Pride and/or Prejudice

The big news lately is the raging debate over the Confederate (Battle) Flag. It is almost strange how it became an issue. Some presumably mentally unstable person, Dylann Roof, walked into a “historically black” church and shot nine people dead. His own reported reasons for the shooting were deeply connected to racism and white supremacy. Some might say that the debate that is happening is not the one that should be happening–perhaps something about gun control or access to mental health help? Be that as it may, this is the debate that is being had, and this is The Question–Should the Confederate (Battle) Flag fly above the South Carolina (or any other) statehouse?

Is the war still going?

Is the war still going?

On one side of the debate is “the Confederate Flag is a symbol of Prejudice and Slavery”, while the other side says “it is a symbol of Pride and States’ Rights”. CNN reported one supporter of the flag as saying

“It’s a symbol of family and my ancestors who defended the state from invasion. It was about standing up to a central government,” said Chris Sullivan, who is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy. “The things that our ancestors fought for were not novel and they really are the same issues we have today.”

Some Background

The debate over States’ Rights v. Federal Power is as old as the Articles of Confederation from just after the Revolutionary War (if not older). The American Colonies were each independent entities, or as independent as a colony could be. They were not “the United States” but “these united States” and reference was made to “the Untied States are” instead of “is”. This independence and the fact that they had all banded together to fight off an Oppressive Central Power (London) went to the heart of why the Articles of Confederation made such a failingly weak central government. It was the fatal weakness of the National Government in Philadelphia that lead the delegates of the Continental Congress to devise a replacement for the Articles of Confederation. As it stood, the Continental Army nearly revolted because it was not being paid, and it was not being paid because the Congress did not have the authority to collect tax, nor the means to enforce the payment of the money the States were supposed to pay in order to fund the national government. This same issue also lead to international problems when Congress was unable to pay debt to foreign nations.

NO Taxation without Representation!

NO Taxation without Representation!

So a new Constitution was devised. This new Constitution was very divisive, even though it enjoyed the support of such Revolutionary Giants as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. To cut a long story short, as we know, the Federalists won the day. That was not, however, the end of the debate.

The Civil War

Fast-forward about 80 years and the issue of the day was Slavery. Slavery had been declared illegal in all New States since the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which proscribed the administration of new territory outside the actual thirteen states, and how such territories could become new states. As time went on, most northern states voluntarily abolished slavery. There were moral arguments, obviously, but also the more industrial economy of the north, coupled with a strong influx of European immigrants, made the economics of abolition much easier than in the agrarian south. But politics and divisive moral issues being what they are (usually a bad combination), this simple dynamic started to become a problem. So the debate was over “what can the Federal Government do, and what should remain within the power of the several states to do” with the topic at hand being new western territories and whether they should be Slave or Free. Should each territory, upon qualification for Statehood, be allowed to choose for themselves whether they want slavery? Or should the precedent of the Northwest Ordinances be followed (in combination with Moralistic Arguments about the evils of slavery), and thus all new states are forbidden, by the Federal Government, from being slave states?

National Flags of the Confederacy

National Flags of the Confederacy

Thus people started flocking out west, not just for the normal reasons people would go west, but also to stack the deck in the several territories so that when the territory became a State it would be on the “correct” side. This mattered because each new state would contribute two Senators and a collection of Representatives…which would sway the voting blocs in Congress. And as it was feared by the southern states (I do not know whether with justification or not) that any prohibition of slavery within new states would lead inevitably to the end of slavery in the original southern states, how Congress voted on certain things was very important. (It was also important to anti-slavery folks, but I think “the south” had more of a vested interest considering what they feared they could lose.) The final straw was the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, since the newly created Republican party was staunchly anti-slavery. The southern states were convinced that no good could come of this and so succeeded from the Union and attacked (and took) Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. As for Mr. Sullivan’s quote earlier, I wonder why his ancestors would have to defend SC against invasion? Who attacked first? Who invaded first?

So Yes, but No

So yes, the Civil War was about States’ Rights, but no, that should not be celebrated. Not in this case. Really, if the major issues were about anything other than the “States’ Rights” to own other humanoid animals as property (they weren’t really people, after-all…), then I could sympathize and have a strong debate within myself as to whether the defeat of the Confederate States of America might not be considered the defeat of the Second American Revolution against a tyrannical Federal Government that has done nothing but grow in power and scope. As it stands, the arguments for States’ Rights (to own slaves) strike me as just the same as the arguments for Religious Freedom to deny Marriage Equality. “The damn government is coming in here telling me what I can and can’t do! It’s oppression!” The fact that it was “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve”, combined with a few other scriptures, proves that the Federal Government is forcing ungodly rules on us! Of course, by that logic, then God also intended Incest (Adam & Eve, Noah’s family, and Abraham, Father of the Faithful) and Polygamy (King David was “a man after God’s own heart” who had 7 wives and several hundred sex slaves…er…concubines). And  it was a similar defense of “what God intended” (as much as any “Spirit of American Independence” States’ Rights argument) that motivated people like William T. Thompson, the designer of one of the flags of the Confederacy: As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race. The fact that slavery was institutionalized within the Constitution of the Confederacy (Article IV, Section 3–the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress), which overall was a very close copy of the United States Constitution, rather puts to bed a common objection that is being raised against taking the Flag of the Insurrection down, namely “look at all of the terrible things the US has done–why not take that flag down too?!”.

“States’ Rights”

Yes, we have done a lot of bad things, including the ownership of slaves by Washington and Jefferson, who fought for “freedom” and penned things like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. But unlike the Confederacy, we did not enshrine slavery in our constitution, and have ever so slowly opened our eyes to the Enlightened Vision those words communicate. “The flag was first flown over the state’s Capitol dome in 1961, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. But it was kept there as a protest against the Civil Rights movement”, NPR reported on July, 10, 2015, the day the flag was removed. The flag was first created to serve a nation formed for the preservation of slavery (the CS Constitution is so similar to the US Constitution that I don’t see any great increase in overall States’ Rights…other than slavery), and has been flying in our time as a protest against the Civil Rights Movement. Wait…why was this a question?

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4 responses to “Pride and/or Prejudice”

  1. BurbaniteChic says :

    Ah, this is great!! I must say I LOVE the title and the ending was great! Haha I was raised by a southern mother who taught me from a young age about my confederate heritage. It was a great source of pride in her family. I didn’t really understand it much as a kid. My father is a born and breed northerner and there was always a rivalry in our house between them…she called him a “damn Yankee” when she was mad. Interesting isn’t it? Something that did not take place in her lifetime was held very close to her heart. I didn’t begin to understand this argument between North and South–why my southern family felt so strongly about this heritage and a strong dislike toward Yankees…keep in mind all this was/is happening during the 70’s-to current day. Lol Anyway, I moved to TN for a few years…..I learned a great deal. I learned that the war for many isn’t over. I learned that racism and the violence is alive and well…and I learned that this flag that I was raised to honor, was the symbol of these people then and now. I decided back then that this flag wasn’t something to be honored, to be celebrated, to feel pride about.

  2. Douglas Becker says :

    This is yet another great article here.

    As I read this, though, I couldn’t help but think that the real issue is money. Oh sure, equal rights and all that… uh, huh. But wasn’t the slavery all about getting the crops in without paying for the labor? Weren’t those Southern mansions all about living a comfortable life with status?

    As a skeptic, I can’t help but think that all of this behind the scenes is about power and money — and I’m not talking about the power of state vs federal either. It’s about the cash and the elite status that comes with it and when that is threatened, can we expect anything less than civil war — which, really isn’t that civil after all.

    I know that there are rather deeply ingrained religious belief issues here, but after all that is said and done, isn’t religion itself about little more than power and money when we scrape off the thin veneer of a belief system.

    Is the Confederate flag about principle, or is it an icon dedicated to a particular style of power and money — representing a way of life resting on the back of slaves.

    You know.

    Just like modern multinational corporations.

    Another thought provoking and thoroughly well organized fact laden presentation.

    Kudos.

    • eSell says :

      Hey, good to hear from you! Since “the spy” went silent I thought the CIA had captured him and sent him to Guantanamo…or that you were done w/ the whole blogging thing. I know, I can’t talk much as it has been about a year since my last post.

      Yes, I think you are quite right–all about money and power. Why were they afraid the Feds might end slavery? Because there goes their virtually unpaid labor force (I say virtually b/c there was the money for food…upkeep). Then these comfortable Southern Gentlemen would have to get out and work the fields themselves! Heavens to mercy–the very idea!

      And yes, I think the religious arguments, while no doubt believed, were probably little more than tools employed in the protection of the Wealth and Power–“see? God says so! You can’t argue with God!”

      Thanks for bringing these points up…that’s why I love the comments section–it can sometimes be as enlightening as the original post. 🙂

      • Black Ops Mikey says :

        Oh boy, has the world changed since the last post… so long ago! Fake news and liberal melt down! What a wonderland for a skeptic. I say, don’t just believe one thing anyone says without digging.

        And now it must be told that Blackops Cat Spy is back and has apparently… and we can’t be for sure, but certainly has a new web host — so it seems like he MIGHT have moved to Switzerland. He’s hinting that there’s an astonishing major extinction event on the horizon that he’s trying to stop:

        https://blackopsmikey.com/

        Note that it’s a secure site now.

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