Monday, September 6, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... A Tale of Two Flags In Columbia, South Carolina

By Brody Levesque (Bethesda, Maryland) SEPT 6 | You see the flag I have displayed to the left? Its one of the most visible symbols of a time period in American History that nearly destroyed the dream that the country's founders envisioned for the American Republic. In fairness,  the fault lies with them, but that's for another day's discussion.
Gather round folks and lets have a history lesson shall we? The Battle Flag of The Army Of Northern Virgina came into being as a direct result of the confusion on the battlefields near Bull Run Creek at the First Battle of Manassas. The Confederate Army, unified under the command of General Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard, was using the first national flag of the new nation, the stars and bars, which in the smoke and heat of battle too closely resembled the stars and stripes of the Union Army. Shortly afterward, in a meeting near the old Fairfax County Courthouse, Beauregard submitted a design by one of the young officers on his staff to Confederate President Jefferson Davis for his approval. What later became known as the Rebel Flag, or simply the Battle Flag, was created that fall of 1861 in Fairfax.
The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, was carried by nearly all elements of the Confederate armies by the time the war ended with Lee's surrender in the parlor of the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House in April of 1865.
After Lee's surrender, the flag would have most likely been consigned to the history books save for two things. First, one of the principal reasons that created the conflict, slavery of the Negroes had been transformed from emancipation and rights granted to them by the newly enacted constitutional amendments into a festering resentment and institutionalised racism which created circumstances that relegated them to a lesser than second class citizenship in the south. Second, was the creation of an ultra-nationalist white supremacy group later known as the Ku Klux Klan founded by former Confederate Officers angered by the reversal of roles in post war southern states and society. One of those founders, former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a hero to many of his fellow southerners, was a radical and virulent opponent of any rights for Negroes. Guess which flag the good General and his cronies chose to be used as a symbol?
Fortunately, the first Klan died out after only a few years as an organisation. However, the flag remained as a potent symbol of what might have been and then propelled by nostalgic remembrances and ideals by the veterans of the War, who carried it at veteran's gatherings and yearly observances of the major battles not to mention at every ceremony for a new monument to 'the cause' as it became known, the flag's usage suddenly became almost mystic.
As the years passed it became more and more associated with white supremacy and hate groups especially as the battle for civil rights heated up in the last half of the twentieth century, including a reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan in a more vicious and murderous form.  It was carried by white protesters countering peaceful demonstrations in the south often led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which more often than not ended up in the police forcibly attacking the blacks while egged on by those 'Rebel Flag' carrying white protesters. The flag became misused as a symbol of intolerance and naked hatred of black Americans.
After years of such use it has been, by and large, retired from public displays save for a few places out of deference to the sensitivities of the black community owing to its recent use. However, it still stirs great passion and angry discussion and discourse to this day and nowhere more-so in recent memory than Columbia, South Carolina, where it flies from the lawn of the State Capitol building. In fact, there's been more than one concerted effort to 'rid' the Capitol grounds of what many folk now deem a symbol of great offence and prejudice.  I should note that until a few years ago it still flew from the roof of the capitol sparking a debate that ultimately had it moved to its present location which is still very visible especially if you're walking or driving along Main Street in Columbia.
Okay so my history lesson of Rebel Flag is noted, yes? Good. This brings me to the thrust of this discussion, lets talk about SC Pride. Why Pride? Well, it seems that certain elements of the good city of Columbia took great offence and umbrage when the SC Pride organisation was given permission to display the Rainbow Flag for the week-long Pride celebration held this past week. 
From WOLO Television, Channel 25- ABC for Columbia, comes this report:

Nice huh? Oh, but wait, it gets better! The good folk of Columbia weighed in with comments like this one: 
This is absurd to defend this with the idea that all people's views should be represented. Will pedophiles have their flags flown next?! 
Hmm, I didn't know that heterosexual child molesters [ who comprise the vast majority of all paedophiles ] had a flag, oh but wait, the Vatican does have a flag doesn't it? Then's there is this priceless entry: 
The Mayor is a disappointment. It is unbelievable that our leadership is so passive to the values of our city. Let's try to fly a flag of One man One woman and have a March on Main Street! This lifestyle is beyond a first inch, it is spilling over our streets as normal. Just another case of minority discrimination and unjustifiable use of government money and resources. I am disappointed first that the City of Columbia went forward with allowing these banners to be flown, and secondly that the Mayor does not have the moral courage to take a stand against a totally immoral lifestyle. With the City's approval, we have given this lifestyle the first "inch."
Blah, blah, blah.... Okay, so let me try to wrap my head around this issue--It's clearly a no-brainer that its okay to fly the Battle Flag which many folk find offensive in context and is clearly visible on Main Street, but oh no, we must NOT fly the flag of the 'immoral' says the self righteous religious types?
Yeah, right... Then there's this jewel:
I am astonished that the mayor "did not know anything about the rainbow flags". How can the leader of a city not know about something this controversial. As to the flags being a quiet testament to the "pride" movement- why are our schools being forced to teach this junk to our children? I am ashamed of our state's capital allowing this, especially when one official, when asked about flying a "One man- one woman marriage" banner, replied "You're kidding, right?" Where's the equality in that?
Where's the equality in that the commenter asks? I'd say its right about the same place as that person's values in letting the so-called Rebel Flag fly when its more of a potent symbol of divisiveness than a flag that represents hope for equality would ever be. 


Trab said...

I sometimes think the whole flag 'worship' thing is nonsense. That said, flying one that symbolizes discrimination, hate, and even death seems 180 degrees opposite of what Christians espouse to, namely tolerance and love. Disapproving of a flag that symbolizes love and acceptance makes a farce of what the Christians claim to be. They truly seem to be beyond understanding, caring, or logic.