Monday, July 06, 2015

Slavery, the flag and the war













Is this flag offensive to you? It is to me. And with all the debate surrounding it's use of late, I thought it a good time to put my views on slavery, the flag and the Civil War out there.

Sadly, it took our country more than 100 years to recognize African-Americans as fully-ordained citizens. From being viewed lower than livestock during the first half of the 1800's to finally receiving equal rights in the 1960's, our treatment of our black brethren was shameful, at best. And slavery remains a stain on the fabric of our nascent history. It took a young kid from Indiana only one viewing of the "Roots" miniseries on NBC in the 1970's to realize the wrong that had been done to them. I was sickened by images of young female slaves being dragged off and raped by their white overseers. The miniseries made me angry, sad and sick to my stomach.


Likewise, the flying of the Confederate flag stirs up those same feelings, for when I see it, I imagine it's user being the most vile of southern racists, stuck in a pre-1960's mindset of intolerance and hate. That is what the "stars and bars" represents for many Americans. For that reason, alone, it is offensive and should be taken down from statehouses and halls of justice. And just what "heritage" does it represent, exactly? A southern heritage of intolerance, injustice, inequality and white privilege? Quite a heritage, I must say. And if, to you, it's nothing more than a battle flag of the failed experiment called the Confederate States of America (CSA), then why fly the loser flag at all? In most battles, the tattered flag of the losing army, in this case the CSA, is lowered and the victor's flag raised. The Confederate flag represents all the wrong things--losing, at best, and hate, at worst.

Finally, I've grown very tired of the Southern revisionists who would have us believe that the Civil War was not about slavery. It was only fought over issues like autonomy, states' rights and independence.

So was the issue of slavery really a catalyst for war? I think it was. So does this article from Salon.com. So does Christopher Dickey, who wrote of the radical southerners and successionists, "Their cause was slavery: holding slaves, working slaves, buying and selling slaves—black chattel considered less than human beings by custom, by the courts, and even by the Constitution, whose authors never mentioned slavery but weasel-worded it into the founding document of the Union." And I agree with him. Slavery was the economy of the South. Successionists wanted to preserve their way of life, a life made entirely possible by slave labor and the crops they harvested for market. Dickey purports, "The hunger for that fresh territory and the slaves to work it was insatiable...More land, more slaves, meant more money and more power to dominate the federal government and make it support people who wanted more land, more slaves and more money." In Dickey's view the South was a "slavocracy" because, as I've always argued, their economy was built on the backs of slaves. Thus, the preservation of that economy and the war they fought for that aim was, in fact, a conflict to preserve slave ownership, plain and simple. Yet, as the article in Salon.com points out, revisionists have always tried to paint it as something else. All of their vain attempts to veil the true intent of the Civil War, using terms like "state's rights" and "preserving our heritage," is just wordsmithing to remove slavery from the vocabulary of war historians. Some of us are smart enough to see through that flimsy veil, even when modern-day racists raise it in defense of things, like the use of the Confederate flag.

That's my .02 on the issue. And please, quit telling me to revisit the history books. I'm quite well read, thank you.



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