Matt Colt Hall over at our sister publication Bearing Drift issues an apology to Virginia Republicans on behalf of Roanoke Republicans… because Corey Stewart had himself photographed next to a Confederate battle flag:
Any candidate who can stand with a Confederate flag, a symbol of hatred and racism to many, does not deserve the Governor’s Mansion especially in Virginia, the Mother of Presidents.
In fact, the converse is true: any candidate who cannot stand next to the Confederate flag and articulate the vices and virtues of the Southern Confederacy (and the long and troubled history in dealing with those vices and how they extend to the present day) does not deserve the Governor’s Mansion.
Corey Stewart says he will defund any municipality that tries to remove historical markers pic.twitter.com/hUBYRvdOuS
— Sara Machi (@saramachi) March 18, 2017
— Brian Stansbury (@Stansbury) March 18, 2017
So if you’re an astute observer you might be asking yourself — why is the Confederate flag behind Mr. Stewart square? How come it’s not the elongated version like every other flag?
There’s a reason for that. The Confederate battle flag was the flag flown by the Army of Northern Virginia from 1861 thru 1865. That flag you should be proud to stand behind as a historical artifact; a unifying symbol that thousands of Virginians fought, bled, and died to protect in a common struggle against a perceived invader.
The problem is that in the 1950s and 1960s, the segregationists needed a flag to rally behind. Most flags being 3′ x 5′ or 4′ x 6′, the old battle flag was simply stretched out in order to fit that field.
Hence the creation of the segregationist flag you see waving on trucks and so forth today.
One should remember that there is nothing that the Southern Cross stood for in 1861 that Old Glory didn’t stand for in 1776. Would Mr. Hall and others insist at a future date in time that those who stood behind Old Glory feel similar shame? Statues of Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Lighthorse Harry Lee, et al. come tumbling down because they are symbols of hatred and racism (sic) to an undefined multitude?
What other symbols should we tear down in future years?
Define the difference between owning a man for life and owning him by the hour… will we one day see the Virginia Department of Taxation and the cycle of working class poverty in the same light as Lumpkin’s Jail — the “devil’s half acre” — a mere extension of partus sequitur ventrem? Will we view the economies of today with the same revulsion as the economies of the 19th century? Certainly we continue to whitewash the economies of the 18th century and the “Triangle Trade” operated by Boston shipowners chaining and shipping Virgnia-bound slaves…
Take it further. The flag that conquered the Native Americans of the West? The flag that conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam? The flag that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The flag of Jim Crow and segregation? The flag of welfare and abortion?
The Stars and Stripes — not the Stars and Bars — did all of that.
…and yet we are proud to stand behind this flag. Why? Because the American flag is not the sum total of our vices, nor is it the sum total of our virtues. But both.
Our ability to explain this history in full and then work on a better future is what makes the American flag the symbol of freedom for so many Americans. That’s why many Southerners will fly both; a dichotomy to Yankees, to be sure… but not to those Southerners who disproportionately enlist to serve in America’s foreign adventures in Chateau-Thierry, Okinawa, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (both times), and Afghanistan.
Is it really so hard to understand why the Confederate flag shares that same status as a relic for so many? Sure, it’s easy to do for those who do not understand their past and cannot relate to such a sacrifice… but for those who do and can? These identities matter.
Efforts to make the Confederate flag verboten are massively, incredibly misplaced in this regard — a whitewashing of history that we have seen repeated time and time again and at great cost to the national conversation.
…but let’s dispense with the moral preening over symbols and appreciate the significance of history — without the Yankee textbooks claiming every Southerner (and every Virginian) is either a whip-wielding slavemaster or a dirt-farming redneck — shall we?
Of course, this doesn’t let Corey Stewart off the hook.
What galls me in particular is that Stewart is trying to piggyback (ironically enough) on his own private Yankee stereotype of what he thinks Southerners are.
Some folks might even fall for the gambit — fair enough. Of course, he doesn’t have the legal authority to “defund” a locality as governor… though I doubt many of his followers particularly care. But let’s not pretend for a moment that Stewart’s feelings as regards Southern history and values are genuine for any other sense than political advantage. Matching his sentiment with his legacy of attacking Hispanic communities, it becomes patently clear that Stewart is leveraging vice. Shame on him for doing so.
But let’s not heap shame upon those who are out there defending the memories of grandparents who in turn upheld the memories of their own grandparents.
We are not so far removed from the events of 1861 as we would like to think, and the common struggle of farmers and tradesmen against Yankee bankers is a heartfelt one… one that in the age of industrialism and the bleeding away of wealth by carpetbaggers and banks, Virginia farmers felt as they mortgaged and sold family farms that predated the Revolution, watched sons and daughters move away for better opportunities, and had their collective culture spit upon by educated elites who simply knew better because they conducted a focus group and went back to some university to tell sympathetic ears what Southerners really thought.
If one doesn’t understand this, one simply doesn’t understand Virginia much less the South.
Yet despite the efforts of a few to leverage an honest public debate for dishonest political gain, the Confederate battle flag remains a symbol of history that will remain interwoven in the American fabric, and as such deserves its place — as I wrote last year:
To sideline the symbols of an entire culture is to sideline it all — both virtues and vices. Memorial Day rightly infuses the traditions of North and South, and perhaps offers a path and an example towards reconciliation on other fronts. Sectionalism, despite the wishes of some for a homogeneous society, never truly goes away — it is pointless to dwell on it; it is dehumanizing to demand it. What makes America stronger (and ourselves individually) is when the sharper edges of sectionalism die off and become replaced with an understanding of the other.
The Confederate flag isn’t my cup of tea. You won’t find it flying in front of my home. Virginia history is quite another matter. One will find me instructing my sons and daughters on what it means, what it meant to our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, why it meant so much to Virginians back then, and the virtues (and vices) of the Southern cause and how they can instruct us today.