Those who know me know that I could not give two poops about the American flag. I’ve never been able to manifest that knee-jerk reaction to desecrating or doing anything at all to the American flag. It’s an empty symbol that means nothing to me. I simply do not care.
Recently however, I did have a knee-jerk reaction to a flag…one that really surprised me. I don’t think anyone noticed that I was silent for quite a while over the Confederate flag controversy, but I was. The reason for this was that my immediate emotional reaction was to protect it.
Within seconds of seeing the first suggestion that it be taken down I ran through a mental list of arguments protecting it. All of the rhetoric I was raised on ran right through my head immediately. I didn’t know I still remembered half of those arguments. As soon as that flag was threatened, I was whistling Dixie before I realized it.
I sat on my opinions for several days before I finally figured it out. Down here, we say “State’s rights!” and “Heritage not hate!” and other asinine lies. We have to believe in this flag as a symbol of pride; because the alternative, the truth, is too terrible to face.
2/3 of the population was too poor to own even a single slave. And yet, nearly every man in the south was duped into fighting to protect something that they could never obtain in the first place. That’s probably why we try and say that it was all about something other than commerce.
Confederates died at a rate of 3:1 compared to Union troops. That’s a lot of lives removed from a lot of families. Lives that should have been planting crops, or flirting with girls after church, or fishing, or kissing their children, or basically doing anything other than dying by the thousands. It had to have been for something other than commerce. But it wasn’t.
I think it is quite fitting that the Confederate flag is a red background supporting two thin blue stripes. Red for the blood of the thousands who died to support the thin line of blue-blooded capital. We know we bled for this flag. And after we bled, we starved because there was no one home to plant.
But it’s time to face the truth.
This flag was never ours. It never represented who we were. It’s covered in our blood, but it never stood for us. We didn’t bleed for ourselves. We bled for someone else’s money.
And that’s a hard thing to face.