My fellow Americans, this is getting ridiculous. Whether we like it or not, the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest we have ever fought, the four years of hell that could have been avoided if some lawmakers in Congress hadn’t been pricks, and the Supreme Court wasn’t stacked with southerners in 1857 who couldn’t see that compromise laws were on the books because no one could agree that slavery as Americans practiced it was less than humane, IT HAPPENED. IT IS OUR PAST. IT DEFINES OUR PRESENT, TO AN EXTENT. IT WILL DEFINE OUR FUTURE WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT.
The past week has been an exercise in futility to erase the “symbols” of the stain of slavery in the United States. Because it is easy, the first target was, naturally, the Confederate Battle Flag. Why? Because some nut job on psychotropic drugs walked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, shot nine people dead for no reason other than he felt like it, and pictures appeared with him in a jacket with the Southern Cross sewn to it.
So now, the Southern Cross, the Confederate Battle Flag, is on par with the Swastika? Remember the Swastika is an ancient Egyptian symbol co-opted by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis because, well, it was cool. Now, just to show some sort of shallow sensitivity, major retailers are pulling the Southern Cross from their shelves, and Warner Brothers is taking it off the General Lee? That gesture, superficial and saccharine as it is, ain’t going to touch any issues of racism. All it’s going to do is create a black market for the flag.
And those who know American military history have news for the people defacing statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, etc., the officers of the Confederate Army. If they had been in command of the Union Army from April of 1861, the doggone war would have been over by the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) or thereabouts. On a battlefield, they actually knew what they were doing. These were the guys that won the Mexican-American war, defended Texas and the frontier, and came out of retirement to fight for their home states in more than one case. Reluctantly, for Lee. Ulysses S. Grant was the goat at West Point. He was last in his class. His big advantage was access to equipment and supplies. Lee managed to get the Confederate Army to last at least a year longer than they should have before Gettysburg. (Aside from that, the majority of American soldiers have always come from the south.)
Some museum wants to remove artifacts from “Gone With the Wind”???? The movie that held the record for most Oscars won for how long? The script was a friggin’ soap opera, but that’s no reason to ignore the work of David O. Selznik even if he did go all but insane making it. It is an iconic piece of American cinematography. The best, most developed, mature and memorable character in the whole thing was Mamie, the greatest performance of Hattie McDaniel’s career. She was the strength of the whole outfit and the one that dared tell a spoiled Irish girl off when necessary. Yeah, the character started out as a black slave. McDaniel made her human. That is not racist by any means, and a true credit to how amazing an actress McDaniel was.
Now the question turns to early U.S. presidents and the need for memorials for those that were slave owners. When it comes to U.S. presidents, that would knock out George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler – and those are just the southerners out of the first ten. That includes the man who commanded the army during the American Revolution, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the author of our Constitution and, well, Andrew Jackson. Seriously? We need to rethink these guys??? As the American History major who runs this house put it, of the men on our money, only three didn’t own slaves and one of them was Alexander Hamilton, the man who invented our monetary system – AND HE’S THE ONE GETTING THE BOOT.
This is downright ridiculous. Slavery and participation in a war that was inevitable from the beginning of the United States does not equal racism. People who owned and abused slaves – and many were abused – didn’t care what color they were. The divisions in American culture had more to do with lifestyle and values than race. Yes, the demise of slavery was a huge part of Civil War legacy, but with it gone, the cotton and sugar cane still needed to be picked and processed. One thing interested parties find out about these two crops when visiting the plantations along the Mississippi River, and to an extent researching 20th century American music that comes from the south (a lot of them were trying to escape the cotton fields) is that production is amazingly labor intensive. Before mechanization, it was done by hand. Slavery was more of an economic necessity until 1865. So, as a result of the Civil War the entire lifestyle of the south disappeared.
Was that the intent of the war? And is erasing the symbols and legacies left behind a way of reconciling that it happened? Or that actual institutional racism was put in place (by Southern Democrats, but no one wants to remember that). No. The aftermath of the War Between the States and the resulting true, systemic racism that preceded the Civil Rights movement was ugly. There is no other way to put it. However, moving to make it disappear, as if it isn’t a formative part of the nation’s history, is not the answer.
No flag made Dylann Roof walk into that church and kill nine people, just as no rifle, or pistol did. The reality is, we should learn the truth of our nation’s history. Dates, casualty numbers, actual quotes from the people who made it happen – and we should know them as well as we can quote a bible. Why? So the emblems and symbols are not subject to being immortalized as something they are not and never were meant to be. Every army has a battle flag. The Confederacy had the Southern Cross. We cannot change that. But we can stop it from being used as a cheap symbol of “how to get rid of racism.” Trying to make history go away ain’t going to do it.