Thursday, November 13, 2003

More on the Confederate flag and the South. 

I think the emails speak for themselves, so here they are. I'll highlight his emails in black and mine will be italicized:

> I saw an idiot with rebel flags all over his truck driving down
> Carrollton
> not long ago. He also had two big flags flying from atop two flag
> posts
> hooked on either side of the back of his truck. I happened to be
> working
> with a black woman at the time (our shop faces Carrollton), and she
> reacted
> aggressively by running through the door onto the sidewalk, hooting
> and
> hollering at this truck, shaking her fist in the air. She did it
> with a
> touch of humor though, a kind of dark humor, in which one would have
> thought
> she was actually cheering the guy on, until noticing the color of
> her skin.
> She did it with great irony and humor actually. She called them
> "idiots"
> afterwards, which they were. I think they had Mississippi or Alabama
> license
> plates.


I think I know how Howard Dean felt trying to explain his remark.
Like him, you all know I'm not a racist. Like him, I have an
appreciation for the traditional meanings of the rebel flag, for honor,
courage, love of homeland, the Constitution, resistance to tyranny, and
the suffering of kith and kin. M thinks it's important how many
days of explaining passed between Dean's remark and his surrendering
apology. T and elizabeth think it's important that a few rare idiots
still sometimes like to provoke a response by waving the rebel flag.
Everybody wants to be right.
I'm tempted to follow Dean's example and just apologize to you
all to shut you up. I'm not trying to be President so I don't have that
pressure on me, but I am committed to electing someone other than Bush.
If it would help us all get focused again on the task at hand and stop
this stupid bickering and squabbling among ourselves, I will apologize to
you: Yes, it's sad that Dean spoke without considering the hostile and
divisive reaction he would get by making reference to the Confederate
flag. I'm terribly sorry.
This whole episode makes me want to find a rebel flag and display
it in my home. But maybe I'll just make a nice poster out of "The Night
They Drove Old Dixie Down" and put that up instead.

J( *}


> It's interesting to me that you would prefer that we shut up on this
> issue, as you so indelicately propose. You proposed that it is very
> that it happens, that some idiot waves the rebel flag, etc. However,
> has been, very recently, a very divisive issue in some state
governments in
> the south, involving the opinions and views of millions of people.
> southern states either continue to fly the flag, or very close
> of it, to the dismay of many of the states' black citizens. If you
> believe me, google on it, as I did. It is not rare that this flag is
> in the face of black people. Actually, it is quite common.
> elizabeth


When southern states fly their flags with the rebel flag within,
they do so in honor of their heritage and the positive symbolism I've
spelled out for you, which imbued the flag for over 90 years before
racists misused it during the civil rights struggle. They do not fly the
flag to antagonize their black citizens, and black citizens with an
understanding and appreciation of American history know that. Many
Americans, maybe most Americans, do not know and understand their own
history, and that's unfortunate. Are those of us who do know history
supposed to let the ignoramuses prevail? I prefer to at least try to
educate those who misunderstand and despise the meaning of the rebel
flag. Dean chose to placate the ignoramuses so he could get on with
winning the presidency. Meanwhile, your foolish crusade on the side of
ignorance would weaken the Democratic candidate most likely to take the
presidency back from the military/industrial complex; but thankfully,
your negative opinions have been neutralized by Dean's quick and politic
apologies and today he received two major labor endorsements.
You're free to go on complaining. I don't think I'll have
anything more to say on this topic.



You don't have to reply to this, but please permit me the dignity of responding
to your last message on the subject. Apparently, the dialogue has
deteriorated to the point that those who don't agree with your historical interpretation of the flag are ignoramuses. I suppose you lump the three of us
in that category as well. Apparently, you didn't bother to do the little bit of
research that I suggested, and google on the confederate flag in southern
states, because it might dispel your confidence on the subject. I have
no confidence on this subject. It is a complicated issue, full of historical
significanse, pride, fear, longing, anger (obviously) and hate. I have empathy for those who treasure the flag, and I know that not all of these people are racists. I do know however, that some who are racists use the flag to promote their views. Barbour was recently elected governor of Mississippi, and is a supporter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group that prominently features the confederate flag on its web site. From the Boston Globe http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2003/10/

"In the rush to trample Musgrove, the GOP is crushing its own toes. Barbour has blatantly appealed to the most racist elements in Mississippi by defiantly
refusing to ask the Council of Conservative Citizens to remove his photograph
from its website home page. The photo shows Barbour at a CCC-sponsored barbecue with five other men, including CCC field director Bill Lord.

The CCC grew out of the racist white citizens councils that fought integration
during the civil rights movement. In yet another example of its hatred, the CCC home page features an article titled "The Racial Compact." The article proposes a South African-style apartheid in most of the United States reserved for the
"Nordish-American population." African-Americans, who are referred to as "Congoid," would be shoved into what is now Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and north Texas. Latinos would be consigned to south Texas and New Mexico."

You site the 50's as the decade in which the flag began to be seen as a racist symbol, yet you offer no analysis as to why that decade. I have done no
reading on the subject, but I will venture a theory: the 50's marked a change in consciousness for blacks, in that they began to find their voice, and formulate
their objections to the segregated south, which exploded into the civil rights protests of the 60's. As they began to formulate their objections, some of their focus landed on the confederate flag, which flew unopposed at the time, over several southern states, as a symbol of their oppression.

I'm not asking you necessarily to agree with their interpretation, but instead to recognize that they, like yourself, are entitled to have their interpretation
of a very important symbol. Somewhere the two sides will have to meet in the middle, because we are one nation under one flag. That is why my suggestion for Dean, to use the concept of inclusivity within the origin of our country, as a metaphor to reach out to confederate flag waivers.

It saddened me to hear you "threaten" to display the flag in your window.
I can tell you that it would not harm myself, "T" or "M" in any way if you did this. I'm glad that you decided not to do it, however, as it would have drawn unnecessary attention to a symbol that is fraught with tension for this country.
You said you want to educate people on the true meaning of the flag, so that
they will see the dignity and nobility inherent in the symbol. That is fine, but remember, your truth is just that: your truth. You are attempting to put forth your beliefs about the flag as historically accurate, as opposed to the beliefs others
may hold. Be careful that you don't become Don Quixote chasing windmills,
and the illusions of your own beliefs.


I came very close to calling you all ignoramuses and I apologize
for that. I think you three know more than most about American history
-- what I was saying is that you've taken the side of the ignoramuses
against Dean, arguing that he needs to watch his mouth when he says
something that might offend the ignoramuses who misinterpret the rebel
flag as nothing but a symbol of racism and are unaware of its richer and
deeper significance -- those are the ignoramuses. I'm not content to let
a symbol that I honor and revere be trashed and forgotten because idiots
in the '50s and a few remaining troublemakers misuse it. I'm
disappointed that folks who do know its greater significance have no
heart to defend it. I'm disappointed that Democrats have this tendency
to divide and undercut each other when unity is so obviously needed to
achieve a common purpose, to defend democracy and the Constitution, to
take the presidency back from thieves, liars and murderering
imperialists. Why is it so important to you to beat up on the Democratic
front-runner when you know he's not a racist and at worst he made an
ill-considered word choice? Don't you know you're giving ammunition to
the other side?

By the way, I was not talking about displaying a rebel flag in my
window. I was talking about putting it in my home to spark conversations
among my friends, to revive an appreciation for its greater significance.
I decided a better way to do that was to make a poster of "The Day They
Drove Old Dixie Down". There's too many ignoramuses out there who would
take offense if I put the flag in my window -- I'd endanger the other
occupants of this house by attracting the ignoramuses you defend.
I'm well aware of the large number of rebel flag-hating
ignoramuses -- I don't need to "google" on them to find out. Defenders
of the flag mostly do so out of respect for its positive traditional
meanings and only rarely for its newer, hateful meaning. Overt racism
has been effectively marginalized over the last 50 years. Other
prejudices -- including contempt for rebel flag flying bubbas -- has
replaced it.

J( *}