Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Confederate Flag Debate

There is a lot of heat and passion surrounding the Confederate flag, and everyone seems to have made their stand. The federal government, liberal America, most minorities of all kinds and much of the South have ceded the symbol’s relevance and propriety. 

What Southerners should remember in figuring out their position is that there were always two Souths, and even before slavery, the great crime of the largely English 17th century settlers was a ruthless pursuit of cheap labor. It was first indentured servitude of local Indians, but they could easily run away and hide with associated tribes in far away regions for a time if need be. They tried the same with poor young men and women from England, but they were wont to run away and blend in with the other populations that were emigrating from their native lands, the Scots Irish, who settled in large numbers in the Ozarks and Appalachia.

Slavery was the ultimate solution to this obsession with cheap labor and it was pursued to a vicious extreme. Politically, economically and with brute force and intimidation, these slave owners and the politicians who backed them formed a mighty coalition. The poor Scots-Irish were never their ilk, and were always apart from and resentful of the Southern elite.

As it always is with war, it was a design of the elite. Their obsession with preserving the slave economy was the driving precept, and the poor Scots Irish from the mountains were pressed into service as were the Atlantic seaboard’s young men and women, as were the inland cities where the textiles were loomed and packaged. They were lured with wages and propagandized, and the poorest were leveraged with tendencies to prosecute loitering and other petty crimes.

The Civil War has been sold for decades in Southern education systems as having been an ideological compromise in that the North learned of the importance of state’s rights, whereas the south learned of the importance of the union, which is a farce. It was a battle over a cheap labor system and nothing more. Read the Texas articles of secession if you doubt that.

As to the flag itself, there is a lot of detail available about it formerly being square, it flying in Virginia and in Tennessee, and it having been appropriated by the KKK in the 1920s and on and on. In my opinion, none of that is relevant to its current iconography. It is the prevailing accepted symbol of the Confederate revolution that was defeated in 1865. As such, it should be a slight, small or large depending on your nationalism, to all patriotic Americans. And to Southerners, the Civil War should be understood as an expression of the wills of the slave-owning elite, their customers and the politicians who were their clients.

There was a movement to abolish a business model they had been comfortable with for centuries and they used every bit of their economic might to hold on to it, in great part at the expense of people who lived wholly apart from slavery-related industry, and whose lives owed nothing to the preservation of the plantation system. The poor rural South has always been exploited by the plantation elites, from the earliest pre-slavery cheap labor, to cannon fodder in wartime, right down to being defacto defenders of a flag that never flew for them in the first place.

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