Nationalism and the Confederate Flag

I don’t think I need to go over too briefly about the shooting in South Carolina, but as expected, it’s created quite a stir. By this time it is known that the shooter was an obvious white supremacist and this caused an outcry for many on the use of the confederate flag in the South. Well Southerners in defense of the flag argue that many don’t know what it’s like to live in the south, and it’s a matter of preserving heritage. But since I’m a Northerner that moved to the south, I imagine I have a pretty unique view on the issue.

The confederate flag was originally designed by William Porcher Miles in 1861 was actually rejected as the official flag.
The confederate flag was originally designed by William Porcher Miles in 1861 and was actually rejected as the official flag.

It’s true I see a lot of confederate flag license plates, and most locals that abhorrently oppose prejudice thought see no problem in this. It’s simply a part of the culture. But the larger question is it unique to the South? Sure, many bloodlines go back to confederacy soldiers, and I guess that could be something to be proud of if you look past the atrocities of the confederate South, but this doesn’t cut it. Think of the uproar if a man in Germany flew a Nazi flag from his house on the grounds that it’s celebrating his heritage. Of course it is in his family history, but that leaves him little to be proud of.

Maybe it has to do with the social-political attitude of the South. There is a big emphasis on family values, respecting elders, god and church, and heritage, among other things. Maybe it’s that they feel the need to respect their family tradition in some way, despite what that tradition really is. I should mention that the Confederate South did do other things besides own slaves, but this is primarily what history remembers them as. People can say it’s everything else about the South that they are representing, but at that point it would make more sense to fly the American flag.

So if many southerners are following this tradition blindly, I assume few of them are truly racist (even though as we’ve seen in the news, many are). This presents a more disturbing reality, the compliance to follow a nationalistic principal while denying the atrocities of that nation. If southerners admitted that the Confederate flag in the modern day represents injustice and racism then they would stop flying them. This may not have been the flag’s original meaning, but society has seen fit to alter the depth of its meaning. Again: nobody in Germany flies the Nazi flag on the grounds that things weren’t all that bad or they were good in the beginning.

It chills me to think of all the atrocities done in the name of nationalism. It is almost as powerful force as religion: and when combined it is a time-bomb. An example I often give people on nationalism would be the rape of Nanking. Thousands of women and babies were raped on orders. Two soldiers were actually recorded having a contest to see who could reach 100 decapitations first of their victims. The two officers contest was featured in the daily newspaper.

This is an example of nationalism driving man. Even today there is hot debate on the issue of Nanking, many even stating the event never took place. There is not a nation on this earth that has not committed any sort of injustice or misery, because this is inherent of government itself.

So looking past the atrocities of a nation, when is it just to fly their flag? The simple answer would be whenever you feel like it, the more acute answer would be to fly a flag when a government is free of injustice, which would be never. Think of Johnny Cash’s song man in black, he refused to wear bright colors until all was good in the world and he went on to die as the man still in black. I propose the same thing. We not burden ourselves with the primal forces of nationalism and instead protest until the government is just enough to earn our nationalism. But we must be critical. Even if the U.S. who we claim to be the free world, still commits atrocities and murder overseas. It is all well to love your country, but to not be critical of it would mean complete submission. The refusal of flag bearing would prevent just this.

And back to the case of specifically the confederate flag. I understand it is a Southern tradition to respect and acknowledge your heritage, but blindly flying a flag is not the way to do it. The most beneficial thing you could do would be to study the history of the South. Study their way of living and their way of life outside slavery, because I’m sure they did some things arguable right in the create of their new state and way of life. Take the good bits of all history and try to practice them to benefit everyone, that’s what your heritage would want.

One last thing: this will make me extremely unpopular down here, which I understand. I am as much of a foreigner to Southern life as I’ll ever be, so I might as well say what I think while I am.

26 thoughts on “Nationalism and the Confederate Flag

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  1. I too (an original east coast northerner) have either lived or visited regions in the south. There were certain bar/restaurants (in Louisiana) whose interiors were decorated with both the confederate flag and KKK propaganda posters. I know I shouldn’t necessarily associate these items as being related to one another, but the overall atmosphere enhanced that feeling. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So during the mid 1800’s America was divided by North and south. The South was largely an agrarian society using slaves to work the land, while the North was mostly industrial. After the horrors of the Mexican American war many people changed their viewpoint on the issue. While slavery was outlawed in the North for a long time, that didn’t mean they weren’t completely racist. But the fugitive slave act came along which allowed any black person to be accused of being a former slave, and sent to the plantation without trial, many Northerners were disgusted. Things progressed and eventually the Confederacy was formed, the coalition of Southern states wanting to secede from the North. A civil war was fought to keep the country together and the North (the Union) came out victorious. The confederate flag you see people toting around was never actually the Confederate national flag, but simply the Tennessee battle flag under General Lee, the main general of the war. In the end, to much disdain, slavery was abolished. So today many people see the confederate flag as a sign of slavery, racism, and oppression while others see it as a sign of heritage and Southern pride. Recently there was a shooting at a black church in South Carolina that re-sparked the controversy of the meaning of the confederate flag.

      I hope this cleared some things up for you.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. That was an excellent summary! Kudos for your post. It’s important to remember that the traditions we hold may have an impact on others that conflict with our deeper values. We have to decide what’s more important: holding on to what we think of our past, or building the future we want to live in?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I posted an opinion piece on my blog as well, but I’ve copied and pasted an extensive piece here about the true history of the flag. I’m southern but have done my best to verify the facts listed without bias. I hope this helps anyone truly seeking knowledge about the flag.

    2 Million Bikers to DC
    June 21 ·

    STOP revisionist History! KNOW THE FACTS!

    When history is distorted someone needs to re-post the FACTS!

    The Confederate Battle Flag was never a National Flag of the Confederacy. It was carried into battle by several armies such as the Army Of Northen Virginia and the Army of Tennessee. Was also used as a Naval Jack by the Confederate Navy.

    History books, the media, the school systems, etc abound in falsehoods and inaccuracies of Confederate and Southern history. This fact sheet will help to clarify and dispell some of these rampant inaccuracies.

    MYTH – The War of 1861 – 1865 was fought over slavery.
    FACT – Terribly untrue. The North fought the war over money. Plain and simple. When the South started Secession, Lincoln was asked, “Why not let the South go in peace?” To which he replied, “I can’t let them go. Who would pay for the government?” Sensing total financial ruin for the North, Lincoln waged war on the South. The South fought the War to repel Northern aggression and invasion.

    MYTH – Only Southerners owned slaves.
    FACT – Entirely untrue. Many Northern civilians owned slaves. Prior to, during and even after the War Of Northern Aggression.
    Surprisingly, to many history impaired individuals, most Union Generals and staff had slaves to serve them! William T. Sherman had many slaves that served him until well after the war was over and did not free them until late in 1865.

    U.S. Grant also had several slaves, who were only freed after the 13th amendment in December of 1865. When asked why he didn’t free his slaves earlier, Grant stated “Good help is so hard to come by these days.”

    Contrarily, Confederate General Robert E. Lee freed his slaves (which he never purchased – they were inherited) in 1862!!! Lee freed his slaves several years before the war was over, and considerably earlier than his Northern counterparts. And during the fierce early days of the war when the South was obliterating the Yankee armies!

    Lastly, and most importantly, why did NORTHERN States outlaw slavery only AFTER the war was over? The so-called “Emancipation Proclamation” of Lincoln only gave freedom to slaves in the SOUTH! NOT in the North! This pecksniffery even went so far as to find the state of Delaware rejecting the 13th Amendment in December of 1865 and did not ratify it (13th Amendment / free the slaves) until 1901!

    MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag was flown on slave ships.
    FACT – NONE of the flags of the Confederacy or Southern Nation ever flew over a slave ship. Nor did the South own or operate any slaves ships. The English, the Dutch and the Portugese brought slaves to this country, not the Southern Nation.

    BUT, even more monumental, it is also very important to know and understand that Federal, Yankee, Union ships brought slaves to America! These ships were from the New England states, and their hypocrisy is atrocious.

    These Federals were ones that ended up crying the loudest about slavery. But without their ships, many of the slaves would have never arrived here. They made countless fortunes on the delivery of slaves as well as the products made from raw materials such as cotton and tobacco in the South.

    This is the problem with Yankee history History is overwhelmingly portrayed incorrectly by most of the Federal & Yankee books and media.

    MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag represented the Southern Nation.
    FACT – Not true. While the Southern Battle flag was carried into battle, the Southern Nation had 3 different National flags during the course of the war.

    The First National flag was changed due to a resemblance of the US flag.

    The Second National flag was subsequently modified due to the similarity to a flag of truce.

    The Third National flag was the adopted flag of the Confederacy.

    The Confederate Battle Flag was never a National Flag of the Confederacy. It was carried into battle by several armies such as the Army Of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee. Was also used as a Naval Jack by the Confederate Navy.

    MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag is known as the “Stars & Bars”.
    FACT – A common misconception. The First National Confederate Flag is correctly known as the “Stars & Bars”. The Confederate Battle Flag is known as the “Southern Cross”.

    MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag represents racism today.
    FACT – The Confederate Battle Flag today finds itself in the center of much controversy and hoopla going on in several states. The cry to take this flag down is unjustified. It is very important to keep in mind that the Confederate Battle Flag was simply just that. A battle flag. It was never even a National flag, so how could it have flown over a slave nation or represented slavery or racism? This myth is continued by lack of education and ignorance. Those that villify the Confederate Battle Flag are very confused about history and have jumped upon a bandwagon with loose wheels.

    MYTH – The United States Flag represented freedom.
    FACT – No chance. The US flag flew over a slave nation for over 85 years! The North tolerated slavery and acknowledged it as a Division Of Labor. The North made a vast fortune on slavery and it’s commodities. It wasn’t until the South decided to leave the Union that the North objected. The North knew it could not survive without the Southern money. That is the true definition of hypocrisy.

    MYTH – Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator.
    FACT – While Lincoln has went down in history as the Great Emancipator, many would not care to hear his real thoughts on people of color. Martyred President Abraham Lincoln was fervently making plans to send all freed slaves to the jungles of Central America once the war was over. Knowing that African society would never allow the slaves to return back to Africa, Lincoln also did not want the slaves in the US. He thought the jungles of Central America would be the best solution and conducive to the freed slaves best interest. The only thing that kept this from happening, was his assassination.

    MYTH – The South revered slavery.
    FACT – A very interesting fact on slavery is that at the time the War of 1861 -1865 officially commenced, the Southern States were actually in the process of freeing all slaves in the South. Russia had freed it’s servants in 1859, and the South took great note of this. Had military intervention not been forced upon the South, a very different America would have been realized then as well as now.

    MYTH – The Confederate Army was comprised of rich slave owners.
    FACT – Very far from true. The vast majority of soldiers in the Confederate Army were simple men of meager income. Most of which were hard working farmers and common men. Then, as now, very few rich men ever fight a war.

    MYTH – Only the North had men of color in their ranks.
    FACT – Quite simply a major falsehood of history. Many blacks, both free and of their own will, joined the Confederate Army to fight for their beloved Southern home. Additionally, men of other ethnic extraction fought as well. Oriental, Mexican & Spanish men as well as Native American Indians fought with pride for the South.

    Today, many men of color are members in the heritage group SCV – Sons Of Confederate Veterans. These men of color and pride rejoice in their heritage. The continued attacks on the Southern Nation, The Confederacy, and her symbols are a terrible outrage to these fine people. These attacks should be denounced with as much fervor as those who denounce the South.

    MYTH – The Confederate Flags are an authorized symbol of Aryan, KKK and hate groups.

    FACT – Quite the contrary. These despicable organizations such as the KKK and Aryans have taken a hallowed piece of history, and have plagued good Southern folks and the memories of fine Confederate Soldiers that fought under the flag with their perverse agenda. IN NO WAY does the Confederate Flag represent hate or violence. Heritage groups such as the SCV battle daily the damage done to a proud nation by these hate groups. The SCV denounces all hate groups, and pridefully boast HERITAGE – NOT HATE.

    MYTH – The SCV – Sons Of Confederate Veterans are a racist, hate group.
    FACT – This is a blatant attack on one of the finest heritage groups ever. The SCV – Sons Of Confederate Veterans are a historical, patriotic and non-political organization comprised of descendants of Confederate Soldiers and sailors dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861 -1865 period is preserved and presented to the public. The SCV continues to educate the public of the memory and reputation of the Confederate soldier as well as the motives for his suffering and sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of these things can’t simply be stated as ‘fact’ because that takes away from history. In fact some of these seem to be more opinions than historical accuracy, I would watch where you get your sources, but I do remember a good deal of this from my college American History courses, and even covered some of this in my article. There is some truth here.

      But consider this, people don’t remember Hitler as the many that saved Germany. I mean he helped bring Germany out of poverty, created the interstates, and gave Volkswagen cars to many German citizens, but that’s not how he is remembered. I’m not meaning to say the Confederacy was as bad as the holocaust but you get my point. Today it offends a lot of people. Not just a few social justice warriors bitching about it, but it offends an incredibly large amount of the population. I ardently agree people need to know their history, but it’s extremely unfair to say people are only offended because they’re ignorant of history. The meaning it has taken on today, regardless of what it used to mean, is not one people agree with.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I am also a history buff and I find the actual forgotten or ignored pieces of history should have (and should have been) taught in our schools. BUT.. a few of your tidbits (which seem to come from list above can be pretty much open to interpretation rather a full revealing of fact. Examples…

      MYTH – The War of 1861 – 1865 was fought over slavery.
      YOUR FACT – Terribly untrue. The North fought the war over money. Plain and simple. When the South started Secession, Lincoln was asked, “Why not let the South go in peace?” To which he replied, “I can’t let them go. Who would pay for the government?” Sensing total financial ruin for the North, Lincoln waged war on the South. The South fought the War to repel Northern aggression and invasion.

      MY FACT – Lincoln may or may not have made that verbal reply but it sounds more tongue-in-cheek to the reality. Secession was in violation of the Constitution, plain and simple. At risk was far more than either the North or South’s financial ruin; it was a disbanding of the United States. Besides that, the end of the war for the South was more a struggle of attrition in manpower and resources, both of which the North already had far more of than the South. Financial ruin of the North was hardly a threat. At war’s end the South was an impoverished mess and most certainly wasn’t in a manpower or resource condition to contribute economically to the GNP of the day for many years to come.
      The Union military going into the South was pretty much a police action to restore the sovereignty of the United States and was technically not an invasion nor aggression. Besides that, the South drew first blood at Ft. Sumter against Union troops. Seems to me they were the aggressor. In fact, if you were to ask the average person on the street in the North or the South why they were fighting you’d get a different answer each time… much like it is in present day when we enter a war.

      MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag represents racism today.
      YOUR FACT – The Confederate Battle Flag today finds itself in the center of much controversy and hoopla going on in several states. The cry to take this flag down is unjustified. It is very important to keep in mind that the Confederate Battle Flag was simply just that. A battle flag. It was never even a National flag, so how could it have flown over a slave nation or represented slavery or racism? This myth is continued by lack of education and ignorance. Those that villify the Confederate Battle Flag are very confused about history and have jumped upon a bandwagon with loose wheels.

      MY FACT – The current controversy from my vantage point is some Southern states using the Confederate flag in places of government, such as government buildings and images on license plates and state flags, to the objections of local constituencies. This is a proper function in a democracy… people letting their elected government officials know that something needs to change. Politics evolves, times change to meet the changing priorities of the people. I’ve not heard anyone trying to remove free speech enough to affect the display of the Confederate flag privately, outside of government. Just as there is no law in publicly burning the American flag because it is free speech, I would expect flying whatever Confederate flag you want privately as a reflection of your right to free speech.
      Oh… your fact seems to miss the point. If people find an emblem socially unacceptable for whatever reason then no matter what you say to defend that emblem is going to matter. As I said.. there is nothing more socially repulsive than watching some nutcase somewhere burning our American flag. But while I may want to pummel the son-of-a-bitch, a side of me will defend unto my death his right to do it. It’s not about the flag… it’s about what it represents to the people that’s important.

      I SO dislike when “facts” are used to further confuse and mislead.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Thank you. You’ve saved me a lot of time. I’ll add just this – many Southerners fly the confederate flag because they can. Freedom of speech means a lot here. When we see it we don’t think ‘slaves’ (very few of us were around to own slaves during the civil war), we think ‘South’. The South is not synonymous with slavery. We can get rid of every confederate flag, every civil war monument, every bit of confederate gray but that won’t rid us of racism. Dear Jesus, if that would do it I’d pick them all up myself. Can we please have calm, kind dialogue on how to end racism before the rapture?

      Liked by 3 people

    4. I agree with Jeremy Hobbs (and others.) Thanks for saving me the trouble of writing it.
      The victor writes the history books. There is a bias in northern education (and southern, and western, etc…)
      A civil war is a battle for one capital; a war of secession is an attempt to create a new and seperate capital. The war was one of money and not about slavery.
      So was War of Independance, Iraq, Libya, and soon, China (whether it turns out to be a military campaign or an economic one.)
      Saying that the modern meaning of something is what counts, regardless of the truth behind it is nothing less than giving into the manipulative desires of those who control the narrative. If FoxNews wrote a history book, I do not think it would be well-received.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate your post and your grasp on the issues surrounding the confederate flag. I must point out that while it may have historical implications for those who wish to celebrate their southern heritage, I think many faces of minorities in the south see the flag as a form of oppression, hate and violence. While the historical pride may be valid so is the fear of people of color who were enslaved, murdered, sold, raped and disregarded as humans see the flag as the symbol of that hate. Especially when the flag was often accompanied by the KKK and the hatemongering that is attributed to the south. To see the confederate flag, if you’re a person of color, is to know, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you will find an intolerant person standing next to it. As you eloquently pointed out, Germany would look askance at their people flying a flag with a swastika on it. It may be about their historical pride but I doubt Jewish people would see or more importantly, Feel that it was a time in history for rejoicing and pride. Great thought provoking post. I admire you analysis and your ability to see past the “rhetoric.” What a great writer you are and this post is indicative of that, well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nowadays the Confederate flag is basically just a more “based” American flag, a more raw and brutal way of conveying the same feeling as the American flag. Although, at the time, the Confederates were traitors and mortal enemies of the USA, Reconstruction was short-lived to the point where the social hierarchy you had there basically continued, through Jim Crow’s criminalization of blackness and the 13th amendment’s failure to abolish slavery, which is still to this day considered as a legal criminal punishment…(Look at the Coal Creek War). Nowadays, the US military is disproportionately represented by Southerners. At no point in history was either flag connected to a general patriotism that was not at the service of hatred.


    1. Although I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in the South, I came from a “Yankee” family and so, consequently, was never completely accepted… I’m not at all bitter; I made and have many good friends, but I also have a somewhat unique perspective on the whole matter of the Confederacy and Confederate symbols, especially since my “Yankee” family moved South during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Those vivid memories were passed on to me, and my own experience added much to those. So … I can say with quite some confidence that your article is well-written, thoughtful, and sensible. Point in fact, there really are no logically valid, moral arguments against your perspective. (The gentleman above who offers contrasting “myths” and “facts” desperately needs to study well-researched and properly documented history rather than propaganda pieces.) Also, much like you I suppose, I felt I had very good grounds for addressing this resurfacing controversy over flying the Confederate battle flag, and so I did in two blogs, the second of which was my response to an “Old Friend,” who presented many (most?) of the classic defenses for flying the flag.

      Good day to you and blessings… Oh! And thank you for visiting my blog! Hope to see you there again!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think enough pressure from the community will force them to, and the way the country is right now there is definitely enough pressure. But if I think it was right is another issue. South Carolina was going to vote on the issue after the July 4th celebrations, I personally would have waited until they came to a vote. So if they had voted to let the flag stay then I feel the civil disobedience would have been necessary. I think Bree might have been too hasty, but she got her message across quite effectively.


  5. Thanks for trying to unravel the true history of the world, and for writing about it! History as told to us is often one-sided, the winner takes it all and makes up the history. Dissent voices are always welcome, if only to make people re-think and motivate some to find out their own truth.


  6. Great discussion. Independently of the topic I found it quite upsetting the appropriation of the term “facts” by both sides of the argument. This is systematic of today’s relativistic culture where it seems that perception is the ultimate arbiter of reality. The distention between historical facts and the interpretation of those facts seems to be lost in this discussion. It will be helpful to strive for clarity and make those distention lest we fall into artful discussions about sentimental opinions rather than reason.


  7. Neat article! As someone from the north, I was surprised when I first found out that the confederate flag was so “popular.” My first thoughts/feelings were that it was subversive, in the sense that the south isn’t admitting defeat and that they’d really still rather not be a part of the U.S. Not many immigrants fly the flags of their former countries, except perhaps on important birth-country holidays, and the ones that do around here aren’t very in with the U.S. controlling the land.

    So basically, my impression is that it means more than “heritage.” What about all the northern soldiers that died? The demonstration of their “heritage” is a reminder of that as well, which I find quite offensive. We’re all in the US now, and many fine young men died on both sides, but that flag makes me wonder if many of them died for nothing.

    As far as racism is involved, the same follows; while the south had, and has, good qualities, how can someone NOT think about how the south was willing to sacrifice all their sons in order to keep slaves? It seems odd to me. And just a note on the slavery/money issue, which I know has probably been covered enough already; one can’t really separate the two since the south’s economy was based on slave labor. The problem with our country from the get-go is that we signed a declaration saying that all men are created equal, without really believing it, OR without enforcing that belief in areas/states where signers of the document didn’t put the belief into practice.


  8. Great Post! Very thoughtful! The flag has now come down from the state grounds and that was the correct thing to do. I have no problem with private citizens displaying the flag (I am a big First Amendment proponent), but to have it on state grounds whereby the taxpayers fund it is not appropriate. Why should people that are very offended have to pay for this flag to be displayed?


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