I was 12 years old when I saw a confederate flag for the first time outside of a classroom. I was at first disoriented by the sight: confused that after a war had ended for nearly 150 years, a flag was still being hoisted that wasn’t our own. I asked my dad why that flag was hanging on the back of our neighbor’s truck. He said that she was “representing her Southern pride.”
I’ve never understood why someone would be proud enough to represent the Confederate flag. It makes no sense. Take away the racial and historical implications behind the flag for a second. Who in their right mind would be proud of something that is most known for losing? That would be like admitting that you’re a Detroit Lions fan, or that you like listening to Nickelback. Once those opinions have left your lips, everything else that comes out afterwards has an embarrassing odor of stupid trailing it everywhere. You support the Confederacy? Good luck being taken seriously after confessing that, folks. I would probably find it funny, if it wasn’t already so pathetic.
Regardless of what you think, the open display of the Confederate flag is a debate that rages on, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to deescalate anytime soon. The more recent controversy spurring on the discussion is the “Unite the Right” protests going on in Charlottesville, VA, where white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members flooded the streets and caused a state of emergency before killing three people and injuring 38 others.
“Unite the Right”? Ha. More like “Unite the White.”
I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about these protests, it broke my heart. I lived briefly in Charlottesville for a time last year, and the city that I remembered leaving was a bright, friendly place where you could strike up a conversation with anyone you met on the street. It wasn’t a hateful, divisive place. It wasn’t unsafe or shady. It was simply a beautiful city, and I roamed the downtown restaurants and venues freely and with ease. I will always have fond memories of Charlottesville and even plan to revisit at some point in the future, preferably before David Duke blows it to hell with a wooden cross burning over it.
So when I heard that once again racist and hate-fueled bigots were protesting in the town, the first thing I asked myself was why? Why were they making all of this fuss? Of course, racists like the KKK don’t need much reason to destroy public property, but nevertheless I was curious of their reasoning. What led them to such a violent escapade?
Well apparently all of this started when the Robert E. Lee statue was reportedly being taken down back in May. After news came out, white supremacists took to the streets in June, July, and August before their most violent outing yet on Saturday. By the way, after all of their protesting, Lexington mayor Jim Gray said they’re going to bring down two more confederate statues in response to their protests, and many more are following in his example. The “Unite the Right/White” march ended up harming the supremacist’s cause rather than helping it.
Like I said, an embarrassing odor of stupid trailing them everywhere.
But it did get me thinking. White supremacists are very protective of their Confederate paraphernalia when it is threatened by the masses. Seriously, they turn into the most fragile little snowflakes you’ve ever seen, turning red anytime they see a pixel of blue floating near their precious flags. This overprotective mentality shows a rare vulnerability in white supremacists. At that point, you would reasonably think that the best way to disarm white supremacy would be to tear down confederate artifacts. After all, Germany doesn’t have Nazi symbolism publicly displayed anymore. Why would America have Confederate symbolism still exist 150 years later?
This is where things get really confusing, because while white supremacy is still very much a real threat, people continue to defend these supremacists and their hateful symbols. That to me is even weirder, because who in their right mind looks at a Nazi beating up somebody in the street, gives a thumbs up and says “You keep doing you, sir! You have every right to hate whoever you want!”
There are many arguments that pro-confederate advocates use to defend their claims. Allow me to deconstruct each of them.
“It’s for historical preservation.”
First of all, there’s a big difference between remembering history and reliving it. Remembering history means recounting past events and allowing them to influence your future decisions. Reliving it means re-enacting past practices to keep those ideologies alive. A good way to differentiate is by judging the quality of the object’s preservation. Is the object properly stored away and maintained in a proper condition? Or is it constantly in use and faces regular wear-and-tear damage?
This is why the “historical” argument makes no sense to me. The core argument is based on preserving history, but the open public use of the flag is not even for preservation. It’s for decoration. And who in their right mind would want to decorate their belongings with something as ugly and putrid as the Confederate flag?
Then asks the Neo-Nazi “But if we can’t fly it, where do we put it?” You know, there are these amazing institutions called MUSEUMS that are specifically made for the purpose of storing and preserving ancient artifacts. You should try visiting one sometime, you might learn something for a change.
“Those people are exercising their freedom of speech.”
Nobody is denying that someone has the right or ability to openly share and express these ideas. That’s not the point. The point is should they express them? And if they do, does that automatically take away our right to speak out against them?
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. If you’re going to say or represent hateful ideas, you should reasonably expect blow back from your critics, and you equally shouldn’t discourage those people for exercising the same rights as you do.
Here’s another way to view it. Say a man walks up to a woman in the middle of the street and calls her fat. The woman starts crying, local on-lookers start rushing to her defense and criticize the man for his hateful words. Now, with you bearing witness to all this, are you more likely to defend the woman for being victimized, or are you more likely to defend the man and his right to free speech?
The correct answer is, of course, the woman, because any decent person would defend those who are being unnecessarily harassed. If you, however, answered the man under any circumstance, then you misunderstand the rights that our constitution grants us and should never be allowed to comment on politics ever again.
“We have to remember history so we don’t repeat it.”
Well we pretty much failed in that mission, haven’t we? After all, 46 percent of the country elected a president who was publicly endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, hate groups have grown by 17% since election season began, and literal Nazis are marching in our streets. At this point, preventing history from repeating itself is no longer an option for us. We’re living in it right now.
Look, I could counter every point thrown in my direction, but it’s not like it would make any difference. If this political season has shown anything, it has shown that people would rather sit inside their sheltered echo chambers instead of getting out and facing reality as it is. And right now the reality is we are living in one of our nation’s most divisive times in modern history.
Everyone is saying we need to end the hate and come together as one. This much is true. However, the people who divided us with their hate in the first place must be proactive in taking the first steps towards healing our nation. Because of this, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK must allow themselves to be disarmed as we tear down the symbols that inspire their racist-fueled agenda. This includes publicly displayed Confederate and Nazi artifacts.
I don’t want it to be like this. I would like a nation that is civil with each other and allows free, respectful discussion of these issues. But if one side is going to be intolerant with their movement, they cannot blame us if we in turn refuse to tolerate their insolence. It’s okay to tolerate different political ideas. It is not okay to tolerate overt racism and hatred. Unfortunately, our nation has come to that point.
I understand that the removal of Confederate and Nazi images won’t stop the issues this country is facing. Still, we need to take a stand. We must. If we claim that America is for the land of the free and home of the brave, then we must demonstrate that by being brave and fighting for those freedoms.
Removing Confederate symbols won’t cure this country of the hatred that has infested it. But it’s a good place to start.
– David Dunn