Saturday, November 15, 2008

Of Free TV and the Confederate Flag

I think our new high definition antennae looks like something from a 1950’s sci-fi flick. So cool. We can get the Braves games on it out of Atlanta along with about 25 other channels when it faces south. If I turn it north (which I do by hand, who needs a rotary?) we get the Chattanooga stations, about a dozen or so more facing that way.

We paid about $120 for the antennae. From now on the TV is free, though. Just as it was when I was a kid. We get ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and a bunch of minor free networks. What we don’t get are hundreds of channels...or a monthly bill. As I mentioned before, I only follow a few TV shows anyway.
The Glass Teat is best kept on a short leash, else we be amused to death.

Our teenage daughter thinks we are cave dwellers in a dark age. She knows no one besides herself who doesn’t have pay TV. Tough.

The retro-look of the antennae goes well with my Confederate flag for some reason. They are both symbols of defiance in their own ways.

For the record, I fly several flags at my house. I have a reindeer flag for Christmas. We have a State of Georgia flag. I’ve thought about getting a
State of Alaska flag. I’ve gone through a couple of American flags. Usually, the US flag flies around Labor Day until the Fourth of July. Sometime closely thereafter I convert to one of my Confederate flags.

The one in the pic was sown together by Jennifer several years ago. A southern wife sewing a southern flag. There’s just something that says “fly me” about that. Aren’t flags meant to be hand sown?

As a native Georgian, one who grew up in the time of the Civil War centennial and cut my teeth on the old tales and myths of the War's grandchildren, the authorities of my grandparent's generation - now all dead, I have always been fascinated by the War Between the States and the Southern Confederacy. 2% of the entire white male population of the US died in that war. One out of every 50 men. As a national trauma, nothing comes close to comparing with it.

My dad's father's grandfather, one of my Confederate ancestors, built the house next to where my parents live today back in the 1880's. He moved to Georgia after the war. My ancestor served in the First Charleston Infantry Battalion, which later merged with other units into the 27th South Carolina Regiment. He fought mostly nearFort Sumter, eventually being sent north to reinforce General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Then he was sent to try to save the last remaining southern port open to the Federal blockade – Wilmington, North Carolina. He was captured in February of 1865. The previous link has an overview of the rather minor military operation in which is was captured.

He never owned slaves. He was doubtlessly racist, as was most all of America at that time. But his motivation for fighting wasn't slavery. Which is one reason it is so myopic to attribute the banner under which he fought as merely a defense of slavery.

James McPherson in his great study of primary sources regarding why men fought the war
"For Cause and Comrades" writes: "It would be wrong, however, to assume that Confederate soldiers were constantly preoccupied with this matter. In fact only 20 percent of the sample of 429 Southern soldiers explicitly voiced proslavery convictions in their letters or dairies. As one might expect, a much higher percentage of soldiers from slaveholding families than from nonslaveholding families expressed such a purpose: 33 percent, compared with 12 percent." - pages 109-110
According to McPherson, it was far more common for southerners to fight for their own "liberty, rights, and the horrors of subjugation." - page 110

"...two-thirds of both Confederate and Union soldiers in the samples expressed generalized patriotic motives for fighting. Likewise an almost identical proportion - 42 percent Confederate and 40 percent Union - discoursed in more depth on ideological issues such as liberty, constitutional rights, constitutional law, resistance to tyranny, republicanism, democracy. Some 53 percent of Confederate officers and 30 percent of Southern enlisted men discussed ideological themes; the comparable figures for Union soldiers were 49 percent and 36 percent." - page 114

Yet these other, more prevalent, reasons for why men fought the war have been removed from the symbolic construct of the Confederate flag. Stolen.

Emory M. Thomas wrote about the importance of a multitude of reasons why the South fought the war in "
The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience." He summarized these on page 21: "However distinct from the American mainstream it was or was not, the Southern way of life involved a combination of states rights, agrarianism, racial slavery, aristocracy, and habits of mind including individualism, personalism toward God and man, provincalism, and romanticism."

That's quite an impressive list of "isms" that most people seem to want to condense into the enslavement of a people. Not only is slavery wrong, in my opinion, but so is the attempt to make it the basis for an entire culture's desire to react to a changing world.

I honor my ancestor's bravery under fire in what remains even now our nation’s greatest national crisis. I honor the agrarian culture (the South) that tried to do what it thought was best against a uncertain, increasingly modern industrial culture (the North). I honor the boldness, the sense of dignity and, yes, the arrogance of the southern fighting spirit.

So, since we built in 1994 I have flown Confederate flags at my home. People automatically assume this is with racist intent. This says two things. First, people are herd-like in their understanding of southern history, they are shallow and disconnected from this thing (the flag) that they have formed their ill-informed opinions about. Second, traditional southern symbolism has been stolen by special interest groups, repackaged as pure bigotry, the representations of
a special sense of honor and the original ideals of Jeffersonian America (an agrarian nation dotted by small towns for crafts and distribution with few large cities for necessary industry and trade) trivialized by the thieves.

For it is the most blatant act of thieves to steal a symbol and reduce it to their interpretation as the only “right” one. Thus, the Confederate Flag is the most despised symbol of Americana, a fine example of how free speech…isn’t…if the politically correct hold all the cards.

Screw them. Southern honor and Jeffersonian America have no truer symbol than this flag. History should not be bent to the whims of social criticism masquerading as history. I do not wish to return to the past.
Nietzsche is clear that the past must be overcome and I agree with him. I merely admire the audacity of a romantic worldview at odds with the beginnings of modernity, at war with the inevitable.

The flag sown by Jennifer is technically the
Confederate Naval Ensign. This is due to its proportions. If the white space were about a third longer it would be the Second National Flag of the Confederate States of America.

To me it is the most arrogant flag I’ve ever seen. I like its style. A vast field of white with the
Saint Andrews Cross for a cornerstone.

I voted for Barrack Obama. I hope he brings about great things for American foreign policy and domestic liberties. I tend to be socially liberal, fiscally conservative, which makes me more libertarian than anything else. My support for Obama might seem a contradiction with my pleasure for flying a Confederate Flag. Well, as Faulkner knew, being southern is full of such contradictions. To be southern is to experience a conflicted spirit on many levels. But, in the case of the flag, I personally see no contradiction, as I take the flag as a symbol of something much more complex than a sign of slavery alone.

Be that as it may I just wanted to share this pic of my TV antennae and my flag. Together they give the Finger to the whole wide confused world.

And expressing my sense of symbolism for something I cherish. The freedom to be defiant. The freedom to express oneself and to imbue one’s symbols with one’s intimate values. Otherwise, it’s just the nonsense of the herd, is it not?

So…free TV and free expression. Freedom squared.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for your notes. I find them interesting and provocative.
However, as complicated as you want to make it, no slavery, no war.
Had a healthy Andrew Jackson been president in Dec 1860, there would not be anything more than a minor skirmish somewhere in South Carolina. And no big industry of careers built on such senseless slaughter.
And R. E. Lee and A. Lincoln would not be contenders for the most tragic figures in US history.