Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Vexed By Flags

     Stalked by semiotics?  Vexed by vexillology?*  It seems to be going around and, like most of human affairs, it's a mixture of the heartfelt and the half-baked.

     Many of my readers (unlike the gen. pop. or most politicians) already know that the "Confederate flag" people are getting so exercised about wasn't the national flag of the former Confederate States of America and it never was.  The usual form seen today is an historical fiction, the colors of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the shape of the CSA Naval ensign.

     Historical fiction and something else: that flag started popping back up on state flags in the U. S. South during the early days of the civil rights struggle and it was very much a big old gesture of defiance to the Federal government.  Just like the war of 1861 - 65, that actually happened; we can fight over causes and motives and who swung first, but most of the principals are dead and my necromantic telepathy is pretty weak.  It became a symbol for one side in a big fight.

     The President the other day expressed the opinion "that flag belongs in a museum."  I disagree with him on nearly everything, but I think he was right about that, on two levels: first, you'll note that he didn't say "destroyed."  We can't hide from our own history -- this country once tried to split itself in two and fought a huge and horrible war that ended with part of the nation invaded and conquered by the other half; that alone would leave lasting scars.  But we can't keep rubbing everyone's nose in it, either.

     And the other part of that war, the compromises that led to it and the century-plus of social issues that followed, led to recasting of the starry St. Andrews cross in another and less-noble right; people that harken back only to the Civil War Between The States overlook 150 years of subsequent, painful history.

     There is a compromise, for places where that flag might justifiably be flown.  The CSA was as weak on vexillology as it was on human rights.  It had three flags, none of them a full-sized 13-starred blue-on-red saltire.  Georgia's state flag is a riff on the "first national," which was replaced because it bore too close a resemblance to the U.S, flag; the "second national" or "stainless banner" that replaced it had the Confederate cross in the canton on an otherwise white flag; it was criticized for being too white, easy to mistake for a flag of truce (irony might not be dead yet but it's gasping for air: the flag's designer, W.T. Thompson, referred to his design as "The White Man's Flag."  Yes, the man said that, and worse, too.)  The "third national" fixed that by adding a wide vertical bar of red along the edge farthest away from the flag staff.  It is probably already the flag found over graveyards of the Souths's war dead, troops who were in the majority middle-to-lower class, not slaveholders and in general, barely different from the Union rank-and-file in background and outlook.  Dead kids, without much grasp of the larger issues when they lived, sent to die by politicians and generals and deserving, I think, to not be forgotten.

     Remember them, but leave the dead to slumber.  State governments in the South are presently having to wrestle the ghosts of their parents and grandparents, addressing generation-old flag laws.

     They're addressing flag laws because, to their horror, there are nine innocent people dead and nothing they can do will bring them back.  Legislators and Governors are wrestling with symbols -- and with ghosts.

     (I'm probably going to take all manner of flack from proud, sincere -- and in all likelihood, fair and decent -- Southerners over my flag musings.  Tell you what, guys, get in line, right behind the East Indians and Native Americans, who have an even bigger bone to pick with an Austrian painter over flags and semiotic drift.  History happens, usually before we even show up to be vexed by it.)
* Vexillology: not just the study of flags, the title of a Deadmau5 album.  How can you not like a song-title like "Fustercluck?"  Which might itself be a good title for a history book covering this period.  Or any other.  We're all just groping our way through the fog, folks, and you can do it annoyed and bitter or you can just grit your teeth, grin and get on with it.


Sigman said...

I can't speak for anyone but me. My great great grandpa fought for the Union when much of his family and friends fought for the Confederacy. When I see the Battle Flag, I don't think of slavery or the klan. I think of the tragic bloodletting that happened 150 years ago. Should those who's ancestors fought for the south be able to buy Sons of Confederate license plates? Sure. They are honoring their family, Should states still fly CSA flags? I think that's an issue for each state to decide (many of the southern state flags are variations of one or the other CSA flag. What to do about those?). Would I as governor allow a CSA flag to fly? Not by itself, but if there is a historical display of the flags of Nations a state has been a part of, then it probably should be included.

Jay Dee said...

Personally, I think the Dhimmicrats are attempting to hide the evidence that they were, in fact and in deed, the Confederacy. Secondly, that they were the party that violently opposed the Civil Rights movement as evidenced by placing those Confederate flags there in the 1960s.

While Amazon, E-Bay & Wal-Mart is taking down the Confederate battle flag, how about they take down all that Nazi detritus and ban all the Che Guevara garbage for the recrudescent racist that he was. You think Roofie is a racist. Do an on-line search for what Che said.

Anonymous said...

you ain't wrong.

azmountaintroll said...

"It doesn't matter what we say,
they'll call it racist anyway."

I really don't care about the Stars and Bars, my preferred symbol of resistance is the Rattlesnake flag. But I dislike on principle giving the Left anything without a fight, letting them win just encourages them.

Stuart the Viking said...

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Like you said Roberta, those confederate flags shouldn't be destroyed and forgotten, but belong in a museum rather than on the state house flag pole.

I know that people believe that racial relations are getting worse and worse in America, and by all evidence it sure can appear like they are right, but I don't think so. I think that the extremes that we are seeing today are the last of a dying breed. They are the final desperate holdouts who either really believe the BS, or those who profit from it and have an incentive to keep the hate-cycle going. The rest of us are stuck somewhere in the middle with varying levels of wondering how the people on the extremes can be such a-holes.

It seems to me that that middle is growing and growing, while the extremes are shrinking and shrinking. I expect there will be more violence from the racial extremists for a while longer as the extremists get more and more desperate (no idea how long it will take), and then one day in the bright (and hopefully not TOO distant) future, we will one day look around and notice that racism has faded away.


D.W. Drang said...

Well said, ma'am.

Windy Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Windy Wilson said...

B-but where do Beau and Luke Duke fit into all this?

Well said, Ms X, with nuance and history and perspective doubtless lost on frothing mouthed leftists like my brothers and their Stalinist wives who posted the standard issue "suddenly this is an issue" blurb on their facebook pages.

The real question is what will be the next symbol relegated to museums as hatespeech?
Considering the training in Universities nowadays in triggers and hatespeech and resentment studies, I suspect that the rattlesnake flag will come into the crosshairs withinin 5 years if some evil person uses it in place of another symbol -- since disagreeing is so divisive and disagreeable to people who can't sell their leftist ideas as anything but revelation.

Anonymous said...

I'm a proud Southerner, but I stopped being a friend to the Confederate flag and other such symbols a long time ago as I can't quite lend any countenance to a short-lived country that made war on the United States in the name of slavery.

That being said, I'm appalled at the de facto censorship that's going on as well as the hate-fest against the South; apparently - not sure how *I* missed it - it's still 1963 down here. It's absurd to see people rushing to demonstrate their stainless steel virtue by villifying an object* that actually means Bad Things to a vanishingly small number of hateful loonies. Worst of all, this will do nothing to stop the next crazy meth-head shooting up a church, grammar school, synagogue, Rotary Club, or fast food restaurant.

Welcome to America 2015: where we (don't) stop crime by punishing people who haven't done anything.


(*) I am typing this on a product sold by a company that has stopped selling Civil War strategy games lest the sight of a tiny animated Confederate battle flag fluttering over a computer-generated Pickett's Charge send somebody on a killing spree.