A Belle’s Eye View
While opponents of Southern heritage are constantly saying that supporters are a dying breed, their continued focus on them suggests that far from complacently believing that the war is truly over, they (opponents) are running scared.
Why else would they devote so much time, effort and money to belittling Southern heritage supporters?
Why else invest so much energy in what they’d like to convince you is a dying cause?
When you devote a great deal of time to telling me how much you don’t care, you reveal that, in fact, you care passionately.
There are several things about which I do not care, and I care so little I am not willing to devote the miniscule effort it would take to type about them. That is what not caring about something looks like.
The recent controversies over the Confederate flag flying in Virginia along Interstate 95 and the approval of new Sons of Confederate Veterans custom license plates in Georgia have brought this issue to my attention.
Certainly, those with opposing views are welcome to feel however they wish about the issues mentioned — hooray, First Amendment! — but what they cannot be allowed to do is misrepresent the intentions of those behind them.
Teaching, as I do, both middle school and college English might seem on the face of it to be two radically different enterprises, but I find one great truth lies at the heart of both.
I want all of my students to respect and harness the power of carefully selected words. I want them to think logically, write clearly and be able to analyze the arguments of others.
The subjective and objective meanings of words are both important, and an awareness of their use is essential.
That leads me to the use of “traitor” by those who oppose the display of any and all Confederate flags.
I’ve written before about the frustration of dealing with those who have no deep understanding of the many factors that led to the completely unnecessary shedding of blood in the War Between the States.
It’s so easy to just say, “The war was fought over slavery! Only slavery!” — certainly much easier than taking a long, hard look at both what incited it and the later repercussions.
How easy to tar the entire South with the brands of “traitor” and “racist,” and avoid any discussion of the real attitude of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and his minions, the North and those in power towards those freed slaves and the South (ostensibly American citizens).
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines traitor as “a person who is not loyal to his or her own country, friends, etc.; a person who betrays a country or group of people by helping or supporting an enemy.”
I note that during the recent celebration of Presidents’ Day, which started out as a celebration of George Washington, there was absolutely no discussion of his role as a traitor.
Yes, Washington and all the Founding Fathers rightly revered by the anti-Confederate factions were in fact traitors, at least according to the definition above.
They were citizens of England, and were not loyal to it. Or were they?
What is it that determines a country? Is it the sitting government, right or wrong?
Are you willing to state that those who fought to bring down the Soviet Union, those who fought for independence from colonial powers, all those who have ever joined together to overthrow a government deserved the negatively charged term “traitor”?
If Confederate flags shouldn’t be displayed because of their traitorous past, then logically neither should the Stars and Stripes of the USA. But logic is not the strong suit of opponents of Southern heritage.
If the argument is that Confederate flags are associated with slavery, again, then logic and fairness says that once again the striped banner of the USA must not be flown, as thousands of slaves came to this country under its Star Spangled Banner and built the fortunes of those on the East Coast.
The only argument that can be authoritatively offered is that might makes right — that since the South lost, they are traitors.
As my historian husband has observed, you aren’t a traitor if you win.
My argument is that far from being traitorous, those who seek to preserve the agrarian, Jeffersonian ideals of the South as embodied by various Confederate flags are truer to the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence than those who would seek to silence them.
The Confederacy made the fatal error of believing: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
They believed that since consent of the governed was enunciated as a founding principle of the formation of the USA, that it continued to be enshrined as a right which they could exercise.
That this is true is shown by the passage of an amendment wresting that right away — you don’t have to go to the trouble of taking away a right that doesn’t exist.
So, opponents of Southern Heritage, certainly continue flogging that dead horse if it gives you a reason to get up in the morning.
Just understand that when you accuse those who passionately support the South of being traitors — to quote Ingio Montoya from “The Princess Bride” — “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”