I’m working on some other posts (in between being mama bear) right now and something that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is an experience I had with a Canadian acquaintance I was friends with on Facebook. I’d posted something about the Confederate battle flag (it’s been awhile, so I forget what) and she lit into me like a bat outta hell with her righteous indignation.
Anyway, I’m sitting here chuckling at something she said to me before cutting the conversation short with a good unfriending (which was rather like the trash taking itself out since clearly she didn’t want an answer to her points). She said that her evidence proving how slavery was the only issue, how everything was about that and yadda, yadda, yadda was that when she “visited the South” she didn’t see any slaves’ graves.
I don’t know who goes on vacation to another country and spends that time looking for 150 year old graves but let’s run with this for a second. She is probably right BUT not neccessarily for the reasons she thinks. There are certain things she forgot to factor in:
First, the war decimated the South. In the areas where there was fighting a lot got destroyed and this includes graves. It was especially common for any graves that looked recent to be dug up by Union soldiers just in case some sneaky southerner was trying to hide their valuables or other supplies. Putting aside issues of whether it is moral to steal or destroy every bit of food possible that belongs to civilians, or to dig up dead bodies, often failing to properly rebury them after the fact, the bottom line is a lot of graves were disturbed.
Second, last I checked gravestones don’t typically read: John Doe, white man. Or Jane Doe, slave. Or whatever or however she expects to know for a certainty the color of who is buried where.
Third, gravestones surviving to this day from that period tend to belong to the very lucky or the very wealthy. I’ve enjoyed genealogy research since my teens and I know of gravestones for ancestors of that period on about… Just to estimate… One in twenty ancestors. Several more I’ll be able to find information on where the grave yard is that they were buried but when I go there I find that most of the graves are unmarked so I can be sure if my ancestor is buried there or, if so, which grave is theirs. My ancestors weren’t by and large working class farmers who didn’t have money for things like slaves or fancy burials. Am I supposed to be offended by their lack of grave marker?
Fourth, most slaves probably got what in the modern day would be considered a sub par burial. Slavery, as a whole, is a black mark on our history and it’s a shame it wasn’t eradicated earlier. You will never, ever find me attempting to justify slavery with excuses about how they were somehow benefiting. I don’t believe that and I’m not going to undermine my points or my credibility with such despicable logic.
What I will state and will stand by is that the war involved MORE than slavery and that proving slavery isn’t moral (no shit, Sherlock) has absolutely nothing to do with what was or wasn’t the meaning behind the flag.
You can argue over what the war was about. You can argue about how many who flew the flag were slave owners. You can argue about how best we should treat the flag in the modern day. What you cannot logically argue is that the burial customs of a particular demographic is proof positive of the symbolism behind something unrelated to burial. It doesn’t work.