Kingsport Times-News Letters to the Editor
From: MTant@aol.com [mailto:MTant@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to let you know that we have been having a debate in the Letters-to-the-Editor section of the Kingsport Times-News since an anti-"Dixie," anti-Confederate flag letter appeared on May 13th. Attached is that letter and the highly edited version of my own letter that appeared on May 29th. (I was not happy with the headline they used for mine and had them print a clarification the next day.) A couple of other letters appeared before mine that were anti-flag and many more that were pro-flag. Here’s the link to a short one that appeared June 5th – http://www.timesnews.net/editorsletters.php?id=9006654#‘Dixie’%20is%20racist
A rather lengthy editorial appeared yesterday as well as a letter by our new camp commander. Both are attached. The editorial is by an obviously reconstructed Southerner who believes that the North knew what was best for us much better than we ourselves did. It is just unbelievable how people come to the conclusions they come to.
By the way, I am the new adjutant of the Blountville camp. We would love to get you back up here when you have time to visit our camp.
Your Brother and Comrade,
Marty Tant, Adjutant & Past Commander
Lt. Robert D. Powel Camp #1817
There’s No Good Reason Beyond Historical To Display Confederate Flag
by Debbie Arrington
I have really enjoyed reading the spirited Civil War-related debate published in recent issues of the Times-News. To this body of commentary, I appreciate the chance to add my own conclusions based on years of reading and probing.
The type of large-scale agrarian economy that developed in the southern-most British colonies of North America could not have existed without slave labor as its foundation. The Georgia colony was unsuccessful until it dispensed with Oglethorpe’s prohibition against slavery.
These colonies were led by people who amassed fortunes based on rice, indigo, and cotton cultivation and shipping. We can still see opulent mansions in Charleston and Savannah as reminders of just how extreme this wealth ultimately became. After the Revolutionary War, they agreed to join our new station if protection of the institution of slavery and provisions related to inter-jurisdictional treatment of fugitive slaves were embodied in its constitution. The deal was made although the word "slavery" was not actually used in the original document.
In the world of what would later become the core of the short-lived Confederate States of America, this tiny group of wealthy and educated people governed a large population of black slaves as well as a small demographic group of whites who had no prospects for advancement. A middle class barely existed. The planters were terrified of being butchered in a slave insurrection. Both skilled and manual labor was done by slaves. There was little opportunity for poor whites to get training as carpenters, metalworkers or in other skilled crafts. If these whites tried to farm or obtain semi-skilled jobs, upper class Southerners degraded them and referred to them as "poor white trash." Life in Dixieland was no picnic for the majority of its population, black or white.
The South’s hot-headed, aristocratic leaders made the decision to secede from the Union when the Republicans, many of whom wanted to limit the expansion of slavery or even abolish it, won the election of 1860. Seven Deep South states seceded prior to Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. Henry Adams, a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, was present in Washington, D.C. at this time and wrote about how everyone in the nation’s capital, including the newly elected president, seemed to have no idea whatsoever as to what should be done.
South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas actually issued formal declarations of the causes of their secession stating basically that they de-ratified the U.S. Constitution due to the failure of the North to live up to its Constitutional bargain regarding slavery including provisions related to the return of runaway slaves.
Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee did not secede until after Lincoln’s Secretary of War requested that governors of the loyal states provide specified numbers of state militia volunteers to serve as Federal infantrymen or riflemen to suppress the rebellion. Their period of service was to be three months or less. When it came down to it, these states of the Upper South did not wish to fight against their neighbors and/or they believed that they, overall, had more in common with the seceded states than with the North.
President Lincoln committed Federal troops to quash the insurrection and these troops mainly fought in order to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves.
Confederate planters who owned 20 or more slaves were legally exempt from military service although some served. Why would non-slave-owning whites go to battle for the Confederacy? The vast majority of them simply fought to defend their homeland.
When it was over, exhausted and starved Southern men, including thousands of amputees, made their way home across a devastated land. Masses of former slaves who had lived for generations in servitude were unprepared to provide for themselves. Federal troops were garrisoned in the former Confederacy for over a decade. Most of the Southern planters had lost their fortunes but were able to hold on to their land.
Very gradually, the new South where all people have the opportunity to acquire at the least a high school diploma and to pursue their dreams arose out of the rubble of this fractured economy and society. It remains imperfect. I agree with Ulysses S. Grant when he wrote, "There was no time during the rebellion when I did not think, and often say, that the South was more to be benefited by its defeat than the North."
There are no stories in my family about visits long ago to a frail but courtly grandfather at his big old house with the tall front columns and fine furniture designed especially for monumental rooms with chandeliers. There are no anecdotes about lazy summer afternoons spent on an elegant Aunt Emily’s veranda where she sipped mint juleps in a frosted silver cup while serving iced tea in silver wine goblets to the kids. As far as I can tell, most of my family was poor.
I’m thankful I was born a Southerner in the United States of America rather than in the Confederate States of America. I deeply honor the memory of the Confederate soldiers who bravely rose to the call of duty. But I have no reverence for the politically self-serving, slave-owing leaders who sent men numbered in the tens of thousands marching to grisly deaths behind the battle flag that we now often see waving from the back of pickup trucks. I can think of no good reason to display this tragic flag in a context other than in a respectful, historical/heritage setting, a retail shop where it’s sold, or as an honorary school rallying symbol. Honestly, most anything else smells like a polecat to me.
War Is Always Waged Because Of Money
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that blacks, free or in slavery, would feel a sense of patriotism for their state or new nation. There are too many stories of black people doing what they could in accordance to the laws of the time, to support the Confederacy, whether it was digging trenches or raising money for the troops. I find it a travesty that people don’t go looking for history on their own, rather than believe everything that they hear others say and that includes finding out for themselves what the Confederate flag means. Just because a bunch of Neo-Nazis and Kluxers go running around carrying the Confederate flag, doesn’t mean that what the Confederate flag stands for is racism. If that is the case then the U.S. flag and the Christian flag stands for racism, because those people carry those too.
After I did my own research into the War Between the States and found many stories about black people helping the Confederacy in any way they could I decided to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans, because all that I was taught in school was wrong. The Union veterans organization which was called The Grand Army of the Republic had local chapters that were all black and chapters that were all white, because they wanted to keep it segregated, while the United Confederate Veterans organization just had chapters and some of them just happened to have black members. If you believe that the War Between the States was over slavery, why would ours be the only country that had a war and lost over half a million people over slavery, when the other countries that ended slavery in the 19th century did it peacefully? Because, it wasn’t over slavery at all. It was over money. War is always waged because of money in some form or fashion.
Insulted By ‘Dixie’
Recently, I attended a public school event at Lee High School in Ben Hur. It was an impressive program until a group of boys stood up to sing "Dixie." I was shocked, hurt and insulted. "Dixie" has been one of the symbols of the Confederacy, which held many hundreds of thousands in brutal slavery in the old South. The Confederate flag and the song "Dixie" are as welcoming to African Americans, and many in the white community, at a public event as would be a swastika in the hallways, or the anthem of the Third Reich for people of Jewish decent.
About 10 years ago at Lee High School, a substantial number of citizens from Big Stone Gap – at one of the home football games with Lee High – were quite offended and got up and walked out when "Dixie" was played.
The Lee High School Pledge of Respect is: Respect is the cornerstone of all interactions and behaviors. I acknowledge the dignity and worth of others, and strive never to diminish another by my conduct or attitude. I acknowledge diversity and pledge to build community by practicing hospitality, civility, and respect.
I do not care about people singing their songs of choice, or displaying emblems or flags of their choice on their private property, but a public school has an obligation to insist that their public events create an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance for all peoples.
Pennington Gap, Virginia
Isn’t United States Flag Racist Too?
Re. Kobak’s May 13 letter, Leonard’s May 24 letter, and Marshall’s May 26 letter, if one believes the song "Dixie" and the Confederate battle flag are racist, one must, applying the same logic, believe "The Star Spangled Banner" and the U.S. flag are racist. Confederate flags flew over slavery for only four years while the U.S. flag flew over slavery for 76 years. Most slaves after 1789 were brought to this continent on ships that flew the U.S. flag, owned by Northern slave traders and chartered in Northern ports. The slave trade was very lucrative, and the North used it to its advantage in transferring and selling the slaves. Lincoln refused to outlaw the slave trade in Washington, D.C. during the war. The North benefited from the South’s cotton to its advantage, mainly through taxes. Most of the federal revenue came from the South while most of the proceeds went back to the North.
There is plenty of blame to go around for slavery and the scars that remain, and not all of it rests with the South. The U.S. flag flew over armies that invaded and killed off most of those people having predominantly Native American blood and herded the remnants of this proud and noble people onto land that was largely undesirable. They were called savages simply because they were of a different race and culture. Is this not racism?
We all have a lot of work to do in race relations, and learning to respect one another and work together is what we must now focus on. Continually bashing Southern symbols of heritage is not constructive and in the end makes feelings even worse. Let us work together to improve as a society that is tolerant of our diversity and respectful of the right of others to celebrate their own heritage. June 3 is Confederate Decoration Day in Tennessee. I will be flying my Confederate flag and singing "Dixie" in honor of my ancestors who fought, bled, and died, not for slavery, but for independence, the right of self-government, and in the defense of their homes and families.
Martin R. Tant