I need a little help with a problem I've been having. I have tried to convince some doubting Obamases that when we Southerners display the Confederate flag it is done not out of racism but out of pride for all that the South means to us. Being that I'm from Southern California many in the "other south" question my creds, but that is neither here nor there.
Now, when someone claims that the Confederate flag is merely a sign of pride about the South and not a symbol of racism what I want to know is this: what is there about the Confederate South that is a point of pride that is not connected, directly or indirectly, to slavery? The Old South's genteel ways were made possible by slave labor. The antebellum mansions, the plantations, agriculture, art, literature: do any of those aspects exist without slavery or the (subsequently) codified racism that came riding hard after the Civil War? Is there anything in the South to be proud of that doesn't have a whip cracking somewhere in the background, a human in bondage bent over in the field, a dark look of misery at its core?
There is no such thing as the Confederacy without slavery in the story, and I contend there is no celebrating the Confederate flag today without racism in the fibers of that flag as well, unless slavery somehow makes racism vanish. Someone from the South will tell me why I am wrong, but that's okay. I'm always wrong about something.
This July 4th I would like very much to unfurl a flag bearing the image of the United States Constitution, which to me is the idealized symbol of this country that I love and often despair for. It was so big that we have had to make ourselves bigger to fit in it: it is so small that we tear it easily if we are not cautious. Right now there are people who would divorce "We, the People" from that document, who would close the doors of personal liberty in a heartbeat if such a denial served their political purposes. We are, in effect, still fighting the Civil War, and we are still fighting the battles that nearly eight hundred years ago compelled a King to sign the Magna Carta across the sea. It's called Tyranny (with a Capital "T") and it is why We, the People remain a danger to those who benefit from controlling the board, the fields, the waters and the skies.
The Confederate Flag is only one part of an ancient tradition of finding some meaning or pride in an object, a pride colored by ad hominem emotions that get stirred up in our forgotten depths, those places beyond the daylight world of reason and justice. I only ask that we, at long last, get around to "knowing that which we do." Once that is accomplished, we might then seek to do no harm. Imagine that.