Anti-Flag

confed

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.

Racist Meme

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.

8 Replies to “Anti-Flag”

  1. Nice write-up. The confederate flag is not a “republican” thing though. It was from the democrat party. Research your history.

    1. When I used the words Republicans, I was talking in the present tense. Perhaps, I could have used the word conservative, but the overall point is that in current times overwhelming supporters of the Confederate flag are conservatives and Republicans. If you think that’s not true. Just look at every right wing website, and try to find an article that is anti-Confederate Flag.

      http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/top-100-conservative-websites-by-global-alexa-rating-second-quarter-2014

      If you want to talk about history, we can talk about how it’s not even the Confederate flag. There were a bunch of different versions, but never the stars and bars. The flag we are talking about is the North Virginia Battle flag. You are right that Democrats or Dixiecrats in the south re-popularized the battle flag in the late 40’s whose main platform was segregation. The symbol was later appropriated by the KKK and Neo-Nazi groups. Do you think any of those cats voted for Al Gore or Obama?

  2. Hey Doc, Well said for the most part. I think the nutshell story is that people simply have too much time on their hands and need to get out of their comfort zone as well as the country to see and worry about some real problems…

    I see it like you you do (or did?), it’s just a supporting flag for them, like any other flag or icon, brand, logo, symbol, insignia, etc. When I see it, I think Dukes of Hazzard, nothing more, nothing less, but maybe I’m just naive (and old). Symbols shouldn’t matter as you said, but are solely designed to invoke feelings from us, simple marketing 101. As I’m sure you know, it doesn’t mean they would legalize slavery tomorrow if they could (although I’m sure some might). As a different analogy, think about how fanatically hateful sports fans are about their opposing teams and the site of their logos. I’m sure they’d try and ban those opposing teams if they had any legal ground to stand on. Instead they look for any other means (like a semi-deflated football) to get their team to the top step. We are incredibly simple, selfish and petty creatures, despite what most think…doing the same petty, selfish things over and over… always pointing the finger at someone else and always making mountains from mole hills. It’s truly Albert E’s definition of insanity in all aspects of life in America.

    It’s totally fine people express their opinions and feelings as long as nothing comes of it. Because as laws/rules are made, that’s just one more freedom taken away from us to push someone else’s agenda…usually the butthurt overly sensitive minority, because unfortunately, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, no matter how small the faction.

    The next time someone calls you out on something being “gay,” tell him/her that you mean two guys having sex, gay… because THAT thought is terribly disturbing to most people, and pretty much sums up perfectly Taco Bell being closed when you’re broke and hungry. I’ve been there many times. All Taco Bells should be open 24 hours, 7 days, including holidays (for those of us who are financially challenged night owls and away from our families during the holidays).

    Last but not least… Pantera… great band, yet some of the dumbest lyrics in the history of music. Phil’s quote above backs that up for the most part… not what he said, but how he said it… completely ignorant sounding. Maybe he was put on the spot and fumbling for words, but I think not. We need to stop putting imbeciles like him on a pedestal simply because he made some good sounds at one point in his life. When we can figure out who the real heroes are in this world, then maybe we can get past this flag issue.

    Thanks for the read Doc… Take care…

  3. Dang,

    And this is why I want you to write for us one day.

    Well said.

    I cannot imagine how long it took to organize your thoughts for this piece but it is everything I have been wanting to say and then some.

    I have lived in Jersey and have seen the flag the same way you did but once I moved south, man did that change. Not one person with flag I have met down here, who flaunts it proud and out loud, has come of as NOT RACIST.

    They may claim they are not Racist, we are for pointing it out, but if you are a person of color, and talk to them for more them 5 minutes it shows. We joke and can actually count down by minutes after first into meeting them when that first racist statement will come out of their mouth and they NEVER disappoint. It is always with the first 5. It’s a trip.

    Now I have met Civil war students and people who collect artificats and have them in their homes and in their collections who are fine. I don’t care what people do with it but don’t tell me to get over my history or my families history if you keep waving the reminder in my face.

    The hypocrisy is maddening. Especially being a person of color who loves Metal and Punk, I stand out even more in the South. I have been chased by flag wavers, in their truck while trying to get into the mall. I have had them zoom by my car with huge flags hanging off the back and then stare me down as they pass by.

    If you are not a racist and carry that flag fine, but don’t expect me to KNOW that.

    Thank for this piece I have been sitting alone is silence over this with friends like yours who say “What’s the big deal?” Sigh. Sorry for the vent…I really needed it. Now I am going to put on some Suicidal Tendencies!

    Thanks Doc, I really needed to hear you say this today.

  4. Doc, further to this any chance you could do an article on dealing with Facebook friends who post/like “offensive” stuff. In Australia we currently have an aboriginal footballer, Adam Goodes, who is being booed en masse out of the game on the basis of race, and my FB timeline is driving me insane a la the kind of logic going on above. De-friending, unfollowing, confronting, “educating” are all options but I get the feeling that my time on FB is going to end with me following only people who are trying to sell me things.

    1. I think that’s an interesting topic. Most of these facebook discussions, outbursts, arguments are extremely emotion-based. The topics that set people off and inspire them to post a rant are knee jerk and connected to whatever types of issues outrage us at our core the most. The biggest problem is having to deal with the fact that many people you know (and probably like outside of political differences) is that there is so much ignorance out there. Many grown people are not armed with facts or the motivation to vet their sources. A lot these articles tell you how you should feel about the content in the title before you have read, thought or dissected the information. This is not journalism, it’s propaganda handed out by people and organizations with a goal of getting clicks and pushing buttons with a certain group. If you already hate Obama, and you see a link that explains in the title what many more devilish things he’s up to, it just supports a narrative we have in our head. Liberals and conservatives already have a story in our heads of who the good guys and bad guys are. If evidence indicates that our narrative is wrong, we don’t internalize the information. The information must be untrustworthy. This is why hard leaning right wingers conspiracy that the mainstream media is liberal is so effective. If your narrative tells you that all media outside of Breitbart, Fox News and Drudge Report are liberal, then you have no reason to listen to anything they say, regardless of the validity and credibility of a particular source. Hardcore liberals like Michael Moore and Ed Schultz also have a blind spot for faulty nature of overpowered unions or that universal healthcare is not perfect although probably better than our current system. But’s also intellectually lazy to just say libs and cons are equally corrupt. You have to judge things on each instance as they surface. Hopefully our social media discourse will improve with time.

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