Pride and Dignity: In Defense of the Confederate Flag
Dr. Robert D. Crane
Jun 4, 2010
The current discussion in Muslim egroups about the horror of flying the Confederate Flag suggests that too many Muslims are out of touch with America. Pride in the Confederate Flag is a cultural thing. In our public schools we have been brought up to associate it with support for slavery, because opposition to slavery was how Abraham Lincoln generated support in the North for his fateful decision to go to war against his own people. Tens of millions of American people would be willing to die for the Confederate flag, because it represents freedom from colonial oppression, from the industrial North’s exploitation and oppression of the agrarian South. In civics classes we are given fairytales about the Civil War, because otherwise it would be difficult to justify this blackest era in American history.
Perhaps President Lincoln’s gravest mistake was to reject the proposal that the various states of the union be combined into four or five self-governing regions, each independent in their own cultures but subservient to Washington for national defense and the printing of money. Slavery was a bankrupt institution and would not have survived more than a few decades. De facto slavery indeed did last for a century after the Civil War, and the African Americans have not yet fully recovered.
It would be instructive to visit the museum in Manassas, Virginia, where the propaganda on both sides is memorialized. The most effective call to arms was a tract put out by the South warning that President Lincoln was about “to send his troops to rape your wives and daughters”. This was serious stuff.
Despite the hyperbole, the confederate flag represents most essentially the ingrained American fear of centralized government, perhaps because the ancestors of most Americans fled the oppressive monarchies in Europe. This is one reason why Americans generally value freedom above all other values.
Fortunately, in America we venerate both freedom (which is the positive responsibility to promote justice) and liberty, which is merely a negative freedom from restraints on action. We combine the freedom culture of Northern Europe, which focused positively on respect for the law of the tribe, and the libertarian culture of Southern Europe, which focused on opposition to all constraints. Combining these two concepts of human rights is an art, which Americans have never quite mastered, but at least we try. The “Bible” on this subject is the 751-page magnum opus by Brandeis University Professor David Hackett Fischer, entitled Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas, Oxford University Press, 2005.
The formation of the United States of America was a major miracle, because the loose governmental structure of the original confederal system after the Revolution was changed in 1789 to the comparatively tight structure of the current federal system. Most Americans fear the trend during the 20th century, and even more today, toward the consolidation of political power in Washington and economic power in New York and the mutual backscratching by both.
The Confederate Flag is a symbol for the general chip-on-the-shoulder approach of Texans, who famously will spit in your face and warn you “Don’t tread on me.” That probably is why almost all Americans honor Texas as quintessentially American. The most popular slogan in America has always been “Remember the Alamo”, where America’s bravest died to the last man in the defense of America against the Mexican army.
This all, however, has a distinctly negative side. People seem to forget that the expanding U.S. population invaded what was Mexico in the inevitable demand for what Hitler called “more Lebensraum”, more space. We decimated the Native American population. And we fought a war in 1898 against Spain to tell the rest of the world, “Don’t mess with the Western Hemisphere, because it is ours”. This is what the Monroe Doctrine is all about, not merely keeping America out of foreign entanglements but keeping foreigners from tangling with America.
The NeoCons carried this a step further to include the entire world. The NeoCons declared that Planet Earth is American turf and that anyone who doesn’t accept this must be annihilated, at least psychologically with the American dollar if not physically with bunker busters.
Now that the American cowboy era of President Bush is drawing to a close, as well as perhaps the era of defending the Israeli corral, we may see more signs of nativism and more defense of the Confederate flag as an American symbol not only of a new-found super-tribalism but of a newly-refound worship of our 50 clans and their individual sovereignty. This tribalism is what the Tea Party activists are all about.
The liberal activists, much as I support most of their agenda, are butting heads with a herd of powerful bulls. As a former high-desert runner in New Mexico, where cattle run wild over thousands of miles and bulls are king of the land, I learned to respect the bull culture, which is why I am still alive.
The most symbolic issue in the coming years may be the plan now by many Tea Party activists to change the constitution so that U.S. senators are no longer directly elected by the people. The Founders carefully arranged for the upper house to be elected by the lower house in order to avoid the American tendency to mobocracy. The liberals want to abolish the Electoral College, which the founders instituted to be sure that the power of each individual state, especially of the smaller ones, is protected against political oppression by the big states with larger populations, which might become pawns of Eastern elitism. The liberals would run right into a buzzsaw if they ever got serious about this, because this is an attack on the clan spirit, which is still powerful and becoming more so every day.
Pakistanis, of all people, should understand this, because Pakistani politics is quite similar to America’s. Both countries were created in a fit of independence. One cannot do this and expect that the component cultures will not carry this culture of independence further down the line.
My ancestors, both white and Cherokee, fought on both sides of the Civil War against each other. As a boy I spent my time with the older people at our big clan reunions before the Second World War listening to their tales about the real “war between the states”.
My children grew up in Virginia and take pride in the Confederate flag. My wife is German, the daughter of a four-star German general, head of the Air Defense of Germany at the beginning of the Second World War. He was exiled at the beginning of the war as an anti-Nazi, but part of his problem was that he was the last of the German military who owed formal allegiance to the Bavarian king. There was some serious discussion after WWII about letting the Bavarians revive their own rural monarchy, which had been oppressed for almost a hundred years by the Prussian north.
A couple of months ago, my oldest son raised the Bavarian flag on the flagpole at the tiptop of Menefee Mountain, where I live, but when my German wife returns today from a month in the family condo overlooking the Bavarian alps, we will fly the American flag above it.
My advice is to respect human nature, which respects the family and community at every level. We were not created to be collectivized, the way the Communists wanted to do it and the Wahhabis would like to do today. Respect for group rights is the core of the maqsud known as haqq al nasl. This, in turn, is a foundation also of haqq al hurriyah, which is the duty to respect individual and community self-determination, known as political freedom.
Don’t be misled by the modernist rejection of everything sacred in life, which inevitably leads to the worship of material power and to the inevitable drive to acquire more and more of it as false god in the form of a trinity consisting of power, prestige, and plutocracy, all directed toward the goddess of rampant pleasure, sometimes known oxymoronically as the “pursuit of happiness”.