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The Battle Flag Of The Army Of Northern Virginia

Category: GOP 2014
Posted: 07/06/15 14:57

by Dave Mindeman

By itself, the Stars and Bars flag is a pretty innocent piece of cloth, but as with every historic symbol, it is what it comes to represent that gives it meaning.

The flag we are talking about was never the "Confederate" flag; it was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.....General Robert E. Lee's army, the army that fought in the eastern theatre of the Civil War. In the beginning, it was a very proud symbol. The Army of Northern Virginia was a proud fighting force and were successful against a superior force.

The vast majority of the fighting men in that army never owned slaves and had little in common with the landowners that did. Yet, they somehow ended up fighting for a cause that was wrong. What they thought they were fighting for on a daily basis was for their Commander, General Lee, and for their comrades in arms - much the way any soldier in today's army would fight.

Being a student of Civil War history, I had some respect for the Stars and Bars - from a military history standpoint. It was a rallying point in some major battles in some obscure battlefields for southern soldiers who for the most part felt like they were defending their homeland.

That respect is justified up to a point....and that point was gone when the Civil War ended.

Respect for the Stars and Bars ended when it became not just a battle flag but a rallying cry for racist ideas that never seem to die.

Respect for the Stars and Bars changed when....

--the Ku Klux Klan claimed it for their rallies.

--the Skinheads and Neo-Nazi's adopted it to replace the banned Swastika flag.

--it was displayed proudly at lynchings and anti-civil rights rallies.

--when the black community linked it forever to slavery.

The Stars and Bars is now a relic of the past and it needs to be buried with that past. The only appearance it should make is in museums and historic discussions of a different time.

It should not be in parades. Not at courthouses. Not at rallies. Not at any official government site.

It is over and done. The Confederacy is an historic relic, not a cause. And slavery is not something to be rationalized about or revised in some way for historic purposes. It was an ugly, centuries long mistake in a country that supposedly values freedom for everyone.

And the fact that we have to have these discussions in 2015 shows that we still have a ways to go to get to that post-racial utopia we think is out there somewhere.

The South feels the need to justify their past somehow...and that is fine as long as they examine it in real terms. The years of slavery are not some mint julip nostalgic time to remember hoop dresses and white cotton suits. It was a time of whips and beatings and murders and ugly, demeaning human ownership. The South can look back on all of that as "heritage" or as a dark time that needed to be changed. Yes, only a small minority of landowners actually owned slaves, but as the Civil War would later prove, the rest of the South were the enablers....the reason it could continue.

I don't quite understand why Conservative Republicans feel the need to support southerners who want to keep the flag. Looking back on South Carolina's states "right" to display that flag on government grounds as some kind of Presidential primary rallying cry seems almost comical now. But the Republican need to maintain this southern deference at the cost of open tent diversity is not a long term winning strategy.

The "flag" is not just a flag anymore. It is now the focus point of what racial relations will be in the south. The symbol has now become the measure of how we feel about race in America.

It is no longer "run it up the flagpole" and see what happens. It needs to be treated as the symbolic measure of who we are, and where we stand, as a people.

What kind of future the South wants to have will, in large part, be dictated by how many Stars and Bars battle flags will appear in the public domain.

Really, simplistic as it might sound, it has come to tha
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