Monday, September 24, 2012

History Lesson

In a recent article, the sole surviving member of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington said 
that the flag, the old "stars and bars" that often hung behind the band, had been hijacked by racists and, in the process, become detached from it’s original meaning as a symbol of rebelliousness and states’ rights. As a result, he said, he was concerned about the band being associated with the flag lest people get the wrong idea.“Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers. That’s what it was about,” he said. “We didn’t want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.”Better late than never I guess. A better history education would have informed Rossington that the stars and bars stood for racism as much as anything when they used it as a stage prop. The president of the CSA, Jefferson Davis stated that the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery. One would think he'd be an authority on what the flag stood for. The "state's rights" argument has been a paper thin attempt to put a different name on the dispute. The argument grew out of the myth of the "Lost Cause" which was an idea/theory that grew in the early 20th century to explain why the south started and fought the war. It's best seen as an attempt to give some kind of nobility to the horrendous experience including the near destruction of the southern economy. Think about it, if you looked around and saw that your home, your town, your state were almost completely leveled and so many people dead, you might want to think you fought for something grander and more lofty than just keeping people in chains. Even apart from the mis-guided attempts to rationalize the southern reasons for war, if it's truly "state's rights" then the logical next question is "rights to do what?". Are we talking about the right to deny equal rights to all citizens? To the CSA, "state's rights" meant the right to continue slavery. Later, as referenced in the song "Sweet Home Alabama" it meant the right to deny equal voting rights and equal education rights among others. They may have used the flag as a celebration of their heritage and "state's rights" but I would suggest that some parts of our heritage are not worth celebrating and the Confederate flag is a symbol of the worst parts of our heritage.

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