I was driving south to Valparaiso Saturday when a pickup truck pulled in front of me. Waving defiantly off the back of the truck was the Confederate Battle Flag, not the first I’ve seen in and around Portage.
I don’t get it. I know the lousy arguments the flag’s supporters offer in public, and none of them pass the smell test. That it’s a sign of the southern heritage, an important part of the past, and other multiple blahs. But it isn’t. The South has been an instrumental and positive part of the U.S. and colonial history for all but four of its 500 years. Jamestown was the home of the first permanent English settlement in the colonies. Southern boys fought proudly and bravely on the right side in the Revolutionary War and all the others that followed, save one. Jimmy Madison gave us the Constitution, and his wife gave us tasty snack cakes. Against that backdrop is the Confederacy, which existed for just a hiccup in time. Hell, Jefferson Davis spent less time in charge of the CSA than Charles spent in charge of his broods on syndicated television. You need to fly a flag championing southern heritage, then how about the 3 of Dale Earnhardt, a much more worthy source of Southern pride and a guy with a much better W-L record.
And for most of its reconstruction history, southerners agreed. For roughly four score after the war, the flag made few appearances in public. It wasn’t a source of pride. It wasn’t until the civil rights era and how once again the southern way of life (you know, the structural segregation and dual-class existence) was threatened that the old cloth dragged out of mothballs. It’s kind of hard to miss the racism in that.
Frankly, whether you want to believe that claptrap that the civil war wasn’t about slavery, and your display of the flag isn’t meant to be interpreted as offensive to African-Americans, you know damn well that it is how it’s perceived by many of them (understandably so). So maybe you’re not a racist; you’re just an inconsiderate asshole.
The only thing worse than these southern flag fetishists flying that crappy rag is when their northern brethren, like the guys I saw Saturday, express their solidarity. We’re closer to Canada here than we are the Deep South, so what the hell are any of these idiots doing?* One of the nice things about being from the north is our relatives were not on the side of the racist, treasonous, second-place finishers from below the Mason-Dixon Line. That’s a legitimate reason to feel superior. What other cause besides latent racism is there to side with this rather famous collection of losers?
Now, I suppose it’s hard to have a true inspirational model for your hateful tendencies, given the rather uninterrupted series of comeuppances that have greeted bigots throughout history. You’ve got your Confederates, your Nazis and every bigot who ever appeared in an after-school special, all of whom took it in the ass in the end. The one modern exception is Joe Arpaio, who had gotten his well-deserved bitter end, what with the election loss and conviction in quick succession, only to get a reprieve from Agent Orange (who may not be a full-fledged bigot, but is at the very least racist adjacent). I still hold out hope the nation’s worst lawman will someday succumb to an alien abduction (either from the folks he’s been harassing for decades or the kind that does the probing – either way works for me), gets tangled up in an aardvark pornography ring or have a giant, unnecessary wall collapse on top of him.
Until then, just stop flying the flag. It’s a shitty totem to unsuccessful and unAmerican Americans wed to human bondage. Whatever other meaning it has is ultimately dwarfed by those simple facts.
*Yes, these cretins could have been just off the turnip truck from Mississippi, but I’ve seen enough flag wavers without a hint of Dixie in their blood that the point remains.