Monday, June 29, 2015

Week of 06/29/2015

Rebel Hell
It must suck to be a Confederate supporter right about now.
I know some folks are scratching their heads and saying “What are you talking about, David?  The Confederate States?  As in the Civil War?  That war ended over a century ago!”
Yes, that’s true, but not in the minds of many here in the American Southeast.
I remember in the early 1990’s, just before the pre-Olympic migration, when I made my first trip to Atlanta.  I met a guy who thought I looked rather curious.  Here I was dressed somewhat professionally, wearing what he thought was cowboy boots (they were just shoes), and had a car with a Georgia tag on it.  After a quick introduction, he realized from my accent that I was from New England, which blew his mind because he thought from my shoes that I was from Texas.  He found out I was in the city for a job interview and was just killing some time before then by visiting the local mall.  So he told me to be careful about my “Yankee” accent because there were plenty of folk that were still pissed about what Sherman did to Atlanta all those years ago during the “War of Northern Aggression”.
Take note that he did not say “Civil War”.  He refused to say it was a “Civil War”.  It was all the fault of those “Damned Yankees”.  And he told me that was the prevailing thought of many in the area.
And having lived here in this part of America longer than I was in New England, I have to agree with him.  There are many here that refuse to accept their ancestors’ role in the Civil War, or that they lost that war.  They continue to adhere to old thinking and old mentalities and cling to old symbols.  They call these “heritage” and “tradition”.
How hard it must be for them to comprehend that what they see as “heritage”, others see as symbols of hatred and division.
Once upon a time, the Georgia flag was seen as a symbol so politically caustic, it would crush the career of any elected official who dared talk about changing it to remove its Confederate symbols.  Never mind that it was changed in the 1950’s to show “Southern solidarity” against the Civil Rights movement.  Never mind that it was used by groups like the Klu Klux Klan to show their hatred of other races.  For the vast majority of Georgians outside of Atlanta (or at least those that voted), that flag was “heritage”.  Touch it at your political peril.
Then Governor Roy Barnes did something unthinkable.  He had it changed.  And then his successor changed it again.  And even though the “heritage” crowd threw fits and screamed about recalls, their tantrums went nowhere.  Their political “influence” was gone.
How sad it is to know, then, that their real end would come with both a whimper and a bang.
A 21-year old loser, unemployed, seemingly living off of a steady stream of hatred, brought the “bang”, thanks to his attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina.  He killed nine people in cold blood, including the pastor of that church.
And when the question was asked of why he did it, people looked into his lonely little loser of a life and they saw all of the rhetoric and the symbols of hate.  All of those Confederate flags, along with the flag of pre-Apartheid South Africa.
Now the Confederate flag is an endangered object.  It’s being torn down off government buildings.  It’s being removed from government monuments.  It’s been pulled off the shelves at Wal-Mart.  You can’t buy it on eBay or Amazon anymore.  Even the General Lee, the car seen in the “Dukes of Hazard”, is having to hide its “Stars and Bars” roof.
It’s sad.  It’s really very sad to have to educate the stubborn that even after a hundred years, they still lost.  They lost then, and they’re still losing now.
Let’s get brutally honest here... this is what a century of selective ignorance will do to people.  A hundred years of delusional thinking, of failing to recognize that your ancestors and predecessors did lose that war, and of the continued denial that the flag you claim is “heritage” is being used to this day as a symbol of division and discrimination.
Here’s the truly insane part: this is the same faction of American people that will proudly display the Confederate flag, while at the same time demanding that we all worship and praise the American flag, even though the former was designed to oppose and overrule the latter.  Make up your minds, guys.  You can’t keep singing “God Bless America” while at the same time waiving a flag that screams “Screw You, America”!
Then again, that’s also a century’s worth of selective ignorance at work.
Look, I get that you want people to remember some of the other reasons why your ancestors and predecessors fought in the Civil War.  You want people to understand that it wasn’t entirely about slavery.  I get that, just like I understand that not everyone that fought in the American Revolution did it because of taxes, or that we went to Iraq because of supposed weapons of mass destruction.
But at some point, you have to accept the reality that, one, the Confederate States lost the Civil War, and that, two, the flag that you continue to waive to remember that period has been and continues to be used to promote hatred and division.  That is how the rest of the world sees that flag.  Whatever noble ideas you may have about that flag and what it means have long been perverted.
I’m not in the camp that says that everything connected to the Confederate States needs to be erased or obliterated.  I’m not saying we need to sand-blast Stone Mountain or dig up the Confederate graves.  I think that destroying those symbols, while briefly gratifying, is just as wrong as those that live in selective ignorance of history.  But I am saying that history needs to be recognized and placed in its proper perspective... in the past.
And if you think that the South will somehow “rise again”, then you need to accept that the only way it can do so is after you accept and learn from the lessons of history.  Because as long as you are fixated on the mindsets of the past, then you will continue to be mired in its failures.

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