The Widdershins

Afternoon Widdershins: It’s Time

Posted on: July 6, 2015

Good Monday, Widdershins.  Hopefully, this post will be more coherent than I currently feel.  There’s still much familial turmoil, but should I be able to hang on for a mere 25 more days, I can lay that burden down and move on with my life.  In the meantime, know that I am still around and will be back eventually.  For today, I am filling in while Mad enjoys a well-earned vacay.

The news cycle has been fascinating of late.  Gay rights got a major boost, fair housing was not dashed upon the rocks of SCOTUS, and Obamacare subsidies were upheld.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that yet another mass shooting has taken place, this time with a white shooter slaughtering 9 African-American church members after joining them in prayer and bible study.  The fallout has been swift and sure.  The fallout is still coming, but is it covering what it should be covering, or is it displaced?

To my way of thinking, the fallout is displaced.  At this moment, the fallout is burying the Battle Flag, aka “the” Confederate Flag.  Battle Flags were and are specific to the various armies of the Confederate forces:  the square one was used by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the rectangular flag was used by Beauregard’s Army of the Tennessee.  The Army of the Trans-Mississppi has a blue field, a red saltire and white stars.  The saltire is lifted from the flag of Scotland, as most of the original officers (Lee, Johnson, Jackson, Johnstone, Stuart, etc.) were of Scottish descent.

The Battle Flag is as roundly criticized by some as is revered by others, but it is as much a historic flag as is the Gadsen Flag, as Confederate soldiers were accorded the status of American veterans in the post-war period.  They received government pensions, and they are buried in VA cemeteries. Their headstones are easy to spot, as the tympanum comes to a point rather than being rounded.  Here is the statute:

 Public Law 85-425, May 23, 1958 (H.R. 358) 72 Statute 133 states – “(3) (e) for the purpose of this section, and section 433, the term ‘veteran’ includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the term ‘active, military or naval service’ includes active service in such forces.

I am a Southerner, and a descendant of a Confederate soldier, and on this basis I understand the attachment to the flag.  I am also half Scottish and half Irish, and understand how loathsome a flag can be – both sides of my family shudder when they see the Union Jack, as neither side was well-treated by the “bloody Brits”.  Do I, and everyone else of my ilk, have the right to demand that the flag of the UK be banned due to their long and bloodied history against my people?  I don’t think so.  In fact, it is my considered belief that banning any symbol is absolutely un-American, and a violation of the First Amendment.  Should the Battle Flag be displayed on public property?  I’m not certain about that, but let’s just say that if indeed Confederate  veterans are American veterans, should they not have the right to be honored on public property with the flag under which they fought? If not, then move the whole shebang to private property, but understand that this violates the spirit of an act of Congress.

The war has been over for 150 years.  It’s way past time for North-South reconciliation.  It’s way past time to understand one another’s sensibilities. It’s way past time to stop judging eighteenth and nineteenth century men by twenty first century standards. It’s way past time for us to understand that slavery was an American problem, not a Southern problem, and I am cheered by the efforts of the Boston Globe and Brown University to bring these facts to light.  It’s way past time to stop name-calling and get on with the business at hand, which is the simple fact that too many weapons are finding their way into the hands of people with mental illnesses.  There was no Confederate Flag at Sandy Hook.  There was no Confederate Flag in the theater in Aurora,  Just young men with serious psychiatric disorders, and we can add Dylan Roof to that list.

This is an open thread.


49 Responses to "Afternoon Widdershins: It’s Time"

Great post, Chat. Much food for thought here.

I have mixed feeling about this issue. My academic background is in history. I also have a long-held interest in genealogy. So I can understand wanting to honor and remember history and ancestry. I’m not a Southerner; my ancestors fought for the Union. I’m proud of them, but I know it was not my own choice that put me on that side of the North-South divide. Nor am I an African-American whose ancestors came here as slaves ( although my Mayflower ancestor did come as an indentured servant! ) . All that said, my personal belief is that Confederate flags belong in museums, not flying on public property. They have too often been used as symbols of white supremacy. Most, if not all, African-Americans find the flags very offensive. Their feelings on this issue deserve to be heard and respected. Statues of major historical figures like Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis seem less likely to be rallying symbols for hate so let them remain where they are.

This is just my 2 cents.

I cannot disagree in principle with a thing that you said. However, it is not the fault of Confederate soldiers or their descendants that one of their Battle Flags was bastardized by the Klan. The Klan also marched with American flags and burned Christian crosses, yet no one appears to associate those artifacts with hate.
Again, my family is offended by the Union Jack, which symbolizes English supremacy, denigration and death. However, no one in my family – or anyone else’s for that matter – has a Constitutional right to never be offended. Plus, everyone has the right to self-expression, so what do we do here? We need to find a way forward, with malice toward none.
Everyone has the right to their feelings and to be heard on these matters. No one has the right to deface monuments of any kind, no matter what their feelings might be. It’s time for us all to learn respect, tolerance, and forbearance, It’s time for us to reach an understanding. If not now, when?

Very thoughtful post Chat and thanks for taking on the task of addressing this as we’ve just poked around the edges before.

My father was from Kentucky (Hey Beata-another Kentuck!) and my mother was from Alabama. I did a little checking and it seems that the majority of the men in Kentucky fought on the Union side, Kentucky being considered a border state. I’m betting that in Alabama, obviously they probably fought for the C.S.A.

Having been born in Virginia and having lived most of the time in the southern states, the battle flag and statues and monuments to Confederate soldiers have been a part of my life and I really haven’t given it much thought; they were just there. That being said, if the majority of folks want the battle flag taken down from public places then so be it. Folks can then do as they wish on their own private property and if that includes hoisting the battle flag they have that right.

Beata, in nola it’s not just the flags they want down, although I can’t recall seeing that many, if any, in nola, There, they do want the statues removed. They want the statue of Lee removed from its place on St. Charles Ave., and want Beauregard removed from the entrance to City Park.

My comment on the article was that if they were going to remove statues of folks who oppressed people, then they better remove the statue of Andy Jackson in Jackson Square in the French Quarter as he was responsible for one of the worst episodes genocide in the U.S. : the Trail of Tears. I also said that if they were going to go in that direction, they’d best just tear the whole damned city down as the colonial French and Spanish were slaveholders.

From the twitter world, I found this link. Interesting.

@3: FWIW, my father’s side of the family was mostly from Kentucky and they did fight on the Union side. I know the Union regiments they belonged to and the battles they fought in. Both sides of my family are of Irish and Scots-Irish ancestry but I don’t remember any of them ever being offended by the Union Jack. They left those battles behind in the old country.

I figure I don’t have a dog in this fight over the flags because I’m not a Southerner. I can understand Chat’s point of view, as well as the point of view of people who see the flags as symbols of racial hatred. A common ground might be found by taking the flags down from public places and having them in museums as historical artifacts.

I did not realize that my parents harbored such ill feelings until the mid Sixties. In homage to the Rolling Stones, I purchased a tee shirt with the Union Jack on it and went prancing into the house while wearing said shirt. My parents pitched separate but equal hissy fits.

Fredster, I’m opposed to taking statues and monuments down.

My grandmother was mostly Choctaw and grew up in Oklahoma where she was raised by her full Choctaw grandmother ( her mother having died of TB when she was very young ). Few people know that the Choctaw were the “test case” for the removal of the Native American tribes; their “trail of tears” came before the Cherokee. Many Choctaw died during that “journey”, and even in my grandmother’s day, their lives in Oklahoma were very difficult. But I don’t want Jackson’s statue(s) taken down. He is an important part of our nation’s history, the good and the bad.

@8: Exactly. History has warts, but it is our history.

Beata@8: Oh I agree with you on the statues.

I had a great-aunt by marriage who had Native Americans in her background and some were in OK. And yes, she also said it was rough on them then.

You are correct chat.

Off topic but here’s a link to a video of the Hispanic guy who does “Goooalllll” where they put together all 5 of the womens goals into one clip. Couldn’t find it on youtube and it won’t embed. You’ll have to go there.

@10: As an aside, I once met an African-American woman who was born and raised in NOLA and had the same last name as my Choctaw grandmother’s family. It’s a very unusual name so we agreed we were probably related way back when. We were going to keep in touch and try to figure out our common ancestor but I regret we never contacted each other again. She’s the only person outside my family that I’ve ever known to have that name.

@12: My understanding is that many African-Americans were befriended by the Native Americans (mostly Choctaw) when they were running away from slavery and the black people of the city paid tribute to them in the form of the Mardi Gras Indians.

@13: That is so fascinating, Fredster! Thank you! I have never heard of any of that history. That may solve the mystery of the shared name. I hope my Choctaw ancestors were of help to runaway slaves.

I’ve done a lot of genealogy on my family over the years but the Choctaw side has been difficult to research. There isn’t much written documentation and the oral tradition can be confusing. So the link to the Mardi Gras Indians is exciting to me!

Beata@14 When the Indians get together and parade it’s a beautiful sight to see. The costumes are terribly elaborate and the “tribes” try to outdo each other.

Google Mardi Gras Indians Parade and do images and you’ll see some of the costumes. Incredible.

@15: I did a Google image search and all I can say is WOW! Those are some of the most amazing costumes I have ever seen. One of the links said the tradition goes back 300 years. The Indians do all the beading themselves. The children are encouraged to participate and thus learn about their history. I love that.

I saw on Uppity’s blog that Hillary will be giving her first nationally televised interview tomorrow. It’s on CNN at 5 pm ET, with a repeat at 8pm ET.

FWIW, for all intents, Capitol grounds are the equivalent to front lawns. Front yards should be welcoming and inoffensive or at least that is my simple perspective. Just as I wouldn’t set out an offensive lawn ornament (it doesn’t have to be offensive to all, unwelcoming to some is enough), I can’t see the hospitality in a state sanctioning something offensive on the state’s front lawn.

I agree with Chat that no one has a constitutional right to be “unoffended”, but if I know of the offensive nature beforehand, then my actions in allowing the offense to continue unabated is an intentional act committed with my full volition of being unwelcoming. States shouldn’t be intentionally disrespectful because it is one of two things: 1. Intentionally provocative; or 2. Intentionally uncaring of the feelings of others. Neither of which are good looks.

As for the original nature of the Stars and Bars, that is one thing — for what it has become, that is another matter. I bet if you showed 1,000 people a picture of a swastika, not ten would know it has a 12,000 year history and means something like “good existence” or “good luck” depending upon the translation. While more than 10 out of 1,000 might know the original nature of the Stars and Bars, I doubt it is too much more than that.

I guess I come down this way — what does the flag promote flying on the front lawn as opposed to what it promotes by coming down and going into a museum. On my values scale, I see greater good by it coming down and making a state’s front yard more inviting to a greater swath of its citizenry.

And I do see the merits of what you say, Prolix. However, if the decision is made to remove all traces of the slavery-affiliated flags, statuary, et al from public property in the South, can we count on the statuary coming down at Brown University? How about General (then President) Grant, whose slaves were not freed until the passage of the 13th Amendment? Shall we purge George Washington as well? Where and when does the erasure of history stop?
PS – The” Stars and Bars” refers to the First National flag of the CSA, rather than the Battle Flag, which is known as the Southern Cross.

@19, I’m not for erasing history or even candy-coating it (I believe Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame with an asterisk). I just don’t believe the Battle Flag should be on the front lawn because it is so emotionally attached to the anti-civil rights movement. It really wasn’t in heavy use until the 1960s as a state’s right symbol of defying integration.

As for statuary and such, I don’t see it being removed. Call it the three pound rule — if the symbol is less than three pounds move it out. If heavier, leave it stay.

I’m not one for slippery slope arguments. Realistically, there isn’t a slippery slope when the first step is really without question. The next step must stand on its own. The Battle Flag is hurtful and insensitive — I would take it off the front yard, but that’s just me.

Just as I wouldn’t set out an offensive lawn ornament

Damn! There go my pink flamingos ;-(
Both offensive and tacky.

@20: I grew up in a state that incorporated confederate flags into the state flag long years before the Civil Rights era. Again my perspective differs on a personal level while intellectually appreciating your argument. Of course, the cries to change all state flags bearing a saltire are already at full bay. Slippery flagpole/slope, anyone?
Perhaps the best course is to put this to a vote.

@21, lawn flamingos are at the apex of appropriate lawn kitsch. Nothing is better unless it is mirrored gazing balls surrounded by pink flamingos.

I had a wonderful friend, very special person, who loved pink flamingos. She actually graduated from law school in prescription pink glasses with large flamingos on the corners. Tragically, she died from breast cancer about five years later, but her casket spray was suitably adorned with a flock of pink flamingos festooned in calla lilies.

Sorry for the digression, but the mention of pink flamingos got me reminiscing.

@22, slippery flagpole it is.

Prolix@23: I would have loved to see that casket spray.

Of course in La, there are the multitudes of Virgin Mary statues on front lawns. Sometimes she’s just standing there out in the yard and then sometimes folks will put her in a little alcove type thing to, I guess, protect the statue from the weather.

One of my irreverent cousins refers to that as a “Mary on the half-shell”.

chat@26: GUFFAW!!!!!

@26, would that be a “Mary Rockefeller”?

Just watched “Whiplash” — J.K. Simmons earned his best supporting Oscar. What a loathsome character!

@28: Giggle. 😆

@29: Oh….Dr. Skoda. And Schillinger from Oz and of course Chief Pope from “Thank yew…thank yew so much”.

@31, and Farmers Insurance — you are paying for this and you got that…

@32: Oops, forgot that one.

@28: If located in an herb garden, yes it would be.

@35: Oh my. Then there’s this and it’s serious.

From the comments:

>Let’s also rename the vine from Confederate Jasmine to Coexist Jasmine while we’re at it.

>I believe that many gardeners refer to this plant as “Star Jasmine.”

>Get out your chair Chris and head on over to Lowes. Just picked up four a couple of days ago. Still have the tag affixed to the base. Want me to shoot you a e-mail with the word Confederate on it?

Some of this is getting silly.

What slippery slope? Where?

Prolix, what was that about the front lawn again?

State legislators this year approved placing a privately funded Ten Commandments display on Capitol grounds, perhaps opening a way for religious groups and others to erect their own displays. The Satanic Temple has said it may erect a bronze Baphomet, and on Tuesday two more groups stepped forward to say they want space to promote their deeply held beliefs.

The Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism proposes a statue of Lord Hanuman, an immortal deity with an ape-like face and a tail known for incredible strength, perseverance and devotion.

I’m in favor of the Hindu monkey gawd because…Arkansas.

Comments from over at Uppity’s place seem to be not to bother watching the CNN interview with Hillary. That being the case, I’m glad I missed it.

@39: Hillary was great but the attack dog questions were more of the same. Watch it only if you want to feel like it’s 2008 all over again.

It has been ever thus. Remember back when she was First Lady?

Just by way of concluding the thread, here is the official position of the SUVCW (Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War) on the Battle Flag:

Was the jasmine article a joke? They were kidding, right? We have that jasmine all over my town and I love it.

chat, sorry I haven’t commented on your post before, I have company this week.

I thought your post was excellently done; well thought out, and well written. I appreciate reading and understanding a southerner’s point of view on this matter.

For myself, I must confess I am just not a flag person. I was a girl scout and raised, lowered and folded the American flag at Girl Scout meetings and at school, and I did so respectfully. I taught Laker to be respectful of it when it was his turn to hold the flag in school, and we all stand respectfully during the National Anthem. However, I don’t hold it or any flag with any reverence, any more than I would view a religious icon that way. It’s a piece of cloth. I think people are more important, and I think that the best measure of a country is that it is full of good citizens, not by having a lot of flags everywhere. I respect others rights to revere their flags and fly whatever they want on their property. That said, I guess I agree with Prolix regarding the flying of the Confederate flag. Since it is painful to Black Americans, I think it is finally time for the Publicly owned places to stop flying it. It seems appropriate for museums and privately owned properties to display it. But if removing it from government buildings helps to alleviate bad feelings betweens blacks and whites, then I think that is more important, and I think it is a small gesture to make.

I feel the same about the “Redskins” football team. Most of the tribes say it is an offensive slur. My mother (just turned 85) still remembers walking in town with her Cherokee grandma and having to get off the sidewalk when white people were on it and being called epithets like “dirty redskins”. My mother never heard redskin used as anything other than a racial slur and she got out of Oklahoma as soon as she graduated High School and moved to California. I think it would be a very small gesture for that owner to change the name. He could undoubtedly make a deal with a Virginia tribe to use their name, which would be appropriate and not insulting. But he views his icons and images as being more important than good feelings between people.

When I think of the South, I think of the charming people, the fabulous food, the good fellowship, the amazing gardens and landscape and architecture, the fantastic music–jazz and the great American Southern rockers. Wonderful gifts to America and the world from the wonderful southern people. A flag? I don’t think of that. I don’t need that to be reminded of what is great about my fellow Americans in the utterly amazing and beautiful South.

annie@44: yep, the Jasmine was a joke. The nola restaurant wasn’t and then it degraded down to confederate jasmine and confederate roses.

Your comment at 45 was thoughtful and I appreciate your comment.


Annie@45: Beautifully written comment.

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