Skip to comments.Banning banner banter The Battle Flag -- and the Stars and Bars -- are racist symbols: Dump them
Posted on 04/22/2003 9:21:28 AM PDT by WhiskeyPapa
Banning banner banter The Battle Flag -- and the Stars and Bars -- are racist symbols: Dump them
BY JOHN SUGG
Monty Python couldn't have done it better. One of the British comedy troupe's fave sidesplitters depicted an incensed John Cleese trying to return a decidedly deceased parrot to a pet store owner, Michael Palin. Part of the sketch goes:
Cleese: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Palin: No, no, he's not dead, he's, he's restin'!
So it goes in the Georgia Assembly in the endless posturing over the state flag.
Forget that Georgia is broke. Forget that legislators have again unleashed rapacious bankers to prey on those least able to protect themselves. Forget the assault on your rights to recover just damages from incompetent doctors and reckless (if not criminal) corporations. Forget that schools are sardine-can overcrowded and educators don't have a prayer of keeping up with growth. Forget that in all but a few elite schools, Georgia's woefully underfunded public education ranks so low, it almost falls off the list of states and into competition with countries like Uganda. Forget that ethical standards among public officials are so non-existent that even patchwork, impotent proposals are hailed as courageous. Forget about the environment. Forget about poor people railroaded off to jail without competent counsel, an affront to the most basic constitutional principles.
Forget everything because Georgia is on the brink of reinstitutionalizing raw, rancid racism. Whether we opt for a slightly retooled Confederate Stars and Bars or the Rebel Battle Flag, we still end up hanging the banner of a diseased and defeated excuse for a social system above our public buildings.
That the Legislature's Ultimate Wacko, Rep. Bobby Franklin, wants to scrawl "In God We Trust" on a flag whose 19th-century cause was anathema to any teaching of Christ I can find in the Bible is delicious irony. (And, there's nothing patriotic in Franklin's ploy. Rather, it's a blatant -- and thoroughly anti-American -- attempt to impose his view of religion on the state. As Rep. Doug Teper, who is Jewish, quipped, what Franklin is really stamping on the flag is: "In Jesus We Trust.")
In short, it's all very Republican.
Here's how the jolly chaps at Monty Python might act it:
Cleese (playing The Rest of the World): Look, matey, I know a racist emblem when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Palin (playing Gov. Sonny Perdue, the GOP and no-scruples white Democrats): No, no, it's not racist. It's just HERITAGE!
The Civil War ended with the surrender of the last Confederate army, in Texas, on May 26, 1865. But y'all know that. Let's think about another war for a moment. Almost 80 years later, on May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered.
All other issues aside, Germans and Southerners have something in common -- how to address a collective, culture-wide crime of murderous racism. We're talking guilt, writ large.
The South embraced the enslavement of one race as a romanticized economic system. Nazi Germany wasn't defined by slavery, but it employed the practice -- hideously so -- justifying its crimes through a twisted mythology of racial supremacy. One could argue that the Confederacy was slightly more egalitarian than the Nazis -- Southerners generally regarded all white folks as superior, while the Germans excluded from their club all but those they considered the purest of the race.
The crushing defeats of the South and Germany forced their citizens to abandon, at least officially, the slavery and racist underpinnings of their societies. That's only the beginning, however, of rehabilitation. Survivors who had participated in the crimes -- lesser ex-Nazis and almost all Southern ex-slave owners -- remained, and many regained success and status after the wars.
More important, their causes might have been defeated, but the mythologies (whether Wagner-whistling Teutonic knights or Margaret Mitchell's delusional depictions of "gray" chivalry) didn't die. It's hard, both as individuals and as peoples, to accept that what was patriotism one day is verboten the next. Germans and Southerners fervently believed their causes were just, and were blessed by God and/or Destiny. Then, one day, all that was sacred became profane. Whiplash on a national scale.
Those who had fomented the wars -- at least the ones who avoided Yankee and Allied nooses and cells -- often stood to gain through continued criminality. Many ex-Nazis found it convenient to morph into apparatchiks and Stasi commanders in East Germany. The Southern ruling class used terrorism and racism -- epitomized by the Ku Klux Klan and the "Citizens Councils" -- to divide and conquer poor whites and blacks.
Germans, after the war, realized the only way to heal their society was to strip away and trash the mythology. Occasionally with reluctance, and never with total success, they ripped out the vestiges of Nazism. Oh, sure, behind closed doors in beer halls, "they" gathered, clicked their heels, bellowed the "Horst Wesel" song and toasted the memory of "him." But those nasty fellows had to hide their nostalgia.
The new German government ruthlessly banned Nazi imagery. For many reasons -- including, I'd argue, the self-surgery that purged the emotional and symbolic vestiges of Nazism -- Germany's democracy flourished after the war, eventually undermining the totalitarian East German government.
Back yonder in Dixie, collective guilt was assuaged via another method: denial.
Rather than eschew the immoral system that had brought so much calamity to the South, racist demagoguery was elevated to gospel and treason was transformed into "heritage" -- all in an effort to dodge guilt.
It's poignant that while the loonies and incompetents who masquerade as Georgia legislators were fixated on the state banner, the U.S. Supreme Court this month ruled the Confederate Battle Flag's co-emblem of race hatred, the burning cross, could be outlawed by the states.
(A quick aside: I'm a free speech absolutist. I disagree with the Supreme Court, and I'd even support the right of those with sick minds to dress up like Nazis and burn crosses. That said, my heart is with those who detest such symbols.)
There is justice that the Republicans are being saddled with the flag albatross. Perdue winked when folks in rural Georgia harnessed his yard signs with "Boot Barnes" Confederate flag signs. I don't think he believed he'd have to pay the piper -- because he was probably as much surprised at his victory as Roy Barnes.
As the saying goes, if you choose to sleep with serpents, you're going to wake up with snake bites. And that's what Perdue has discovered, much to his dismay. After the November election, he tried to downplay the flag issues. But the "flaggers" or "flaggots" weren't about to let the new Republican governor off the hook.
It started on election night, when Perdue egregiously misappropriated Martin Luther King Jr.'s "free at last" speech. Perdue neglected to notice that behind him a yahoo was waving a Battle Flag. The TV cams got excellent footage, however, and it was a message to the world that the Klan's ghost was again stirring in Georgia -- right smack in the governor's mansion.
Perdue has promised that resolving the flag issue would heal the state. Had he been a leader, he would have simply cauterized old wounds, left the Barnes flag on the poles and shooed away the "heritage" flaggers (aka mostly angry white boys who, with no one else to blame for their sorry conditions, want to whup up on black folks one more time by reviving the Battle Flag).
The bizarre machinery of deciding the flag will only inflame passions more. First, next March we vote up or down on the slightly altered Stars and Bars (with its Christian proselytizing add-on). If the vote is "nay," we choose in July between the pre-1956 flag (another variation on the Stars and Bars) and the 1956-2001 Rebel Battle Flag motif. The 1956 Battle Flag state banner, as everyone knows -- but that flaggers, Perdue and the legislators feign ignorance of -- was the hateful and racist reaction of Georgia to integration.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin puts it best: Why should anyone, especially African-Americans, be forced to pick between two symbols of slavery and oppression?
We can't do what the Germans did -- banning speech, even when clearly corrosive, is repugnant to America principles. But our leaders can -- and should -- send the message that, as official symbols for all citizens, we're not going to tolerate racist devices. Forget the crap about heritage. The swastika is a 3,000-year-old symbol that has lots of heritage in many cultures, primarily Hindu, and is generally associated with good. But it came to represent something else, and we're not likely to slap it on a state flag. Same goes for the Battle Flag, the main decoration at Klan cross-burnings and lynchings.
The only sweet part of this is that Republicans -- whose "Southern Strategy," disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida, economic policies and much else are nothing but racism incarnate -- are going to have the Confederate flag wrapped around their necks in the 2004 elections. Live with it, boys.
How about this one?
Harry Hervey, wearing a Confederate kepi hat, and his brother, Anthony, dressed in Confederate gray, wave the Confederate battle flag at the Eight Flags display in Gulfport. The Herveys were marching with the flags in support of the Black Confederate Soldier Foundation. They want to bring attention to the fact that blacks fought for the Confederacy too. Sun Herald photo/Tim Isbell
Men say Rebel Flag flies for freedom
For an hour, the Confederate battle flag flew over the former site of the Eight Flags Display on U.S. 90. Dressed in Confederate gray, a black man named Anthony Hervey marched with the banner clutched in his hands. His brother, Harry, accompanied him, wearing jeans and a Robert E. Lee T-shirt.
Hervey's devotion to the flag began when he discovered that a great-great-uncle, James Hervey, was a black American who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. James Hervey served in the Army of Mississippi and was killed at the battle of Shiloh.
Further research helped Hervey discover records of at least 100,000 black Confederates who fought in the war. "I am marching for freedom," Hervey said. "The battle flag stands for freedom and states' rights. The U.S. flag is the flag of slavery. It flew over 100 years of slavery, and Native Americans were annihilated under that flag."
For his march, Hervey chose the site where a Confederate flag once stood, one of eight representing entities that have governed the Coast. Harrison County removed the flags because of protests over the Confederate flag, a racist symbol to many, flying on the public beach.
Hervey's crusade also has taken him to Jackson. In the Jackson City Council chambers June 13, Hervey showed up wearing his battle grays, wrapped in the flag. A scuffle erupted between a Jackson man, who said he supported Hervey, and a city councilman who exchanged words, according to published reports. Hervey was not involved in the shoving match.
Hervey sees a correlation between the past and today's controversies over the flag. "We currently live under a psychological form of reconstruction," he said. "Whites are made to feel guilty for sins of their ancestors, and blacks are made to feel downtrodden. This keeps all of us from communicating. The political correctness of today is killing the pride of the people."
Hervey is the founder of the Black Confederate Soldier Foundation, an Oxford-based, not-for-profit organization. Its stated mission is to foster new thought on the Civil War. Claims that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol are, to the group, part of a nonissue. Black Confederates, the group says, have been misrepresented in historical texts.
Hervey wants to build a memorial that will include the names of the black Confederates who fought and died in the War Between the States.
As the Hervey brothers continued their march, shouts of support and anger could be heard from passing motorists. A group of young black men hanging from car windows shouted at the pair. Hervey instructed his brother to look forward "like a true soldier."
"Don't even look at them," Hervey said, citing the young men's behavior as an example of black psychology today. "They will yell a lot and want you to confront them, but they will not do anything," Hervey said.
"I found it appalling what happened in South Carolina, and I'm afraid this is going to happen in Mississippi." Hervey said. "We seek only to correct the errors in history - to right the wrongs done to the memories of these brave soldiers.
Lincoln was also responsible for the Boxer rebellion, typhus, and the 1976-1977 Bucanneers special teams unit.
By the way, who the hell cares what goes on in Georgia? Maybe the legislature DOES have more pressing things to worry about like decreasing the Georgia average tattoo to teeth ratio, which currently hovers around 5.
Dayum......that was harsh!
An outstanding idea. One that should be applied to Wlat and his never ending white-guilt trip.
His info is usually taken from the Atlanta Urinal/Constipation and runs something along these lines: "Gov Perdue, taking a restroom break from the flag debate, was observed holding his johnson with three fingers. As we all know, the three finger display has long been a covert symbol of the KKK. What, then, is Gov. Perdue trying to say here? Of course, we'll keep you updated on this breaking wind...er...news!"
Oooooh, now that's hate speech.
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