I have been following the Confederate Flag issue closely and resisting the temptation to comment. However, I wanted to share a true story that happened to me to put this issue into perspective. But before I do, I also wanted to state my position on this. To me, this whole thing is about War. Period. Don’t get me wrong; I totally understand the debate about whether the Confederate flag represents the Glorious Past of the South or whether it symbolizes the Evils of Slavery. I also understand that there are differences of opinion about the War and what caused it. I get that some from the South see it as a rural agrarian culture going up against an Industrialized North, and to some extent I can sympathize with that view.
But, make NO mistake. Sorry, Johnny Reb. I’m a dyed-in-the-blue-wool Yankee. Born and bred. Born in Peoria, Illinois, smack dab in the middle of the “Land of Lincoln”, just like it says on every license plate in my hometown (even if he was in fact born in Kentucky, which used to confuse all of us when I was a kid, since they were the enemy, something I will get to in a minute.) For virtually every school field trip we went to nearby Springfield to see Lincoln’s Tomb and New Salem, the historically reconstructed town Lincoln moved to from Kentucky when he was just 22.
Plus, Abe Lincoln was my personal hero; a tall lanky geeky guy who was into reading and school, famously walking barefoot in the snow six miles to get to school and reading his school books at night by the light of the family fire in his little cabin’s hearth. Just like me. (Well, maybe not the barefoot walking and family cabin part… but I did like to read and I was a bit of a geek, unsurprisingly.)
Worse yet, I am a very proud descendant of Connecticut Yankees who came to this country in the 1630’s. They fought the Brits in the Revolutionary War and worked with the spies who are now featured on that TV show “Turn”. They hung out with the likes of Jefferson and Franklin; two of my uncles went to Paris to get help from the French for the War Effort. The portrait of one of them, Jeremiah Platt, now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, right next to “Washington Crossing the Delaware”.
So, we go back. Way back. Which is why I prefer to see this whole issue as a matter of War, and set aside the political stuff for a minute. I mean, I am not so sure that Jeremiah and his brother, my Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather Ebenezer, another Patriot, didn’t have slaves. I am forced to assume that they probably did.
So, let’s talk War for a minute. Pure and simple. Or not. Which brings me to my story, a very true story.
Several years ago, when I was ‘footloose and fancy free’, I went to stay with a friend who lived in the South. She lived in a rural area, surrounded by farms near a little Southern town. I stayed there for a week with her family. Her parents were very Southern, religious and conservative. I kept quiet when they were talking politics, in part because I had trouble understanding them. They had such strong Southern accents.
One day there was some sort of War Anniversary happening. I forget exactly what it was, however, I do remember how excited the family all were about it. It was a BIG DAY. We all got ready as they chattered excitedly in their thick accents at breakfast about the day’s big events, which featured, first and foremost, a giant reenactment in a little town nearby, where everyone would be dressed to the hilt in real live uniforms – just like those worn in the War.
As we drove towards town the father, a staunch patriot and conservative, talked volubly about the “Great War” and the “Glory of the Cause”. I had some trouble following, not only because of his accent, but also because I did not get what was so great about their cause. I had some issues with it. I mean, they lost, right? They were the bad guys, right? What was he talking about, anyway?!?
But on and on he went. Please remember, I am NOT making this stuff up. I say that because it got worse and worse, the dad nattering on about how bravely and valiantly his side had fought in ‘The War’. “Against US!” I thought. I mean, give me a break. You are celebrating how bravely your guys tried to kill MY people. I was a disgusted, quite frankly. Since when do the bad guy losers get to brag about being valiant and brave and courageous? I know the victors write history. But isn’t that the point of winning? Isn’t that one reason we fight? To win and put down the bad guys? Or, at least, in theory. It can get very confusing when you really look at it.
Which is why I tried to have an open mind. But I just couldn’t. Because just as I was really trying to understand his point of view, no matter how wrong I thought he was, we arrived in that small town with the reenactment gearing up in full swing. And what I saw made me want to puke. Not just out of disgust, but also out of fear.
There they were. The brave and virtuous losers. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Marching around the town square in their uniforms. I remember telling my dad about this later. He was appalled. He was disgusted. He practically came unglued. Because, you see, he had been on the other side. Fighting. His two closest friends had been killed by these guys. No, he was not some freak of nature, living to be 152. He was born in 1926. He was 19 when he was here in the Army.
For, you see I was in Germany. The South. Where the Nazis came from, like my friend’s dad. His great and glorious boys in uniform were Nazis. And there they were, reliving their glory days. Of course one thing that was nowhere in sight was a swastika, since it is illegal there. Still, it was enough to make me want to barf all over them.
Which is precisely how I feel now, when I hear people glorifying that bunch of treasonous traitors, the Confederate Army. Buncha criminals, if you ask me. Since when is it glorious and great to commit treason and take up arms against your own country?? Am I missing something here? Do these guys celebrate the Black Panthers or the Symbionese Liberation Army with equal gusto?? What on Earth are they all talking about??? Not to mention… THEY LOST!
Give me a break, Johnny Reb. Get over yourselves. You are a bunch of losers. There is nothing glorious about anything you did. You are traitors who committed treason and tried to kill my people, just like the Nazis. And for that reason alone, nothing more required, on behalf of my Yankee ancestors, I hereby DEMAND THAT YOU SURRENDER YOUR FLAG. Like any other good loser.
Only they aren’t good losers, are they? They seem to think they won. Guess what? They lost.
End of story.
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