June 02, 2008

America's Largest Symbol of Racism to Fly Above Florida

Civil War Era historical revisionists are all set to string up a Confederate flag the size of a bus at the intersection of I-75 and I-4 in Tampa:

Confederate group plans giant flag in Hillsborough County

Next year, a giant Confederate flag may tower above the tree line near the junction of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans wants drivers in the Tampa area to see the massive flag — 30 feet high and 50 feet long — atop a 139-foot pole, the highest the Federal Aviation Authority would allow. It would be lit at night.

With the pole already in the ground and building permits in hand, the group is on its way to having what it calls the "world's largest" Confederate flag in place by mid 2009. The group just needs about $30,000 more, said Douglas Dawson, Florida division commander.

Several nearby business owners don't mind. It's history, they say, and it's on private property. Tampa resident Marion Lambert owns the small triangular plot just west of Interstate 75 along U.S. 92 E...
Quick pause here; of course Lambert doesn't mind. He's a typical revisionist who tells one of the typically revisionist fairy tales about why the Civil War started — some vague notion about states' rights. He's fond of the story that it only came to be about slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. It's a lie that's readily debunked, which I'll get to below with a speech made by the CSA's Vice President two years before the Proclamation.
But when Hillsborough County NAACP president Curtis Stokes heard about the plans to have the flag flying next year, he was shocked.

"I'm surprised that they would allow something like this to go on in Hillsborough County," he said...

It's the commissioners' responsibility to make sure plans don't move forward, Stokes said. The flag would send the wrong message about the county and it would be embarrassing because many visitors use the roads, he said.
Stokes is correct at least insofar as something like this should be an embarrassment. The Confederate flag is, indeed, symbolic of racism. It may be symbolic of other things, too, but it cannot be separated from this other thing and simply wishing that it weren't so doesn't make it truth. Whatever else it may be, it is also a blatant endorsement of racism and the notion that one group of people has the right to own another in the deepest sense of that concept. Again, I'll get to this below using the words of the second most highly-placed official in the Confederate States' government.
Code enforcement officers won't be able to stop the project because flags were removed from county sign regulations in 2004. County Commissioner Kevin White, whose district includes the flagpole site, could not be reached for comment Friday....
Well, isn't that convenient? Think they did the same with swastikas? Isn't it a bit odd that the article also notes that "Plans for the flag... started about four years ago?" an we say that Kevin White is a reputable person, or can he be bought? Hmmm.
Adams insists the flag isn't about racism or slavery. "It's about honoring our ancestors and about celebrating our heritage," he said. "It's a historical thing to us."

He hopes people who are offended by the flag will drive to the memorial and view the plaques honoring Confederate soldiers. They plan to have one dedicated to black Confederate veterans, he said.
I bet it's just a huge plaque, too.

Adams can insist all he wants that the Confederate flag isn't about racism and slavery, and people who know something other than the laundered, sanitized-for-your-conscience revisionism he espouses can and should insist otherwise. That there were some slaves who signed up to fight for their masters having been promised that they would be freed or just given something resembling humane living conditions, that their families wouldn't be sold away from them, or that they wouldn't be beaten or executed if they agreed to do so, changes nothing at all. The nature of their conditions — it was illegal even to teach a slave how to read under Southern law — meant that most slaves were kept in ignorance of the larger world and were in no position to make an informed decision for whom they wished to fight if indeed they were in a position to make any decision at all. Adams and his plaque shouldn't assuage any doubts; instead, they give yet another testimony to the fundamental dishonesty in which the revisionists engage.
Mitch McDonald, the general manager of a nearby crane rental business, said he won't mind the flag. "The bigger, the better," he said.

But he's worried that it might offend a black employee of his, who was angered by the sighting of a Confederate flag on an earlier assignment...
So, McDonald is so worried that the flag offends a black employee that he's a "the bigger the better" proponent? Yes, he certainly sounds like a reasonable individual. If I were that black employee, I'd be looking for another job right about now. His boss is a racist. Truth be told, he doesn't give a damn about whether the flag offends his black employee — or every other black person, or every single person opposed to racism, for that matter. This is revisionist doublethink at its finest. He's so worried about the giant symbol of hate that will fly near his business that he hopes it will be even bigger than planned now — being the size of a Grayhound bus isn't big enough for this concerned employer.
Dawson, the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Florida commander, said he knows a giant Confederate flag flying 24 hours a day over two of the Tampa area's busiest roads will cause controversy.

"We can't do anything but explain to people what the truth is," said Dawson, of Pensacola. "If they don't want to accept that, they're closed-minded, and Jesus Christ couldn't change it."
Yes, if you don't accept a Sons of Confederate Veterans commander's baseless assertions about what a huge American swastika stands for, then your heart is closed to Jesus. Does anybody else see something profoundly twisted here?

But Dawson is absolutely right; if Jesus Christ came down from the skies upon beams of moonglow on a silken couch while an angelic choir played harps and backed him up with a "cumbaya" and he leaned over and whispered into my ear that the Confederate flag wasn't about slavery and bigotry, I'd be forced to tell Jesus he was as much of a dolt as everyone proponent of the thing cited in the article quoted here. That's for the simple reason that we have a historical record to which we can refer to demonstrate that the assertion is incorrect at every turn. Part of that historical record, as I promised to cite above, was given to us by Alexander Stephens.

Stephens was the Vice President of the Confederate States of America. On March 21, 1861, he gave a speech at a general store in Savannah, Georgia. This, as noted, was two years before the Emancipation Proclamation. In his remarks, which have come to be known as the Cornerstone Speech, Stephens lays out in no uncertain terms the reasons for Southern secession and the basis of Confederate law and social theory. Unlike modern revisionists, he makes clear that slavery and racism isn't some by-product of states' rights but the very core of the Confederate Constitution. It is the reason that the Confederacy has seceded. Just to quote a few pertinent points from the lengthy speech:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other —though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution...

...The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth...

They [abolitionists] assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails... They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal...

...May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made "one star to differ from another star in glory." The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders "is become the chief of the corner"—the real "corner-stone"—in our new edifice. I have been asked, what of the future? It has been apprehended by some that we would have arrayed against us the civilized world. I care not who or how many they may be against us, when we stand upon the eternal principles of truth, if we are true to ourselves and the principles for which we contend, we are obliged to, and must triumph...

...We are now the nucleus of a growing power which, if we are true to ourselves, our destiny, and high mission, will become the controlling power on this continent...

The surest way to secure peace, is to show your ability to maintain your rights. The principles and position of the present administration of the United States—the republican party—present some puzzling questions. While it is a fixed principle with them never to allow the increase of a foot of slave territory, they seem to be equally determined not to part with an inch "of the accursed soil." Notwithstanding their clamor against the institution, they seemed to be equally opposed to getting more, or letting go what they have got. They were ready to fight on the accession of Texas, and are equally ready to fight now on her secession. Why is this? How can this strange paradox be accounted for? There seems to be but one rational solution—and that is, notwithstanding their professions of humanity, they are disinclined to give up the benefits they derive from slave labor. Their philanthropy yields to their interest. The idea of enforcing the laws, has but one object, and that is a collection of the taxes, raised by slave labor to swell the fund necessary to meet their heavy appropriations. The spoils is what they are after—though they come from the labor of the slave...
Nope, nothing about the Confederacy or that Confederate flag has anything to do with racism. I mean, as long as we can be ignorant or can ignore the words of one of the founders of the Secessionist Movement, we can say anything we like about states' rights and the nobility of the Confederacy. We can justify flying a flag, the symbolism of which so many people are "mistaken." We can say that the Confederate flag is all about rainbows and unicorns. Why, just look at this plaque that lists the names of all the slaves who fought for the CSA! The veterans and former government officials of the CSA were so impressed by their service that we immediately gave them the right to vote and to own property. That whole imbroglio in Selma and George Wallace standing on the steps of that school in Alabama and the necessity for a federal Civil Rights Act was all a big misunderstanding. Blacks loved Jim Crow laws!

When we disregard history, we can say anything we like. We can put a huge "fuck you" at the top of a giant flag pole and claim it's all about mom and apple pie and family values. We can fly a Nazi eagle and claim that its because we have so much respect for our German ancestry who, after all, fought for "states' rights" and national sovereignty and dignity. We can be proud of shameful things and, 140+ years after the fact, pretend to being an oppressed people instead of voicing the truth — that we're a people who longs for the oppression from which we once benefited.

With all due respect to the many good and decent people who, through no fault of their own, have come to inhabit the same state as these revisionist pretenders, I find myself frequently wondering just how a state can go so wrong. It seems like we get some story about the most profound ignorance from Florida every week. Why is this? It certainly suggests something gone fundamentally awry and then ingrained deep into the psyches of so much of the population of that state. Must be something in the water, maybe something in the air.

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