Historical or Hysterical Conflict?

confederate battle flagThe argument about the Confederate Flag being displayed at government buildings in South Carolina or part of the flags of some states is one of emotion and historical obfuscation. What do I mean by that?

1 – I grew up in the north but have lived in the south since the 1980’s. I’ve seen the Confederate Battle Flag on display for all of those years and my personal take away has always been that it’s a historical curiosity which suggests, we’re from the south, we’re proud and you from the north don’t understand it. Right or wrong interpretation, I didn’t think anymore of it, because frankly, I naively believed it doesn’t have anything to do with me. To me it was almost as benign as the Jolly Roger flag. Then, when this latest controversy came up again, and through the magic of the Internet, we’re debating something which was hotly debated 14 years ago in Georgia over their state flag.

2 – This is the part that seems to attract the greatest amount of debate and historical misrepresentation. Here’s the section where I can agree in this debate. Keep private use of the CSA Battle flag. Sell it in stores and online. Wave the thing at your house. Keep it in museums and on your cars. I know history of the United States has been less than perfect. The northern portion of the U.S. imported, bought and sold slaves. The founding members of the U.S. also owned slaves. Jefferson intermingled and had children through one of his slaves. Many of those involved in creation of the Constitution wrestled with the definition of what it means for “all men are created equal”. They even created a loophole when they denied the same property and voting rights to women. So, where does that leave us, today? Are we still operating off the antiquated ideas that black people are 3/5 of a person or women can’t vote? The answer to that is, of course, NO! We know that’s the kind of thinking which was flawed from the beginning, even though it was accepted during times past.

Now here’s where I, and many other people differ from those who think it’s perfectly OK to fly the Confederate Battle flag over government buildings. I claim no uniformity of thought, these words are my own. There appears to be major differences in this idea as well.

I’m not exactly a dummy when it comes to U.S. and world history. Perhaps trivia would get by me, but most of the significant events, points of significant cause, etc., I’m well aware. No one reading only this post would know that, but neither is it within your realm of understanding to simply dismiss what I say as ignorance of history.

We could discuss at length the events leading to and the positions of the various leaders in the U.S. before the Civil War, but that doesn’t change the major reason and the evolution of thought that has brought us here today. Yes, even Lincoln changed his mind over the course of several years when it came to slavery and the rights of people who were treated so unfairly. He was a person that through listening to others, observing conditions, seeing where things needed to go, evolved in his opinion.

That’s my major point here, the reason why this country had this major separation over states rights and secession came down to the question of slavery. You’re deceiving yourself if you deny that fact. Every declaration of secession came down to this fundamental principle, the 7 and eventual 4 more states forming the CSA, believed they had the right of sovereignty to decide how they acquired, maintained, reacquired their property. Slaves in their opinion were their property, bought and sold, treated as the individual slave holder wanted and were increasingly frustrated over the north’s resistance and eventual law in retrieving run away slaves. Many of the northern states were still complicit and sympathetic toward the south obtaining run away slaves but their laws were evolving, and the south didn’t want to be controlled by these changing laws.

South Carolina’s declaring of secession from the U.S., which was described as “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slave holding States to the Institution of Slavery.”

So what has this to do with where we are today and the Confederate Battle flag? It’s a matter of recorded history that the south seceded from the union. Each one of them officially declared it was their right to own slaves and they were increasingly feeling the pressure from the north to alter their laws to conform to that of the north with regard to slavery.

They had a lot of catching up to do, to put their armed resistance into motion. Among the ideas of government formation and identification both on and off the battle field, they created uniforms and symbols to distinguish themselves from the Union army and government. They no longer wanted the existing flag so a new one had to be created. As a matter of record, this too evolved. Each CSA flag becoming more in line with the flag they found useful on the battle field. Due to the red, white and blue colors of the Union, the Confederate military, realized they needed something different that could show up well in a smokey, heavily contested battlefield. This is where the original Confederate Battle flag started, partly from the earlier 16th century Spanish design. This design is carried forward today, being used as a flag over court houses, government offices, cars, coffee mugs, draperies, shirts, etc.

What does this mean today? Well, I’m reasonably confident, if the south stalemated the war or prevailed over the north, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. New York and Massachusetts might even be flying some form of the CSA designs today. The south lost the war, but in a typical human urge, wanted to continue to find a way to say, we’re still proud of our heritage. The Confederate Battle flag was more or less a dormant design for decades after the Civil War. Sure, it was used to honor CSA veterans, but didn’t become part of the flag for several former CSA states or fly at government buildings until the 1950’s. That’s when the south renewed their defiance of the federal government after the major Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education and the years following when federal troops were sent to states like Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, where they wanted to defy desegregation laws. Those governors in some instances, even went so far as to personally block schools and supporters used this battle flag to identify themselves with their defiance and segregationist behavior.

So, if you now say, it’s part of our proud heritage and our right to be independent thinkers; yes, you get accorded that along with all the other things it represents. You can attempt to say, we’ve evolved, we don’t think that way anymore. Then why cling to this symbol of repression, hatred, segregation, and institutional slavery? You can’t magically and whimsically say, that part doesn’t count anymore.

That’s the way I see it. I may be wrong, I’ve been wrong before, but I would like to understand from a substantive, logical and factual discussion, where I’m wrong here.