Thursday, July 17, 2008

Still fighting over THAT flag...

Left: Yes, you know what it is. (Image from The Palmetto Scoop.)


For foreign readers (and Americans who didn't memorize their history lessons): South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860. Largely for this reason, Union forces fired on Fort Sumter, which is considered the official beginning of the Civil War. Yes, it all started here!!!!

How to honor such history respectfully, is the question.

It seems we still can't agree on that.

Although the CSA battle flag is on South Carolina statehouse grounds, it is no longer in the front and is displayed as part of a memorial to the deceased CSA soldiers. No one objects to the memorial itself (that I know of); it's the flag that raises objections and gets everyone all stirred up.

From the Greenville News today:

Confederate group plans response to flag flap

Organization denies comments about flying more flags to counter NAACP

By Tim Smith • CAPITAL BUREAU • July 17, 2008

COLUMBIA -- The Sons of Confederate Veterans plans a response to the NAACP's push to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds but denied Wednesday one of its officers' statements that it would fly flags around the state in reaction.

Meanwhile, in response to questions by The Greenville News on Wednesday about whether he supported moving the flag, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain said the issue of the flag has already been resolved.

"Sen. McCain has said repeatedly that he could not be more proud of the overwhelming majority of the people of South Carolina who have come together to resolve the issue," said Mario Diaz, a spokesman for the campaign.

A spokesman for the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama couldn't be reached for comment.

State NAACP President Lonnie Randolph said Tuesday the national organization had asked actors and movie studio representatives to observe the NAACP's economic sanctions against the state until the flag is moved off Statehouse grounds. He said the civil rights organization had received "very positive" responses.

The battle flag flies behind the Confederate soldiers' monument near a busy Columbia intersection, the result of a legislative compromise in 2000 to bring the flag off the Statehouse dome.

Randy Burbage, who leads South Carolina members in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the group's officials will consider proposed responses to the NAACP actions when they meet in two weeks.

"We're weighing different options," he said. "We always respond to attacks on our heritage, and we feel like that's what this is."

He said he was "not at liberty" to describe what was being considered, but he denied the comments of another officer earlier in the day who said the organization planned to raise flags across the state in response to the NAACP's latest campaign to remove the flag.

"That's not true," he said. "He misspoke on that. There's no plan to do that. I'm puzzled as to why he even said that. He's not the spokesman for the organization. I've already spoken to him today, and he admitted that he misspoke on that."

Burbage said it was also untrue that the organization planned to raise a flag each time the NAACP complained or that the organization was negotiating with a landowner to raise a giant flag near a Midlands interstate, just as supporters have raised such flags in Florida.

"I don't know how I can put these fires out at this point," he said. "That's him speaking for himself, not this organization."
My observation? It never ends.

Listening to: Yo La Tengo - Moby Octopad
via FoxyTunes


white rabbit said...

I don't get it. I'm a European. What does it represent? Nostalgia for white supremacism or just an 'I am what I am' identity thing? Or different things to different people? What's your take Daisy? You may remember I was trying to get my head round this stuff on my Lynyrd Skynyrd posting.

Daisy said...

It's ethnic pride. Southern American identity is as much an ethnicity as Irish, Italian, or any other. Unfortunately, the flag as a symbol of the south is also tied up in white supremacy, but many people who love the CSA battle-flag are NOT white supremacists, any more than people who love Irish nationalist stuff are necessarily anti-royalist or anti-English, although both may co-exist.

But the NAACP is right in that the flag is just too incendiary a symbol to preserve without ongoing strife. But the more anti-southerner sentiment there is in the national media, the more that flag gets waved right in-your-face. One feeds the other. (In fact, there is a verse about that in SWEET HOME ALABAMA.) My own favorite southern band, The Drive-By Truckers, wrote a song called The Southern Thing:

Ain't about my pistol
Ain't about my boots
Ain't about no northern drives
Ain't about my southern roots
Ain't about my guitars, ain't about my big old amps
"It ain't rained in weeks, but the weather sure feels damp"
Ain't about excuses or alibis
Ain't about no cotton fields or cotton picking lies
Ain't about the races, the crying shame
To the fucking rich man all poor people look the same

Don't get me wrong
It just ain't right
May not look strong, but I ain't afraid to fight
If you want to live another day
Stay out the way of the southern thing

Ain't about no hatred
Better raise a glass
It's a little about some rebels
But it ain't about the past
Ain't about no foolish pride
Ain't about no flag
Hate's the only thing that my truck would want to drag

You think I'm dumb, maybe not too bright
You wonder how I sleep at night
Proud of the glory, stare down the shame
Duality of the southern thing

My Great Great Granddad had a hole in his side
He used to tell the story to the family Christmas night
Got shot at Shiloh, thought he'd die alone
From a Yankee bullet, less than thirty miles from home
Ain't no plantations in my family tree
Did NOT believe in slavery
Thought that all men should be free
"But, who are these soldiers marching through my land?"
His bride could hear the cannons and she worried about her man

I heard the story as it was passed down
About guts and glory and Rebel stands
Four generations
A whole lot has changed
Robert E. Lee
Martin Luther King
We've come a long way rising from the flame
Stay out the way of the southern thing

Full disclosure: In my family tree, I have both Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as African slaves (about eight generations ago) and indentured servants.

My favorite ancestor was a fellow surnamed Hatcher (I think it was Thomas, but he appears to have changed his name several times), who swam across the Ohio River, thus deserting the Confederate army. I always wonder if he'd just had enough, knew it was a lost cause, was sick or hurt, just didn't believe in the cause... or just why he did it. But I like to think that's my pacifist DNA... :)

God Bless you, gr-gr-gr-grandfather Hatcher. I honor your memory and your decision to stop fighting, for whatever reason.

annie said...

great thoughts, daisy. i loved hearing your family history!
for many years, i was unaware that my paternal great great grandmother came to california from mobile.

it's added a whole 'nother dimension to my perceived notions about my ancestry! i would LOVE to see the city of her birth one day.

mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for the family history, Daisy. I've lived in the south, in NC, when I was young. I got a little feel for what it all means, but really I'm just about as far removed from it as White Rabbit is.

JoJo said...

What an interesting and informative post. As a 2nd gen & 1st gen American from New England, I'm pretty far removed from the Southern-thing too; only been to the south 2x in my life, both times as a child.

We see a lot of CSA flags up here too. There's a very strange phenomenon in the eastern part of my county, where many Washington natives talk w/ a southern accent, fly the CSA flag, listen to country music stations, and have bumperstickers on their giant pickups that say, "proud to be a redneck".

Unfortunately, I do have a huge prejudice/bias when I see that flag. I think "redneck ignorant southerner". It's a shame that a symbol of southern history has turned into such a flashpoint. Sort of like the Nazi's taking that ancient symbol of good luck (swastika), and turning into a symbol of hate.

white rabbit said...

Thanks for very thoughtful reply Daisy! :D

Beverly Mahone said...

The Confederate flag may not represent white supremacy but, sadly, too many White folks in SC see it that way. Nationally, Blacks see it as lingering HATE because every time that flag is raised, there's some white southerners behind it spewing racial insults and white pride.

Renee said...

The flag needs to go. It is an insult to every single black person as it is a reminder of slavery. That is the culture that the sons of the confederacy wishes to preserve and there can be nothing positive about that for black southerners.

thene said...

A while ago I told my aunt that a lot of people around North Georgia display the Confederate flag; she was horrified, which I guess is the standard European reaction. (As if Europe never benefited from slavery). I'm glad you posted about's something I see everywhere and just Don't Get, yet. Not just the flag, but other things, like the way history is framed in exhibits like those on Kennesaw Mountain - the general tone of which is generally 'noez, the Union were such BULLIES and there were so MANY of them and they used TACTICS, noez, and we LOST but it was SO UNFAIR -'

I once asked a coworker (an older white woman) about this idea being transmitted, that the Union victory was unfair, and the first thing she said was 'But there were black people who fought for the Confederacy too!' Um, wha'? I never mentioned slavery, or race, only the tone of all these exhibits, but it was the first thing in your mind, was it?

The idea of Southern-ness as 'ethnic pride' is helpful, more so than speaking of simple geography or ancestry, because it is so distinctly a white monoculture that goes in for this. You'd think black people have never lived in the place we call the South - or at least not until you ask a Southerner totally not race-related questions about their history.

I do still have one question, because though I see plenty of it in the local area, none of my immediate neighbours fly the Confederate flag. So I was unable to observe what Confederate Flag folk do on July 4th. How do they celebrate the national holiday of a country they wish they'd seceded from? I would like to learn this, if you know the answer.

thene said...

(I might add; the clearest answer I've ever had on the 'unfair' question was from a local white geekgirl who lacked the southern identity, who told me 'It's not that they're sorry they lost - it's that they're sorry they had to lose.')

Daisy said...

the Union were such BULLIES and there were so MANY of them and they used TACTICS, noez, and we LOST but it was SO UNFAIR

1) Well, you do realize that like General Patton and General Custer, General William Tecumseh Sherman seemed to enjoy the hell out of his work? How much have you read about him? The term "scorched earth" is attributed to him, for good reason. There was no reason to double back and, for instance, burn down Columbia, SC just for kicks. Campaigns of terror will always be remembered as such. There was no call for it--it was all to show Robert E Lee how big his dick was.

Sherman succeeded mostly in further impoverishing and starving very poor people by burning down their crops. The "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" style of warfare began at that time. Wikipedia calls Sherman "the first modern general"--they should qualify that with "first modern AMERICAN general"--as the military method known as scorched earth would gain popularity over the next century, and now, we fight ALL our wars that way, and fuck the consequences! (and the civilians) Remember, Sherman cut his teeth butchering the Seminole.

You might call NAPALM the highest manifestation of this form of warfare--but the actual phrase "bomb em back into the stone age" didn't catch on till Vietnam.

Really, it's fair to say that the Civil War marked the first time American whites had been treated just like Native Americans historically had been--and by the same occupying army, too, for instance, Custer was also big Union hero.

I think many southerners worry the brutality of the war will be forgotten, because the cause was unrighteous. I think we can approve of a righteous cause and still say, you know, "the firebombing of Dresden was excessive." (Can't we? I can.)

2) As for "unfair"--it certainly was unfair for the poor who had to fight the war. (You didn't read the lyrics to my Drive-By Truckers song, didya?) The poor had no slaves; many didn't care and tried to stay out of it... and next thing you know, you have Yankees in the doorway. Many people in the extreme rural Appalachian areas didn't even know there WAS a war on.

Most poor southerners had never seen the impressive and deadly firepower of the north (not even in "picture books"--many were illiterate anyway), were not ready for the sheer physical devastation that those cannons wrought (the south did not have the industry to produce such weaponry) and had no experience in such advanced warfare. The famous scene in GONE WITH THE WIND (filmed in one shot, she paused to say admiringly) with all the casualties laying there (every third body is real and moving, 2/3 are dummies) is probably a significantly prettified version compared to the reality.

3) The rich plantation owners are the citizens who decided to secede from the Union. I always thought everyone knew this, but let me repeat it: THE RICH PEOPLE DECIDED ALL THIS. Blacks, women and indentured servants could not even vote at that time. The politicians represented the rich, people like themselves. They are primarily the ones who felt the shame you are talking about. They screwed up. They didn't know what they were doing, and thought they did. They could not back their shit up, and that is always shameful to rich white men.

What is interesting is how rich southern whites manipulated poor whites, then as now. Before the Civil War, the south was as rigidly determined by class as Britain (imported wholesale!)... The war tended to smash all of that. But there is still a romantic attachment, I suppose similar to the whole love-of-monarchy thing in England.

Even though it's racist, sexist, etc etc (due to its age, mostly) I would recommend you read MIND OF THE SOUTH by WJ Cash. If you're gonna live here, you should STUDY. :P

Much of the southern mindset you describe is analyzed in the book. He is also the person who explained to me how poor whites came to identify with the rich, and explains why even today poor southern whites still tend to vote conservative (as the rich do).


Amber Rhea said...

Um, wha'? I never mentioned slavery, or race, only the tone of all these exhibits, but it was the first thing in your mind, was it?

Southerners can be very defensive about it, mainly bc we're sick of being talked don to by people who think they know better than we do.

Theresa said...

I am from Greenville South Carolina. Lets talk about the NAACP.
They are more prejudiced than any confederate flag flier! Instead of supporting a peaceful union they continue to want to fight about this flag. As you do all know, this flag is part of our heritage, part of our lives and part of our families. I support the confederate flag flying. It is not because I am prejudice against black people, it is because of my ancestry, my family that fought in the war.
I truly believe that the NAACP is a prejudiced group, far from Martin Luther Kings "vision" of peace.
Nostalgia for white supremacy would be German, pay attention, do you not see the skin heads with their hand in the air with a swastika tattooed on their forehead, not the confederate flag! White supremacists consider Jews to be the gravest threat to their cause, because they can assimilate much easier than other ethnic groups. It just shows stupidity on the issues, read your American history people!
If we agree to take down the confederate flag then I think we should be able to take down the NAACP to, we will trade, you give and we will give to, i thought not, so why cant we work together for all of our civil rights?

Blacks are not the minority anymore and need to stop acting like it.
You cant get a job, we cant either.
You cant afford groceries, we cant either.
Cant afford to buy a house, me either.
Do you get stared at because you are black? I doubt it, unless you are somewhere that has never seen a black before.
You think our government treats you poorly, we do to!
I ask any black person to let me know how you are treated differently that any of us!
We are no different than you.

This flag issue is dumb as hell!
No we don't want to take it down.
Maybe on day the black people in this county(NAACP) will stop fighting because they think they are unequal to us and start fighting with us for issues that we all deserve!
Southerners often see the flag as merely a symbol of southern culture, a "country music flag" without any political or racial connection.

Did you know that 20% of the people that marched to the White House with Martin Luther King Jr were WHITE? Might have only been 20%, but we were there to fighting right beside YOU for all of our rights!