Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently—it is holy–
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not—unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people’s hopes are dead!
–Father Abram Joesph Ryan
The music, the lifestyle, the food; yes, the South’s heritage is so much more than any flag could encompass.
An open letter from a musical chronicler of the Southern experience.
This gentleman hits the subject square on the head. For years, I have even been one of the “Heritage, Not Hate” apologists. I endeavoured explain the Confederate Cross in an historical context as a symbol of the steadfastness and pride of the former Confederate states–a symbol of the rebellion against an overbearing central government.
Noble though the effort, I could not do it myself. Like the rebellion that it came to represent, it was a Great Lost Cause. Even before my time, the “Rebel Flag” developed an identity in the 20th century as one of backwards thought and of the worst kind of racism. Yes, racism: the argument that one group of people is genetically superior to another group based solely on the colour of their skin.
I realise now that, had it really been about a shared heritage, the South–or, at least, the Sons of Confederate Veterans–should have protected that image. The Cross should have never been allowed to unfurl in the manner that it had over the last 150 years. It should never have been the de facto symbol of the KKK.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the war it represented–a war that, at its core, centered around the right of one man to own another human being as property–no matter how we try to de-emphasize certain historical contexts, the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia will perpetually carry the stigma of a United States divided across lines of colour and bigotry.
You let the Ku Klux Klan take the flag as its banner following the Civil War. You stood by as racist segregationists waved it as their rallying symbol while fighting against the Civil Rights movement. You didn’t stop it as it flew proudly at Selma and was held up to taunt black Americans as they crossed that bridge. You’ve turned a blind eye as neo-Nazis in America and beyond adopted it as part of their symbolism. Even the hoisting of the flag to the top of the South Carolina statehouse in 1961 was meant as a direct affront to the Civil Rights movement (no, it wasn’t to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War—stow that crap elsewhere).