Rebels and Rhetoric

What do we do with the Confederate battle flag?

Hoyt Axton

vs. Alfonzo Rachel

This goes back to Grim's post expressing some doubt about whether the Democrats were actually responsible for all of history's horrors. That may be debatable. After all, I don't believe the Black Death was a Democratic policy, though I'm not sure. It does bear some resemblance to the ACA ...

However that may be, the Democrats were the party of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, and Bull Connor. I think we should use that in our rhetoric against progressives again and again and again. We need to destroy the lie that conservatives are racists, and pointing out this history is one important avenue of attack. EDIT: As Grim points out in the comments, I know the history is much more complicated than Rachel paints it, but my point here is about how rhetoric about the flag can help or hurt us. Right now it's hurting us, and we can change that.

But what would that do to us? A lot of Southern conservatives feel a real connection to some aspects of the old Confederacy, and if we take up Rachel's rhetoric, does that start a conservative civil war?


Grim said...

If you're going to have this discussion, you're missing a third analog: the United States of America considered as a whole project. Or a fourth: the Enlightenment considered as a political philosophical project. Or a fifth: the Industrial Age, considered in terms of how it came to be possible to build the factories in the first place.

We've talked about all of this before, and I don't have anything new to say about it. If you want to insist that the Battle Flag be condemned, you're condemning not just the segregationist song but the Army of Northern Virginia. This is the army that, inter alia, fought to prevent major war crimes against civilian populations as conducted by Sheridan, as the Army of Tennessee did against Sherman. Those victorious armies went on to commit further major war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Native Americans in the wake of their victory in the Civil War. (An Irish breakaway faction also invaded Canada in an attempt to spark a war with the UK that would allow Ireland cover to seize its independence, but that's another story.)

It's the personal flag of Robert E. Lee, who served the United States before the war, served honorably during the war, did more than anyone to try to bring the war to a close without provoking a lasting insurgency, and afterwards retired to a life of teaching and working to try to build racial harmony and reconciliation. Robert E. Lee and George Washington are almost perfect parallels: Virginia gentlemen, defenders of slavery (Washington's slaves fled to freedom with the British), soldiers who fought from a massively disadvantageous position with grace and courage, and men who after the war did nobly to try to build a better world. If Lee had gotten the support from the British that Washington got from the French, he might be remembered rather differently today.

Can you condemn one without condemning the other? It's not easy. It's not easy to condemn the Armies of the Confederacy without condemning the Grand Army of the Republic even more strongly. The one fought well in what was partially a reasonable cause -- state sovereignty -- and partially a damnable cause. The other side fought in what was partially a good cause, insofar as it was about ending slavery, in a way that was partially praiseworthy and partially damnable. The United States that won its independence from Britain used its liberty to be the leading slave trading power in the world, until it grew rich enough to walk away from it. And it was guilty of the Enlightenment's hypocrisy in a way that the Confederacy was not: it was the United States, like Kant, who proclaimed the equality of all humankind while teaching practical lessons in how to whip your slaves most efficiently. (You can read Kant's remarks on this subject in his physical geography.)

Grim said...

What I think people really want is a scapegoat. They'd like to put all the guilt from all the other eras onto the Confederates, and by extension on the South, so they can think themselves clean. They can then enjoy all the benefits they inherited from a legacy of slavery and hypocrisy, the slave trade and the violence of racial oppression, without feeling the least bit guilty. Indeed, they can feel positively virtuous insofar as they spend their spare time sneering at ignorant Southerners. Unlike those people, I'm on the right side! #BlackLivesMatter!

Well, they do matter. I'm touched and pleased that the people of South Carolina, though supermajorities of their white residents report that they do not see the flag as a racist symbol, voted through their representatives to show respect for the perspective of the minority. That's an exercise in genuine human decency that I think is in danger of getting lost. There are a lot of people who are not decent -- the KKK on the one side, the New Black Panthers on the other -- who are too devoted to hate to accept it. And there are too many people who want to claim credit they don't deserve by turning it into a lasting political issue -- here I am thinking of the NAACP, whose calls to destroy the monument at Stone Mountain are reminiscent of nothing so much as the Taliban's devotion to destroying art that reminds people that once their ancestors thought differently than they do.

And I've said all that before, so you've probably learned nothing from hearing me say it again.

Tom said...

No, I think it's worth having said here again. It was worthwhile for me to read it with this post, and I will read it again after some thought.

I think I agree with what you say, but it seems like losing rhetoric. We are currently engaged in a war of words for survival of our nation. The political entity called the US won't go away, but everything it should be is being destroyed, and the artillery, bombs, and rifle fire we hear are words and images and money.

You understand the history, the culture, the nuances of the issues, but the majority of Americans, and probably 90% of the black community, strongly believes it's as simple as slavery. Until you can change their minds about it, flying that flag will be seen by them as an emblem of white supremacy and the enslavement of blacks.

What I would like to see, though it may not be possible just due to the emotions surrounding the issue on our side, is not the condemnation of the CBF, but rather tying it as tightly as possible to the Democratic Party. Nail it, and slavery and segregation and Bull Connor, to their mast, claim the Abolitionists, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther for our own, and maybe we can start some real discussions with the black community.

We have some significant differences, but we also have a lot in common with them. I question letting history get in the way of joining with them to achieve our mutual goals. Why fight the Civil War again and again when we have our own civil war right here and now?

Grim said...

The way I would like to see people talk about this is in terms of forgiveness and understanding. Talk about the way the families out of the Charleston church showed such grace. Talk about how that made it possible for people who disagree on the history to accept that it could sometimes be worthy to compromise on an issue even though they disagreed that the flag was a symbol of racism. Talk about how this suggests that maybe we can all accept that the flag means different things to different people, and move on to treat the questions that are in front of us.

The example in South Carolina is one of mutual grace and forgiveness. That's a good model. Don't let it get lost among the shouting of the few who are motivated by hate or by political advantage.

Ymar Sakar said...

Why fight the Civil War again and again when we have our own civil war right here and now?

CW I failed to end slavery due to Democrat terrorism during Reconstruction and the death of Lincoln.

What the South calls Tyrant Lincoln and the War of Northern Aggression never ended, it just had a little peace time hiccup like between WWI and WWII. The two incidents are connected, though.

The Democrat party, and by extension the entire Leftist alliance, is going to wipe out the CBF because to them whites and blacks are merely tools, not human beings with moral agency. When Democrats stole the CBF symbol and used the sacrifice of Jackson and Lee to promote totalitarian obedience to Democrat policies of segregation via force and pressure, that was appropriating the Southern cultural icons. But few people could do anything about it, due to Democrat power.

Nothing has changed, merely that the South could push out the Democrat tyrants, but they never had the pure guts to terminate Democrat power in the entire United States.

Ymar Sakar said...

No matter the supposed virtues of humanity, they will obey evil and the Democrats until their own deaths. Just as Lee and Stonewall Jackson had to do. If the heroes of the South could not resist Democrat tyranny, what hope do their descendants in weaker hearts and times, have? If the best warrior philosophers and citizens of a region could not counter the Democrat war machine, then there is little chance that resistance will succeed. Especially when the modern peoples are too gutless to even consider war against the Left.

Grim once wrote about the terrorist hijackers on 9/11 or the Sunni insurgency, as having a kind of courage. A virtue. But that does not negate the evil of their masters.

Grim said...

Structurally, this attempt to focus the blame on the Democrats is the same argument as the bad argument I'm condemning about the South. It's a way of trying to pretend to have clean hands by putting all the evil on one aspect of the problem that you feel comfortable rejecting. If you're from the North, you have nothing to lose in putting this on the South. If you're a Republican, there's no psychic cost to claiming that the Democrats are the whole problem. And because you feel like you've isolated the problem, it's very satisfying as a solution to reject the scapegoat. You feel purged of the evil, cleansed.

It was a Republican-led army that practiced genocide on the Native Americans, though. It was a Republican-led government that chose to leverage its advantages in warfare through unrestricted attacks on civilian populations. It was a Republican administration and Congress that chose to accept Jim Crow as the price of peace with the South in 1878.

The problem with the argument isn't that the South, or the Democratic party, doesn't bear some part of the blame. The problem is that you are creating a lie in your heart. It will destroy you and what you love eventually. If you reject the Democrats on these terms, or the South on those, eventually you will find yourself with no way to defend the Republicans or the Republic.

True healing can only come from accepting the breadth of the problem and the fact that we can't make it right. We can only forgive, and try to find a way forward, salvaging the good and cutting ourselves free of the bad. That's the only thing that really makes any sense.

Nor, by the way, is your enemy in the current war the Democratic Party. Your enemy is both bigger and smaller than that.

Ymar Sakar said...

If it was so unrestrictive, Democrat plantation owners would have been purged once and for good, with no more Jim Crow laws being instituted or attempts to kill sub human education centers.

This war isn't about Americans killing native Americans, any more, if it ever were.

It was a Republican administration and Congress that chose to accept Jim Crow as the price of peace with the South in 1878.

After the South killed Lincoln, installed a Democrat President that vetoed every abolitionist reform, made it impossible to do otherwise, yes. Once the KKK had killed every single REpublican leader and black person in power in the South, Jim Crow compromises were inevitable. There was no abolitionist left alive in the South after Reconstruction.

The South's decision right now is to obey Democrat tyranny until death, as Lee or Stonewall Jackson did. If they refuse, the options for resistance will open up more. If they Obey Evil, the same thing will happen as last time. I doubt the Democrat founding members of the Leftist alliance will allow the Southerners to be loyal servants once more. They do not forgive betrayals so easily, any more than the Soviets did against Hitler on the Pact.

The Republicans do not need protection nor do they even deserve victory after what they did with Sarah Palin. They can burn along with the rest of the country. See, bipartisanship in action.

Ymar Sakar said...

After all, I don't believe the Black Death was a Democratic policy

It may have given the masterminds a pretty good idea though. Which is why they import in immigrant children with enterovirus, then mix them in with American children, so that the children die as easily as the Native Americans did due to polio and European illnesses. Re-colonization and ethnic cleansing.

But I'm sure Texas border controls and immigration health inspections for the X thousand children imported in from overseas and then distributed via special FEMA concentration camps and buses, would never have killed an American child weak to foreign diseases. After all, the Democrats assured us we would be safe and keep our doctors.

Grim said...

^^^ See what I mean? This is where you'll end up.

Tom said...

When I came back and saw 10 comments here, I thought there was a serious discussion going on. Alas, it was just Ymar trickling through.

Grim, I agree that forgiveness is important for the health of our nation, but I'm not sure how we get there. In concrete terms, how does that happen?

As for my idea of pushing back against the Democrats, besides wise cracks about the Plague, the point is to make them deal with the complexities of history, not to blame them for everything. They have cast history as a simple tale of Democrats standing up for the poor and people of color and Republicans standing up for the rich and oppressing blacks, Hispanics, etc.

They attack the flying of the Confederate flag by some conservatives as racist. When conservatives try to defend themselves, they are forced into the rhetorically weak "Well, the history is complicated ..." which doesn't get anywhere, and so it reinforces the image of conservatives as racists.

"Heritage, not hate," was a soundbite answer that tried to make the point without getting bogged down in historical debates, but I think the simple narrative of Conservative Oppressor and Progressive Protector is too powerful for it.

What I would like to see is a direct challenge to that simplistic narrative by publicly confronting the Democratic Party with its own historical actions and positions. Let them explain that it's complicated.

A lot of Americans don't have any idea of the history of the two parties. Most, I would bet, think Lincoln was a Democrat and Lee a Republican, the North Democratic-dominated and the South Republican-dominated. Just telling the simple truth about that sort of thing makes people ask questions and opens up an opportunity for discussion with people who might never otherwise talk with us about this.

Grim said...

I don't see any problem with trying to explain the history, so long as you don't commit to the folly of the scapegoat. It's in problems like these that we see the wisdom of the Doctrine of Original Sin. Lots of people find that to be a troubling doctrine. It doesn't seem fair to teach that you're born tainted by sin before you've ever done wrong. It seems to bind children unfairly to the idea that they are themselves deeply tainted by sin when they have surely been innocent if anyone has been.

But here is the force of it, here in this example and examples like it. You'll find the same problem for those born in Rwanda, or Serbia, or anywhere. If you give into the powerful urge to scapegoat, to make yourself clean by putting the blood on another, you're planting a lie that will twist you up. Strangely, mysteriously, the only healthy thing to do is to accept the blood on your hands -- blood you didn't put there, but it's there all the same. You can't get clean by denying it, nor by pointing to someone else whose hands are bloody and claiming the blood comes from them alone. The way to get clean is confession and repentance.

That's what I see in the good people of Charleston, and that's where I suggest you plant your flag. It's fine to point out that the other side is scapegoating, as long as the reason for pointing it out is to stop the practice.

As for me, I have a new flag.

Eric Blair said...

"War of Northern Agression" is also a soundbite crack that I have heard more times than I care to, made ridiculous by the simple fact of who started shooting in 1861.

I think DT rather has the point of it, although I'm not so sure, given the media, it will ever get discussed that way.

(For the record, that rebel flag is a flag of treason as far as I'm concerned, but others obviously do not agree).

Grim said...

...that rebel flag is a flag of treason as far as I'm concerned....

Aye, and Betsy Ross. That's the problem. As the Chinese Chan Buddhists say: 'make the way wide, or you have nowhere to put a foot down yourself.'

Tom said...

We are an insurgency. The enemy (metaphorically speaking) has nearly complete air superiority (the MSM) and controls most of the strategic territory (universities, entertainment, unions, government bureaucracy) in our culture. We are trapped in strategically vulnerable terrain. Plus, we have unreliable leadership and no clear banner to rally to.

We can't just stand our ground -- our ground sucks for this kind of thing and we lose more of it every year. We need to go on the offensive and disrupt their operations. I'm not quite sure what metaphor to use here, but the narrative of "Progressive Protector, Conservative Oppressor" rallies almost all black Americans and the majority of other minorities and many women to their banner. Disrupt that and you break their hold on those demographics.

Our long-term strategy must be to seriously contest the high ground. We need significant numbers of conservative sociologists, historians, English literature professors, biologists. We need major movie producers, rock stars, rap stars. We need a much bigger share of the MSM. But all that took the left generations to capture. We can't do that in the next ten or twenty years, though we should be working for it.

However, if we break their hold on those demographics, then we have paths into the progressive fortresses. We might turn some minorities and women already established in academia, entertainment, etc., to our side. If we are successful enough, we can force others to rethink, and we'll win some from that as well. Not a majority probably, but if we could change the percentages in some fields from 10% conservative to 20%, that would be a major victory.

We're an insurgency, so we aren't going to sweep them from the field of battle or conquer their bases of operation. But we should do what we can.

Eric Blair said...

What we need is a lot less universities where this stuff festers in the first place. And if Glenn Reynolds is correct, we will in fact see that soon enough.

Tom said...

That's a good point, too.

Ymar Sakar said...

Burning down universities may be appropriate. The Cultural Revolution after Mao, in China, prioritized brainwashing academics to reject, publicly scorn, and punish their academic seniors, fathers, academic mentors, etc.

It won't take much for the Left's academic mind set to collapse. They have no integrity to begin with, so it's far easier to make them do things that the Left doesn't like. If that fails, there's always Planned Profit.

The Hussein Regime has a number of fronts to fight on. People have their pick.

"Well, the history is complicated ..." which doesn't get anywhere, and so it reinforces the image of conservatives as racists.

The history is not complicated, since according to Grim all the racist Democrat Dixiecrats became Republicans in the modern era. So it's a Republican problem, not a Democrat one. It's a rationalization though. Why people lie and cover things up is complicated, but the histories the victors wrote are very simple sagas.

Separating Lee from the atrocities of Democrats, and then separating that from modern Republicans or Southerners, is not that difficult. It is quite easy. it is only difficult because the point of view of the user, makes it impossible. They can't separate out Georgia's past from the guilt of the Confederacy, nor can they separate out Lincoln's mistakes or righteous actions from the culture of Democrats or the loyalty of Southerners to Democrats. That's difficult, but only for people loyal unto death to one over the other.

Anonymous said...

It may be too late to join this thread, but I'd like to point out that Republicans were more supportive of women voting than Dems.

Dems also fought the Indian wars, interred the Japanese, and nuked Japan. All things that the left condemns today.