For the past couple of days I’ve been ashamed and disappointed that RedState has decided to enter into the feeding frenzy over the Confederate flag (note: the flag in question is actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, but for sake of brevity I will refer to it as the Confederate flag) and have cooperated in tying that flag to the shootings in Charleston, SC. As humans we are, at the core, herd animals and we like to be liked. That is understandable and, from an evolutionary point of view, essential to survival. There is a line, however, between wanting to be liked and toadying. It it here that I fear we, as a site, have crossed the line and descended from the status of opinion leaders to catchfarts for all the worst impulses of the progressive left.
Were this an exercise in denouncing racism, I’d be on board. But it isn’t. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, it clearly does. The flags the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, posed with were those of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. It is difficult to draw any other conclusion about their meaning when worn by someone with no cultural connection with those symbols. But the racism of the Dylann Roof variety is not caused by governmental action or social acceptance. Far from it. Roof, by all accounts, was an outsider. South Carolina has a governor of Indian descent and one senator who is black. Yet despite there being no real evidence of state or community propagated racism or any evidence that South Carolinians are racist, a lot of people, mostly but not exclusively on the left, have used the tragedy to wage an attack on the display of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The motives on the part of some minuscule number of those persons could conceivably be motivated by some high-mindedness, some concern for the perceived feelings of others. This kind of annoying, sand-in-the-butt-crack hypersensitivity does exist. It is why college professors attach “trigger warnings” to course material and why the Supreme Court has allowed school districts to ban the American flag.
In essence this is an Alinskyite assault on a symbol. The purpose of that assault upon a symbol is simple. The Confederate flag is associated with a region of the nation that has, since 1968, voted fairly reliably for conservative and Republican candidates. By connecting the Charleston shooting to the Confederate flag and making that an issue they have effectively connected the South with the shooting. Inevitably, we will hear more about conservatives and the GOP being strongest is a region that guns down black people in churches and flies the Confederate flag.
I don’t fly the battle flag but I do have strong feelings about the Army of the Confederacy. Every male in my family served in one of two regiments of Virginia infantry (24th or 60th). I am not ashamed that their tombstones, where they exist, reflect this part of their life. I find Robert E. Lee to be the most admirable man that war produced on either side. In my library I have Don Troiani’s “Bronze Guns and Iron Men” print that portrays Major John Pelham’s Horse Artillery at the Battle of Fredericksburg. By the same token, I understand that some people hold this flag as a symbol of racism. There is no doubt that the Confederate flag — along with the American flag — were mainstays of the Ku Klux Klan but it is particularly associated with Southern resistance to the end of Jim Crow laws. I have no doubt there are some who fly the Confederate flag because of an attachment to the bad old days of “separate but equal.” We are all entitled to assign whatever symbolism we want to any symbol. When I see a black guy wearing a Malcolm X hat or shirt I assume that I am dealing with a dyed in the wool racist. Atheists and vampires feel oppressed when they see a cross. The left sees the Gadsden Flag as a sign of anti-government violence (I do fly that flag). What I don’t have, and neither does anyone else, is the right to demand that others accept their symbology especially when that symbology is simply wrong.
Governor Nikki Haley is well within her rights to seek removal of the flag flying over a monument to Confederate war dead on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. I’m completely agnostic on this. If she wishes to bulldoze the monument and plow Confederate cemeteries with salt, I don’t care. In fact, I have no doubt that I will live to see Confederate cemeteries purged of all indications of why they exist. That isn’t my issue. It isn’t a conservative issue. It isn’t a Republican issue. And it shouldn’t be a site issue.
But in seeking popularity with people who will never ever like us, we’re cooperating with the left and its narrative of American history. You’d have to be an idiot to say that American Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Of course it was, the economic viability of the institution of slavery was top most in all the secession debates. For a decade prior to Fort Sumter, Congress was obsessed with finding compromises that didn’t threaten an institution that was recognized in the Constitution of the United States at its founding. Even when the Confederate army was starving for manpower, owners of twenty or more slaves were exempted from conscription. Just as in the North, it was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” By the same token, the American Civil War was NOT about eliminating slavery. Slavery remained legal outside the South — the areas covered in the Emancipation Proclamation — until the passage of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, this would be eight months after Appomattox. And that amendment was rejected by New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky.
As my friend and former RedState colleague, Thomas Crown, writes:
The next, logical step after erasing the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia from even polite mention will be to scrub the names of these men, these Americans, who fought bravely and with cowardice, with valor and with dishonor, from the memorials they currently enjoy; and then from all but the most arcane of tomes. They will be faceless legions, conscripted to play the role of bogeymen as they were once conscripted to fight for a dreadful evil. This will not stop the mad and the evil from slaughtering innocents for a thousand awful reasons, but it will allow us a moment to preen over those who cannot punch us in the face as we deserve, and for the America of today, that’s a pretty damned good feeling.
We were a more generous nation once. We knew the value of honor and valor, even in a bad cause. We gave noble terms to our enemies because we wanted to rebuild a shattered nation; and while it was an imperfect exercise, as all things of men are, we succeeded.
Today, we are unforgiving tyrants; we judge men of yesterday by today’s standards, invariably finding them wanting. We live in an eternal now, more frequently childless, and all too often without ancestors. We atomize and self-segregate, and wonder at our partisanship and mean-spiritedness. We wonder that disconnected, murderous man-children idolize hardscrabble dirt farmers who would spit on the softness of their reasoning and cause, and imagine it must be because of some dark force that only the enlightened among us can perceive. We forget a fallen world where men accepted that other men do evil things, and that the only way to stop them was to stand, to be strong, and yes, at times, to die fighting. We were a nation that applauded valor; now we are a nation that applauds only utopian purity.
Just as ill-considered as buying into Howard Zinn’s view of America, we are undertaking a self-defeating exercise. For all the talk about a “big tent” it is becoming increasingly clear that on the conservative side of the political spectrum we are more interested in establishing litmus tests and tossing people out of the movement than we are in winning elections and changing the culture. We have people within the conservative tent saying that unless you accept homosexual marriage you are a bigot. Here we’ve established yet another one: unless you believe that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism you are a bad person. The next time a Southern candidate appears on the national stage, we’ll see another round of the Confederate flag debate.
So now we’ve entered a fight that not only doesn’t matter but is the very essence of silliness. We’ve made no one like us. We’ve managed to piss off a not insubstantial number of people who reject the South = racism meme that we are pushing with this. We’ve engaged in some juvenile trolling of our readers. In short we are doing the Democrats’ work for them. If you think this will stop here you are fooling yourself. The United States flag flew over Constitutionally instituted slavery from ratification on June 21, 1788 until 1865. If you want a symbol of slavery, then the US flag is a much better one.