Friday, July 31, 2015

The South

The Anarchangel his-self has a post up I want y'all to read. It's entitled Wounds, and Scars, And Battle Flags.  It's not a short read, but many things that are worth reading tend toward the lengthier side of life. As he warns, it contains something to piss off just about everyone concerning this issue. But read it as what I'll write will make more sense with his post in mind.

Now that you've presumably read it, I disagree with My Byrne's base assertion - that the confederate battle flag is a symbol of hatred towards black folks. I agree that some if not many black people have this view, but in general it's not quite what it seems.

When a person sees the flag that once flew over the Army of Northern Virginia, they don't see it a as symbol of hatred. They see it as a symbol of The South. They view The South as something that represents hatred. They're gravely mistaken, but that's what they see. 

What was missed in that very well thought out post is what southerners see, specifically southerners that grew up in the 1960's through 1990's.

To get this out of the way here's a very brief, perhaps overly simplified summary of the Late Unpleasantness twixt the States from my perspective.

A number of southern states seceded because of the economic threat they felt from the north and directed through the federal government. They viewed slavery as part of the economic structure of The South, and it was. This does not mean it was a good part of that structure or that it was worth preserving that structure because of or despite slavery. A minority of southerners held slaves, but their impact on the economy, and especially politics, was large enough that a threat to them would have caused significant changes in The South. Most people fear change, rightly or wrongly. So those few Southern states seceded in part, perhaps large part, to keep slavery as a staple of their economies.

Other southern states seceded only after the feds raised an army to bring the states that had left the union back into the union. In fact, if I recall correctly, in my home state of North Carolina the governor was in the midst of giving an anti-secession speech when news was heard of the feds raising an army to invade South Carolina, and by the end of the speech it was pro-secession.  

Fort Sumter was where the shooting started (actually the shooting started when South Carolina fired upon a ship that aimed to resupply Fort Sumter) but it was not as clear cut as most folks believe. The union garrison was at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island until the night after Christmas of 1860. Under the cover of darkness, the federal troops snuck out to Fort Sumter as it was a much more defensible position than the one they were in. That is what started the shooting war; federal troops occupying a position from which they had effective control of the harbor. That move was taken as a breach of faith in the negotiations betwixt President Buchanan and Governor Pickens of South Carolina. So yes, South Carolina fired the first shot, but that was a response to what was justifiably perceived as an aggressive action on the part of the federal government.

So secession was about slavery for a little over half of the southern states. The rest seceded because of federal aggression and/or a disregard for constitutional constraints upon federal power. The federal government acted solely to keep the southern states within the union. Abolition was not a strong concern until later in the war, when they realized - to put it in the vernacular - they was gettin' they ass kicked. Then it became an issue for them, but not the predominant one. After all, two union states were slave states until after the war, and it was the 13th amendment, not the Emancipation Proclamation, that ended slavery nationwide. 

Reconstruction was not about helping the newly freed black people adjust to citizenship; it was about re-educating people to look to the federal government, not the state government, as where their allegiance should lay. In other words, its goal was breaking the spirit and replacing the culture that existed in The South with one from the north. It was also about punishing The South for "rebelling" and the agents of Reconstruction used black people to do this as much as they could. That created an artificial enmity between most black people and most poor white people (whom never had owned slaves or even agreed with the practice) that lasted for decades. That enmity is mostly gone by now, but there are some pockets of black and white people whom still feel its effects.

A lot of things should have been different, and the most obvious is that The South, along with some northern states, should have dissolved the institution of slavery themselves (or preferably never begun it). The federal government should have never used force to keep any state in the union, and Reconstruction should have never been attempted.

But it's important to remember that slavery, as an institution, was not a product of the southern people as a whole - it was the result of the governments in The South and a small elite that held political sway in those states. Slavery was a product of government. Another oft glossed over nugget of history that seems to escape the notice of the people who still wish to condemn southern folk for slavery is that slavery was supported by the democrat party, just as segregation was a product of government (albeit with a shameful amount of popular support in some places) that was run by democrats. I mention this as most folks that scream the loudest about modern day southerners not feeling guilty enough about slavery are usually big government proponents and democrats and that's about the only way to temporarily halt their outpouring of anti-southern bile. 

Yes, slavery was wrong. I do not defend it, nor will I apologize for it seeing as that was all before my time. I'm only responsible for my actions, not those of my physical or cultural ancestors, and I just don't have the energy to borrow guilt or assume it from someone else. Slavery was wrong and The South was wrong to support it.

I also contend that any state that wishes to leave the union of its own volition to this day is justified in doing so. "Because we want to" is all the explanation or notice any state need give. It is wrong for the federal government to use force or coercion to keep a state in the union. The constitution does not allow the federal government such power, and the notion of "implied perpetuity" is as much a load of bullshit as the opinion in Wickard v. Fillburn

Given that, the War Betwixt The States was unconstitutionally pursued by the federal government, and the federal government was in the wrong. If they'd have declared war on a foreign nation or state with the sole intent on dismantling the instutiton of slavery then perhaps I'd have backed them, but their aim was to subjugate the southern states and force their re-entry into the union. In doing so they abandoned the constitution and lost any legitimacy.

If you disagree in whole or part with the overly simplified historical outline you just read, that's cool. It's also irrelevant, as I'm trying to explain to you how I see things as a southerner. Altering my mind on the above is unlikely and would just frustrate both of us.  The account of the Late Unpleasantness and its aftermath was to give a point of reference for what comes next, because a lot of this subject is extremely subjective.

Now on to the topic at hand.

In the 1860's that flag was a military flag used by the Confederate States of America in their military campaigns.  In the 1880's it was flown by Confederate Veterans organizations. In the 1920's it was used by the KKK. In the 1940's it was used by a few u.S. military units that had a Southern connection. In the late 1950's & early 1960's it was flown by states opposed to racial integration as well as the KKK. 

But to kids growing up in the late 1960's and 1970's and 1980's that flag was something that granny Moses admonished Ellie May not to drop whilst they stormed the Drysdale mansion to rescue their patriarch. It was the painting on the roof of a car that somehow couldn't drive anywhere in that county without jumping something. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was Molly Hatchet. It was The Marshall Tucker Band. It was Blackfoot. It was The CDB. It was Southern Rock and all things Southern. It wasn't hatred they saw fluttering in the breeze at those concerts - it was The South; it was them.

Let's talk about Skynyrd for a second. That's the Southern Rock band most associated with the confederate battle flag (in my opinion at least). So since that flag was flown at their concerts their music must have been racist right? Not so much. I'll offer two examples.

The first is a song they released on their debut album (simply called "pronounced" by us fans) back in 1973 about the plight of folks living in the ghetto and the lack of caring about them by government.

The second, released on their follow up album from 1974 entitled Second Helping celebrates the artistry of a black blues player that a little kid was enamored with despite being forbade from visiting with him.

Not exactly tunes that a bunch of racists would put on thier first two albums now are they? So no, the music of The South, as well as most people of The South, aren't racist, nor do they view the confederate battle flag as such. Racism does exist in The South as it does everywhere, but it exists no more than everywhere, and in less amount and permeation than in most places you'd compare to it.

Now I don't fly that flag. I don't fly any flag in fact. I looked around a moment ago as I thought I had a little desk top flag and stand (along with a miniature Old Glory and antebellum NC state flag) but they must have gotten lost in some move. But I don't harbor any ill will towards folks that do fly that flag, because I am Southern and for all its good and bad The South is what that flag symbolizes. 

This is an easy exercise to perform - when you see someone with a Confederate Battle flag on his vehicle or clothing or in some other manner displayed, do you think that person came from Buffalo? Des Moines? Seattle? L.A.? Brooklyn? No; you think that person hails from the South.(although Town Line, New York wouldn't have been an unreasonable answer prior to 1946).

That is precisely why that flag is catching so much hell today.  The folks that see that flag as a symbol of The South and The South as a hotbed of racism want to destroy Southern Culture because that traditionally Southern Culture is Scots-Irish, which is very individualistic, respects a bottom up system of authority, is very capable of assimilating folks into its folds, and is the biggest rival to the progressive culture (which I typically refer to as the proto-Eloi culture, for obvious reasons), which is very much top-down and vehemently all about the collective.

(As an aside, I've always thought that The Rural Purge wasn't all about advertising demographics for sponsors as it was also about stemming the influence of that Scots-Irish culture that was being broadcast weekly and received favorably by folks even in progressive strongholds. Anyone want to argue that Fred Silverman was a right winger? If so read this piece on how the left runs Hollywood and pay attention to Silverman's quote.)

That Scots-Irish culture that tends to define Southerners is the predominate culture in the South, at least along the Appalachians and extending a good bit into the Piedmont of the Carolinas and Virginia, westward into Tennessee, Kentucky and across the top of the Gulf states. It however is not the culture of the ruling class. That is still the remnants of the English aristocracy that landed here so long ago (with an uncomfortable influx of yankees that are part of that progressive/proto-Eloi culture, but that's another subject). 

James Webb wrote a book called Born Fighting: How The Scots-Irish Shaped America that does a very good job of explaining the origins and reach of this group of folks and their ways. That culture is not just confined to The South, or certain regions of The South. There tends to be a desire for travel and invariably relocation - possibly from centuries of being forced out of one home or another, and some of it just comes from seeking better opportunities (The Hillbilly Highway being the most easily identified example). So there are pockets of Scots-Irish all over the country.

Hell, I moved from the South. It's not that I don't like the people or the countryside - it's just damned hot. But I'll jest to folks out here that I moved as part of a concerted effort to bring the light of civilization to this part of the world ("Why, these heathens out here don't know how to put sugar in their tea and they think a hushpuppy is a type of shoe! And don't get me started on what they call barbecue - it ain't even Eastern, it's simply barbaric...") But there are things I miss about The South, decent seafood coming second on the list only to some friends and family.

There is a lot of anti-Southern bigotry. It started long before the War Twixt the States and it continues today. For example, a commenter by the screen name of Nebenezer left this one at the post linked at the beginning of this one:

"Why shouldn't the north tell southerners what to do? They'd be a third world country if it weren't for support funneled from the north through the federal government to them, they'd have even fewer jobs if they couldn't race to the bottom (low wage, no environmental or workers protections) jobs from the north. There lives would suck even more without research from northern and California scientists (or people trained there). You don't chip in for the pizza? You don't get to complain about the toppings."

I pride myself on being a reasoned, calm fellow who has full control of his temper. That being said I couldn't help hum along with "...300,000 Yankees, lay stiff in Southern dust..." as I read that particular bit of anti-Southern venom. Course someone quickly pointed out a link which shows that Southerners are more likely to enlist in the military (u.S. Military enlistment by state) as well as someone else reminding us about the frailty of life, especially when one gets bossy. 

Third world country he says? Pffft. It is quite reasonable to argue that Federal interference caused a great many of The South's economic woes. Reconstruction primarily was an attempt to eradicate a culture (not due to its racism, but due to its independent streak) but the mechanism made it quite easy for foreign interests (e.g. yankees) to come and strip The South of its wealth and resources. No more stark example of this can be noted than in Appalachia, where first the yankee lumber companies, then the yankee railroads, and finally the yankee coal mine companies came in and took every advantage possible as they absconded with the produce of folks they thought beneath them.

Now there's a war on coal, which despite its historic use as a vehicle for the exploitation of the Appalachian people it provides a lot of jobs that'd be hard to replace, and the feds as well as foreign interests (notably that nasty little fascist from NYC - Bloomberg) are intent on waging it until they win.

Obama holds up runway expansion because of coal. At the same time, the feds are waging a war against what they call "mountain pride", which folks of my culture simply call morals or self respect or self reliance. If you think giving folks in need a little help is a good thing, I'd agree with you. But when the feds get involved perverse results abound, as even the New York Times mentioned in this piece about parents losing money if their kids learn to read. In short, the feds idea of help is to create a dependence culture as they've done in other regions. This is stymied by that Scots-Irish culture, that Southern Culture that views supporting yourself and your family as a duty, not an outdated notion that must be overcome. If it means taking money from the feds then that's what'll be done, but not before all the other options are exhausted, and not with the casualness that the feds like to see in its dependents.

But The South definitely isn't all gloom and doom. It seems that, if the numbers are accurate, black folks are migrating from the North back to The South. That wouldn't be happening if the region was really 3rd world in nature now would it?

The Washington Post, of all things, ran a story with the headline It's Not Dixie's Fault. What was even more incredulous is that it was not sarcasm. It actually presented a decent assessment of how other regions are worse in ways typically attributed to The South (for example, racial segregation is much more prominent in the North today than in The South). 

Still I must urge you to read this heartfelt apology for the sins of The South from a native no less:

The South does have its problems. Politically it suffers from a ruling/political/bureaucratic class that has an affinity for authoritarianism. This is a result of the English aristocratic culture along with the progressive/proto-Eloi culture from the North. They adhere to the "ordered liberty" notion, especially if they get to set the order. While this is not unusual in other parts of the country, it's a stark contrast from the populace in many Southern states which really hate being told what to do. So why are these jerks still holding office? It's complex, but a lot of it comes down to a lack of options. Most folks who don't like being told what to do don't like telling others what to do, so they aren't the ones smoozing and campaigning for some elected office, or kissing ass to land that desk job in the office of Minding Everyone Else's Affairs.

As far as race relations go, The South really is better than a lot of places. As noted in an earlier linked article, integration is widespread in The South, moreso than in many places up North. Do you recall that bit I mentioned above about the Scots-Irish culture being real good at assimilating folks? Well that works beyond racial lines, and most of the black folks I knew in The South were just as Scots-Irish culturally as I am. 

Indeed, depending on our incomes we ate the same food, listened to about the same music, prayed to the same God, had similar senses of humor, appreciated the same types of art, had the same work ethic and morals, and mostly the same problems - pretty much the only way you'd know the race of anyone where I grew up if you just wandered in their house and there were no family portraits up was by looking at the hair care products. Culturally we were the same, with only differences in income to explain deviations in one manner or another. 

I mention all this because as I said before, people don't see the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of hatred - they see The South as a symbol of hatred, with the flag only a symbol of The South. 

I disagree with Chris' contention that the flag is a permanent symbol of hatred whether some folks think it isn't or not. Symbolism is not objective. It requires some subjective interpretation. 50 or 100 years from now there's no telling what folks will see it as. Likewise the argument could be made that the Betsy Ross flag, with its' 13 stars was a symbol of hatred or oppression as all those states were slave states back then. But people don't usually attribute racism to the flying of that flag even by governments. 

The point is, interpretation of a symbol is not a static thing, and it's certainly not an objective fact. I do understand how and why some people really do see the Confederate battle flag as some bitter reminder of how racist The South allegedly is. I disagree with them, and would try to change their minds given the opportunity. But most people that claim offense at the mere sight of a piece of cloth are doing their part in a culture war that seeks to wipe out that Scots-Irish culture that I contend is the bulk of what most see as Southern Culture. It's not for nothing that people joke about the winner of a fight betwixt two progressives is the one who can scream "I'm offended" the loudest. Their aim (the die hard progressives that is) is not to have us all sing Kumbaya and live in peace; they want to eliminate the Scots-Irish culture and their tactic is to declare offense until we just lay down and die. If we all stow the flag and never fly it again they will not be appeased. They'll be offended by something else, and then something else, until our culture is shamed into nonexistence.

Within the progressive/proto-Eloi culture they cling to certain things almost as a religious imperative. In their pantheon none is more revered than The Victim. Claiming offense is a path to attaining or asserting their status as victim. Viewing objects as totems, and consequently trying to strike down vestiges of competing cultures' totems, is an ingrained part of their perspective. And finally the deodand is alive and well in the progressive worldview. While guns are the normally attempted sacrificial object to their gods when they claim a wrong has been done (or offense given) they realize that's too difficult a goal right now, but the confederate battle flag is within reach. 

So that's why there's an uproar of late over a battle flag that hasn't fluttered over an army in more than 1.5 centuries -  the progressive religion sees this as another front in their war against the Scots-Irish. 

What they fail to understand is as a culture we're not really fetishists (nor do we hold with the sort of perverse reverse objectification or reification that progressives seem to latch on to, as they tend to do with all things Marx).  The objects themselves don't define us, they're merely means to an end. With guns, they're tools. Tools we like certainly, but tools. Come up with a more efficient way to defend ones' self, and we'll like those too (I always have wanted a lightsaber, ya know...). The confederate flag is merely a way to announce to passers by that we're Southern. Not just that we're Southern, but that we're kinda proud of being Southern. It's easier to wave a flag than it is to waft the aroma of fresh hushpuppies, or explain to folks that we're sippin' on Maker's Mark, or that why yes, we have a lot of sugar in our tea, just as The Good Lord intended (course saying sweet tea is like saying you have ice in your ice water - kinda superfluous), or any number of other things that Southerners typically enjoy but can't really convey in passing.  

What that failure of understanding leads to is the erroneous notion that removing what they see as some sort of totem will destroy us. For arguably 2,000 years the Scots-Irish culture (or what it would become) has survived not only physical assaults but cultural ones as well. The English aristocracy (whose physical and  ideological descendents would form the progressive culture in the Northeast as well as the plantation system in the South) not only sought to disarm the Scots that rose up against the Crown (in 1716 and 1746), but they proscribed the clothing that they associated with those rebels.(And you thought "fashion police" was merely hyperbolic!). The Highland clearances (and to a lesser extent the Lowland clearances) were unabashed attempts to destroy the Gaelic culture, as was the system of plantations in Ireland. We could debate its success, but I'll note that most of the descendents, both ideological and physical, of that culture they sought to eliminate bear arms and bow no knee to the crown.

I find it ironic that a saltire flag is the object of this new attempt at eliminating the descendents of the same culture that they failed to eliminate in the UK. Indeed, "Do it again, only harder" seems a universal reaction when a progressive policy utterly fails at its intended goal. You'd think they'd have learned by now.

Some of us fly a flag that to us is not racist or hateful to any group of folks that have darker skin than others do. We do that because that flag, with all its historical baggage, is the most obvious symbol of The South we have. If you really don't want us flying that flag, then give us an alternative. Show us a flag that can convey The South as effectively as the Confederate battle flag does. The Gadsden flag doesn't quite do it, nor does the Moultrie flag, or any other that I can think of, or I'd be proposing flying it instead. I'm open to suggestions if it means that much to anyone, but I really can't fathom what else could take its place. A suggestion though - whatever anyone proposes, if it doesn't have a Saltire I'm thinking it's gonna miss the mark. 

(I couldn't quite figure out where to stick these last two despite really wanting to include them so consider them a bonus for making it through another post of mine that circumnavigates brevity. Despite not being from The South, Little Feat gets honorary mention as far as Southern Rock goes. And the Drivin'n'Cryin' tune, in addition to being my favorite song of theirs,  asks a most fundamental question; "Have you ever seen the Blue Ridge mountains boy? Or the Chattahoochee, or the Honeysuckle blue?")

1 comment:

Paul Bonneau said...

I wrote an article about it that might be of interest: