When I first started writing this blog I was more inclined to discuss heated political and social issues. Seems like as a nation we’ve become so polarized, so divided, so nasty (for lack of a better word) that I’ve tended to steer clear of things that inflame the senses of the various competing political and ethical camps. Maybe I was afraid of the repercussions. Maybe I was just tired of trying to explain simple positions. It does get old defending what seems to be the most pure and logical assertions from the barrage of criticism and fired up vitriol. Everyone has an axe to grind! Thus I have kept my comments and analysis to my gardening, sports and music.
The recent controversy over the flying of the Confederate flag over state capitol buildings begs a comment or two.
Honestly I never have understood why it was necessary to somehow glorify an obvious symbol of a long gone era. An era in which human beings were routinely bought and sold in a country that espoused freedom and liberty. It was a paradoxical time in the history of this great human experiment we call America. It was a time when many of the simple truths this country was founded on were being shaken to their very core. Ultimately many thousands of men would lose their lives over these fundamental issues and in the end the Union was preserved.
Apparently there are many people in this modern era who have fostered an almost mythic reverence for the ways of the Old South, that in their eyes, has sadly been lost forever. The representatives of the southern states who have persisted in flying the flag (and their supporters) like to point out that their doing so is a simple homage to their brave ancestors who fought and died for their beliefs on the battlefield and not to glorify that world view. That would seem like a reasonable explanation but if one digs a bit further into the actual events of the time, and the comments made by the combatants as to the real reasons for the Civil War, it becomes crystal clear why the continued presence of this Confederate symbol on state grounds is such an affront to the African American community and many other people with a conscience.
In his famous “Cornerstone Speech”, then Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens attempted to clear up any misunderstandings about what the Confederacy stood for and why the Civil War was inevitable.
Accordinging to WIKIPEDIA, Stephen’sspeech explained what the fundamental differences were between the constitutions of the Confederacy and that of the United States, enumerated contrasts between U.S. and Confederate ideologies and beliefs, laid out the Confederacy’s causes for starting the American Civil War, and defended slavery. I’d like to thank my old and dear friend Paul “Broke” Brokaw for bringing this speech to my attention. Though I was a Civil War buff as a child, I guess I never fully grasped the magnitude of Stephen’s oratory until just these last few days. Stephens made this speech a few days after Lincoln was elected President.
The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”
Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
The Confederate flag therefore is the banner under which thousands of people fought and died to promote and defend this outmoded and universally rejected ideology. They were trying to reshape the world to perpetuate their own racist order. Can there be any more compelling reason to forever retire this symbol of white superiority to the museum case and eliminate it’s presence from the halls of state governments?
It has been said that if American slavery had existed, and the Civil War and been fought 1000 years ago, then perhaps the pain and suffering of those many innocents would be a distant and detached history lesson, dulled by the passing of time. That is simply not the case. In the discourse of the 21st century there many citizens who have had grandparents and great grandparents who were the victims of the crime of slavery. Must we continue to fly a flag that serves toremind them of a time when they were considered no more than property? To be bought and sold like cattle?
Removing the Confederate flag from government should not be seen as a political battle between the left and right but rather as a move toward greater understanding of all our people’s feelings. It’s a step towards bringing greater decency to our society and healing some of the wounds that still remain after 150 years.