I don't believe all symbols must only
be read to mean one thing, but I do believe some are more problematic than others. It's something of a false equivalency comparing the standard American flag to Nazi flags or to the Confederate flag. There are certainly quite a few things the U.S. government has done that are worthy of criticism, but they are not so generally on the scale of the Holocaust. The U.S. political system, while it does have significant institutional vestiges of economic apartheid even today, has not
remained simply fossilized
in a culture that publicly denies the legitimacy and independence of the Black population.
And for those who say, 'Well the North had slaves too...' So what
exactly! Is the idea: 'How dare they change
How dare anyone fault the South for doing something the North might have shared in at one time, and later thought better of? It's precisely because they were changing that the South went and seceded (see in particular the declaration by South Carolina below)! Yeah yeah, they felt so betrayed and just when they were making loads of money too. But if no one is allowed to take a stand and say, ya know, we're not going to do this anymore, well then, the US should never have been allowed to change its mind
and fight the Nazis or anything... And maybe some of us should never have been allowed to follow state laws and put on seat belts for a change in the 80's. What ever is that about.
Even where I may agree that U.S. government has
done some terribly awful things (both long ago and more recently), I do not see how that should make it helpful to be flying Confederate flags celebrating other historically awful things. At least, not from government buildings which in anything of a republic, are supposed to represent the current
aspirations and culture of the people. Saying one symbol is just as bad as another, if you fly one that has any
bad history anwhere, then why should anyone find reason to reject any
of them, from any time period or discriminatory group whatsoever? Well, that is a lot of "whatabouterry." This can lead off into, well if anyone ever smoked a cigarette and contributed to cancer next door, then obviously they have no right to worry when someone invades their neighbor or nukes a city. It's getting into "Let us do whatever
we want cause look, you have issues too," sort of logic.
And for what it's worth, if someone wants to go out and burn a standard American flag in complaint about failures of the present
government and the present
broader culture to pursue whatever people see as the interests of its present-day citizens, that's alright with me. Better burning a few flags to "fan" a discussion or simply vent frustration, than burning churches or crops or human bodies (especially others' bodies).
Much of the point of seceding was
for the Confederacy to continue the slave system to resist rising pressure for change. The Confederate states asserted
that they were motivated by firm beliefs in White superiority and that slavery was necessary to maintain their ways of life in peace (either to maintain commerce, and/or out of fear about Whites losing overall power).
The Washington Post
reports a number of interesting details, which I don't believe contradict that.
But for example (with potential racism trigger warning -- but it's evidence
): South Carolina
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of Slavery; they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace of and eloin the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books, and pictures, to servile insurrection.Mississippi
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation.Texas
(a couple others can be found here, too)
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.
There may be a good deal of subterfuge and hypocrisy about race and discrimination (and chunks of foreign policy more generally) in America today, but this racist position the Confederacy took is no longer upheld in most public forums. It is more likely to be used as part of a contrast: These are things one just does not
say, and how far have we come (or not, in uglier cases) from acting and making rules in ways that people who did say them in the past might have wished to act?
And the Confederacy claimed an interest in leaving the Union. Unless we mean to allow Texas, Arizona and whoever to forget the Constitution and just write up their own immigration and foreign trade policies, perhaps take care of their own military defense while they're at it (the states, or the local disorganized militias? ugh, I can't imagine)... Then it doesn't make a great deal of sense to be putting a separatist flag that got so many killed, on government buildings.
Its a symbol of oppression and insurrection. but I think the way its being censored is extreme. We need to know the goods and bad of our history in order to learn from them and evolve.
It should be remembered and seen but not fly on any government or federal buildings.
So in terms of whatever to do about it, basically I agree with this. If individuals want to kick around what it means, that's one thing but it should not be a regular project of the present government institutions to elevate it.