I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about the controversy involving the Confederate Flag. Every news or media outlet that had someone with an opinion threw their hat in the ring. I had some discussions with a couple of my best friends whose viewpoints were both vague indifference: that they had too many other problems in their real life to really care. I took that as a slight frustration by being inundated with yet another controversy for people to be outraged by. The PC police had run amok…again. I can empathize with some of their frustration considering how many “false flag” (pun intended), “boy who cried wolf” outrages over Don Imus, Alec Baldwin, or Tracy Morgan saying inappropriate things. In my gut though, this was different. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The truth is I never thought anything would ever change about a certain sector of this country’s infatuation with the stars and bars. I knew the real history. Or most of it at least. If I saw someone displaying it out and loud, it made me a bit uncomfortable. But that was rare; I lived in New Jersey for Christ’s sake. I remember seeing the flag in a well-to-do kid I went to high school with’s room in semi-rural New Jersey. To me, it always seemed daft to see a northerner with the flag of the south. I mean, you could just move down south if you wanted to. What exactly are you pining for?
Over time, it just faded into the brush of Americana. I didn’t take it personally. I guess it was maybe a racist thing to some people. But I just took it as a redneck thing. I don’t love using that word, but I’d imagine if someone was proudly sporting a big ol’ Confederate flag, they probably don’t shy away from self identifying as a redneck. That might be presumptuous, so sorry if I’m wrong. But I just took it as one of those things that southerners, self-identifying rednecks, and maybe a some white supremacists would just have forever. Like guns or perpetual war. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve just gotten used to it.
I was extremely surprised when there was a public and political push to remove the flag from state grounds across the south after the massacre in Charleston. I’m cool with it, but I can understand how southerners and republicans would be freaked out. There’s a black President, gay marriage just got legalized, and now your favorite flag is being marked for obsolescence. Like I said, it’s kinda like guns for me. In a perfect world, I’d love people to maybe not have so many guns, but with that whole “from my cold, dead hand” bit, I understand how attached to them you are. I’m just gonna concede that one. I mean, you gotta gun. Hang on to it. Don’t mind my idealistic ass.
I have to let people vent, but I saw this on my Facebook timeline.
First, I was confused. Then, I was angry. Then, I just got sad. Maybe that’s what being offended feels like. Just being really hurt in your heart by something. I’m never really offended, so I didn’t really know.
It should also be said that I guess no one ever thought for a second that these black people could physically excrete American flags from their butts, which would basically make them the most patriotic people in the country. National treasures, really. In all seriousness though, this meme is like Rorschach test for the deeply racist and dimwitted. It’s misdirection is simultaneously ingenious and paradoxically stupid. This is a powerful piece of propaganda. Let me break it down:
1. Misdirection: The oldest trick of propaganda. To get you to stop thinking about one issue, they present a completely different issue with the lie that they are connected. If you already have a distrust of black people and hate lefty flag burners and anti-patriots, then alarm bells are going off. It’s red meat for the hungry.
2. False choice: No where on the meme does it say you can dislike both. Like most things involving this kind of thinking, it lacks grey area or nuance. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”
3. Breakdown of Logic: You can’t say the above symbol is not racist, or at least that the way you use it and what it means to you is not racist, and then CLEARLY choose a picture of 2 idiotic black people as your example of villains. Meme maker, why did you choose these examples? I’m sure you could have found white people desecrating the American flag. I hate to say it, but at least racist people back in the day had the balls to be honest about it. (By the way, I get that black people can be racist. We all have the capability)
4. Breakdown of Logic #2: You can’t insinuate people wiping their ass with the flags are “traitors”, and not label the entire Confederacy trying to leave that country “traitors”. How is that not the most obvious thing in the world? I mean, is this thing on? You can’t call yourself a patriot for the USA when you are more loyal to the part of the country that didn’t want to be part of the country. Thinking about the lack of reasoning that goes into that thought process is literally making me dizzy. It’s cognitive dissonance, and complex mental compartmentalization in it’s purest form.
5. False equivalency: If you think going to war to maintain keeping black people as property and decades of Jim Crow oppression is an equal sin to a couple jackasses wiping their ass with the flag, then I’m…speechless.
The person who I saw post this, I’m not gonna name. I’m not gonna unfriend you. But I hope you read this. I hope you know that this made me sad and confused. I’d rather have people with whom I disagree in my personal sphere. I know we don’t disagree about everything. You are angry, so you want to lash out. If hurting people is what you wanted, then it worked. Vengeance works sometimes, but know these public forms are supposed to be amongst “friends”. That’s not how friendly people behave.
I’m gonna wrap up my opinion on the Confederate flag in one anecdote:
One time in 2010, I was having lunch with my friends Tommy Vext and Jenn City to talk about some band stuff. I casually used the word “gay” to describe something. Jenn called me out. Jenn is a lesbian. She called me to task. “What did I mean by ‘gay’?” I didn’t have a good answer. That’s just the way we talked. My brother and I, guys in the band. “Damn. Taco Bell is closed. That shit is gay.” “I am broke is fuck. This is gay.” Never once had I thought about actual gay people when I said it. I grew up as liberal as can be, and still even I had a blind spot. At first, I was a little annoyed because I meant no harm. But, my friend was hurt by this.
Over time, I broke the habit. For me, not to use the word, is a small thing. But for my friend, not to hear the word used in that way, is a really big thing. There’s nothing politically correct about being courteous and respectful to my friend; it’s just correct. It’s the right thing to do, because I give a shit.
And, it’s the same way with the flag. I’m sure most the people who flaunt it aren’t racist. It probably does mean heritage and southern pride and good ol’ boys and all that stuff. But compartmentalizing what it means to you, and ignoring it’s origins, and ignoring how it makes other people feel…is just a purely selfish act. You don’t want to change. I get it. It’s part of your identity. Being told virtually over night that it’s not kosher is jarring and disruptive. I’m not saying people shouldn’t sport the Confederate flag. This is America. Americans are free to express themselves however they want. Just understand that others who don’t see eye to eye with you on the flag will now look at you with that much more discomfort when it is in sight. It will make certain people sad, confused, scared, and angry. I hope you can live with that. I hope you are ok with the fact that freedom of speech does not grant you freedom from criticism of that speech. These events have polarized us even more, and that saddens me even more.
What surprised me most is what Phil Anselmo from Pantera, Down, and Superjoint Ritual whose bands sported the Confederate flag on more than one occasion, said, “These days, I wouldn’t want anything to fucking do with it, because, truthfully…I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want much to fucking do with it all, and personally, you know I never…The way I feel, and the group of people I’ve had to work with my whole life, you…You see a Confederate flag out there that says ‘Heritage, not hate.’ I’m not so sure I’m buying into that, you know?”
If this man, a man who has a somewhat checkered past when it comes to racial politics, can evolve to a dramatically self aware place on this topic, than what does it say about us all? When the dust settles, think on it, allow your soul to search. These symbols shouldn’t matter. Like my friends, I should have better things to do, but I can can’t stop thinking or soul searching. Now if only this fucking dust would settle.