I must apologize for the length for it touches a good many subjects concerning the question of “Southern Ideology and Symbolism” And while I may ramble a bit, I do make several vald points and reach the final conclusion.
Plato Speaks has asked for the south to “speak” of its ideology, this in response to the recent debate about the Confederate flag best know as one of the battle flags of that army and political union. I am not the “true southerner”, that is, someone who was born and raised in a smaller city or town in what’s known ad the deep south. My father was an aircraft engineer and due to the nature of that industry we went from Maryland to Texas to Georgia to Pennsylvania. So my education in southern ideology is rather broad in scope as has been many of my experiences, for I have lived in many different areas during my adulthood. I cannot claim to speak for the “true southerner” and I seriously doubt there are that many of the old ones left. Indeed, if you really want to understand much of that culture then read the various history books and the assorted novels by southern writers.
The “Old South” has changed since 1945. Actually, it has undergone a great deal of change since 1865 although one really is really unaware if one is an outsider. The migration of those from the northern states into the old south has been a continuous affair. First came the carpetbaggers and scalawags to feast on the misery left by the destruction left by the war between the states. The hardest hit by war’s destruction were Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Many northern liberals find it difficult to understand why these three states still hate the name of Sherman to this day. Think of it this way. If Germany or Japan had invaded New York and the states along that northeast sea board and razed the cities, the towns, and the villages, plundered to countryside and committed acts rape, murder, and other savagery, what would the average citizen today still think about such an army, such a people. The Union Army, under Sherman, and with his approval, committed innumerable acts of war crimes. Did you expect the remaining population to embrace the “Union” flag under those conditions? Then that plague of locusts descended to obtain by whatever means possible the possessions and property of the local population. Meanwhile the slaves were set free but had literally nowhere to go. Who was going to feed and house them, see to the general safety of the population? Ten years of military occupation. Ten years of rigging local and state elections. Ten years of justice meted out by military courts under anything but blind justice. Now I ask you, to what flag would you cling, what culture? True, other states weren’t hit so adversely but that ten year occupation was everywhere, from Texas to Georgia. From Tennessee to the Carolinas, and in Virginia. Prior to that war, civilians were treated as non-combatants. Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and others began the practice of total war, one that treated civilians as members of the opposing army.
Well, now that is quite a charge and yet if one reads enough histories of that era one can get a rather complete picture, not exact, mind you, but complete. But the official histories are written by the winners and they influence the thoughts and concepts of the students being taught. It is so convenient to leave out a few salient facts from the history books when you tell your side of the story, that way your actions can be scene in a more favorable light. The South has had its bevy of historians and the research continues today by many scholars trying to divine the truth, if you will. Of course there are many truths, each with its own perception of what has occurred. But let us get beyond the mere history and back to what you call the ideology of the southern states. This thing, this ideology is no different for those who live in the south than it would be for the citizens of any other region or single state. The past gives identity to the present. Isn’t the revolutionary war celebrated with great gusto along the northern seaboard? How many historical markers do you see by the roadside or in cities? From the first settlers up until the civil war are scads of markers. And every state has its own state history books. In Texas my older brother had the official Texas history course in seventh grade, complete with the official book (I had a habit of reading his books when I could). Georgia had one for the ninth grade, I believe. In Pennsylvania it was a combination of civics and state history in the eight grade. Now this practice may have ended in the last twenty years, I really don’t know what passes of public school education these days. However every state tries to instill some sense of pride in its existence. No governor ever runs his state down. Every governor is proud of his or her states history as long as the not so good parts aren’t officially mentioned. One would come to believe that crime and disharmony never existed in his state. This behavior continues to the lowest levels of government. It is our sense of belonging, the reason for our pride of place. It is our sense of identity. Of course if one becomes too cosmopolitan then one becomes blind and deaf to much of that identity.
This is what amuses me of those like yourself who want to “hear” from the southern states or culture what their ideology is and does. Well, the fact is, with the influx of northern migration over the past century the old south has changed. Little by little much of the past has been forgotten or at least the reasons for those resentments that still cling in some areas. But every area, every state, every region still speaks its truths. One has to open one ears and listen to hear the many voices. It’s easy to dismiss the past when you have little or no connection to it. A Union prisoner of war camp was found in Chicago but the local sentiment was, “Who cares, so what?” That Chicago’s history is tied to one of the worst run prisoner of war camps is not an issue they wish to discuss. Ah, but mention Andersonville and no end of invective is forth coming of the inhumanity to mankind. The fact that a great many of the captured Confederate soldiers died of disease and hunger hardly moves the needle on the meter of public concern. That so many German civilians did not know or care to know of the death camps causes great indignation in our minds. How dare they not know! It is the duty of every citizen to know these things and speak out against them! How many people know of the criminal activities of Hillary and yet never raise their voices except to blindly support that pair?
You see, if your identity is wrapped up in belonging to the Democrat Party then you aren’t going to worry that it was that same party that tried to not only keep slavery but extend its borders. It is that same party that voted for secession from the Union. It’s that same party that kept voting for segregation and the Jim Crow laws. It’s the same party that bent every effort to prevent any equal rights legislation. It’s the same party that would, for the majority, not vote for the civil rights act in 1964, defying their own president. It was the Republicans who pushed that bill through to passage. Yet now every Democrat paints every Republican as a racist. It was, oddly enough, Nixon who recognized that southern democrats wanted a change from the ruling northerners in that party. And since the southern Republicans had made great inroads into the states, the counties, and the cities, civil rights became one of the issues put before the public awareness.
I find it curious that the black racial grievance industry (yes, the professional ministers of racism like Al Sharpton, as a prime example), and it is an industry which lives off the misery of much of the black population, finds so much racism in this country. Why, every white man, woman, and child, along with the other ethnic groups, are extremely racist and hateful. So we must wipe out all traces of what is perceived as racist ideology, including all southern history. We must wipe out the identity of a group of American citizens to satisfy the blood lust of another group. If I deny that I have benefited from white privilege or worse yet, deny that such a thing exists, I am labeled a racist and a hater. Well, you are the lover of Plato and Aristotle, does that logic hold? Racism is a theory that holds my group is better than your group for reasons such as skin color, religious practices, political differences, and so forth that can be attributed to a homogenous group. Go to China and they will tell you that they are the superior people and are meant to rule the world. Yeah, I’d say that is a somewhat racist ideology. We could put forth the idea that all members of Islam are untrustworthy and want to kill all unbelievers or at least enslave them. Yep, that is a racist idea and such people would then be worthy of our hate. We are only human and one of our behaviors is that we value our group memberships over those groups of which we are not and may not want to be members. In-groups and out-groups, basic social psychology. My family versus your family. My neighborhood versus your neighborhood. And so on.
On one blog was the post the Negros don’t celebrate Independence Day. It was the usual screed about the fact that slaves and free black people at that time didn’t have any reason to take joy in a declaration of freedom for white people. I suppose he may be right if that is all he sees. Of course by that logic all white people and anyone who isn’t black should not be celebrating Juneteenth or Kwanza or MLK Day, all of which are, by his definition Black holidays. So the rest of the country should ignore these celebrations. As for atheists, they don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter. Why should they? Most Christians don’t celebrate Yon Kippur or any other Jewish observance, why should they? None of us celebrate Bastille Day like the French. Of course I life in France part of the year and that day is coming up. Now to me, as an American, it has little significance. But if the locals here ask me to celebrate that holiday with them, I will. I will cheer and say off with their heads or whatever it is I”m suppose to say. You see, there is a difference between observing a holiday and celebrating it. If I see Ramadan on the calendar I observe it, I respect it for we have a number of Americans or at least residents who do celebrate that religious set of days. I am not disrespectful of them and their observances and celebrations. But if I openly ignore their cultural celebrations, if by doing so I can marginalized them, then am I not acting in a racist manner?
So if I push to have all symbols of the old southern culture that has any possible connection to the upholding of slavery, am I not marginalizing a people? Am I not being disrespectful in trying to destroy their identity? Why shouldn’t I expect a push back from these “racist” people, as I have defined them regardless of the truth of the matter? Yelling racism and racist is not an argument, it’s a stupidity that is practiced time and again to restrict one’s right to an opinion that disagrees with your own. I find the deliberate matting of hair offensive. I find the wearing of wantonly revealing clothing offensive. But that is a freedom of choice on my part and theirs. If a man such as Bruce Jenner wants to identify as a woman, including having fake breasts, plastic surgery, and the wearing of what is considered woman’s apparel, he has a perfect right to do so. But he has no right to force me to recognize him as a “biological” woman. He doesn’t want to be called Bruce anymore, fine. As for his drivers license is concerned, we should recognize his particular category by use of a T or TM. But I would not allow a W for him under sex/gender/whatever. It would be like denying that three quarters of a million people died between 1861 and 1865. Denial of the past seldom serves any valid purpose. If your forefathers were slaves, so be it. For most of us our forefathers were in some form of slavery such as serfdom. I suppose then by Al Sharpton’s logic all the medieval castles should be torn down because they remind us of our past. Given the choice, I choose to learn from history, not ignore it. This is the dialogue needed, what do we learn from the past that makes our present better and promises more for our future? Burning Confederate battle flags won’t get any Black man a job, not even in the match factory. It is time for the Black Community to stop playing the race card and isolating themselves politically and culturally from the rest of America and then yelling discrimination.
The fact is, the North won the war between the states and then figured it didn’t have to listen to that southern population anymore. Just a bunch of crackers and racists. Most of them are illiterate anyway, nothing intelligent to say. I went to high school in the Philadelphia area. It was a kind of culture shock for me because the perception of the general population was that I was some dumb cracker with a funny accent (not that they didn’t talk funny to my way of thinking). I was shut out of almost all groups. That eastern seaboard is very caste oriented. Everyone has their particular level in the caste system with white Protestants at the top followed by Jews. Then come the “ethnic” groups of Catholic persuasion. Irish, Italians, Polish and other “white groups”. At the bottom the Porto Ricans were a step above the Blacks. And if you didn’t fit into any clique in your caste you were marginalized. I never found that true in the south, back then or now. I’ve never seen such racial hatred as I have observed in Pittsburgh. I’ve seen more racial discrimination in Northern California than I have in north Texas. The blacks with the worst attitudes (meaning very hateful looks at me and other whites) seem to be in Florida. The blacks I have come across in the Fort Worth area don’t have negative attitudes. Many times while in a line or a waiting room we can converse in a very friendly manner, past the time in pleasant conversation. In high school in the Philadelphia area it took about two years before the blacks would speak more than a few words to me. By the time I was a senior we could have some real conversations. I didn’t have that sense of caste, of entitlement and privilege the other white male students had. Word got around that I had gone a number of times into the inner city to help poor people improve their lives. I helped to paint their apartments, fix walls and stairs, move very heavy appliances up four flights of stairs, and so on. I broke bread with them and treated them as I would any friend.
One of the lessons I learned from that experience is that those who want help and are willing to let you into their lives, trust you to help meet their needs are usually rewarded with the help they want with the kind of attitude that says, “I’m here to help and not to judge.” Those who were afraid or hateful didn’t get any help and were very resentful. But see, that’s just the point. When you need help you have to open up, let people in and find a common trust. My southern experiences taught me that when your neighbor needed help you showed up on his doorstep ready to help, ready to give. You did it because that is what you did for neighbors. It was a mutual community attitude. Storm know don your trees, we’ll be over to help cut and clear them. No need to offer money, a glass or two of lemonade, maybe a beer if you had no religious objection, that was payment enough. I know, it sounds a little idealized and for some communities it wasn’t always so. Up North if I shoveled your driveway full of snow you gave the the third degree. What did I want, what was I after, who told you that you could shovel my driveway? My god, you’d think I was committing a crime. Living in the north cured me of those habits for a decade or so. I listened and I heard the ideology of the north. I have never wanted to live there ever since. Being an outcast I’ve had to listen to what the groups say. But if you have always fit into your group then you have never had much reason to listen to anyone outside of your group. Now you want others to talk and tell you what you haven’t heard all these years. Friend, you won’t hear a word of it because you never learned how to listen. But don’t worry, you are in good company, most people never learned how to listen to other groups. Most people will keep their preconceived ideas, notions, and learned ideal because it is very comfortable to do so. Once you start to question what you really believe, what the truth of the matter is, then doubts form and must be resolved. This is what humans do. This is why we love religions or political and social groups. We need that containment the keep the unknown and possible dangerous world at bay. What is the lesson of Socrate’s death? It’s not that you question people too much, they are uncomfortable with your questions.,