This is something I was pondering while working earlier. I can’t explain why some of these things pop into my head when they do but inevitably these ideas will start to form in the back of my mind and drive me nuts until I put them into writing.
I feel like there is a deep divide that we have allowed to be created. Perhaps not intentionally but it is there. We all know that for every Confederate history enthusiast there is also some idiot who knows nothing about the war but thinks the flag is cool and quite often it is that supposed connection to being … I’m not sure how I want to phrase this. White supremacist would be the best term, I suppose. I saw this a lot when I was living for a few years north of the Mason-Dixon line. There are exceptions, of course, people up north who actually do know about the history and people down south that really only care for the flag because they think of it as some sort of validation for their racist ideals. After living up there though it really made me start to question the flag owner when I saw one out somewhere. It became less of the “that’s cool” reaction and more of a “do they even know anything about that flag they are choosing to fly?”
I’m not sure if it was being a history enthusiast or knowing that I have ancestors that fought under the flag but I really began to get in a way judgmental when I saw someone sporting the Confederate battle flag. I would like to see the flag and think to myself, “Awesome. There’s someone else who understands the history of that.” Unfortunately, nine times out of ten the first thing that crosses my mind is, “Oh, great. Is this another idiot that is going to give the battle flag a bad name?” It’s such a frustrating feeling because I truly want people to be able to fly it proudly, I want more of the history of the war to be acknowledged, I want people of both sides to be able to discuss our opinions openly without resorting to insults or assumptions about one another.
At the same time, I get it. I understand why many of these people oppose us. I think it’s based on a lot of misinformation, based on a lot of idiots appropriating the Confederate battle flag to turn it into something tainted, but when I put myself in the shoes of some of these critics and force myself to think of it from the perspective of what information and knowledge they have on it, I understand why they have such a distaste for the flag.
We have a history as a country of attempting to assimilate everyone with differences into this one culturally acceptable group rather than accepting that differences in race and culture and various opinions are acceptable and not a threat to anyone. Sitting there wondering what I mean? Think of what the United States did with the Native Americans, sending their children to “Indian schools” where the US forced them to forget their culture and adopt the beliefs and habits that were deemed acceptable for them. Did it really threaten us for them to continue believing the religion of their forebears?
Remember the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — when discussing history. I’ve recently been viewing a lot of “Southern heritage” type pages on Facebook to see what bits and pieces they’ve been sharing and I’m seeing WAY too much hate from people. Outright vitriol aimed at those who don’t know any better or at those who are more interested in movements like Black Lives Matter. If the first response to those who don’t share our interest in the Confederacy is such anger, how then can we say things like “Heritage Not Hate”? If the truth is important and we want the truth about the war to be acknowledged by society, we can’t be giving people reasons to want to shut down and not listen to what we are saying. That isn’t going to win over anyone. It’s not going to give other people reason to respect our desire to openly honor our heritage with flags and license plates and whatever else.
I’ve heard it joked that a Southerner is someone who can tell someone else to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. I’m not suggesting we tell anyone to go to hell but I am suggesting we all choose our words carefully and show others the respect we ourselves wish to be shown. There is no reason to lash out at people when we can speak with respect and facts to back us up.