Confederate flag: Heritage or hate?
by Rachel Logan
The Confederate Flag is one of the most controversial icons of American culture. What makes people feel so strongly about the emblem of a regional entity that died over 130 years ago? What importance does it have on our society today? Understand that symbols, such as the Confederate Flag, have no one-real meaning. Their meanings vary according to whatever the user attaches from their own learning. Any viewer of a symbol is free to give it any meaning whatsoever. Assuming that the Confederate Flag is just a symbol of our culture, we then have to define Culture. According to Stephen M. Fjellmann in ‘Vinyl Leaves’ culture is "a public, more or less, shared set of symbols, meanings, understandings and beliefs people use to make sense of and reproduce their normal lives." In this meaning, cultures and symbols, like the Confederate Flag, can be shared on an international, local, regional, economical, racial, ethnical, or family level, all of which overlap and form a never-ending range of possibilities. Genuine cultures are defined by their symbols, and the destruction of those symbols foreshadows the destruction of the culture itself. That is where the controversy of the Confederate Flag lies.
All because of this controversy, this simple yet elegant Confederate Flag, which flies over the South Carolina State Capitol Building and is clearly built in the state flags of both Georgia and Mississippi, has become a matter of Presidential politics. To many against the Confederate Flag, the flag represents racism and oppression. To supporters of the flag, it is a symbol of courage against the crushing odds on behalf of a noble but hopeless cause. According to this view the Confederacy fought for a NOBLE cause – not slavery, but freedom from the controlling power of the central national government. In other words, the Confederate Battle Flag has become a mirror for America, reflecting that we avoid twin extremes of either romanticizing or demonizing the South.
So many Americans are unconcerned when it comes to learning the realities of American History. This is one of the main reasons so many lies have been allowed to be taught as the truth. This has in turn caused many people to free themselves from any symbols or people with beliefs different than their own. Ever since the South was first invaded by Federal troops, Southerners and their Heritage have been under the attack of those trying to "clean up" our culture. They tell us that we should be ashamed of who we are or where we come from. They want us to hate our Confederate ancestors who dared to rebel against the dictatorship of the Union. Our family values are considered to be ignorant and outdated. Our Confederate Flags and Southern traditions are not symbols of racism or oppression. They are symbols of freedom and honor. Many hate groups have soiled the reputation of our flags, but those hate groups included members of the South and the NORTH! Many of those members proudly display the "Southern Cross" and the Christian Cross and flag. If anyone associates the Confederate cause and symbols with the racism all because of a group’s misuse of a flag, then they must do the same with every American flag and Christian symbol, because after all, they are also displayed by the hate groups.
Yankee Congressman Gephardt said the Confederate Battle Flag is "a hateful and divisive symbol and in my view has no place flying anywhere, in any state in this country." League of the South President Dr. Michael Hill says that such attitudes about the South and its historic symbols (as well as the culture and history they represent) "point up a deep-seated hatred and a desire to whitewash what the War for Southern Independence was all about." He also said that "it’s as if Gephardt’s… desire is to isolate Southerners, especially those proud of that for which their ancestors fought and make them into second-class citizens of the American empire." Many of the Yankee politicians that support the removal of the Confederate flag, accuse our ancestors and us of being traitors, but in reality, it has been Southerners (in numbers way out of proportion to the overall population) who have fought and died in America’s wars. Now the arrogant, liberal Yankee politicians that come down to the South seeking money and votes, tell us that we must wrap up our flag and basically commit cultural suicide. It’ll be a cold day in July in Georgia when that happens!
The American Civil War influenced our history more than any other event in America’s history. The Confederate Flag is a basic part of our history. It honors the veterans of the Civil War and the history and independent spirit of the South. For goodness sake, the Confederate Flag honors our ancestors who fought and DIED for the South and it’s independent spirit. During the Civil War 26,000 Confederates died as Prisoners of War in captivity. 258,000 more died in the bloody battles. Men, women and children of the Confederacy went through Hell to form a future for us. In fact, no group of Americans has ever suffered more as the result of a war that the Southerners did during the Civil War. One quarter of the white men (of military age) in the South died in the war. Altogether, nearly four percent of the Southern people (black, white, civilian and soldiers) died as a consequence of the war. This percentage surpasses the amount of any country in World War I and was exceeded only by the region between Rhine and Volga in World War II. We are part of the future that they died for. They are a part of the past that brought us that future. The lives they lived, sacrifices they made and deaths they died make up a huge part of our history and we cannot, will not cut ourselves from it. I agree with the Confederate States Of America Major R.E. Wilson when he said "If I ever disown, repudiate [reject] or apologize for the Cause for which [Robert E.] Lee fought and [Stonewall] Jackson died, let the lightning’s of Heaven rend me, and the scorn of all good men and true women be my portion. Sun, moon and stars all fall on me when I cease to love the Confederacy. Tis the Cause, not the fate of the Cause, that is glorious!" I resent anyone (like NAACP President James Gallman) who says that "The Confederate Flag is not a symbol of honor…they lost the war and now they still get to fly the flag." The Confederate Flag is a reminder of the splendor and the suffering of the South and nothing more.
The Civil War was not just a victory over the South. It was a victory for powerful central governments and federalism. It destroyed the States’ ability to protect itself against the destruction of their reserved powers. Yes, it is tragic that slavery was intertwined with a good cause, and yes, it is shameful that those who defend the cause today are labeled as supporters of slavery, but the judgment of history should not be left to the simple-minded and the naive.
I would like to add that the South did not go to war in the 1800s over racial issues. They went to defend their God-given rights! Southerners firmly claim that their rebellion was for the purpose of preserving their form of government. Even the Yankee Generals said they didn’t go to war to abolish slavery. Union General Ulysses S. Grant was quoted, "If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side." Also during Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 Inaugural address he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." He was also quoted, "My paramount [chief] object in this struggle is to save the Union and it is not to either save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it…What I do about slavery and the colored race I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."
In conclusion, I would like to quote Dr. Michael Hill on the Confederate Flag controversy: "This is a war for the South’s very survival. We ask no quarter and shall give none."
*"The [Confederate] Flag means something different to me than it does to the people who fly it to represent racism or hate… I love the history and the heritage of the South, but hate and racism are not something that I support."
~Dale Earnhardt, Jr. *
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