Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Confederate Flag –Should It Still Fly?

Note: This was the article I wrote for an internet music site dedicated to "Southern Rock". When I put out my first CD "Bats Will Scatter" it was reviewed by my good friend Tamar Fleishman. She asked if I would accept the project and write a piece on Muscle Shoals-the famous recording studio in Mussel Shoals , Alabama. I did so with great zeal. As a follow-up I was asked if I would write another article on the Confederate flag and the controversy surrounding it's use. I accepted the project with the rejoiner:
"I'll write it but I doubt it'll be anything they expect to read.."
I wrote and posted the article and great drama ensued. I and my music and all reviews of my music were bounced off the site(Southern Fried magazine) and the editor reacted(as in REACTIONARY) by putting scores of tiny confederate flag icons next to each and every paragraph on his site. Typical. I was accused of being UN-southern(the editor hailed from Arizona-hmmm.) and I a mere Florida-Georgia boy. In any case- here's the original article in deference to the Presidential Primaries being held in the South(Red??) states. I hope you enjoy it. ~ MTF

PART 1-The Confederate Flag –Should It Still Fly?
Notes on an Obsequy and The Power of Southern Mythology
MYSTR Treefrog

Who owns history? How much power do symbols hold over us all?
Is change necessary even to the exclusion of the diversity of viewpoint?
Does revisionist history foster debate, or political correctness?

On July 1, 2000 the Confederate flag, the Stars and Bars, was taken off the State capitol of South Carolina in Columbia, where it has flown since 1962, and moved to the statehouse grounds to fly at the site of a Confederate war memorial. The Confederate flag had been hoisted above the State Capitol Dome by the State Legislature in protest of the civil rights reforms being enacted throughout the South during the early 1960’s. After continued protests from the NAACP and other groups who viewed the Confederate Flag as a Racist symbol, the State legislature reached what they thought was a just and equitable solution by a vote and a compromise was reached.
Counter demonstrations, though smaller in number, opposing the removal the flag on grounds of the historical preservation of Southern Heritage, were temporarily assuaged by the compromise.

The Confederate Stars and Bars still fly on State property.

The debate, the protests, and an economic boycott of South Carolina suggested by the N.A.A.C.P continue as a result of this issue.

Recently, on January 15th, at a rally in support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day at the state capitol, Senator Joseph Biden, D. Delaware was joined by fellow Senator Christopher Dodd in saying;

"If I were a state legislator, I'd vote for it to move off the grounds - out of the state."

Confederate Flag supporters attending the rally, numbering fewer than 50, were incensed and waved banners saying, ”We Don’t Want Dodd, No King but God.”

Jim Hanks of Lexington ,Ky -a member of the League Of The South was quoted as saying;

“We love this Flag, we love our heritage. Biden would say anything to get votes. “

There is much debate as to exactly what that heritage is, and what that heritage means to the citizens of the United States- black and white- and to the citizens of South Carolina. It must be noted that most South Carolinians voted to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse Dome. Most, but not all, seemed satisfied with the compromise of allowing the Stars and Bars to fly on Statehouse grounds at the Confederate war memorial.

The State of South Carolina census of the year 2000 puts the percentage of black citizens at 29% of the state population. This is nearly a third of South Carolina’s population. It may be fairly assumed that most of these persons are descendants of slaves, and therefore may be alienated by seeing what they may characterize as a symbol of racism, slavery and division being displayed over Capitol Dome of the Statehouse. The land, it is argued, is paid for and supported by taxes, both State and Federal.
The Confederate flag is an insult to one third of the taxpayers of South Carolina, and therefore should be taken down and off Public land.

Symbols are odd things. They change in importance depending through which set of eyes view them.

The Civil War- (which, my fellow Americans, was FAR from Civil)- began on April 12th, 1861 when Southern Forces fired on Fort Sumter. It ended on April 14, 1865 when Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at a tiny courthouse at Appomattox Virginia.

That was the end of The Confederate States of America. Period.

It was not an end of the grief suffered by both sides as a result of this national horror. It continues to this day. I leave the factual debates to historians-both the revisionists who insist that slavery was not the real issue, and those who insist it was.

To a descendant of the unconscionable institution of slavery, and the segregationist policies that continued in the South afterwards(and in point of fact-EVERYWHERE in the U.S.)- will reasonably insist that slavery had EVERYTHING to do with the Civil War.

To those who hold that States Rights was the issue, and that the right of a people to rebel against the enforced domination of an all-powerful central federal government was the REAL cause of the Civil War- it’s a question of Southern Pride. Many see this rebellion not only as their right –but their bound duty, even 142 years after the end of the cession of hostilities to continue to defy all boundaries set by others by flying the Confederate Flag.

It must be noted that the state flag of South Carolina does not incorporate the Stars and Bars in it’s design as do many of the southern states such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Some people just like being disturbers of the status quo. History be damned. Flying The Stars and bars pisses THEM off so that’s why we do it.

Some people just think it looks cool on the back of a motorcycle jacket.

The South- for it’s part- suffered horribly not only by losing the Civil War, but under the failed and harsh policies of Reconstruction.

I think it’s a pretty fair assumption that descendants of slaves suffer still.

I have heard the knee-jerk reaction from some who dislike hearing the descendants of slaves demanding social and political equity. The stock line goes something like

“ Why don’t they just get over it? “

Here’s something to consider:

To the Victor belong the Spoils. What is FAIR seems beside the point when presented by the realities warfare and of both American and Human History.

Now- those of you who may wish that “they just get over it” should go look at the calendar hanging in your home. Hopefully it is current. Do the math. What year is this? More importantly, what century?

Is there really a debate here?

A little perspective is in order.

The use or abuse of a symbol can have serious detrimental effects to what may otherwise be met with fair compromise and just observation.

Observations? Here’s one:

The Swastika was originally a symbol used by Indians( know..the ones from India..)
to illustrate the continuity and balance of Life force. Taken by itself, without the weight of modern history, it’s really quite a fascinating graphic. It’s even beautiful in it’s simplicity.
It’s tough to get the same reaction from your average Jew.
Looks like the Nazi’s messed that symbol up by appropriating the swastika and creating their own special myth around it.
Darn Nazis.

Fact is, The Stars n Bars might have been an innocuous cloth oddity, perhaps even merely nostalgic if the Ku Klux Klan hadn’t decided to appropriate it and use it to terrorize black citizens and reduce the perception of all Southerners as being hateful, ugly, ignorant, murderous and petty. The KKK wasn’t content to only desecrate that symbol for their myth, there was also that cross burning thing.
It’s weird how the use of THAT symbol didn’t seem to cause any sort of moral conflict in good Christian Stars N bar totin’ citizens working for the preservation of “heritage”.
Darn KKK.

Now it doesn’t matter how cool the design is.

Next- Part 2- Design is everything..

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