Yesterday, Steve, one of our editors, wrote a post about how we are making slow steps toward progress regarding the Confederate flag and its prominence in our culture.
I thought it was a well-written piece and agreed with him, which is a bigger deal than you might think because Steve and I don’t agree on ANYTHING. The man thinks Dumb And Dumber To is a good movie. Clearly he is a monster.
But we’re on the same page with this issue. So while I wasn’t surprised to see some of the ABSOLUTELY INSANE comments on his post essentially bashing him and the site because the Confederate flag is totes cool, leave it alone already, I was disheartened.
So I’m taking a break from fulfilling my dream of being Batman (which, holy shit guys, more on that Monday) to address the – ahem – complaints being raised against Steve’s article and the issue as a whole. Because what better things could a comedy site have to talk about?
Whether You Like It or Not, It is the Confederate Flag
Let’s right away set aside the issue of this not being the official flag of the Confederacy, that it was really the North Virginia Battle Flag. It could have originated as the logo of Uncle Pat’s Toe Jam Cream for all it matters, because regardless of its origins, it has come to be the symbol of the Confederate States of America. Culture and society does that sometimes. Just ask the poor swastika. The origins of symbols are, whether you like it or not, less important than the cultural context at any given moment. For a more modern example, look at how Alan Moore and Anonymous have transformed a guy who wanted to establish a Catholic monarchy into an anarchist superhero.
And the fact that no one supporting the flag has ever bothered to make this distinction until now just kind of proves my point. You all were happy to stick this flag on bumper stickers and T-shirts that say “The South Will Rise Again!” for decades. You never raised a fuss when it was used in Civil War reenactment after Civil War reenactment. Trying to say otherwise now is really just a desperate attempt to deflect. Which is understandable because…
Yeah, It Really Was About Slavery
A big reason supporters want to distance the flag from the Confederacy is because the Civil War is largely seen as a war over slavery, with the Confederates being on the side of owning other people like property. This has generally come to be seen as asshole behavior. Unless you’re Willy Wonka, I guess.
That’s why you hear the people say that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about “states’ rights.” That sure sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Because then the federal government is the real bad guy, being all oppressive and shit. But hey, wanna take a guess at what rights they were trying to protect? Hint: It rhymes with zlavery.
Since this recent debate started with South Carolina, let’s take a look at this passage from their official declaration of secession:
“But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.”
That’s fairly explicit. In fact, just for fun, you can look at all of the declarations made by seceding states and count the number of times they specifically mention slavery or slave-holding. I’d tell you to make it a drinking game, but that would be considered attempted murder.
So you can shout “States’ rights!” all you want, but it’s a little ironic for your argument to be that they were fighting against oppression while simultaneously oppressing a whole race of people.
No, It’s Not the Same as the U.S. Flag
Amidst the responses to Steve’s post, pictures like this repeatedly came up:
Somehow this proves that the Confederate flag is totally cool, because even if it was racist so is… America? I guess that’s an argument.
The issue with the Confederate flag isn’t simply that it is used by racists. If that were the case, anyone wearing white clothing would be accused of hate crimes. The problem is that the very creation of the flag was steeped in racism. The only reason it exists is because the southern states wanted to fight the rest of the country so they could have slaves (see above). The American flag was not created with that kind of heavy baggage. Our rebellion against England had numerous factors, like taxation and a desire to distance ourselves from Russell Brand while there was still a chance, but not slavery. Many of the founders did own slaves, but that was not their primary reason for declaring independence, because it was something they were already doing without an issue.
Then there’s this bullshit:
I don’t even know where to start with this one. The LGBT flag was created as a positive message of inclusion, whereas the other is the exact opposite of that. If the LGBT movement was built upon the foundation of making straight people work in labor camps while being forced to listen to Cabaret, then you’d have a case. But until that happens, you are confusing being persecuted with persecution, and that’s a big fucking difference.
No One is Taking All of Your Flags
Of course you also have the issue of free speech, the favorite rallying cry of Internet trolls everywhere. But this isn’t a free speech issue. Free speech is about preventing the government from censoring the speech of the people. This is almost the exact opposite: the people want the government to stop endorsing this symbol.
“But it’s historical!”
It sure is. Which is why no one would ever complain about seeing a Confederate flag displayed in a museum. And if they did, I would laugh them out of the room. But having it fly outside a government building gives the message that our government agrees with what it stands for (namely discrimination). You as an individual can do that, but our governing body should not.
That’s another thing. No one is saying you can’t buy the flags, or wear them on your shirt, or tattoo them on your baby’s face. You are still free to do all of those things, and I will always defend that right. But you will probably be judged for it, because while freedom of speech prevents the government from censoring you, it does not protect you from the criticism of others. If you want to fly that Confederate flag outside your house, you can, but people will probably make certain assumptions about you.