We are slowly forgetting how to oppose something without seeking its utter destruction.
June 23, 2015
The U.S. Civil War was a war that never should have been fought. Some 620,000 men died because slavery, an inhumane and evil practice, was permitted in many portions of this country. The South gets most of the blame for that, but the north benefited from the regime as well, even though it didn’t directly practice enslavement at the time of the war.
I used to think the war was a bit more complicated than I do now, having had my mind changed thanks to some relatively recent guided readings of President Abraham Lincoln. But long story short, the Confederacy was wrong. For whatever it’s worth, I have no nostalgia for the Confederacy and zero positive feelings for flags that reference the Confederacy, save the one painted on the General Lee or, perhaps, the one painted on RuPaul.
For some reason, 100% of media types (give or take) dealt with their feelings of anger and powerlessness in the aftermath of the racist murders of 9 black members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by calling in unison for a removal of a Confederate flag from South Carolina’s capitol grounds. The flag was only put up during the centenary of the Civil War and a modified version was moved to a less conspicuous place about 15 years ago. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley called for its removal on Monday, as have many other politicians. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention called for its removal earlier. Sure, sounds good. Go for it. Even acknowledging that the relationship of the flag to the people of South Carolina is a bit more complicated than outsiders can understand, I think it’s fair to argue the negative outweighs any positive there.
A lot of the surrounding media-led outrage over the flag seems somewhat cold, given the horror of what last week brought. We had nine black people brutally murdered because they were black and sitting in a church with a history of fighting white supremacy. With all due deference to hatred for a Confederate flag on a pole at the statehouse, this seems like an almost childlike attempt to miss the seriousness of the situation. It’s as if they expect us to say, “Congratulations! You oppose the flag of an army that was defeated 150 years ago. We’re all very proud of you, journalists!” This generation seems to excel at inventing controversies, weighing in on those invented controversies, and then patting itself on the back for being so courageous and open-minded.
The far more frightening reality that such invented controversies avoid is that mankind is full of sin, and that some of us show that sinfulness in racism and murder. Or as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago:
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
The murderer of the Emanuel nine has done something particularly bad, but he isn’t the only person capable of evil out there. And getting rid of a flag is hardly the remedy for the racism and violence that infects our culture. How juvenile to think otherwise.
How we treat symbols we disagree with
Basically it’s just such a hysterical atmosphere at this point, that no one can conceive of a person who is against something but also willing to tolerate the expression of that thing. Can we be against Jeff Davis — and also against destroying art and monuments and history just because they involve Jeff Davis?
Symbols are tremendously important, and state sponsorship of symbols is very much worth fighting about. But there are ways to express disapproval of art, monuments and aspects of history without taking the approach of, say, blowing up the Buddhas, to take one recent example.
And how we manage these processes of disapproval truly is important for civil society.
To quote Heinrich Heine, a man who definitely knew of what he spoke, “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning men.”
Mobs aren’t actually the best judges of such processes, no matter how righteous they feel or certain of their cause.
Read the entire article at The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/23/congratulations-you-oppose-the-confederate-flag-now-what/