Stars & Bars: Wading In
koppie Thu, 06/25/2015 - 21:15
There's been a lot of talk lately about the Confederate flag, how evil it is, how the people who wave it are all bad, and how it must come down. I know some of those people who love that flag, and I feel bad for them. I feel bad for them because society doesn't understand them, and society ignores them when they try to speak up.
I'm blessed to be a part of a wonderful organization called the American Civil War Association. We don't glorify war, we don't fantasize about the CSA defeating the Union, and we certainly don't glorify the Confederacy. We strive to offer an honest portrayal of the men & women who lived and fought on both sides. I have some very good friends who dress up as Confederates and wave the battle flag, and I've even done it myself. So when these people get villified by the mainstream liberal media, it pains me.
Please don't misunderstand me: I am as liberal as they come. I'm a Jewish, hybrid-driving, San Francisco Democrat. I bleed blue. But in these polarized times, both sides are accostomed to demonizing the other, and there's very little desire to see the other side. (In fact, a recent study showed that conservatives actually understand the liberal position better than liberals understand the conservative position. Liberals like to think of ourselves as enlightened, but we understand less than we think we do.)
So, why do my crazy right-wing friends put on grey and fly a Confederate battle flag? Some do it simply because it has to be done - it wouldn't be a very fun reenactment if everyone showed up wearing blue. Some wear grey because the reenactors on that side of the battlefield have more fun - they are more relaxed, friendly, and have better parties around the campfire at night. Some portray the Confederacy out of respect. It doesn't mean they agree or support anything that the Confederacy stood for, although we have had many healthy discussions about states rights - a legitimate debate that continues across the country today. Even though the Confederacy engaged in armed insurrection against the United States, its army was ultimately made up of men who honestly believed in what they were doing, and many of them gave the ultimate sacrifice for it. Were they hoodwinked by a small wealthy slaveholding elite who didn't have their best interests at heart? Yes, but that doesn't mean we can't respect the men (and women) who served, or their sacrifice. The bible teaches us that even though we may rejoice in victory, our gladness is lessened by the suffering of our enemies. We honor the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Why not honor the victims of Atlanta?
All that said, taking down the flag from the South Carolina capitol building is still the right thing to do. Why? Because the flag pole of an active government building is not an historical reenactment. It is a statement of government policy, belief, and intent. I know how I'd feel if they flew the battle flag of the Wehrmacht. (I'd burn the building to the fucking ground.) What we put up the poll matters. The Confederate battle flag still has value as an historical relic, but the symbol of armed insurrection against the United States government is not an appropriate thing to fly on a government building, ever.
What about Walmart and the Apple app store? They can do whatever they want. This may come as a surprise, but the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to private corporations. You don't have a "right" to demand that a store sell you something. They have the right to sell, or not sell, as they see fit. Ultimately, that has nothing to do with social policy and everything to do with capitalism. In this country, anyone can sell (or not sell) anything they want, and the market will choose to reward the seller as the market sees fit. It was silly for Apple to remove Civil War battle sims from their app store, but let's be honest, the app store has always made embarassing blunders. As for Walmart, please don't think for a minute that their decision had to do with anything other than capitalism.
I'd like to come back to my Confederate reenactor friends. Friends, please keep flying your Confederate flags. I know you, I know you're not white supremacists, you hold no hate in your hearts, and you sure as hell never wanted to see nine black people die in a church. I know it pains you that your historical relic has been used for such hateful purposes. And I sincerely hope we can agree, as Republicans and Democrats are now agreeing across this great land, that the flag of insurrection does not belong on the flag pole of any government building in these United States of America.