Doctor Science Knows

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another old blogcomment record: The Rebel Flag

David Neiwert of Orcinus had a post in February 2008 on Those Confederate Values and the use of the Confederate flag as a symbol. He wrote:
Why would the Confederate flag be an issue in northwestern Washington? Because it is a symbol of white supremacism for people well outside the South as well. This is why phony arguments about its meaning are only cover for the stark reality that anyone -- particularly anyone of color -- who is confronted by the flag knows all too well: The Confederate flag is meant to intimidate -- to trumpet the values of white supremacy. The "heritage" which it harkens back to is mostly rife with the charred corpses of lynched innocents.

My comments:

I must respectfully disagree. My knowledge is second-hand, based on the experiences of my husband.

He grew up in Atlanta -- so he saw plenty of Confederate Pride first-hand -- but he is also Jewish and grew up very well aware of its dark side.

It's his opinion that the Confederate-flag-on-the-pickup-truck guys do not necessarily choose that emblem as a symbol of white supremacy, but because they think of themselves as "Rebels". It's not about *State's* rights, either, it's about their personal rights not to do what other people say. That's one reason the flag goes along with the gun rack on their iconic pickup -- both are there to demonstrate individualistic cantankerousness.

So when you say the flag can *only* symbolize racism, I don't think that's true.

My husband also believes haystack is incorrect, it's not about "a deep-rooted respect for my elders" -- because the self-styled Rebels don't have much use for judges, teachers, or anyone else who tells them what to do. And they're just as willing to defy their state government as they are to defy the Feds -- it's just that defying the Feds is easier. It's a poor, petty, basically cowardly symbol of rebellion -- but that *is* an important part of what the Confederate flag symbolizes, and why those guys get so mad when people say it's all about race.

But what are they rebelling against? Let's be honest here, they are rebelling against those so called P.C. special rights that blacks have.

My native informant is of the opinion that many of them are rebelling against *everything* -- it's a generalized, free-floating rebellion, for a generalized, free-floating resentment.

Yes, the racism is there, and the sexism, and the anti-Semitism. But that's not what they're *thinking* of -- they're thinking of the Dukes of Hazzard, just good ol' boys fightin' the System, as they see it.

Now the fact that their actions & rhetoric end up supporting the System is thorougly ironic -- but they're not really ironic guys and they're piss-poor at perceiving social structures. So telling them that the flag on their pickup or on the roof of the General Lee can only be an endorsement of slavery will make them mad, and they'll also think you're stupid for not understanding them.

They think they're just Rebels. It's more of an emotional stance than a political attitude: Don't Tread on Me is another popular symbol used in pretty much the same way.

Not Celtic, exactly, as we will learn if Mrs Robinson has time to get around to the next parts of Albion's Seed.

Briefly, people from the Scots & Irish border areas of the UK came to the US backcountry. For centuries they had lived in a region swept back and forth by wars over which they had little control, and the result was a culture xenophobic, resentful, organized around family bonds and feuds, and libertarian. Borderers cling to custom and the idea of the past, but don't treat elderly people particularly well. They're culturally conservative but resent authority, especially when it gets all up in their faces.

As for the “rebellion” pose, why do these supreme individuals use the Confederate battle flag instead of the Jolly Roger?

Well, some *do* use the Jolly Roger, and others use the "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

As several people in this discussion have suggested, outside the area of the old Confederacy the Confederate flag is more likely to be a purely racist emblem. Inside, it's all mixed up with "Rebellion Without a Clue" (*well* put, Mitch) and local pride.

It sounds like Doctor Science is saying that the “rebels’” adoption is as ignorant of the meaning behind the symbol as that of other “rebels” who buy scrawled circle-A gear at Hot Topic.

Pretty much. There's a stronger element of pride in one's own ignorance, of willfully ignoring what might make you feel bad about yourself or your ancestors.

The thing is, I predict that in November there are going to be a surprising number of guys who will drive to their polling place in a truck with a Confederate flag decal -- and vote for Obama. And they will do this with no particular sense of dissonance, even if it makes *my* head explode thinking about it.

Obama appeals to these guys, because he makes them feel good about being American -- he makes them feel hopeful, he makes them feel like they can walk away from the past. That feeling is more important to them than the color of his skin.

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  • Rolled over here from concurring opinions. Just wanted to say that I don't think there is one monolothic group of confederate flag wavers, the inner workings of which are understood by either you/your husband or the person you are commenting on. In *my* experience, both have been correct: there are dukes of hazard, screw-the-system guys and there are definitely niggers-shouldn't-eat-in-white-restaurants guys.

    The issue, then, is why the former are content to remain willfully ignorant (at best, approving at worst) of everything associated with the latter, and then upset at having to defend themselves from being labelled as racists whenever they come across people who have actually grappled with the history and legacy of this flag.

    By Anonymous Tom, at 5:59 PM  

  • Of course we're just as willing to rebel against the state government as well, they're usually just as liberal as the feds!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:47 PM  

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