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.
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.