Nobody really listens anymore.
I mean really listens. Hears. It’s as if everyone is afraid that if they do, they have to reconsider their opinions, so instead we debate and argue and scream each other down. We get defensive and angry so we don’t have to allow ourselves to be changed, because allowing ourselves to be changed means admitting the possibility we may have been wrong. And more than anything else in this political and social climate, the most terrible thing anyone could be is wrong, amIright?
This week, in the aftermath of Charleston, my social media feed is filled with talk about the Confederate battle flag. People I’ve never known to be so passionate about that old lifeless piece of material are incensed that the Governor of our state of Alabama has had the flag removed from capitol grounds. These people, good people, are irate and in their anger they are reacting in a way I do not understand. If you are one of those people, I hope you’ll carve out a couple of minutes with me to listen, really listen, and allow for the possibility that you might be changed. If after hearing me you still hold tight to that Old Stainless Banner, then fine…you’re just an asshole. KIDDING, KIDDING. We will simply still disagree and we will go on with our lives shooting eye daggers across the room when we meet. KIDDING AGAIN. It’s what I do in tense situations. Deal.
So let’s start the portion of the day where I possibly bore you to tears.
I wonder if you know that the battle flag did not always fly over South Carolina’s state capitol? It wasn’t always there…it was added in 1962, in direct response to the Civil Rights movement. Yes, let that sink in. It was placed there as a big F You to those who were fighting for basic, equal rights for black Americans. What’s worse, when this was done they had a little ceremony in a room at the capitol and literally locked out the black representatives. It was later moved to the grounds of the capitol as a compromise…but it was locked into place at the top of the flag pole. This means it always flights at full staff, even when Old Glory flies at half staff. Ya’ gotta’ give ’em credit for being serious with their jabs. Those white boys weren’t just playing around, y’all.
In Alabama, it was much the same story. The flag wasn’t always flying there as a normal part of honoring the state’s history. It came to reside there permanently only in 1963, a response from Alabama when George Wallace when then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy came to discuss ending segregation at Alabama’s schools. Later it was removed, with great controversy, and placed on capitol grounds. This week Bentley ordered it removed and most of you proceeded to lose your shit. I get it. It’s a memorial, I know, and I wouldn’t myself be horribly offended by it being on a confederate memorial…except that it is on state capitol grounds, and it was only put there after it had to be forced off the dome. If it wasn’t on the memorial before that ugly controversy, I think the memorial will be okay without it now.
Has that softened your hearts? No? Hang in with me.
Some of you may still be saying to yourselves, “But that is not what the flag means to me. They’ve just co-opted it for racist causes. The flag really means heritage, and the civil war was not about slavery.” I hope you will indulge me for a few minutes more, and I hope you will still try to hear me. I think we, as proud southerners, tend to lie to ourselves a little bit on this point. It’s not out of hate that most of us do this…I think it’s generally from a good place, because we do not want it to have been about slavery. But let me show you a few things.
When the south decided upon secession, the states each wrote up their casus belli, or justification for doing so and thus going to war.
South Carolina’s reads:
...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
And here is Alabama’s:
Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…
As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.
I could go on but I think…I hope…you see what I mean. Were there other reasons, including state’s rights? Yes…state’s rights to continue with enslaving an entire race of human beings, mostly. Economic? Yes, the economy of slavery, which made an extremely high concentration of wealth for a very small percentage of southerners:
In 1860 the South was richer than any country in Europe except England, and it had achieved a level of wealth unmatched by Italy or Spain until the eve of World War II.
The southern economy generated enormous wealth and was critical to the economic growth of the entire United States. Well over half of the richest 1 percent of Americans in 1860 lived in the South. Even more important, southern agriculture helped finance early 19th century American economic growth. Before the Civil War, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton, provided over half of all U.S. export earnings, and furnished 70 percent of the cotton consumed by the British textile industry. Cotton exports paid for a substantial share of the capital and technology that laid the basis for America’s industrial revolution.
I know for a fact that most people do not know these things, and I think that when you don’t know these things it is easy to be swayed to believe that the confederate flag is one we should be proud of. But when ya’ know better ya’ do better, y’all. The flag is a part of our history, yes. I have ancestors who fought for it. But I don’t know if that means we have to honor and celebrate it. It should be in museums, yes. If you wish to have one, you have that right, yes. But it has no place flying on the grounds of state capitols that are supposed to be representative of all of our citizens, including our black brothers and sisters in Christ (a helping of good Christian guilt to finish you off. I’m good, right?).
Because what if this isn’t a proud flag that has been co-opted by a racist cause. What if instead, good people have convinced themselves to co-opt a racist flag, and now refuse to let it go even though it is a direct affront to our brother and our God who tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus”?
Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Lord, Angie’s done turned liberal.” But y’all, if being an acceptable conservative means defending the above, I weep for the conservative cause. This should have nothing to do with liberal or conservative, left, or right, Republican or Democrat. And if it does, then I’m sorry but I want none of it. Zero parts of it. You can have it ’cause Angie’s out. This isn’t about left or right for me, and I really wish…I hope…that it isn’t for you either.
I wish more of us would be more concerned with what IS right rather than with BEING right. I really do.
I hope that everyone will soften their hearts, especially in the light of what happened in Charleston so very recently…and listen and hear. Dare to let your hearts be softened and your minds changed. Because with all of the ugliness, wouldn’t that be the best silver lining we could hope for? Is it possible? I really hope so.