Thursday, June 25, 2015

About that flag

I had no intention of wading into this controversy, but I'm seeing a bunch of "history" and "heritage" posts floating around from otherwise reasonable and intelligent people of late. Which frustrates me to no end, as this is an issue that has bugged me for a very long time outside of the current "Confederate flag" controversy. If you're going to cite history in your defense, you'd better have paid attention in history class. Sadly, most haven't, and haven't bothered to check the accuracy of claims they're parroting.

If we want to get historical, that particular flag was ostensibly the battle flag for the army of Northern Virginia, and the man who designed it expressly attached racist meaning to it in his official description. The flag was popularized during the early decades of the 20th century by the KKK for expressly racist purposes (the Klan wasn't exactly a social club and/or sewing circle). And (this really, really bugs me) everyone claiming this flag as heritage or history overlooks the fact that the actual battle flag was expressly square, not rectangular. So this isn't even a historical flag people are fighting over, but a modern invention that was never actually flown by anyone during the Civil War. Then we have the southern states that incorporated it in the 50s and 60s into their state flags, and others just skipped that incorporation part and flew it alongside their state flags as, again, an intentional and expressly racist defiant gesture against integration. So, from a purely historical perspective, I cannot see much evidence at all that this particular flag is worth defending in any context. You want to talk about the Stars and Bars or Stainless Banner or other actual flags and insignia? Fine. But this doesn't belong in the same conversation.

The Civil War was about more than slavery. Correct. And omelettes are about more than eggs. But without slavery, there would never have been a Civil War. Period. Virginia and Georgia and Alabama aren't going to take up arms to fight to mint their own money, or treat with foreign powers, or impose tariffs on goods from neighbor states. Not gonna happen. Henry Clay did not earn his reputation as the Great Compromiser by settling boundary disputes with a survey crew. The Jayhawk Wars did not happen because of a basketball rivalry.

Finally--and this is really the gist of it, regardless of any of the other arguments--if someone has had a family member eaten by Jeffrey Dahmer, don't lecture to them that Silence of the Lambs is really an amazing movie, and that their willful bias is the only reason they don't recognize it as such.

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