Don’t look away, Dixie Land

I see them as symbols, and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded. ~ George Carlin

The debate over the rebel flag that began anew after last week’s church shootings in Charleston, S.C., has morphed into a full-blown Confederate controversy.

While Stars and Bars have long been associated by many with slavery, the latest campaign to remove Confederate emblems has extended beyond the flag to statues, memorials, parks and even school mascots.”

That is how the FOX NEWS story began, slicing to the core of the latest of what has been a seemingly unending controversy over the flag that flew over the Confederacy during the civil war. Now civil rights “activists” not only want the flag erased from the view of Americans, and most other artifacts of secession, they also want to condemn the entire southern United States to live forever in shame of its heritage, as though it was the epicenter of slavery and bigotry.

Clearly, the struggle for civil rights for African Americans in this country is not over. Just as clearly, efforts to correct that problem by abridging this particular type of expression demonstrates an ignorance of history so egregious that it is mind-boggling.

Let’s get some facts straight, which is clearly not happening in the hysteria around this issue. I will borrow directly from an obscure but well-sourced website,

African slavery is so much the outstanding feature of the South, in the unthinking view of it, that people often forget there had been slaves in all the old colonies. Slaves were auctioned openly in the Market House of Philadelphia; in the shadow of Congregational churches in Rhode Island; in Boston taverns and warehouses; and weekly, sometimes daily, in Merchant’s Coffee House of New York. Such Northern heroes of the American Revolution as John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin bought, sold, and owned black people. William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s anti-slavery Secretary of State during the Civil War, born in 1801, grew up in Orange County, New York, in a slave-owning family and amid neighbors who owned slaves if they could afford them. The family of Abraham Lincoln himself, when it lived in Pennsylvania in colonial times, owned slaves.[1]

When the minutemen marched off to face the redcoats at Lexington in 1775, the wives, boys and old men they left behind in Framingham took up axes, clubs, and pitchforks and barred themselves in their homes because of a widespread, and widely credited, rumor that the local slaves planned to rise up and massacre the white inhabitants while the militia was away.[2]”

It took a sometimes violent Abolitionist Movement to get the industrialized north to find easy wisdom in banning the trade in human flesh. And once the north did, it was quick to forget its history of complete and total complicity — and to ignore slavery in southern states as a national problem.

All that holiness and innocence from a government that had all but exterminated the indigenous people who were inconveniently living in America when it was “discovered,” and who then quickly embarked on the path of Manifest Destiny which was basically a policy of go west and kill anything that gets in your way. Oh, and take some dirt cheap Chinese labor with you so you can build a railroad without practicing the immorality of slavery.

Indeed, the air of bigotry hung so thick in northern air that not even whites could escape it. The Irish, who were treated like trash from the moment they hit our shores were commonly referred to as “White Negroes,” by the oh so progressive people north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

This ad comes from the New York Times. Note that the person who placed it was selling some items and had some work he wanted to hire for, as long as the person who showed up wasn’t Irish.


The Times ran ads just like this from 1851 to 1923, long after they had proven their forward thinking by winning the Civil War and burning The South to the ground.

Since then, the government has won many other wars. Some of them were even legit but we are right now, even as this grossly sensationalized controversy rages, killing people halfway across the world because they have oil. Our media apparatus is playing footsie with the government and big petroleum to gin up loads of anti-Muslim sentiment and fear so that we can proceed unimpeded where it concerns fossil fuels.

If I wanted to yank down a flag, which I don’t, it would not be the flag of the Confederacy. The American Flag would seem a much more logical choice given that there has been a thousand times more atrocities committed while waving it.

As I said, though, I have no desire to tear down our flag or any other. I have no desire to blot out the artifacts of our history in order to offer meaningless appeasement to people who could be working on real, more meaningful problems than just choosing to be offended.

I look at the Confederate Flag with neither admiration nor animus. It is a symbol of our past, nothing more, nothing less; a part of the American story. That is a story with much more to live down than the Stars and Bars, and much more to live up to than the pettiness of victim politics. It is also a story, even with all the demagoguery of the social justice crowd, which tells of the ending of slavery and subsequent efforts to keep the hope of freedom alive.

I do not know what motivated a madman to commit those horrific acts in South Carolina. I just know that it wasn’t a flag that pulled the trigger.

♦ ♦ ♦

[1]For Seward, see Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Team of Rivals” [Simon & Schuster, 2005], pp.30-31. For Lincoln: “RUN away on the 13th of September last from Abraham Lincoln of Springfield in the County of Chester, a Negro Man named Jack, about 30 Years of Age, low Stature, speaks little or no English, has a Scar by the Corner of one Eye, in the Form of a V, his Teeth notched, and the Top of one of his Fore Teeth broke; He had on when he went away an old Hat, a grey Jacket partly like a Sailor’s Jacket. Whoever secures the said Negro and brings him to his Master, or to Mordecai Lincoln … shall have Twenty Shillings Reward and reasonable Charges” [Pennsylvania Gazette, Oct. 15, 1730]. Mordecai Lincoln (1686-1736) was great-great-grandfather of President Lincoln.

[2]Josiah H. Temple, History of Framingham, Massachusetts, Framingham, 1887, p.275.

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