Conversations and Moving Forward

I’m lazy.

Maybe not so much lazy as “having different priorities.”

Or maybe I’m just lazy.

I don’t wash my car unless I’m really, really bored.  Which is very rarely because there’s always something that will drag my attention away and keep me from washing my car.

I was attending a junior college in 1992-1993 when my off white and entirely unwashed car was vandalized. Two young boys drew, on my filthy car, the rebel flag and the words “I hate niggers.”

As a white girl growing up in the South, my relationship to the South, and Mississippi in particular, is complicated.  There are things that I love about the South: the sense of family and connectedness, fireflies in the summer.

But there are things I loathe about the South as well, and all of those things stem from stupid, stupid ignorance.

I am fortunate: as a white girl, I was simply pranked. I wasn’t the target of the hate. My car was just used as a means to spread it.

I was fortunate: a friend who happened to be black saw me as I pulled up into the parking lot and pointed out my new car decorations. He then help me erase them.

I’d like to think it never even crossed his mind that I may have put it there. I was certainly mortified, but I can’t remember the words we exchanged.

I live in a deeply conservative state that believes in free speech as long as you agree with the status quo.

Mississippi’s Republican Speaker of the House, Philip Gunn said,

We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

I think it takes courage to speak out for what you feel is right when it is not popular.

Conversations. That’s his official recommendation.

And the backlash isn’t even worth quoting, but you can certainly, if you’re so inclined, see it here.

Many people were unable to look beyond the word “offense” (e.g., “I’m offended that you’re offended!”) to see what he was actually saying.

I know from personal experience that by being chained to the past limits how far you can move forward.

“Love it or leave it!” so many people say. “If you don’t like the flag, move to a state that has a flag you like.”

I disagree with the “Love it or Leave it” mentality.

I love this state. I love Mississippi. Sure, I’d barter away its humidity (and a few other things) for a year long-crawfish season (and a few other things), but I love this state.

I was born here.  I want to travel, see the world, and die here.

But Mississippi has so much opportunity to better herself–so many areas that can be–must be–improved.

So I choose to love it and live it and see what I can do to better it.

I grew up with “Heritage not Hate,”and, thirty years ago, I would have stood for the Confederate flag. It wasn’t until I started reading about the Civil War that I realized that what I had been taught wasn’t necessarily true–it certainly wasn’t the whole truth, at any rate.

It IS history. Yes. It IS heritage, yes.

But just a little bit of delving shows that Mississippi’s primary reason for seceding from the United States was–not states’ rights as I had been taught, but slavery.  Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession outright state it here.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

I love Mississippi. I love the people here. Some of the people I love are staunch supporters of keeping the flag.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that the single reason for secession was because the South feared abolition.

I want to wring their necks and force them to read the entire Declaration of Secession.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that the flag–the symbol for “Southern pride” and “heritage not hate” was in fact appropriated by hate groups, most namely the Ku Klux Klan.  That flag was paraded while black people were lynched, burned, and otherwise terrorized.  It has been appropriated, much like the swastika, and, as a symbol, if it ever had a single meaning (which I doubt), it certainly doesn’t have just a single meaning now.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that, right or wrong, the South committed treason against the United States of America.  The South tore the Union apart when it left, and there is no way to absolve the South of that fact.  Treason. Mississippi committed treason, and it was in order to preserve the institution of slavery.

There is no getting around that fact. None.

I am somewhat amused that retailers are suddenly pulling the Confederate flag in an effort to be seen as “right.”  Everything is about profit.  And Walmart, of all the companies, with all its poor business practices, stands up and says “We won’t sell it anymore” is just short of irony.

I think the flag should be sold. I think it should be flown.  Anywhere people want to fly it–as long as it’s not on government property.  I do believe in freedom of expression, especially if that expression is something I whole-heartedly disagree with.  But it simply should not be flown on government property.

If for no other reason than it’s a flag representative of treason, it should not be flown anywhere that the government exists: state governments are subject to the umbrella of the federal government, the United States of America. To fly a flag that is representative of treason on property that is subject, by extension, to the federal government is, well, a bit inappropriate.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that Mississippi ranks dead or almost dead last in everything that matters.  We must move forward. We must have different priorities. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

And for that we need conversations.

Conversations that are about something other than a flag.  Change it and move on.

Being chained to the past limits how far you can move forward.

It’s time to move forward.

(Sources:

Philip Gunn’s quotation from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PhilipGunn?fref=nf

Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession: http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp )

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