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No, You're Not Helping
When Kontra first wrote this brilliant op-ed, “A Modern War on Ancestral Symbols,” for Quail Bell in October of 2013, I was in my senior year of high school. More specifically, I was in my senior year of attending a highly controversial school in central Virginia: Lee-Davis High School, home of the Confederates.
So naturally, controversy involving the rebel flag and anything to do with Confederate culture always keeps my attention. What I have witnessed on social media illustrates we are still very much divided. To a portion of America, the answer is obvious: the flag should be removed because of its painful past. To the other, the answer is obvious: its heritage, not hate. In both answers we find truth: The Civil War has not ended. It still continues in debates and hateful language against Americans of every region.
On Facebook, I saw two people share the same article on Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe removing the flag from license plates. One praised McAuliffe and was delighted to see progress. The other expressed disdain and disgust. I have also seen infamous Facebook brawls. Often I am astounded at the tasteless comments to the point where I murmur “Christ…” and then whisper a quick, apologetic prayer for using the Lord’s name in vain. The comments are mostly one side calling the other “stupid” or “ignorant,” which is to be expected in social media firestorms. But the underlying tension is when people add regional labels to the fire. No, you are not automatically racist if you were born in the South. So calling someone “racist,” “ignorant,” or “dumbass hillbilly” for defending the flag helps no one. It actually just makes things a whole lot worse. Because if Southerners feel threatened, we do one, two, or all of three things:
1) Buy a gun
2) Assert our dominance with large trucks
3) Buy even more rebel flags
Now, under what circumstance has throwing insults at one another convinced anyone that your argument is valid (Hint: Never)? As a matter of fact, it’s a prime example of the Ad Hominem fallacy. Let me also add that calling someone a “pussy, hippie liberal” doesn’t convince anyone that you are devoid of bias or hate either. There will always be a select number of people that will always be hard-headed, disrespectful, and won’t listen to anyone’s opinion that doesn’t match their own, but you don’t have to be one of them.
As for me, I have found it difficult to place my exact opinions on the matter. I tried to stay out of it, because neither side will be happy with what I’m going to say. As someone that experiences rural, suburban, and urban life within 15 miles of each other, I try my best to be empathetic with all perspectives, which is a heavy burden to carry and requires tough choices. I see the horrors of the past that the flag represents and still carries. However, I am sympathetic to those that have grown up with the symbol connected to heritage and identity. In both cases, I see extreme hurt and a need for civilized, honest conversation to move on.
Every year, I go to a VERY popular local festival in my home town. Confederate heritage organizations take up at least 3 booths, giving out and selling rebel flag merchandise (I’m certain they will sell out of merchandise this year as well). I’d smile, shrug it off, and just think Oh, Mechanicsville. I didn’t think about it in a negative way. I never grew up on it being associated with the heinous acts of slavery and as a symbol carried by the KKK. Now as I learn the damaged past of my state and country, it is difficult to come to terms with. But it is a reality we all must face from both perspectives. Unfortunately, the Lost Cause ideology still plagues educational material, politics, and minds in the South. It is a difficult road ahead, but change starts with an open mind and heart willing to listen.
As I write this, I’m listening to Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight,” which has helped me come to a conclusion: Southerners have hospitality, sweet tea, loving communities, miles of camo jackets, tailgates, midnight bonfires, and charming accents.
That represents us far better than any flag, especially the infamous one, ever could.
#Real #Confederacy #FlagDebate #Racism #Reality #SouthernCulture
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