There’s lots of online and media debate about whether or not the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred and/or racism. One very eloquent article which you can read here gives a brilliant and thoughtful argument for why the simple should not be used today. The author of that article talks about the fact that the meaning of symbols changes over time. An example he gives is that the swastika was originally used by some Eastern cultures and even Christian communities as innocuous symbol before was adopted by the Nazi Party and the SS. He goes on to say that the way that the Confederate flag has been used in later years makes a symbol of hate and racism.
The evolvability of meaning of words and symbols is something that is always interested me especially when it comes to terms describing disabilities. If my perspective that when it comes to disability terminology we never will come up with a permanently inoffensive set of terminology. At one time the words idiot, imbecile, and moron were the technically correct medical terms to describe people with varying degrees of mental retardation. But because people used them in pejorative ways, the terms became insults and lost their original innocuous meaning. When I was young the politically correct terms were mildly, moderately, and severely mentally retarded. Today you can’t say “retarded” especially its shortened form “retard” because it has been co-opted as an insult. Whatever term we come up with, someone’s going to find a way to use it as a pejorative and we will have to invent yet a new word that eventually will become so innocuous that it will lack meaning whatsoever.
Sorry for getting off-topic… We were talking about a particular flag. In the article I linked above, the author unknowingly illustrates a point that I’ve been wanting to make about the flag for several days. I just now got around to putting my thoughts in writing. The author of the article doesn’t call that flag what I as a Northerner have always called it. To me it was “The Confederate Flag”. I was taught it was the flag of the Confederate States of America which seceded from the United States of America. He however does it “The Rebel Flag” and unknowingly damaged his own argument that the meaning of the symbol has evolved from an innocuous one into an egregious one.
Let’s say for the sake of this discussion were going to set aside the idea that this is a racist or hate filled symbol and look at its original unadulterated meaning. It was the flag of a group of states which consciously decided that they did not want to be part of the United States of America. That makes it quite literally un-American. It was a group of people which with geographic pride decided that they no longer wanted to be part of this country. In a strange way I’ve never understood geographically based Civil War. If a bunch of states up and decide they don’t want to be part of this country. My attitude is “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” I would’ve applied this to the American “War between the States” the southern term as well as to Vietnam, Korea and any other geographically based Civil War.
The people of the Confederate flag or as they called it the Rebel flag made the conscious decision that they did not want to be part of this country. They did not want to uphold its laws. They did not want to be guided by its founding principles. They wanted to go off and do something different from being Americans. Okay technically the entire northern and southern continents of the Western Hemisphere of this planet are in some ways American. There is South America. Mexico and Canada are North American countries as well. But when I say they do not want to be Americans I’m saying they do not want to be part of The United States Of America which was founded on July 4, 1776 and continues to this day.
While rebellion and political discourse and disagreement are an integral part of our society North, South, East and, West… The Confederate Rebel Flag isn’t about political discourse. It’s about separatism. It’s about us versus them. It’s about “we don’t want to be like you anymore so much that we want to go off and do our own thing and live by different founding principles then you live by.”
The state of Louisiana and much of the midsection of this country originally belonged to France. We bought it from them in the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark out to see what we got for our money. New Orleans as a French quarter. The Creole language is somewhat French. Baton Rouge is French for “red stick”. I have no problem with people in Louisiana celebrating their French heritage. They used to be French. Then they want anymore. They became Americans. American in the sense that they were part of the United States of America. If they want to fly a French flag as part of their historical heritage I would have no problem with that. I don’t know that they do but it wouldn’t bother me.
The state of Texas and much of the Southwest portion of this country used to be Mexico. The cities, towns, rivers have Mexican names. There were Mexicans this side of the Rio Grande before it was a border. People in the Southwest US have wanted to fly Mexican flags as part of their historical heritage and similarly I have no problem whatsoever with that even though it has generated controversy in some quarters.
But when you fly the Confederate Rebel flag with pride, even if you have no racism and no hatred in your heart, you are being un-American. Taking pride in a time of your cultural and geographic history when your ancestors will file decided they didn’t want to be part of the United States Of America.
That flag is a symbol of divisiveness. It is a symbol against the Constitution and the founding principles of the United States of America. It has ALWAYS been such a symbol. It did not just get co-opted by racist or hate groups. It has always been and always will be un-American. And if you don’t want to be part of America, you know how I feel… Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.