How connected are you to the Confederacy? I ask this, particularly, of you who wave the battle flag and adore statues and images of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson.
Do you really know what you are saying when you wave that flag? Was it really your people who fought under it? Do you understand why they fought and were defeated? Do you understand the terrible legacy they engendered?
At least three of my great-great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy. One was invalided out in the fall of 1862 with a bullet permanently in his skull. Another served as a cavalry soldier. A third, Joel Dimmette, was captured during the ‘breakout’ at Petersburg at the beginning of April in 1865. He spent the next few months in a prison camp at Point Lookout in Maryland. My uncle, who is named for him, has his release paper, signed with an ‘X.’ We suspect he signed it that way not because he was illiterate (he was not) but because, though he wanted to go home, he was not willing to accept defeat. I have a picture of the local post office sign from when he was postmaster with the U and S (for United States) overlapped. I’ve heard speculation that this meant that herein could be found unreconstructed adherents to the Confederacy.
Joel Dimmette was not a slave owner, few were, in Wilkes County, North Carolina. But he hated defeat and wanted all government to leave him alone. He had been, I suspect, fighting more against the forces of the Washington government than he was for protection of the heinous economic system of slavery that dominated the south. Probably, though, he was a racist, too. No… given when and where he lived, I am certain of it.
Come to think on it, he was a lot like you, those of you who have Confederate battle flags on your trucks, doors and jackets. He hated the national government, but he also relied upon it. As a postmaster, he was paid by it. You, too, likely rely on the government you hate (through Social Security and the other programs that you call “entitlements” when others get them but that, for you, you believe were earned). Like he probably did, you believe you could ‘make it’ on your own, if only left alone by government—a belief at odds to your reality. The national government did plenty for my great-great-grandfather; it does even more for you.
What he hated was losing—and you probably do, too. He was a loser, incontrovertibly. His ‘X’ proves it, the quibble about signing notwithstanding. You, however, simply think you are a loser (though you never would admit it). Deep in your heart, you recognize that you are not even what your parents were, and you resent it. So, you cast around for someone to blame and light on African-Americans. As their subjugation was at the heart of the Civil War (don’t believe any of that nonsense about other causes: it was about slavery) and, because there was a losing side there that fought back in defeat (creating Jim Crow along with those statues), you took up their fallen flag.
What you did not realize was that it characterizes you, even more firmly, as a loser. My great-great-grandfather eventually rose above his loss, becoming more than simply an embittered soldier who history had abandoned. You can, too. But you have to give up nostalgia for a war that wasn’t likely yours.
By my grandfather’s time, the American south was firmly back in the union. Like most of his generation, he shared none of his own grandfather’s separatist beliefs, eventually becoming a fan of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a habitué of New York City (though he always lived in the South). He fought as an artillery sergeant in World War I, was gassed and suffered from what we now call PTSD. He disdained the Confederate battle flag as representing something that had harmed both of his grandfathers. He was part of something, now, that could win—despite the trauma victory had caused him. He wanted to succeed as part of a twentieth-century United States, and he did.
It was he, in the 1960s, who alerted me to the idiocy of the veneration of the Confederacy. We passed someone in a pickup with that “Fergit, Hell” front license. He snorted and said, “That man has no sense.”
He, who had grown up with the legacy of the Civil War in a way none of you who now pretend to venerate its losers can understand (unless you, too, really have it in your family and not your imagination), hated George Wallace and segregation by law and understood that hating on the government never solves problems. It only deflects from the real culprits, people like those who are manipulating your emotions right now.
The very people in charge of the government you claim to hate.
Want to win? Stop acting like you believe you are a loser and stop expecting the “winning” of someone else to rub off on you–especially if that someone is, like Donald Trump, no better than a common crook. His victory is not yours just because you cheered and voted (just the opposite, in point of fact–he does not give a damn about you). Stop wrapping yourself in the flag of a cause that lost and that should remain lost, not venerated. Leave respect for Civil War ancestors to those of us who actually have them–most of us respect the people, not the cause, and know to leave it at that. I visit Joel Dimmette’s grave; I don’t need you to, as well.
Oh, and, please, stop resenting the successes of others.
Please stop acting like a loser.
That only sets you up to lose more–even when you pretend to be winning.