This dumbass spat came up in Oregon again today involving the Mississippi state flag and its place among the other state flags on the Capitol grounds in Salem. Since last month, Mississippi has been honored by an empty flagpole, although news of this development didn’t break statewide until this morning.
The bone of contention, of course, is that the Mississippi state flag contains a Confederate battle flag in one corner, analogously to the field of stars on the US flag. It’s been reported that state legislators initially wanted to give their counterparts in Mississippi time to remove the most grievous racism, but seeing no action to this end on the horizon, decided to proceed with the retirement of the colors. Nice little passive-aggressive move there; it should go over swimmingly in Jackson. We wanted to allow them to see the error of their ways, but they proved incorrigible. And we Yankees proved meddlesome, yet again, and for one of the worst possible reasons.
It’s conceivable that a state with an especially obnoxious government might decide to approvingly commemorate something horrific and reprehensible on its flag–say, the butchery of its Indians or, since as Americans we’d rather take the mote out of our neighbor’s eye, some aspect of the Holocaust, not without the obligatory swastika–but no matter how vile and wrongheaded the redesign, it would still be just a flag. What’s that old line about sticks and stones? The Saudis, al-Shabaab, and the whole gang still aren’t stoning your white ass.
In this case, however, there is a legitimate, if exaggerated, historical reason for Mississippi to retain the Confederate battle flag as part of its own flag: Mississippi was a member of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Is that an upsetting bit of history? Tough shit, precious: much of history is upsetting. Maybe it’s bullshit and ingratitude for a state of the Union to keep flying that shit and simultaneously receive federal funds and various in-kind assistance from the federal government, but one of the little compromises made during and since Reconstruction has been that the Unionists among us aren’t going to be heroes and fight that fight to the death of the nation. We made worse compromises in the aftermath of Reconstruction, including giving Southern states the latitude to reimpose the next thing to antebellum slavery on huge swathes of their black populations because the campaign to judicially and paramilitarily destroy the institution of slavery for good had become tiresome and politically divisive. So, yes, let’s wring hands over that stupid flag. That’s totally the worst thing being done by any state or local government in Mississippi today.
The reporters can’t even keep track of its fucking name. Some dipshit reporter from OPB referred to the offensive inclusion as the Stars and Bars. Here’s a clue, buddy: if one of its two most prominent elements are bars, do you think it might contain something looking like bars instead of a big X? People who are actually familiar with Confederate history know that the Stars and Bars was a Confederate political flag that did not include the starry adaptation of St. Andrew’s Cross, but was instead loosely modeled on the earliest US flags. The battle flag and subsequent Confederate political flags included the Southern Cross as a way of motivating Our Highlanders to fight the damn Yankees. The battle flag, the one that gets everyone into such a fucking lather, was, is, and evermore shall be a classic cracker banner. The founders of the Confederacy, being inclined more strongly towards highbrow English shit, did not concern themselves with designing their political imagery to stir up the shanty Scotsmen.
The proximal motivation given for removing the Mississippi flag was the mass shooting at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston. One of the interesting things about Charleston is that it is located in South Carolina, a state that is not part of Mississippi. Legislators in one state took down the flag of a second because of a one-off murder spree in a third. Never has the North acquitted itself so well in the eyes of Southerners. These grandstanding shits are insinuating that they’ll prevent future murders by retiring a version of a flag that helped inspire one badly troubled young man to go on a racially motivated murder spree. It’s so cool how just by taking down this symbol of hate the Oregon state legislature brought peace down upon Christopher Harper-Mercer like the dewfall and prevented that unconscionable massacre that he had planned at Umpqua Communi–oops.
This grandstanding is happening not only in one of the whitest states in the Union, but specifically in one whose founding territorial constitution explicitly forbade the settlement of blacks. It is the legislators of this Whitey reservation who are passive-aggressively butting into the affairs of two of the blackest states in the Union, on the basis that these other states are hella racist. As I noted above, we’d rather take the mote out of our neighbor’s eye. This legislature is giving voice not so much to the voiceless as to people it’s of a mind to subject to a chill Cullen rag in the mouth for dissenting. I have in mind African-Americans who take pride in the Confederate battle flag. Yes, these exist. Why? Hell, maybe because they’re proud Southerners, maybe because they like the badass rebel shtick. I dunno. I don’t agree with them, and maybe some of their reasons aren’t too coherent, but that’s true of white cracker banner aficionados, too. The Southern Cross is often flown alongside the latest edition of the Stars and Stripes, by Americans whose jingoism exceeds their familiarity with arithmetic. You don’t reach these people by having a Northern state government publicly dishonor a Southern state by selectively removing its flag from the capitol grounds. This kind of shit just pisses people off for no good reason. The obvious reverse psychology to use here is anything that does not make the entire state of Mississippi look like the victim of Northern aggression.
What Northerners fail to comprehend, or even consider, time and time again is that race relations in the South are anything but a bottomless artesian well of bigotry. One of Dylann Roof’s neighbors is a black man who told reporters that, even after the Charleston massacre, he considered Roof a friend and felt heartbroken about the whole thing. Roof himself nearly abandoned his plan for the massacre because he was so impressed by the gracious hospitality the Emmanuel congregation was showing him, but then tragically decided that he had to man up and keep his word. During mass protests and counterprotests over the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds, the South Carolina Director of Public Safety, Leroy Smith, who is black, was photographed helping a frail, sickly-looking Neonazi protester apparently suffering from heat exhaustion take shelter. Smith did this because he saw a citizen in need, because he’s an officer and a Southern gentleman (although, judging from his abridged biography, also a Florida Man).
That’s the South at its best. That fellow may be voicing reprehensible views, but he’s in bad health and having trouble with the heat, so by God give him a hand. The Oregon counterpoint: your flag gives us yucky feels, so we won’t fly it alongside all the other flags. Damn the integrity of this public manifestation of civics, we must punish these bigots we won’t give the time of day. Flying the flags of all the states on the capitol grounds is honorable; removing one of them for political reasons is dishonorable.
But this is Oregon. Oregon politics really are an endless live-action Portlandia skit. There was once a highway going into the mountains from Ashland called Dead Indian Road. Over time, much local offense came to be taken in this part of the state with an especially horrific history of genocide against the Rogue Indians, and a campaign was launched to rename the road with something less controversial and more edifying. After far too much public comment and debate, the decision was made to rename it–you won’t believe this–
Dead Indian Memorial Road. I shit ye not. I’ve driven the entire length of it, and I highly recommend it to visitors. That’s it’s fucking name. It’s like naming a street in some horrible cookie-cutter subdivision on what should still be a cornfield Harvest Lane. Let no one say that as Americans we fail to memorialize that which we destroyed.