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Heritage and Hokum in Rebel Banner Row

And now, an important message from the Hon. Ambrose Calhoun Merriweather, former governor of South Carolina:

“My fellow Americans, as we gather to celebrate the birth of our nation, I am saddened to see how some people are trying to sow dissension and division among us, stirring up needless controversy over the Confederate battle flag that flies at the capital of our great state of South Carolina, and at some of our sister states across the South. How it pains me to see that flag cast down in the dirt as an emblem of dishonor.

This is wrong, my friends. For that flag represents heritage, not hatred. It has flown proudly at our capital since, uh, 1961, when it was first raised during the great Negro tribulation that was stirred up by that King fellow and his outside agitators. It was raised at state capitols by our brethren in Alabama in 1963 and in Georgia in 1965, in response to that same provocation.

But in truth, the flying of our noble flag is more ancient than that. I remember as a boy in the 1940s, you could hardly see that beautiful banner anywhere. People didn’t even think about it. Why, it was almost as if the Civil War had ended generations before, and that the South had contributed many, many of its sons to fight in two World Wars on behalf of the nation their grandfathers had fought against. It was as if the same Federal government once led by the hated Abraham Lincoln had spent decades building up the South, with roads, bridges, dams, levees, military bases and a never-ending stream of government contracts and other pork flowing to the states and districts of powerful Southern congressmen. Back then, you’d see a thousand American flags before you’d run across a Confederate flag anywhere.

But then came that first Tribulation, in the late Forties, when our Negroes were stirred up by Harry Truman and his so-called “anti-discrimination” laws. He even wanted to outlaw lynching. That’s when this little Southern boy began to see Confederate flags springing up everywhere — raised as a banner of defiance in defense of our non-hateful heritage of segregation, and our steadfast religious belief in the eternal wisdom of God in separating the races, and giving one of them the burden of leadership and dominion over all the others. This was the heritage the Federal government was trying to overthrow, and it was at this time that a battle flag used by the Army of Tennessee in the last 16 months of the war, and then by the Confederate navy, somehow became the emblem of all Southern heritage, although it never represented the Confederate nation nor was given any official recognition, nor did it ever fly at any Southern capital during the Civil War.

But after the Federal assault on segregation — and its godless attempt to destroy the benevolent white stewardship of the less fortunate races — this flag began to spread like kudzu, after rarely being seen for the best part of a century.

My friends, that was nearly 70 years ago. And that’s how ancient the heritage of this flag is. What it stands for is the valiant and sometimes violent attempt to defend the divinely appointed principles of segregation and supremacy. That’s what this flag represents.

It does not and cannot represent the entirety of Southern heritage, unless that heritage is reduced to nothing but four years of a war for slavery. It cannot and does not represent the Southerners who fought in the Revolutionary War. It cannot and does not represent the 400,000 white Southerners who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It cannot and does not represent all the Southerners who died fighting for the United States in WWI and WWII. And it most assuredly cannot and does not represent the millions upon millions of black Southerners who helped build this nation and have contributed beyond measure to the development of our economy, our culture and our values.

No sir, it doesn’t represent any of that. It was not raised across the South in the past few decades in order to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the Confederate dead. Most Confederate soldiers didn’t even fight under that particular flag. No, it was raised to honor the bravery and sacrifice of politicians and power-brokers in the 20th century who fought to deny their fellow citizens equal rights under the law. It was raised to honor those in the 20th century who fought to preserve the notion of white superiority.  It was raised in the 20th century to say to meddling Yankees — and to the myriad of white Southern ‘race traitors’ who worked for equality — that nobody can tell our Southern elites what to do with our Negroes.

This is the heritage being supported by all those who today defend the flying of a flag used by the Army of Tennessee for 16 months some 150 years ago. This is what they are saying: remember those who fought for segregation and supremacy in the middle decades of the 20th century. That is what we are honoring when we fly that flag today. Long may it wave!”

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com

 

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Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com. His twitter feed is @empireburlesque. His Instagram is www.instagram.com/cfloydtn/.

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