Charleston and the Confederate Flag

Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham is currently a senator representing the state of South Carolina, so naturally, he’s was asked last week about conditions in his state and the slaughter of black worshippers in their church by a white racist.

He told CNN

We’re not going to give this a guy an excuse about a book he might have read or a movie he watched or a song he listened to or a symbol out anywhere. It’s him … not the flag.

And Graham’s right, of course: a guy pulled the trigger, not a flag, and it’s not fair to blame a flag for the guy’s actions.

confederate flagBut still: there’s a culture in South Carolina, a culture that still celebrates the Confederate flag and, at least implicitly and apparently, as this shooting illustrates, in some ways explicitly as well, celebrates what that flag stood for. It’s hard not to believe that an attitude like this doesn’t contribute to the kind of cultural indoctrination that leads a guy to open fire at people in a church because they don’t look like him and his family.

Graham also told CNN:

It works here, that’s what the statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn’t quite strike you right.

And that’s where Graham loses The Curmudgeon: “You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn’t quite strike you right.”

That seems to be his justification, as it is for many others, for South Carolina’s insistence on continuing to fly the Confederate flag: it’s part of their heritage, part of their culture, and it shows their respect for the soldiers who fought for them during the Civil War.

And that argument could almost be accepted except for this:

Look at what those soldiers fought for.

Look at that culture and what it believed and espoused.

You have to wonder how the same argument would fly if Graham or those who share his view found themselves in Germany staring at a swastika flying on a flag outside a government building or even a private residence and, when they expressed concern about what they were seeing and what it meant, were told that the Nazi era was part of Germany’s heritage, part of what the German people fought for, and something that needs to be remembered and respected and that’s the only significance of continuing to fly a flag with a swastika on it.

The Curmudgeon suspects that the argument they continue to make here about the Confederate flag – something they clearly believe even though there’s now at least some short-term movement to take it down – would no longer seem so convincing.

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  • kram88  On June 27, 2015 at 7:54 am

    An excellent comparison to the swastika, but frighteningly, there is a subset of that population flying the confederate flag that would have the swastika right next to it (and I’m sure some do in private where only like minded individuals will see it) if they thought they could get away with it. Hopefully, the perception will shift away from the confederate flag as merely a cultural good ole boy symbol to public awareness of what it really represents. One wants to think most people in the south don’t truly espouse that view and that it’s just a cultural carryover of the symbol without the meaning but there is also the widespread belief that the world was created in 6 days. Not just a symbolic belief but they really, really believe that. Many even after a college education. I know everyone is entitled to their beliefs but some things are just harder to wrap one’s head around. In fairness, I may well (and I’m sure I do) have some beliefs that others may have trouble wrapping their heads around so this is just my humble opinion and stated as such.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      I don’t think many people in the south actually support the beliefs symbolized by the flag; I think they just don’t think about it – just like, for example, people of color, Jews, Catholics, and others celebrate Thanksgiving without thinking that THEIR ancestors would not have been welcome at that very first Thanksgiving gathering we all learned about in school. In fact, I suspect that southerners mostly rally behind that flag when others try to take it away from them, just like, say, American Jews support Israel when it’s under attack even though the manner in which Israel conducts its affairs is, when you think about it, incredible un-American.

  • Barb  On June 27, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    I live in rural Cecil County, commonly called Ceciltucky by the rest of MD. I am surrounded by assholes who will defend to the death their right to fly this flag because it brings them so much pride. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Of course: if I remember my junior high school social studies, Maryland was technically part of the union but with strong Confederate sympathies.

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