate groups in the US use this particular CSA flag as “their” symbol and you’ve compounded the problem. It’s not known to many people but the Nazi symbol is prevalent in Asia in that it represents good luck. It is the sword guard on a kitana used by a main “fights for right” character in the anime/manga Bleach. One nation used that symbol to represent something and popular consciousness now, because of that usage, the symbol has taken on a different meaning to the masses. It happens. If I wear a shirt with a swastika on it, no matter how long or loudly I tell the people around me that it’s good luck in Asia, everyone around me will not listen and think that I’m a white supremest. I can say whatever I want; the meaning of the shirt will be interpreted by the people that see it.
The same thing has happened to this flag. For anyone that was born after 1985, you’ll be offended to hear it, but the term “nigger” was not called the “n-word” in our culture. It always offensive when slung as an insult but its use was much more prevalent; just ask Mark Twain. When POTUS used this term this past week it made major, major news. It wasn’t directed at anyone particular and it wasn’t used as an insult; it was simply referenced to make a point that removing the word from our daily vocabulary doesn’t make us any less racist as a society. Just more politically correct with a touch of less offensive language. The point is that the word that was once as vulgar as asshole is now the 8th Dirtiest Most Word in the language.
Basically, the words meaning and role has changed over the years. So much so that I wouldn’t even try to use the perfectly valid and unrelated term “niggardly” in conversation because it’s too close to being taboo.
Remember The Jeffersons? Honky was used all the time. That word fell out of use because it lost its novelty – it also never took a prohibitively offensive twang. George also used the term zebra to refer to a child that was 1/2 African American and 1/2 Caucasian; this would not be acceptable in today’s culture. Two instances of how slang can evolve and change in either direction. Another is the word faggot. Faggot used to mean a piece of wood, was used as a “gentle” taunt between kids in the 80s, and is now considered the basis of a hate crime if hurtled at someone. During the same time frame, the Dukes of Hazzard – which was always rumored to take place in Georgia – used the CSA flag everywhere as a source of pride and to proclaim their rebellious nature. Take the General Lee to the 2005 movie and the characters get a bunch of crap about the CSA flag painted on the top of their car.
Right now, there are a bunch of car collectors frantically painting the tops of their orange Dodge Chargers because in the summer of 2015, you will be called a supporter of a terrorist if you have this logo on your car, because as usual, America is vastly overreacting.
Yes, the southern citizens have to accept that the world has changed around them. They historically significant flag of their forefathers is no longer clean or viable. Hate groups have tarnished it and it is no longer acceptable to fly it from government or public buildings. Normally I would say it should be open to vote but it is too late for that. Doesn’t matter. In the not too distant future there will be a federal law that bans the flag – again, an overreaction – and that will cause outcries across the land. Freedom of Speech stiffled by the very people that should be protecting it. In fact, this is exactly one of the main issues the South fought the North for in the first place: a tyrannical federal government messing around with state rights.
The truth is that no matter how hard you want the mass populous to see that flag as something that means honor and valor and rebellion and history and bravery it doesn’t mean that to people now.
Meanwhile, our overracting nation is just getting started. Stores are pulling product with this symbol all over the country. Apple has pulled a Civil War game from their store because the CSA flag is in it. Even though the game is a period piece about the war. It’s only a matter of time before someone airbrushes the General Lee for the syndication reruns of the Duke boys. Citizens in the South will add the insult to their history to the long list of slights and simmer on it. The hate groups that have tarnished the flag’s original meaning will get their items overseas because why would non-US citizens give a shit either way? We are on course to completely overreact and – in an effort to make things “right” – will over compensate, fueling the very people that benefit from extremism in the nation.
One of the worst things I’ve realized from this is that in another week or two the next bit of outrage will make us forget this whole thing.
On the other hand, imagine if the flag and not a human had actually physically killed someone – the outrage would be about the same I think.