A Tale of Two Flags

I’m told there was a shooting, a lot of shooting. This happened in the South of the United States. A lot of black men and women died as a result. I’m told it was motivated by this belief that dark skinned people are inferior. The assault was allegedly committed because if action wasn’t taken, black people could take over the world. The aggressor felt he had no choice and it was time to take it to the real world.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and started the Confederate States of America. Other southern states followed and launched the American Civil War. More American causalities resulted from that war than all the wars the United States ever engaged in combined. And in the end, slavery was over and all the states that once seceded, came back.

I’m probably the only person who thinks the Civil War wasn’t necessary to achieve this. The Second Industrial Revolution that exploded in and around that period would have taken care of the problem as one tractor and other machines would have shown a much better option than housing, feeding and caring for slaves. But, hindsight is twenty/twenty. We’ll never know.

Anyhow, after the Civil War, some of the southern states that flew a new flag, kept it. Sure they put the United States flag above it, but in one form or another, the Confederate Flag was either flown in whole or some of its design sewn into the current state one. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all have part of the Confederate Flag within their current state flags. And Mississippi has the Confederate Flag in its entirety, sewn into its current flag. South Carolina, the first to secede way back when, has a state flag with nothing confederate about it. However, South Carolina also flies the Confederate Flag whole right on capital grounds. Up until recently.

On June 17,2015, motivated by hate and false conspiracy theories and a whole bunch of other bunk, twenty-one-year old Dylan Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat with the people there, all black, who were holding a Bible study group. He stayed for about an hour, engaging in the discussion of scripture. Then, from survivor accounts, Roof stood up, pulled a pistol, started talking about how black people were raping or something and started shooting. In total, he killed nine people then fled. He’s since been arrested and will surely go on trial for this crime, rightly so.

Later, pictures surfaced showing Roof holding guns, burning the United States Flag and yet, holding the Confederate Flag rather proudly. Combined with his words and actions on June 17, it’s an open and shut case why he did it. And this has resulted in some calls to consider removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Capital, if not everywhere else.

Okay, so, let’s sum up. The Confederate Flag was first used by states that seceded from the Union and the primary reason for secession was in defense of their desire to continue to enslave black people. The enslavement was necessary, so they claimed, because it was part of their economic model. And this was true. Yet they couldn’t see it was good economics for everyone but the slave. Or didn’t care. Years after the war, over one-hundred-years after the war, the flag to many of, at least, my peers, took on the meaning of “rebel”. The racist elements were somewhat ignored and it took on a new life, some states keeping it as part of history too. And yes, some people who flew it, drew it or used it did so like Dylan Roof. Because they believed in the same crap.

The actions of Dylan Roof seem to have reminded everyone what that flag was originally designed for, the racist elements have resurfaced and a debate about removing the Confederate Flag has begun. The governor of South Carolina called for the removal of the one flying over the capital. Other states with it in or around their flags are discussing it. People within and outside of those states are drawing up sides. Even retailers are removing it. Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sears and E-bay have all stopped selling it. Apple is removing games on Itunes that display the flag. And the United States National Park Service has stopped selling them. It’s hard to keep up how fast it’s disappearing. Is this a good thing?

I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt. I’ve always wanted to visit Rome. I’ve always wanted to see the Vatican and Mecca. And closer to home, I’d love to tour the ruins of the Aztecs. My only regret in life has been not to have done more traveling in my youth, prior to starting a family. But it is what it is. I’m not above playing catch up in retirement.

Surely if I get to Egypt, which is my first choice for exotic adventure since I was nineteen-years-old, I’d see statues of Thutmose III on display. I’d see the bust of Djoser and inscriptions about Userkare, Amenemhat I and Piye. I’d see as much as possible. I’d see several depictions of Pharaohs holding the crook and flail as well as the remains of pyramids built for egos. All of this would be on display, encouraged to see and take home replica souvenirs. And yet, consider that Thutmose III was a conqueror. Djoser started the ego pyramid thingy. Userkare and Amenemhat I appear to have earned their time on the throne through usurpation. And Piye ruled Nubia before deciding he wanted Egypt too and took it militarily.

If I get to Rome, I’ll see the remains of that once great city too. And I’ll be encouraged to take home souvenirs of emperors long dead, some of which ruled with iron fists and little mercy. The Vatican and Mecca have their own soiled history of conquests and the Aztecs used to rip out the hearts of living people and offer the bloody pumps to the sun, committing this act thousands of times per year. Don’t forget your souvenirs.

The good news is that every place I’d love to visit no longer has ruling, conquering Pharaohs or emperors, squashing people under them who have less power. None have human sacrifice. None call for holy crusades or conversions by the sword, aggressions against people seen to be less worthy of life if they do not. It’s all history, and treated rightly so.

This is what I think about the Confederate Flag. Take it down from capital buildings. Remove any remains sewn into current flags too. It’s history. And it’s a sore spot we never want to go back to or present as “active”. But by all means, let it fly over Confederate historical landmarks and monuments. And let the monuments stand too. It’s history. Don’t destroy history. I feel like Indiana Jones about all this, “That belongs in a museum.” I say this addressing state governments. Feel free as a private person with your private property to fly whatever you want.

Surely each state will have to decide for itself. I’d like them to make the right decision. It’s history, put it with the other history. And feel free to sell souvenirs.

And a few days after the take down the Confederate Flag controversy, another flag was being pushed up the pole. One with pretty colors. The Supreme Court voted five to four in favor of legalizing gay and lesbian marriage across all fifty states. And the crowd went wild.

Two camps sprang up: Those in favor (most of the country) and those not. The “nots” have two divisions within it, crossing lines often: Some object on religious grounds. Others object on the fact that the Supreme Court overstepped it’s role, granted itself too much power. I’m happy to say that personally, I only know one person using the religion card. The other dissenters fall into the other camp which means we can talk about it. And although I can respect those who want to maintain integrity in how laws are made, I’m okay in this case with the way gay and lesbian marriage was fashioned.

Justice Scalia argued against the equality in marriage because it wasn’t the Supreme Court’s job but the day before, had no problem telling Congress Obamacare was garbage. He’s consistent when he wants to be. It appears Justice Scalia is willing to change job roles when it fits him.

There’s this hero of mine, Thomas Jefferson. And yet, a fallible politician. Twice he ignored the Constitution but the outcome is to our benefit. These twice violations were the Louisiana Purchase and sending the newly formed navy to combat the Barbary Pirates from North Africa. He was asked on what Constitutional grounds he made the Louisiana Purchase and kind of said it was for the good of future generations whether they knew it or not. And after years of the United States paying tributes and ransoms to the Barbary Pirates, when he took his turn as president, he ceased payments and launched the navy to stop the aggression, not bothering to notify Congress until the fleet was too far away to be called back.

And finally, on January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln through executive order, not bothering to seek approval from Congress, released the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves of states that seceded from the Union. That, too, turned out to be the right choice. Even if some states still dig that Confederate Flag.

As long as we require government, decisions will be messy, boundaries will be overstepped. I risk extreme criticism with this next sentence. I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. Yes, admittedly this is a slippery slope. But let’s also be realists. How often does it happen? And how often are the results so tragic that a war is going to break out? I’ll say it once more, I’m okay with it if it always falls on the side of more freedom. And because of this, the Supreme Court made the right decision favoring gay and lesbian marriage in all fifty states.

The final thing to note is that fellow Libertarians have been complaining that letting gays and lesbians marry isn’t the point. The point is that government should not be defining social contracts between consenting adults. I agree. But government is involved in social contracts, giving out benefits and licensing for married people. So as long as this is happening, government must recognize same sex marriages too. If you want to change all this and get government out of marriages, file a petition. Get the ball moving. Or just join the Libertarian Party where all freedoms all the time are being pursued. We even got souvenirs.

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