Ok – so this has been quite an active week all around. On the good news front, the Supremes managed to come through in a big way for the ACA, marriage equality, and housing desegregation.
Unfortunately, the world was not all rainbows and sunshine over the past week or so, and I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be me if it I didn’t weigh in on some of that other stuff as well.
First, the ever-expanding list of presidential hopefuls: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has officially entered the fray. Oh my, oh my. Jindal is actually very smart, but over the past few years has failed to demonstrate much of that intelligence in his home state. Similarly to Kansas, the state’s budget is a mess (and he’s shredding education to make up some of the deficit), and Jindal’s approval rating at home is continuing to sink. Once seen as a bright star in the conservative camp, primarily by virtue of being smart, conservative, Christian, and not an old white guy (an image the GOP has struggled with quite a bit recently), he’s lost a good deal of his luster. But he is young, so he actually has a few more election cycles to burnish his image. But for 2016? He’s unlikely to get very far – especially if his polling doesn’t improve – low numbers will keep him out of the televised Republican candidate debates. Which will only serve to further lower his public recognition quota.
While we’re, loosely, on the subject of shredding education, I just want to mention one truly appalling piece of news that came out of (where else) Texas. The great state of Texas – land of truly bizarre, historically & scientifically questionable textbook requirements, and led by a governor that chose to have the state guard monitor the multi-state US Army training exercise this year because, well, people think there might be an invasion – has appointed a home schooler, who has never sent any of her three children through the public school system, to chair the state Board of Education. Which, of course, means that public school policy is now being set with someone unfamiliar with the concept. It boggles the mind, but given Texas’ rather unique textbook requirements, it’s possible that staying out of the public schools will become the best way to actually obtain an education in the state.
Elsewhere in the news, there have been five fires at predominately Black churches in the south over the past week. Three of those have been determined to have been arson, the other two are still under investigation – with one of those believed to be electrical. Coming in the wake of the mass murder at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, those arsons, though likely not coordinated, are probably not coincidental. It seems that the calls for the removal of the confederate battle flag has brought out the worst in some people. I’m feeling particularly disheartened because it’s all sounding too familiar to me. While I have long recognized that racism is not dead in the US – and that sadly the election of a black man to the oval office has led to some incredibly irrational behavior and claims, I guess I’d hoped that it was a loud minority. I think it still is, it probably always was, but that minority repeatedly demonstrates a frightening capacity for violence, and a complete lack of respect for the lives of those that they deem different. Race is an easy to spot difference, but there is no acceptance of other religions, or of anyone else living differently, either. Any attempt to point this out leads one to be accused of being racist (or if actually black, of ‘playing the race card’), or to be accused of attempting to stifle their free expression, or of disrespecting their ancestors. Or any one of many things I’ve heard recently.
But let’s talk about the Confederacy, and those confederate battle flags for a bit. I’m not going to score many points with anyone by saying this (but hey, if I can’t annoy people where’s the fun in blogging my opinions?), but as a starter, I’ll weigh in on the flag controversy…
The flag, from a government perspective, is an in-your-face sign of disrespect for the federal government – and the entire coalition of our 50 states. It it wrong to fly it on public property (except at a Civil War memorial, where both flags are flown). It is absolutely wrong to have it embedded in your state flag (Mississippi, I mean you). The Civil War was just that – a civil war with the secessionist Confederacy up against the United States government. A war that the Confederacy ultimately lost. At it’s worst those battle flags represent treason of the highest order. History? Yes, and those flags should not be lost to time. They belong in museums, reenactments,and textbooks, and if you, personally, want to use them as some sort of regimental means of honoring the bravery of your ancestors? Go for it. Fly it in your yard, stick it on the bumper of your car, where it as a t-shirt (although the latter 2 suggestions seems a tad disrespectful, actually) – that’s fine. Private use should be okay. It should be covered under the same free speech protections that allow me to say that it doesn’t belong on public property. The same first amendment that allows white supremacists to display them, and swastikas, as well. The flag should not be banned – but it should also not be endorsed by government bodies and agencies. The retailers that have announced that they will no longer sell these flags were flat-out wrong. Certainly entitled to do as they see fit. A free market system has its disadvantages to a retailer if their concerns about boycotts, or generally bad public perceptions, prove true.
And now we move onto the, perhaps even more contentious, subject of the Civil War. That war, like all wars, was not about one thing. States rights? Sure. Slavery? Absolutely. Race? Sorry, defenders of the South – yes, that too. And like all wars, it was really about money. It takes a huge amount of revisionist thinking to try to remove slavery from the causes of the Civil War. In fact, the Declarations of Secession for South Carolina, Mississippi, and the other seceding states, all prominently reference slavery. The issues of slavery, and the economic ramifications to abolishing it, led to the secessionist movement, under the banner of states’ rights. Oh, and what about race? Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, held, and freely expressed, quite strong views on the subject. Those views, as well as his equally strong views on the evils of the Union, are readily available for anyone that cares to read them. But for starters take a good look at this excerpt for his response to the Emancipation Proclamation:
“A proclamation, dated on January 1, 1863, signed and issued by the President of the United States, orders and declares all slaves within ten of the States of the Confederacy to be free, except as are found in certain districts now occupied in part by the armed forces of the enemy. We may well leave it to the instinct of that common humanity, which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow-men of all countries, to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race―peaceful, contented laborers in their sphere―are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation “to abstain from violence, unless in necessary self-defense.”
So, no, you don’t have to be thin-skinned, and possessing a poor grasp of history to feel that those confederate battle flags have racist connotations.
From the words to Jefferson Davis, to the words of Abraham Lincoln, from his letter to George Robertson (August 15, 1855):
“On the question of liberty, as a principle, we are not what we have been. When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that “all men are created equal” a self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim “a self evident lie.””