Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Yankee Doodle

But, once you know what it is, it makes sense. It sits folded on a bookcase of trophies and bric-a-brac behind George Allen, who is seated at a desk in his home office. It's right there next to the fax machine.

This comes from "Are, Too," an article in The New Republic by Ryan Lizza about Senator (and maybe presidential candidate) George Allen. (See here, free regitration required.) What's Lizza talking about? A bird? A plane? Some of OJ's DNA? He goes on:

You can see the red field. You can make out the diagonal blue bar. And you can see what looks like a white star. It is the Confederate flag, and it appears in the very first ad that Allen broadcast in 1993, when he ran for governor.

Well, Ill be darned. Why all this fuss about a flag? After all, the American flag is everywhere--schools, businesses, bumper stickers. You may even be looking at one right now. I am. But, in this day and age, the Dixie banner isn't just an artifact.

An earlier TNR article("Pin Prick") showed a high school photo of Allen. He was wearing a tiny Confederate flag pin on his lapel. Some people think that running Allen's personal life up the flagpole is going too far. Kathleen Parker wrote that, "[I]f we're going to scrutinize people's high school records as we vet them for public office, nobody gets to run." But, she and others who try to duck the issue are missing the point. What's wrong with the Confederate flag?

Sure, some people may use as a symbol of their racist views. No one should tolerate that. But, think about all the wrongs that have been done under the "American" flag. Segregation, Watergate, the Vietnam War. For that matter, slavery, which was (under federal law), legal in all parts of the country until 1865, though most northern states had already banned it. When we salute the American flag, we aren't saluting all of those things. It's a mistake to say that any symbol conveys total loyalty to it.

The Confederate flag can evoke strong feelings in people. After Howard Dean said that he wanted to represent the people who "drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals," there was a public outcry. Joe Lieberman called it "one of the most divisive, hurtful symbols in American history. But, what makes that so? Eleven states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. The Civil War came down to much more than slavery. The South was rural. The North was urban. The South had a farming-based economy and traded with England. The North had a lot of industry, and wanted tariffs. The South wanted state's rights; the North wanted a strong federal government. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Slavery was just one issue, among many.

But, provided that they're using them for the right reasons, Allen and others should fly the flag with pride. They shouldn't have to hide because of other people's stupidity: the stupidity of those who use it as a racist symbol and the stupidity of those who see it as one. After all, isn't freedom what America's about?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a number of Southerners (yes, with a capital "S"), the Confederate flag is a symbol of regional pride. For them, the flag represents their separateness or distinction from the rest of the nation. It's remarkable, and odd, that regional differences like that can remain so strong after a century of mobility, with great population shifts both out of and into the South.

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