Thinking Aloud: People waving the Confederate Flag?

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a query regarding the not Stars and Bars flag:

In search of an articulate person who is willing to debate the justification for the display of the Confederate flag in a Union state. Ideal candidate can discuss the matter without becoming upset or getting derailed in discussions of their (probably incorrect) perception of my personal politics.

If you can make a rational case for displaying the Confederate flag in a Michigan town, drop a comment and let’s have a reasonable discussion. Name calling not allowed. Be forewarned that I will challenge your statement respectfully.

You have to be very clear about what kind of discussion you want to have when making a social media post that invites conversation about anything remotely controversial because people can’t handle themselves.

I didn’t see any takers in the comments, so I figured, why not give it a shot from my own perspective. This is my commentary as follows.

Flags mean very different things to people and it often depends on one’s history.

I’m not sure about the rationality about having a confederate flag in Michigan, but it’s going to come down to what one really believes the flag means SPECIFICALLY to them vs other people.

If the confederate flag is about rebellion and resistance, one might end up hoisting it not just in the South, or even outside of the South, but even outside of the country. Sure it might mean something very different to people who aren’t from the South or those who believe its represents racism, slavery, but they wont be the one’s waving it.

Consider where one would hoist a flag in a broader proximity. If you hoist a Turkish flag in Glendale California with a large Armenian population its likely going to symbolize genocide, oppression, slavery, occupation, etc. to the Armenians vs pride, tradition, customs, etc to someone who is Turkish. Would it be rational for someone who is Turkish to still hoist their flag in that neighborhood? I suppose its up for debate.

Consider the Mexican state of Michoacán. Is waiving a Mexican flag in Mexico rational to the descendants of the Tarascans (Purépecha) who might not consider themselves to really be Mexican? Would Aztec symbols and relics that some Mexicans have be considered rational to display outside one’s house considering how much the Purépecha and Aztecs hated and warred against each other?

Consider the flag of Catalonia. Is waving that flag in Madrid a rational thing to do for a Catalan from Barcelona? It both symbolizes for him pride in his Futbol club (Barcelona) as well as a strong Catalan identity that clashes with many of those in Madrid, the seat of the Spanish government for centuries. For other Spaniards it symbolizes “rebellion”, disunity, etc. 

What about having a hammer and sickle flag in one’s yard in a heavily Ukrainian or Polish neighborhood? It might symbolize labor, workers rights, Marxism (in a good way) and resistance to “Fascism” to that person, but it definitely symbolizes oppression, gulags, and all sorts of horrible memories to the Poles and others who lived in the Soviet Bloc. Is it rational to still maintain it’s display?

One thing that really comes to mind with the Confederate flag is that it’s a symbol of resistance to some extent as in, “You may have destroyed our lands and won the war, but you can’t crush our spirits.” I don’t think people realize how much damage the Southern states suffered in the war. Some of their economies still haven’t recovered to this day because of it. Having that flag to show in the face of successful New Yorkers is kind of a great “Fuck you!” is my guess. 

Ultimately I’d venture the importance and rationality of displaying any flag means much more to the flag bearer than those who don’t or it’s critics – regardless of the flag. The other thing would be that the meaning of a flag may change over time depending on who displays it and why. I’ve seen quite a few “minorities” in the south who proudly wave confederate flags and their critics dismissing it as “internalized racist white supremacy” or something doesn’t really work.

To some extent, this is a devil’s advocate perspective on this subject in an attempt to see it from the perspective of someone who might hoist the flag as well as some people I’ve talked to who’ve told me their reasons for liking it. 

I don’t display the Confederate flag as I’m not a Southerner. It would have to have been something ancestral and to have had generations of family who were all about it.  Basically no roots there, so it doesn’t have the same feeling to me.

That said I dont necessarily mind the Confederate flag. I can see why people might not like it for good reason, just as I can see people who see it a point of pride for themselves.

A historical and broad world perspective on this can help frame it in a different light though when one considers the relics, symbols of culture and tradition, flags, etc that different ethnic groups and people’s have and how they have most certainly clashed with how they saw it vs their neighbors.

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