An aside to Northerners who display this flag (just go to CountryFest at Gillette Stadium in August to see what I mean), you really don't have any excuse or reason to brandish a Confederate flag. A Southerner can claim this flag as heritage (as misguided as that is), you can't. Stop using it.
You lost the Civil War, South. To be fair you never had much of a chance. The North had more people, more industry, a navy, an economy that wasn't based on exporting cotton. In college football terms, North vs. South was Ohio State vs. Arkansas-Little Rock. As Shelby Foote (Civil War historian and Southerner) said "The North fought that war with one hand behind its back." You were fighting against a much stronger force and you lost.
There's no shame in that, but there's not much to be proud of either. The South being proud of the Confederate States losing the Civil War to the Union is like Tulane celebrating a loss to Auburn. A loss from 150 years ago. Who cares? I mean, who would want to raise flags or banners that are reminders of their defeat?
And this was not a close loss, either. At halftime the South was still in the Civil War, maybe even leading it. But after Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863, the North pulled out a commanding lead. Atlanta was burned, Richmond was leveled, Sherman shredded South Carolina, the Southern economy collapsed, food grew scarce. The South was so desperate at the end that they armed black slaves to fight, alongside old men and young boys.
The South led the Civil War 17-14 at halftime, but the North wound up winning 77-20. It was a blowout. Not something to be proud of.
Southern soldiers fought valiantly. Southern generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were strategic geniuses. But they fought for a stupid cause inspired by a horrible institution. The idea of individual states having the right to ignore the Federal government is moronic. Leaving the country over that issue is something an immature child would say to his father. "I don't have to follow the family rules because I'm leaving the family."
The inspiration behind this stupidity was even worse: the preservation of slavery. The South was afraid that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans, backed by the growing size and power of the North, were a threat to the Southern economy and culture, both of which were based on slaves.
The South had 80+ years from the Declaration of Independence to the 1860s to figure out how to modernize and move on from slavery. The Industrial Revolution happened, but instead of building factories the South grew more dependent on slaves to pick cotton, which was sent to textile mills in the North and in Britain. So as the North moved into the modern era, the South moved further away from it, into a feudalistic aristocracy dominated by wealthy landowners.
The South chose to justify slavery as something morally right, instead of trying to grow out of it. Slave owners convinced themselves that they were taking care of inferior subhumans, conveniently in exchange for back-breaking labor that made the slave owners monstrously rich.
And when the North threatened to be the South's moral conscience, the South got scared. They decided to leave the country. The South seceded because they were worried the North would politically force them to do the right thing.
Then the South started a war against the North. Because the South wanted to protect its right to own other human beings.
The Confederate flag doesn't represent the valor or bravery or honor of the men who fought for the South. Just like the Nazi flag doesn't represent the bravery of German soldiers in World War II. I'm not comparing the Confederates to the Nazis. One was a group of people who felt that they were racially superior to another group, and they could do whatever they wanted to that inferior group regardless of how any outsiders felt about it. The others were Nazis.
I've seen the slogan "heritage, not hate" to describe the Confederate flag. I've heard the flag being defended as a symbol of the South and of Southern culture. But is it a symbol of the whole South, or just the white South? The flag doesn't seem to have been accepted by most black Southerners as a symbol of "heritage" or of their region. How it can symbolize heritage and culture if a large portion of the population don't identify with it, and many despise it?
By definition, the flag is a symbol of divisiveness. It was a symbol of states that tried to divide themselves from the rest of the country. Furthermore, the flag's resurgence in popularity coincides with Southern resistance to the Civil Rights movement. The flag became a symbol of the white South's resistance to integration and voting rights.
That's George "Segregation Forever" Wallace, not William Wallace
Ultimately, the Confederate flag represents a war the South started and lost. Badly. It represents a cause that was foolish. It represents the fight to preserve a horrible and evil institution. Why is any of that anything to be proud of?
I love southerners. They're polite, they're passionate, they're patriotic, they're fun. Overall, Southerners should be proud of their heritage and history: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, country music in Nashville, jazz in New Orleans, rap in Atlanta, Elvis, barbecue, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Bank of America, FedEx, Whole Foods, moonshine, NASCAR, NASA, CNN, SEC football, ACC basketball, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Hunter S. Thompson, William Faulkner, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman...
So, South, you can focus on these great aspects of Southern heritage and history. Or you could continue to honor a flag that symbolizes utter defeat in fighting for a dishonorable cause.
Your Northern Friend
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rainier Ehrardt