Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Confederate Flag Debate

When we went down south to The Great Smoky Mountains for our vacation a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see so many confederate flags. My husband took this one; the front of a truck. They seem to be on trucks everywhere down there; I saw a plain old pick-up truck with two giant confederate flags waving off the back of each side of the bed.

This was so disturbing to me. I had heard about the confederate flag being used in the south, or perhaps read about it at some point, but honestly never gave it much thought. Until it was right in my face.

For a moment I thought perhaps that I was so disturbed because we had recently visited the National Civil War Museum, and Belle Grove Plantation (a real plantation preserved from that era) on our way down south. But I really think I would have found it disturbing even if we hadn't visited those places.

I understand the south taking pride in where they live, just as I take pride in being a native New Yorker. But I can't understand their needing to do it to the point of insulting others. The implication certainly is that if they don't have a problem waving that flag around, they obviously don't give a crap about the black citizens they share the south with. Worse, it would seem that they believe that black folks should be slaves again. The fact is that there is no separating that flag from its history.

My son and I have recently studied the Civil War. One thing we discussed quite a bit was something I didn't get when I learned about it in school, and that is that the war didn't start out being about slavery. The south fought for their right to secede from the nation. The north fought to prevent the south from doing that. Once the north won, the war was redefined by the north as a fight for the end of slavery, since that was a result. But technically speaking, the flag was not a symbol of slavery to the south, but rather a symbol of southern pride.

That still does not change what it represents today. These days not even the word "nigger" can be used, when discussing the word itself. So in a country where conversations about "the n word" can't even contain the actual word, how can we possibly accept a confederate flag?

Seeing the flag waved around gave me a creepy feeling. Kind of like the drivers of these vehicles were implying "I got a gun inna back here, so don' be srewin' roun' wit me".

I understand freedom of speech. I can remember walking through Times Square many years ago with my best friend, who happened to be a gay man. Well, we passed a guy standing on a milk crate spewing anti-gay crap. He was holding his bible and screaming about how all fags were going to hell. I could not understand how my friend Stephen could remain calm in the face of so much blatant hatred. And he said that he was able to overlook it because he was glad to live in a place where people were allowed to spew that kind of nonsense; that it is better than living in a place where freedom of speech is not allowed, since likely that would include him not being able to live "out".

Yes, I understand the importance of free speech. I just wish I could be as gracious about it as my friend Stephen was. On the one hand I really want that flag outlawed. But what would be next to right to have a bumper sticker which says "Human Milk for Human Babies" on it?

I have lots of bumper stickers on my car. But I've always been careful to keep them positive. The flag just seems so darn MEAN. I have a hard time with mean.

No matter the point of view of the person waving it; the confederate flag comes off as mean.


Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I am from Texas, where we get a few Confederate flags, not many. Texas fought in the "War Between the States" aka "The War Over States Rights" aka "The War Against Northern Aggression" but we didn't have hardly any plantations and we still really considered ourselves our own Republic so I think we were fighting just for manly giggles and snorts. But I completely agree with you. Historically, the war was over states' rights etc etc. But the plain truth is that when some folks see that flag, it HURTS them. It makes their heart hurt. And isn't THAT enough reason to not fly it?? It's not about rights, it's about love and respect.

I spend most of my day trying to teach my children not to hurt each other, to put another's needs and hearts above their own. To lower the flag!

Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

"The War Against Northern Aggression"

Now *that* is a phrase we have never hear of up here in CT! Certainly gives us another perspective.

Thanks for stopping by!