I want to talk about something that has clogged up my newsfeed on Facebook. I feel that if it were not for this website, I would have deleted my Facebook a long time ago. However, this controversy is all because of a flag. I never thought that I would see a debate over a flag that flew in the battlefield over 150 years ago. It really seems weird to me that the battle flag of the Confederate States would be the topic of a heated debate. I honestly thought The Civil War ended in 1865; apparently I was wrong. Now, before we get into the meat and potatoes of this article, may I remind you of something…..No matter what side you are a part of in this debate, you will be offended. I am an equal opportunity offender, please remember that while reading. I have a few points that I will make and will go into detail on, but first, prepare to be offended.
1. The Battle Flag now has so many different meanings, that Merriam-Webster has lost count.
2. The flag should still be flown at Civil War Monuments in the South.
3. The South Will Not Rise Again! Sorry to burst some of your bubbles.
4. The last time the flag was this relevant, it was not on the battlefield but on an orange Dodge Charger.
Let start with what the biggest issue is here, the meaning of the Battle Flag. The Confederacy Flag is not the one that is being taken under scrutiny in this debate. The first flag of the Confederacy mimicked another first flag that had 13 stars.
Look familiar? The first flag was adopted by the Confederacy in March of 1861 with only seven stars, as the Confederacy grew in numbers, the flag added more stars to represent seceded state. Want to know the name of the first flag? The Stars and Bars. Something that I have heard the battle flag called since I moved to Arkansas. The very first flag was highly close to the flag of the 13 colonies. The second flag was adopted with the battle flag used in the spot with the stars in 1863 dubbed “The Stainless Banner.”
The final flag adopted in March 1865 was referred to “The Blood Stained Banner.” The three flags pictured are not actually the flag that is coming into question. Ladies and gentleman that are arguing heritage; there are your flags. These are the flags that were used by the seceded states as they fought for what they believed in. The flag that is coming into question was introduced on the battlefield by The Army of Northern Virginia in December of 1861. The flag is known as the Confederate Battle Flag.
Now moving forward, the flag started to take on many different meanings. The south during the civil war wanted to stand up to the government for what they believed was having their rights taken away. The Civil War cost America many lives and really should be the true meaning of the flag. The symbol of armies across the south that were standing up for what they thought was right. In all honesty, this flag should be part of museums across the country, and that is it. The battle flag was even used by some southern naval fleets during World War II as they felt they were rebels in the war. The flag started to take a different meaning as the symbol for the “good ole’ boy.”
The late 1940’s the flag was adopted as a symbol by The Ku Klux Klan, and thus this changed how the flag would be perceived forever. I want to compare this to something else as well, The Swastika. Before Adolf Hitler turned that symbol into one associated with hate and murder, it had a completely different meaning. The meaning of the symbol of the swastika that is used by Buddhism and Hinduism is “good fortune” or “well-being.” I think for a lot of us, it is not easy to wrap our minds around that at all. I think we see something entirely different than others. The Confederate Battle flag has kind of taken the same meaning since being adopted by KKK and used by the Dixiecrats. Segregation in the late 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s is when the flag started being used as a symbol of racism. Once what the flag stood for as blood was lost on the battlefield, now stood for not having equal rights. A flag that was once used in a war over the idea that the government was taking away freedoms now stands for an entire group of people to not have freedoms. As I have stated, the flag has taken on many different meanings. Showing how truly powerful the message of the battle flag had with race, the state flag of Georgia was changed in 1956 to use the battle flag. The reason the flag is in the controversial state is not where the flag came from, but what the flag means now.
Memes have started popping up left and right in my news feed, saying “If this flag offends you, get a history lesson,” “I will rep this flag! Will you?” and my personal favorite “If you don’t understand this flag, unfriend me.” And yet, there are still people calling it The Stars and Bars. Next up on our rapid fire of complete craziness, which is brought to you by Facebook, the statement of heritage. I will not argue the fact that there are many people who had family fight for the South during The Civil War. I am in Arkansas at the moment, so that does make sense. However, I feel that screaming the heritage card becomes a moot point when the high school you went to did it about ten years ago. The idea at my Alma Matter was that the flag stood for racism. The flag was then banned on all clothing that could be worn by the students to school. And thus, the argument of heritage was started. People started to say that the school was taking away their right by not allowing the rebel flag on any article of clothing. It made town news, and more than anything, I am glad it did not as much press as it could. The flag was draped on big trucks, cars, and anything else. The interviews that were conducted by a certain paper is why I will never take the argument of heritage seriously ever again when it comes to the Confederate Flag. A student talked about how the flag was his heritage and was shown pictured by one of the trucks. Not a big deal, but the student was a foreign exchange student from, if I remember correctly, the Philippines. Now, if you have family that fought in the Civil War for the South, you can make the heritage argument. However, for the same people that want to hop on a bandwagon, football season is about to start and the Cowboys need fans.
There is one more meaning that the flag took as well; one I completely forgot about. The symbol of the Southern Redneck. This is the one meaning that I have a conflict about. There are some amazing people who have the rebel flag, the Dixie flag, and the Southern Cross as a way of life. And then there is the stereotype that goes along with that: the person who drives a truck to compensate for the size of their penis, the man who beats his wife, women drinking all the time, you know the classy view that everyone has on the south. I think in the entire time while living in the south, I have only run into a few people like the stereotype, the downside, I am all related to them.
The meaning of the flag changes but do should we forget the history? Should the flag be flown at the state capitals in the south? No. The reason being, it is our past. The argument should have died when the most southern sport, NASCAR, came out against the flag. The flag technically belongs to an enemy of the United States, and if I remember history correctly, an enemy flag of the US will not be flown. I am not finished, so stop typing the hate mail. The flag should still be flown at all Civil War monuments and museums. The Civil War was the bloodiest time in our countries history. We need to remember what happened, so we are not doomed to repeat it. The flag should be used reenactments of the war as well, but outside that, do we need shirts in Wal-Mart depicting it? No. You have Duck Dynasty for all of that anyway. A state Capitol should only fly the flag of the US, and the state itself. No other flag should be allowed to fly on the capitol’s grounds.
I have another issue with the whole Flag controversy, people blaming only one side. The right is completely blaming the left for what is happening, and vice versa. I have the answer to the burning question of which side is real to blame in this debate? Are you ready? Both. Apparently we can never stand as one as a country because we are too busy about worrying who to blame. Mitt Romney called for the flag to be removed, but alas, it is the left wing agenda to make our country a bunch of wussies. However, who was the Republican candidate for president in 2012? I will give you a guess, and your only choice is Mitt Romney. So the right wing is blaming the left for things their party is saying…makes sense. Then you have a couple of former Democratic presidents, Carter, and Clinton, shown with the flag. Ladies and Gentlemen, survey, says…….Yep. Both.
And thus brings me to the last point, the sales of the flag, and the General Lee debate. I believe that growing up in small town Missouri, Wal-mart would sell things that you would not necessarily find in a store in say Seattle. So when I heard that Wal-Mart was going to stop selling stuff with the rebel flag, I knew there was a rush to our local Walmart to buy this season’s hottest collector item. Then I heard E-Bay is pulling down things with the flag as well, which led me to believe that it is Twinkie Gate all again. The price of the Battle Flag just went up the same way as the last run of Twinkies by Hostess went up. In all honesty, it will be weird going into a WalMart and not seeing the rebel flag on anything at all.
However, the General Lee, I said it in point 4. The last time the flag was truly relevant. The Dukes of Hazzard took a symbol that stood for hate and turned it into something of fun for the whole family. The General Lee is more than a car; it is a staple of Americana. Yes, that is right. If there is one thing that still sheds the Battle Flag in a positive light, it is the car drove by the Dukes. I hear that Warner Brothers is going to be pulling all toys from the shelves that have the flag on the General Lee, and stop selling it. I felt a bit of my television soul die. The show came out at a time where people were getting past the argument of segregation. The show worked on so many levels, but taking the flag away from the car, kind of takes something away from the whole mystique of the car.
However, an argument over a flag, a car, heritage, or products is not going to change the fact that nine people lost their lives at the hands of a madman. I talked about all of this to get here, to get to this point; people died. We can spend hours arguing over this flag, but it is not going to bring the people back who lost their lives. The flag is a trivial matter no matter what your stance is on it.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the families of the victims.