Okay, first a disclaimer. Or maybe a list of disclaimers. I am a white guy. I’m also a liberal (I used to be a radical, but I’ve grown more conservative over time). Although I was born in the Midwest, my momma is from South Carolina and I’ve lived a big chunk of my life in the Deep South, so I tend to identify as a Southern boy. I have one more disclaimer, but I’m going to hold off on it for a bit.
I’m disclaiming away on account of I’m going to be talking about the Confederate flag. All flags are magical pieces of cloth that automatically confers a +10 bonus modifier to the Ability to Drive People Mad power. The Confederate flag adds a supplementary +5 bonus modifier to Hatred. That modifier applies equally to all classes.
That last bit is important. Common Knowledge suggests that the Confederate flag primarily drives Southern folks mad, but Common Knowledge is sometimes Full of Shit. Which is the case here. Yankees, Southerners, Liberals, Conservatives — doesn’t matter. Very few people manage a saving throw against the Confederate flag.
We’re talking about flags, of course, on account of Dylann Storm Roof, who murdered nine people in Mother Emanuel church. (Roof’s eminently joke-worthy name, by the way, is countered by the joke-inappropriate circumstance.) Roof utilized flags as tribal fetishes. He had the Confederate flag on the front of his car, and on his jacket he wore the apartheid era flag of South Africa and the flag of Rhodesia. The one thing all those flags have in common is the ideology of white supremacy.
But the specific flag at issue now is the Confederate Secession flag that flies on the grounds of the South Carolina state house. Many people want to see that flag removed. A minority want it to remain. There are two easily understandable responses to the debate. Here, I’ll shorthand the responses for you.
Response 1: What? That flag? No, that flag didn’t cause Dylann Roof to kill those people.
Response 2: Yeah, that flag. That flag is symbolic of a culture that fosters white supremacy, which fosters fear and hatred of black folks, which is why he killed those people.
There. Now, it’s completely obvious that both responses are true. The Confederate flag didn’t cause this young man — and lawdy, he IS young; he’s only just turned 21 — to shoot and kill nine people he’d been sharing Bible study with. But there’s absolutely no doubt that this young man’s racist ideology is deeply entwined with his apparent fondness for the Confederate flag and his other race-based flags.
The conservative defense of the Confederate flag relies heavily on the ‘heritage, not hate’ argument. There’s some foundation for that, but mostly the argument is bullshit. The foundation part lies in the pride of ancestors who fought bravely against a larger, better equipped army and frequently defeated them. The bullshit part is those ancestors were essentially fighting to support a white supremacist government.
Fighting bravely for a wicked cause doesn’t negate the bravery nor mitigate the cause. The problem is that most people tend to conflate the fighting with the cause. But as the character Sportin’ Life sings in Porgy and Bess (which coincidentally is set a few blocks away from where Dylann Roof murdered those nine people), it ain’t necessarily so.
Very few soldiers join the military because of political ideologies. The troops fighting in Afghanistan now don’t necessarily support the policies that dictate their deployment. The troops who fought in Vietnam didn’t necessarily feel communism in Southeast Asia was a threat to the United States. And the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy weren’t necessarily fighting for the right to own slaves. Neither were the soldiers fighting for the Union Army necessarily fighting to free the slaves.
I confess, I expect a lot of conservatives to make a hateful defense of the Confederate flag. What I didn’t expect in the debate was the level of widespread collective vitriol from liberals. I didn’t expect to see comments like these — aimed at all Southern folk — from sites like Daily Kos:
Southern people have blood on their hands from the 1960s from two fucking days ago! They do absolutely nothing about gun violence – FUCK THEM. I HOPE THEY ARE SCARED, THEY CAN GO TO FUCKING HELL FOR ALL I CARE – THEY ENABLE TERRORISTS, MURDERS MASS SHOOTERS, THEY TAKE AWAY RIGHTS FROM WOMEN, THEY CODDLE CHILD MOLESTERS, FUCK THEM – THEY ARE THE AMERICAN TALIBAN AND I COULD GIVE A SHIT HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THAT. IN FACT, I WANT THEM TO SECEDE – GET LOST, CREATE YOUR OWN COUNTRY SO WE CAN CUT YOU OFF FROM AMERICA – YOU AREN’T A PART OF THE UNITED STATES, YOU NEVER ACCEPTED DEFEAT AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THEY TERRORIZED BLACKS IN FORCE THROUGH THE 1960S, THE ARE TRYING TO GUT THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT … THIS ISN’T ABOUT 150 YEARS AGO, IT’S ABOUT RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. FUCK THEM.
I haven’t forgotten Lincoln said he would have allowed slavery to continue to save the Union. Or the moral absurdity that was the Emancipation Proclamation. But since he managed in the end to free the slaves and save the Union, while sending 260,000+ southern traitors to hell, I cut him a little slack.
The civil war was not complex in any way whatsoever. One side wanted to perpetuate and expand human chattel slavery. All other issues were peripheral and subordinate. Anyone who claims differently is either disingenuous, ignorant or an imbecile. End of discussion.
I did not expect to see liberals express that sort of collective hatred directed at an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. I’m talking both about the collective hatred of Southern folks and the collective assumption that soldiers in the Confederate Army shared the ideology of the politicians who sent them to war.
I will not and cannot defend the Confederate flag. But I wasn’t always that way. This is the disclaimer I avoided at the beginning of this post. In the 1990s I had a small Confederate flag that I used to keep in pencil holder on my desk. To me, that flag wasn’t about the Civil War, or about the defense of slavery, or about white supremacy. It was simply a shorthand way of saying I Love the South. Which I do.
But somewhere around that same time I discovered the origins of the Swastika in ancient Hindu cultures. I learned that the term came from the Sanskrit svastika, which referred to a lucky or auspicious object or person. And I came to understand that the meaning of a symbol is contextual — that it doesn’t matter what the symbol originally meant, or what the symbol means to any specific individual. A symbol means what it means to the majority of people now. So I removed the Confederate flag from my desk. That was also a way of saying I Love the South. Which I do.
So yeah, the Confederate flag has no place in any government facility other than a museum. Its defenders need to understand that they can remain proud of how their ancestors acquitted themselves in the Civil War, but they also need to understand that the Confederate flag stands for white supremacy. The liberal detractors of the Confederate flag need to understand that racism isn’t the sole province of Southern white folks, and that prejudice against Southern folks is no more warranted than prejudice against black folks.
I’m rarely disappointed by right-wing conservatives, because I expect so little of them. But I’m very disappointed by those left-wing liberals who’ve recently proved themselves to be just as irrationally hateful as their conservative counterparts.
Liberals, you are my people. But you embarrass me. Your saving throw against Flag Ability to Drive People Mad has failed. Roll 3d12 for Fuckwit Damage.