The Confederate Flag, Slavery’s Role in the Civil War, and Why Historical Literacy Doesn’t Mean a Thing

An interesting discussion going on over at Morgan’s.  I want to expand a bit on a point I made there.  I’m sure Umberto Eco and Dan Brown have put this more eloquently than I can, but symbols quickly take on a life of their own, outside — or even opposite — their historical context.  Here’s a familiar example:

untitledAsk any bong warrior on any campus in America what this means, and you’ll get some gassy bullshit about sticking it to The Man, man.  Crucially: you’ll get the same answer from people who know better.  Guevara’s real life and opinions are meaningless; his face on a t-shirt = rebellion.

The Confederate Battle Flag is going down a similar road.

just to make sure **everyone** is offended

just to make sure **everyone** is offended

As the battle lines stand now, one side says the Battle Flag stands for racism; the other says it stands for heritage.  That’s about to change.

Now, I could point out that slavery was the proximate cause of the Civil War, not the root cause, in the same way taxation was the proximate cause of the Revolutionary War (ever tried explaining the Revolution to a bright fifth grader?  It’s dollars to donuts they’ll say something like “wow, all those people got killed because Sam Adams didn’t want to pay his taxes?”).  I could say that the root causes were two fundamentally different notions of government, and the citizen’s relationship to the state.  We could have a long, interesting, and fruitful discussion about that (which seems to be where it’s heading over at Morgan’s, provided nobody checks the authenticity of my George Washington quote).

But none of it matters, because nobody who’s actually going to be wearing the Confederate flag on his clothing, or screaming for the flag-wearers to be jailed, knows a single fucking thing about the Civil War.  I have fairly extensive experience with the American educational system, and I promise you, most folks can’t get the date of the battle of Gettysburg right within 50 years.  Few if any have even heard of John C. Calhoun, much less know anything about his ideas.  And — see above — it wouldn’t matter if they did.  Keep gazing into Che’s eyes until you get it.

That being the case, the Confederate Battle Flag will soon come to mean nothing more than “rebellion” to people who are sick to death of being PC-whipped by a remote, clueless minority and their government lapdogs (as, I’m told, it already does in many parts of Eastern Europe).  And because this is Weimar America, the issue will never, ever die, until the “republic” does — I promise you, my friends, every single Republican candidate will be invited to disavow the CBF by the media at every single event from now until doomsday.

Pretty soon — if it hasn’t already happened — there will be exactly two possible opinions on the CBF: the SJW version, or the anti-SJW version.  You can either swallow the some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others Stalinist SJW bullshit, or you can side with General Lee.

History ain’t got nothing to do with it.

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4 thoughts on “The Confederate Flag, Slavery’s Role in the Civil War, and Why Historical Literacy Doesn’t Mean a Thing

  1. tim

    “But none of it matters, because nobody who’s actually going to be wearing the Confederate flag on his clothing, or screaming for the flag-wearers to be jailed, knows a single fucking thing about the Civil War.”

    Well there ya’ go, end of discussion. Unless someone knows everything stinking detail, or at least as much as Sev, about the Civil War they are wrong. And apparently want people jailed for flying a flag.

    Note to self, must take down Gadsden Flag, the Revolution has been over for awhile now.

    1. Nate Winchester

      I swear I will never understand the sheer modern-day pride in being uninformed and ignorant. Or the logic chain of “How dare you say I’m stupid! Boy I’m going to prove you right!”

    2. Severian

      Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the point of this post, sailing over your head!

      C’mon, tim… The point is not “if you don’t know as much about the Civil War as me, you’re wrong.” The point is this:

      At some point in the near future, the Confederate Battle Flag will be the functional equivalent of Che Guevara’s Face — a symbol of “rebellion” devoid of historical context.

      The real Che Guevara — the guy who lived from 1928 to 1967 — would’ve cheerfully shot anyone wearing the CGF, because a) that’s capitalism, and b) Che wasn’t in favor of “rebellion” as a general principle. He wanted a very specific kind of rebellion, and was quite emphatic — like, .38 caliber emphatic — with anyone who disagreed.

      And yet, even people who know better — and Guevara’s life and views are no secret — still plaster that fucker’s face on everything, because it’s about sticking it to The Man, man.

      Similarly, very few people who wear the CBF would’ve enjoyed life in the Confederacy, the actual political entity existing between 1861 and 1865. (Nor, let us note, would the CBF’s vehement opponents find much to like in the Union, 1861-5). They’re wearing it because it’s a thumb in the eye to people who think Bruce Jenner is a woman, two gay dudes can be married, that “healthcare” is a right but bearing arms isn’t, etc.

      Thus, just as people who wear the CGF are NOT saying “life in Communist Cuba in 1966 sure was swell! let’s go back there!”, people who wear the CBF are NOT saying “gee, the Confederacy sure was swell! let’s go back there!”

      They ARE saying “I want to stick it to The Man, man.”

      CGF = CBF.

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