Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Confederate Battle Flag Controversy

Racial tensions between blacks and non-blacks seem to be at the highest level they have been in many years -- at least according to our politicians and members of the media.  I haven't observed that heightened tension.  Is it because of where I live? -- deep East Texas where the mix of the skin colors is at a nearly equal level.  I recently spent several days in Virginia and North Carolina where much of the Civil War was fought.  I saw black, white, brown and other skin colors freely mixing everywhere that I went.  They were laughing, conversing, sitting at the same table eating meals and there seemed to be nothing but amiability among them.

I did not travel to the inner city of the major metropolitan areas.  Perhaps that is where the issue is seated.  Poverty breeds discontent -- as it should.  The discontent should lead to efforts to remedy the situation.  I was taught that it is by my own efforts that I will succeed.  Maybe the problem lies in that many of those in the inner cities were taught it is only through government intervention and handouts that their situation can be bettered.  Human nature is such that going back to the same solution becomes habit and if that solution is no longer doing the job, the result is complaint rather than seeking new solutions.

I see the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of resistance.  It has nothing to do with slavery in my mind.  It is a symbol of standing up to the bully -- in the historic sense, standing up to the bully of a Federal Government taking away long-standing rights of the citizens.  Prior to the time of the Civil War, states were allowed significant latitude in how they addressed most issues.  The Federal Government was, by the Constitution, limited in power to things like treaties, international commerce, interstate commerce and defending our country.  The period leading up to the Civil War saw an increasing level of Federal interference with rights previously reserved to the states. 

Yes, slavery was an issue.  It was driven by economic circumstances and the inherent evil in man to exert power over others.  The South was primarily an agricultural based economy in a time prior to automation.  The North was primarily an industrial based economy dependent on other geographic areas for raw material to supply their industry.  Therein lies much of the issue.  The North was dependent in many ways on the South.  They wanted control and they had a tremendous amount of power.  One might say they wished to enslave the South.

The Southerners resisted the exertion of Federal control over them.  It was a difficult decision for them.  The interdependency between the two regions was strong, but worldwide demand for the items produced in the South provided the opportunity to sell to other markets and allow them the ability to overcome that dependency.  The North had fewer options.  They needed the cheap raw goods to continue fueling their industrial economy.  Importing goods from other countries would be extremely expensive and therefore unfeasible.  Their only answer was to stop the Southern states from leaving the Union. Therefore, war.

The war wasn't really about slavery.  The North was just as dependent on slavery as was the South.  The cheap agricultural products needed for Northern industry were cheap because of slavery.  It just occurred at a time in history concurrent with efforts to abolish slavery; efforts just as strong in the South as in the North.  Slavery became a convenient scapegoat after the war to point the blame away from the aggressors -- namely Northern industrialists -- and to the losers of the conflict.  The winners tend to write the history after all.

When the Civil War broke out, there were large numbers of slaves in the North as well as the South.  Most of them in the North were serving in domestic capacities within the households of the wealthy -- the Captains of Industry and the Politicians.  They were replaceable at a cost.  The wealthy could hire cheap Irish and other immigrant labor to replace their slaves.  In the South, there was not a ready replacement for the slave labor.

When Lincoln freed the slaves during the war, it was only those in the Southern states.  Northern slaves were not freed until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.  Freeing slaves in the South was a move to cripple what remained of the Southern economy to make it more difficult for them to sustain their war effort -- much as the U.S. Cavalry killed all the buffalo to cripple the economic base of the Plains Indians a few short years later.

The Confederate Battle Flag has nothing to do with slavery, or with oppression of blacks.  It is a symbol of resistance to an oppressive Federal Government.

Should it fly over the South Carolina Statehouse?  That is an entirely different question.  Maybe we should begin with "why?"  Is it flown as a symbol of the historic role South Carolina played in the resistance to the Northern usurpation of state's power?  After all, the first shots fired in the rebellion were at Fort Sumter.  If so, it is a strong symbol of their identity and should remain.  Or, is it a remnant of the once-powerful Southern Democratic Party which was controlled by many who were KKK members and wished to use it as a symbol to keep blacks in subjugation to whites?  If that is the case, it should be removed.

Maybe the more important question that should be asked is, "what is next?"  The South seems, even today, to continue its resistance to an ever-more-powerful Federal Government.  Maybe more Statehouses should consider raising the Battle Flag.......

Just my thoughts.