It appears that the horror of the shooting and murders by a young white man, somehow influenced by extreme racism, of several people in a Bible study class at a black church in South Carolina has had something like the effect the horrors of Nazism had on the German public, especially the generations that came after World War II.
Even though Southerners are still proud to be who they are and to be from where they are, they are not necessarily proud of what their ancestors did — I’m not saying all southerners feel that way, but according to a news story I just read it has become fashionable to recognize or admit that what the old Confederacy did was basically fight to preserve slavery, and as someone in that story said, all the terrible things that go along with human bondage.
(And one article I read claims that the notion that the Civil War was about more than just slavery is a false one, that in fact that is what it was about; I’ll comment on that some paragraphs down.)
Although there is the disturbing presence of Neo-Nazism in Germany today, the mainstream of German society recoils at its World War II-era past in which some 50 million Jews and others not meeting the qualifications of the “Super Race” were condemned to death in what is termed the Holocaust (gassed to death and incinerated in ovens) or at the very least slave labor, which often killed them by the physical abuse and starvation.
With this recent shooting and all the recent deadly confrontations between blacks and white police, with deaths being suffered by the blacks, many who before might have continued to defend the flying or other display of the old Confederate battle flag, the Stars and Bars, as nothing more than an innocent, prideful recognition of Southern heritage realize or own up to the fact it is among other things a symbol of white supremacy and the right to deny civil rights to non-whites (or more specifically blacks). Yes there may also be a symbolism for the nostalgia of the antebellum South and the genteel, rural way of life with grand plantations over a beautiful landscape. But a major component of that old way of life was the use of human beings as slaves. And really, in this day and age, one cannot with a straight face defend slavery and at the same time call him or herself a believer in American democracy.
I do not really know what the real attraction of the Stars and Bars is. It goes beyond a symbol of the old Confederacy. Many with no Southern heritage like to use it, adorning their pickups trucks and such. It’s sort of a symbol of anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, certainly anti-liberal, feeling. It is maybe a symbol of individualism, as in “I’m a rebel”. And to some extent just something to have fun with and enjoy when you’re out and about or when you are kicking back and having some brews.
He’s a drug store truck drivin man
He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan
When summer rolls around
He’ll be lucky if he’s not in town…
(Recorded by The Byrds. Song authors: Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn.)
I feel somewhat neutral as to whether it should be displayed (I mean this is supposed to be a free country with freedom of speech and expression).
Some Southern states have actually at times incorporated it into their own flags, while the Stars and Bars itself may also fly at the capitols of some Southern states, and some states offer or allow or have allowed Confederate license plates.
I do think one has to realize what the history of that symbol is. If not, then one is ignorant or being intellectually dishonest.
And it would seem good judgment to tone it down in the interest of a more harmonious society.
A major reason for the loss of favor among the political establishment with the Stars and Bars, especially in the South where it did hold favor, is the fact that blacks nowadays, finally, have political clout. And despite the fact that racism persists and rears its ugly head, overall we have a much more tolerant society. And while young racists, such as the one in South Carolina, are still being produced, most young people today I think don’t look at the world through the prism of race.
And here is the biggie: commercial interests, such as Walmart, want no part of losing customers over the issue of race and bigotry. Walmart as an example says it will stop selling Confederate flags.
Earlier this year, the business sector wanted no part of political moves to discriminate against gays. Again, why would they want to lose business?
And what was the American Civil War all about? It was not taught well when I went to grade school and high school. I learned a little more in college but I think either it was not presented quite right there or I failed to see the forest for the trees. I mean as a kid I simply knew that Lincoln freed the slaves. Then one learns that there were the issues of states’ rights and tariffs and such. But when you read and think about it all, you have to come back to the same point, the whole thing revolved around a social and political and economic system that revolved around treating certain human beings as nothing more than livestock. And in no way can that have ever been right. It has been a mark of ever-lasting shame on our nation. But we can get over it. We have made amends. Let’s don’t go backwards.
So definitely I don’t think government entities should have anything to do with flying the confederate symbol, be it the battle flag or anything else associated with slavery.
As to individuals, I would hope we could just leave that up to personal judgment.
Bigotry exists, but it is not as popular as it once was. Or at least I hope not.
The guilt or shame or regret over slavery and our racist past is actually shared by all since all parts of the nation had a part in it and slavery was even written into our beloved Constitution. I did not mean to state or otherwise imply that the South holds all the responsibility.