Monday, June 22, 2015

No Place For a Culture of Hatred

A few of you have followed Out of My Hat for some time; some from the very beginning. Long time followers have seen this blog go from sometimes blatant and belligerent to the much less controversial and more thoughtful and reflective blog that it is today.

I may continue to be less controversial than in the distant past, but there are some things that shouldn't even be controversial -- they are just wrong and the people that continue to promote them are being pretty narrow minded and need to understand that there is no place in a multi-cultural civilization for such points of view.

I often lack to eloquence to state things in a way to help people understand that their point of view is poorly defended and often misrepresented as something it is not. Recently, I read an article that very clearly states why it is time for the South to put away the Confederate flag.

As is often the case, when we remove ourselves from the situation and look at it from a different perspective we can see ... well, from a different perspective. The writer (an air traffic controller) tells us his story, a story of a different symbol of oppression and his misunderstanding of its representation. In his story, perhaps we can see how powerfully the Confederate flag represents what we (United States citizens) are not.

It is reprinted here with his permission.

A statement on the power of a flag.... by Mark Rossmore
I'd like to start off by saying that I'm half-Cuban. Before Fidel Castro took over Cuba, my grandparents lived a good life there. From the pictures and stories my various family members told, they were pretty well off. It wasn't to last. My mother and her parents escaped Castro's communist revolution just as it was taking hold, leaving almost everything behind.
Fast forward a few decades to the 90's. The USSR’s history. My grandfather has passed away. My grandmother's now living with my parents and I in Miami. As a teenager, I've become a big fan of history, especially Cold War military history, and like collecting Soviet artifacts. I'm not a communist, of course, but I always liked the USSR's propaganda art. They were masters at it.
So, a family friend visits Moscow and brings back for me a large Soviet flag. Bright red. Hammer and sickle. You know the one. I'm excited and grateful. It's like a holy grail for me. I fully intend to hang it in my bedroom, once I clear some posters off the walls.
I’m sure many people associate their own grandmothers with warm hugs and love. Not me. In her classic, blunt fashion, my grandmother takes one look at this flag and snarls, "I would wipe my ass with that thing."
At the time, I really couldn’t grasp her bitterness. It was just a piece of cloth representing a now-dead regime. A relic. A piece of history.
It took me some time to understand why she was so hateful of it. Because of cruel people who believed in the ideals represented by that flag, she had to abandon everything. She and her husband had to flee for their lives to protect themselves, protect the future of their eight year old daughter—my mother. Her sisters, nieces, and nephews—all of them—also had leave it all behind and make their way as refugees, strangers in a strange land. All the others that weren’t lucky enough to get on a plane or a ship suffered under the ideals of that flag, and have suffered for well over half a century now.
Teenage me isn’t quite getting that. I leave the flag folded up, next to our couch in the living room. A day or so later, I go get it, to hang it up. It’s gone.
I can only assume now that she threw it out. Knowing my grandmother, it’s quite possible she followed through with her promise before doing so. I don’t know.
Now, in the present day, I understand how much symbols like these mean.
It is for this reason that I don’t understand the need or the desire to fly the Confederate battle flag, much less make it a part of various states’ official flags. I see it everywhere here in the South. Those who say the flag stands for “state’s rights”, “heritage”, or “southern pride”—and not for the defense of slavery—must first read the Confederate Articles of Secession. The first paragraph of Georgia’s document reads as follows: “The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.” Throughout it, it differentiates the opposing parties as “non-slave-holding” and “slave-holding”.
That flag represents that statement, and this sentiment: that one race of individuals is automatically inferior to another. That flag represents the oppression and humiliation of millions of people whose descendants walk our streets every day. It represents laws that would have made my own marriage illegal, and branded my daughter a second class citizen.
The flag is not like an artifact from the Roman Empire, representing battles won and lost thousands of years ago. The last Confederate Civil War veteran died in 1951, and the last Union veteran died in ’56, two years after Brown vs. Board of Education. There are plenty of people alive today who heard these people speak of their experiences firsthand, who heard firsthand accounts of the horrors of that war and the conditions faced by the slaves.
Those who flew the flag may have lost the war, but their battle continued long after the guns fell silent. Through insidious action like Jim Crow laws and segregation, they succeeded in keeping their boot on the Black people. Even decades after MLK and the Civil Rights movement, the damage done by those laws and mindsets persists.
Perhaps the flag’s ubiquitous presence is the problem. Of course, the flag’s associated with the fringe groups, the KKK and their ilk, but that’s not the issue. Those groups know damn well what it stands for. It’s the people who blithely display it on bumper stickers, t-shirts, bikinis, and license plates that are the problem. That is their right to do so, of course, granted by the First Amendment. It’s so common, so culturally accepted—“ southern pride” again—that its history gets diluted and forgotten, and becomes just a part of the wallpaper of life.
Think about this: Clementa C. Pinckney, the state senator who died in that church this week, went to work each day beneath the shadow of that flag. That flag idealized a short-lived country created largely for the purpose of protecting its wealthy landowners’ right to buy, sell, and treat people of his race just like cattle. The man who shot this senator proudly brandished that flag alongside those of Rhodesia and South Africa, both countries synonymous with the subjugation of Africans. That is no accident.
And yet, he was forced to walk beneath it. He had no choice. By law, the flag was mandated to fly forever at full mast, padlocked in position.
Several official state flags contain this flag. Mississippi’s contains the whole thing. Alabama’s is modeled after it. Georgia’s used to contain the flag, until 2001, when the state adopted a design that mirrors—get this—the first flag of the Confederacy.
We as a people have a choice. Do we allow states and other governing bodies to continue legitimizing this symbol of our country’s darkest aspects and—by extension—legitimizing the ideas behind it? Or, do we bring it down, move on, and try to learn from and let go of the awful past it represents?
I know where I stand. That flag needs to come down.
Whenever it does, if someone wanted to wipe their ass with it, I’d say that’s fair use of the freedom of speech.
Live well,
John <><

1 comment:

Mike said...

Put up the last confederate flag. A white one.