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Remembering, But Not Honoring

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This has been a hot-button issue for me lately. Just the other day I saw an old truck on the road with what I thought to be a needlessly offensive bumper sticker. It read, “American by birth, Southern by God’s grace.” Nothing wrong there. But the message was flanked by two images of Confederate flags.

I have a problem with this. First of all, the Civil War is the only reason the Confederate Flag was created. That war remains the bloodiest and most deadly war this nation has ever fought. Why should it be remembered?

Secondly, the Confederacy, regardless of your position on states’ rights (by the way, I am very Federalist), was a foreign enemy of the United States. The fact is, this enemy of Americans is sad, but not justifying. A brutal war was fought because this confederacy was created. I don’t see what there is to be so proud of about it.

A girl in South Carolina does see something to be proud of and she (along with many others in the recent past) has protested her school’s decision to ban confederate clothing. This girl says she wants to “pay tribute to ancestors who fought on the Confederate side.” Maybe I’m completely crazy, but in my view, she wants to honor the memory of an enemy who waged war against her country. Having personal family heroes is fine; publicly displaying promotional material for a foreign enemy is not.

Why, I ask, is this so important anyway? Why must we display confederate symbols? Is American sectionalism still that vitriolic? I sincerely hope not.

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About Sam James

  • chantal stone

    I read the story about the teen in SC who led the protest to wear confederate clothing, and was equally appalled. I understand and respect her right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment, but what I truly can not understand is the pride that many people from the south still seem to carry for the Confederacy. As you pointed out, Samuel, the Confederacy was a threat to the stability of the United States. Sounds a lot like terrorism, if you ask me.

    And what shocks me even more about this story is that there is a black man, HK Edgerton, who is protesting along with the girl. Edgerton is a “black confederate” who was a former leader in the NAACP in N.C., but now leads a group supporting a group who’s goal is to spread“awareness of the need to defend Southern heritage, history and the rightfulness of the Confederate cause here in the South, across the entire United States and around the world.”

    What?!? The confederate cause?!? They wanted to be a separate and sovereign nation, and we fought a war over it!!

    Someone help me here, I just don’t understand this sentiment.

  • zingzing

    meh. maybe you gotta be southern. i’m not particularily fond of the confederate flag being displayed like some sort of identification, but with statements like these…: “That war remains the bloodiest and most deadly war this nation has ever fought. Why should it be remembered?”

    …um. yeah.

    maybe you are a little crazy when you say “she wants to honor the memory of an enemy who waged war against her country.” surely, you don’t believe it to be that simple… i know it’s no direct analogy, but that would be like latvia having a little pride while under russian rule. i know, i know. but, you know?

    the civil war, the confederacy, all of that is not a simple black and white (no pun…) situation. after the south lost the war (which they deserved to lose), they lost another (“reconstruction,” which, while an honest attempt, i suppose, doomed the south to 100 years of relative poverty), and another (civil rights… which is what we fought about in the first place).

    the confederate flag may represent racism to some, it may represent pride to others. it definitely is a part of history that should not be forgotten. if people hadn’t been willing to fight over such things, then nothing would have happened. slavery was deeply entrenched in southern life and economics. it would never have ended any other way (at least not for years to come).

    i, and most southerners, believe that slavery was a blight upon our past. but, it’s our past. it’s your past too. the union/north of the time wasn’t some bastion of tolerance. relative hatred is still hatred.

    in the end–as long as slavery had died out, and jim crow abolished–if the south had won the war, and had become a separate nation, i don’t see the big loss. it is (almost) a different country. alabama is as foreign to new york as new york is to ontario.

    what are canadians but americans with hard nipples and a queen?

    and by the way, it’s “southern by birth, retarded by the grace of god.”

  • http://gratefuldread.net NR Davis

    Germany used to be an enemy of your country. Should German flags therefore be verboten? Should we put the kibosh on ethnic festivals of nations that have warred with the US?

    Living here does not necessarily translate in love and loyalty for this construct. Freedom of thought, freedom of expression. I hate seeing confederate anything, but however repulsive I find it, those who want to do so have the right to fly their freak flag all they want. Isn’t that what your America is supposed to be about? Freedom to do what you will so long as you violate no one else’s rights? If I see a confederate flag, I have the right to walk away or to stay put and remind myself to be grateful that even those who disagree with me have the right to say what they will and revere what they want. And who cares why some southerners revere that ugly piece of cloth? Why do you treasure you red-white-and-blue piece of cloth? Though I find both offensive, I would never want to deny anyone the right to wave them or bow to them or whatever it is you people do with your national symbols.

    You’re 17, Mr. James, but the sooner you get this, the better you’ll be able to cope with life in these United States: Freedom for all means you will find yourself offended by other people who have the right to do so, so long as they don’t touch you or restrict your freedom to flee. If you are to be free to speak your piece (and surely you must have some belief that offends somebody), so must everyone else. Meaning: I sympathize, but you have to deal with it. The good news: You have the freedom to gripe about it as you did in this interesting commentary. Feels good to exercise your first amendment right, eh?

  • Joey

    History not viewed in the historical context from which it evolved is not understood.

    From our vantage point it all seems so…. evil, outmoded, unnecessary, ancient…

    Revisionist’s ruined it and we speaking from our context will never understand it.

    Remember this…. Those who forget history, are doomed to repeat it (Napoleon Bonapart)

    Even Napoleon can be viewed with jaundiced eye…

    But it’s history! Embrace it. Accept it for what it is, and was. Otherwise you’re … doomed to repeat it.

  • http://samueljames.blogspot.com Samuel James

    THanks for the thoughtful reply Davis.

    Your first comment, in my opinion, misses something. You’ll notice that I never referred to the Confederacy as the “South.” That’s because I make a conscious effort to distinguish between what something was and what it is now. I have no problem with the Southern United States. I have a problem with the Confederacy, a dated, time-restriced creation which no longer exists. My point in the post was not to disparage the South, but the Confederacy, which, in my mind, are different. I have absolutely no problem with Germany, or England, or Japan, or other nations which, in the course of history, have aggressed against the US. Those countries are longer our enemies. I would have a problem honoring 1940’s Germany or Japan, or colonial England, but not those nations now (especially England, which seems to produce more attractive women than we do for some reason).

    Your second comment, in my view, misunderstands my position. I do not wish the sight of the Confederate flag to be illegal-only viewed as extraneous and unAmerican. But I will certainly defend the right of people to display it, even while I question the taste of doing so.

  • http://gratefuldread.net NR Davis

    Personally, I hate the south and the Confederacy, but mileage varies, Mr. James.

    “I do not wish the sight of the Confederate flag to be illegal-only viewed as extraneous and unAmerican.”

    Well, I agree with you on that. And somehow, it doesn’t surprise that you would defend their right to wave an odious symbol – while griping about it. I’d be right there with you on both counts.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    When you conquer someone, you take they’re flag down and put up yours, you don’t let them keep flying theirs. The confederate flag flying over anything is a slap in the face of all union soldiers who gave their lives to kick the south’s ass and says that they aren’t recognizing the fact.

  • http://gratefuldread.net NR Davis

    That’s how things are done, yes, but frankly, the notion is unAmerican. Don’t get me started on the rest; the idea of conquering anyone is just too disgusting.

    A thought occurs: Your country (not mine) “conquered” indigenous people here. Are they not allowed to continue celebrating their heritage? Of course, I see the differences between the Native Americans and the southern rebels, but then, my feeling is that if someone wants to secede, they should. Of course, with all respect to you, I care neither for your union nor its preservation.

  • zingzing

    Jet: “The confederate flag flying over anything is a slap in the face of all union soldiers who gave their lives to kick the south’s ass and says that they aren’t recognizing the fact.”

    yes… that’s why they fly it. bring it, you fuckin carpetbaggers! we’ll take you on again!

    …sheesh. flying over the capitol building in columbia, south carolina? yeah, that’s a little much. flying over the passanger side of a pick-up truck? get over yourself.

    i doubt that those who have it on their pick-up are trying to communicate, “yes, i am a racist.” they are just trying to say they are southern, and they are proud of being southern. name another symbol of the south. regretably, there are none.

    i love being southern, especially now that i don’t live there anymore. it’s such a plus with the ladies. every time i want to leave a sweet message for my girl, i do it in some redneck southern accent, a little slow, but cute. last night, i found out she saves every one of them…

    it’s like being french, except nothing special is expected of you…

  • W. E. Case

    History Lesson:

    The US Government waged war on the South.

    Fort Sumter was occupied by US troops. They were told to leave. (Do you think the Colonials would have allowed a British Fort in Boston Harbor?)
    The US Troops on Fort Sumter were nearly out of provisions.

    Several weeks prior to the beginning of the war, the US Administration had been assuring the people that Fort Sumter would be abandoned. Lincoln promised over and over that he was not planning on reprovisioning the fort. Mr. Lincoln lied. He sent provisions, knowing all the while that he was goading the South into firing the first shot. He sent a Naval force and heavily armed battleships.

    Countless accounts were published in the Northern newspapers as to how Lincoln “saw an opportunity to inaugurate civil war without appearing in the character of an aggressor”.

    Lincoln skillfully manipulated/maneuvered Jefferson Davis into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter.

    Historian Bruce Catton explains:

    “Lincoln had been plainly warned by his military advisers that a ship taking provisions to Fort Sumter would be fired upon. Now he was sending the ship, with advance notice to the men who had the guns. He was sending war ships and soldiers as well….If there was going to be a war it would begin over a boat load of salt pork and crackers…Not for nothing did Captain Fox remark afterward that is seemed very important to Lincoln that South Carolina “should stand before the civilized world as having fired upon bread”.

    To address your question, Why should it be remembered?

    Ever hear of History repeating itself?

    The real truth about the War of Northern Aggression needs to be told, so that everyone learns from past mistakes. Read the book “The Real Lincoln” by Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

    Citizens who choose not to study and learn from history are condemed to repeat it.

    http://www.knowsouthernhistory.com

    Another good place to start.

    Do my southern ancestors deserve to be remembered? Yes. Brave and true to their cause, and fought to preserve what they had every right to establish, their own Country and Government. Don’t believe me, read the Declaration of Independence!

    Do the northern ancestors deserve to be remembered?
    Yes. Brave and true to their country. I believe them to be tricked into fighting. I grieve over their deaths as well.

    Wanna know something else?

    This Nation is in far worse shape now! Wanna know why?

    HISTORY IS REPEATING ITSELF!

    What’s happening now??

    We, the people, are being told what we can and can not wear, can and can not practice religiously, can and can not believe….etc.

    I’m curious as to how you would react to the Federal Government passing law that all citizens must be injected with a chip! I fear that it is not to far away…It’s coming!

    http://www.spychips.com

    I bet you’d be just like the Southern folks of the 1860’s, and would take offense to such a Federal Government notion! Might even want to live in a country that didn’t have such an awful law.

  • Hunter

    I’m very sullen to see yet another uninformed person speaking out against a symbol they don’t understand. I’m 18 years old and have been a student of the War for Southern Independence for about four years and already i know more about the conflict than the bimbo who wrote the article. In response to, “in my view, she wants to honor the memory of an enemy who waged war against her country. Having personal family heroes is fine; publicly displaying promotional material for a foreign enemy is not.” Such an overtly ignorant comment is blasphemy in itself, but i tip my hat to the uninformed because they keep me going. I would love for you to look up the document Lincoln issued on April 15, 1861 and read it a couple times over, once you thuroughly understand what it says then you will understand who was the enemy, also look at Jefferson Davis’s first inagural address on Feb. 18, 1861 and compare it to the months that follow and what was done because of who. You may also want to look at Sherman’s March to the Sea, Sheridan’s raid of the Valley, Hooker’s plundering of Fredricksburg, and so many other examples of “what would happen to enemies.” After reading all things presented to you, then you may, and only may, be able to understand why “Southern Folks” hang on to their symbols and the “Lost Cause Mentality.”