I was born and raised in the north. I went to public school in New York. I was educated as a Yankee. That simply means that when we learned about the civil war, we were taught only of the atrocities of slavery. The south fought for slavery, we fought against it. We won. End of history lesson. Hence, the flag to my northern eyes is a symbol of rebellion, defiance, and a repulsive refusal to admit that slavery was wrong. My southern-raised husband and I have had frequent cordial disputes about the appropriateness of this flag since we began courting three and a half years ago. He’s been trying to convert me to embrace the banner all along.
This opinion, obviously shared by many, considering the debate going on, is a very hard one to shake, especially when the flag’s nickname is the “rebel flag.” Unfortunately, this concept is reinforced over and over by those who do use it as a blatant symbol of racism, such as we have seen recently in the Charleston shooting. Since racism is something we have been programmed not to tolerate all our lives, we tend to reject anything that symbolizes it. Up here, we don’t “do” racist and if you do, the room will get very quiet and we will make you feel very awkward.
Before you judge me though, I’d like to clarify that I’m not a liberal sympathizer and I can’t stand the media’s “black persecution” agenda. But, denying that racism exists in our country would be a bit naive. It is alive and well. People are still very open about their opinions of other races, especially in the south. What we, as northerners, would never dream of saying, the southerners don’t hesitate to say. Perhaps it is this knowledge that ignites some of the debate.
But that’s all it amounts to.
While I don’t subscribe to racism even in the form of an opinion myself, opinions aren’t hurting anyone. No one is being lynched or persecuted or stuffed in the back of the bus. Their legitimate basic human rights are not being infringed upon. While stereotyping is wrong on the principle of fairness to individuals, it’s not a crime. We live in a free country where we are allowed to decide whether we do or don’t like certain kinds of people or certain things. If our nations “racism” boils down to the fact that people simply have an opinion, I’d say we have made leaps and bounds of progress. Complaints of racism in our age are nothing more than someone being offended for not being liked, which, (welcome to earth), happens to all of us on any given day of the year.
All I’m saying, is that, when it comes to the confederate flag, I “get it.” I get why people are offended by it. I totally understand precisely where they are coming from when they look at that flag and see racism, defiance, rebellion, and a lack of respect for the dignity of all mankind. I just “get it.”
In spite of my lifelong opinion of the ‘rebel flag’, however, I am appalled by the mass movement of people calling on the government to barge in and declare war on it. It is yet another instance where we forfeit our individual rights as American citizens by demanding the government take sides. You would think the American people would want to keep the government out of their business as much as possible, but as time progresses, the momentum of this “snowball” forfeiting has led to unprecedented levels of infringement upon our basic freedoms and liberties. When did we decide that we can’t simply just “not like” something; that we must rip it down and force it out of existence? In the midst of the liberals sweeping “tolerance” movement, it is obvious that less and less is tolerated every day.
Back to the topic at hand though… Since I am married to a southern boy, who whisked me away on a brief journey to the deep south, I discovered things I never learned in the north; things that changed my opinion about the confederate flag. For one, I learned that there was more to the civil war than slavery. There is a long and complicated history behind what the South was trying to accomplish. It wasn’t just that abolishing slavery would create an inconvenience for them. In fact, only 6% of those fighting on the confederate side owned slaves. That meant 94% of them were fighting for something else. And to top that off, there were even black men who chose to fight for the confederate army, because even they believed in the cause. Up north, we are taught that the civil war was only about slavery. Down south, slavery had nothing to do with it. The south seceded from the Union because they saw the government becoming tyrannical. It was inflicting 47% taxes on them, forcing their people into bankruptcy. The south only made up 30% of the population, but they were paying 80% of the nations taxes. The government was seizing their lands and homes at gunpoint to make up for taxes they could not pay. The south essentially became their own country, and they were fighting the government to preserve their country. At the heart of the southern fighter’s passion, was a tenacity to preserve simple American constitutional rights, and prevent overpowering government from infringing upon them.
The civil war was complicated. There was a major predicament. I see the perspective of those southerners back in the 1860’s.They foresaw the dangers of a federal government that could overpower the rights of individual states. Granting that power was a slippery slope. There are some things that people need to take by the horns and change. Emancipating slaves was one of them. But once the government has power to overrule you and your decisions, and your state’s decisions, where do you draw the line? Who defines the extent of this power? Who stands up against it when the government is simply getting too “big”? For the south in 1860, it was them.
How ironic that such a heated debate about the confederate flag is taking place at the same time the Federal government is abusing the power granted to them by the outcome of the civil war. Yesterday, homosexual marriage was thrust upon every state, regardless of the people’s decisions against it, and they were able to achieve this as a result of our country losing states rights over a century ago.
In 1973, the federal government decided that a woman’s human right meant she should be able to kill another human, to give her the “liberty” and “freedom” to live her life the way she chooses. Yesterday, the federal government, by granting the right for homosexuals to marry, made a decision that will have severe repercussions for the Christian who is just trying to live out his faith. Freedom for one, is the murder of another. Freedom for one, is the imprisonment or persecution of another.
I believe our beloved conservative southerners, looked far into the future and understood the dangers of what we just witnessed. I’ve been in the south. I’ve seen the confederate flags flying there. I’ve listened to them speak fondly of those that fought for what they believed in. Down south, the confederate flag is anything but racist. It is a battle flag used to honor our own fallen soldiers of the civil war. Our own countrymen. It is a symbol of heritage. It’s something that says:
“Even though we lost the battle, we fought the battle.
I’m glad we abolished slavery, but I have to say, that in light of yesterday’s supreme court decision, I admire the heart of the South. They fought to preserve something for us. They tried to protect our country from things like these taking root in our land. They were thinking about the country their children and grandchildren would inherit.
Our nations flag has always been a symbol of freedom. The supreme court ruling, spurred flags where the red, white, and blue now bleed into the gay rainbow, and freedom has taken on an entirely new meaning. “Freedom” now means that as Christians we will live in the shadows of impending persecution. When we refuse to marry homosexuals, or deny them jobs in our religious organizations we may go to prison for infringing on their “rights”. We will be exposed to fines and lawsuits and arrest, simply for living out our faith. While I love my country, I’m having a hard time with this new idea of “freedom.”
After the supreme court decision yesterday, the confederate flag takes on an entirely different meaning for me. It’s a symbol of preserving the integrity of the nation and It’s a symbol of standing up for what you believe in when it comes under attack. The south; rich in morality, Christianity, conservatism, patriotism and love for the constitutional rights of American’s, is flying a flag that represents all of that. They’re flying a symbol that says:
“We’re still here and we’ll still fight for what we believe in.”
And to tell you the truth, that’s a flag this Yankee wouldn’t mind flying. That is something I can honor and respect. So, after 3 years of playful bantering about this, my husband won. I’m converted. Maybe we’ll hang a confederate flag.