Saturday, July 11, 2015
As the Dust Settles at the State House
Since I possess the amazing talent of being misunderstood despite my best intentions let me go ahead and clearly state that I am totally ecstatic that the Confederate flag has been taken down and removed from the South Carolina state house grounds. No matter what Southern apologists and outright neoconfederates still angry over their side losing the Civil War might say the Confederate flag in all its versions is a symbol of slavery and hate. The purpose for me adding my “two-cents” to the already chaotic mix of people expressing opinions on the subject is to offer my observations on Southern “heritage” and general culture as someone who has always felt like an outsider living amongst all the self-described “good old boys and girls” even though I have lived most my life in the South.
First and foremost is the symbolism of the Confederate flag itself and how the white Southern population could ever ever embrace that flag given the history of slavery in America. With all the end-of-the-world sorrow expressed and tears shed yesterday by Confederate flag supporters as it was brought down some might assume that banner had been flying in some form or the other since General Lee surrendered to Grant back in 1865.
No, here in glorious South Carolina the Confederate flag was first raised on the state house dome in 1961 flying underneath the American and Palmetto flags. Officially raised to commemorate the beginning of the Civil War it was also there to protest court ordered degeneration and the growing Civil Rights movement sweeping through the South. As someone who was aware enough to register what was going on in the South during the late 1960s, not even the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviets scared white folks back then like seeing a bunch of angry African-Americans marching through town.
Now even the most vicious redneck should acknowledge the fact that for decades the Klan has used the Confederate banner to terrorize the black population. Only speaking for myself but such a soiled and tainted flag is nothing to embrace or use to symbolize one's heritage if it is as pure and innocent as the disgruntled masses still committed to the holy “Lost Cause” swear to any who will listen. In fact the designer of the flags used by the Confederacy, William T. Thompson, himself puts any debate on the matter to rest.
While there are a good many exceptions, generally speaking the average proud Southerner is an unimaginative prole who is suspicious of education and anyone possessing anything greater than a high school diploma. Southerners love to say they would rather live using their “God given commonsense” and mostly look on with scorn at anyone with a degree higher that what you would earn at a community college. Such southerners absolutely hate the idea anyone might be smarter than them and will go to great lengths to prove that they are equal or better than a college educated person. Egos here in the South are huge demanding monsters but at the same time uniquely fragile things.
Additionally, I would have to add that from my own personal experience dealing such individuals despite all the declarations of American patriotism that proud Southerners fall all over themselves to display their actual love of country and willingness to sacrifice falls considerably short. I know this mainly through all the hassles I had at a previous job back in 2003. See I was surrounded by good old boys who got all teary eyed whenever Lee Greenwood sang about how wonderful the USA was but these dudes would grumble like whiny, wet hens whenever there was a possibility they might have to cover my weekend shift when I had National Guard duty. They were all deer hunters or fishermen and my military service during that period disturbed their true priorities.
I would also be greatly remiss if I did not mention that at no time after the 9/11 attacks and during the Iraq War was there ever a great rush of patriotic Southerners to join the military. I retired from the National Guard in 2005 and I knew several recruiters who were forced to pursue Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants in an effort to meet their monthly enlistment numbers. For some reason good old, patriotic Southern folks simply couldn't find a single recruitment office during those really bad days during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not saying all Southerners ignored their duty, from my discussions with by recruiter buddies they did better than some others working the Northern states but unlike after the attack on Pearl Harbor back 1941 there was no stampeded to the recruiting offices.
The last thing I have to mention is the way the Confederate flag was finally brought down her in South Carolina. It took the deaths of nine innocent people to spur both the ideologically rigid governor and the sadly pathetic but curiously comical state legislature into action. For those folks who might be graced with a state government that at least partially works here in South Carolina we can't even agree to fix our seriously crumbling infrastructure such as bridges and roads. Additionally, while there are some decent suburban schools in this state, I would not force my worst enemy to send his children to just about all the schools in the rural areas of South Carolina. I could be very wrong but somehow we never quite seem to figure out a way to bring those up with the suburban schools.
Call me a cynical bastard but given Governor Nikki Haley's previous comment about how she has never heard a single word of concern about the Confederate flag from any business CEO. I can't help but wonder if after the shootings in Charleston some suit did in fact call her up worried how his, or her corporation would look getting tangled up with a state where enraged sociopaths can't be readily singled out from the rest of the good old boy population.
Like I said at the start of this rant I am supremely happy the Confederate flag is now gone from the state house grounds. But at the same time its departure does not really solve any of the pressing societal issues here in South Carolina. This state is just not mired in the delusional past but does not really have a single figure in government with any idea how to met the demands we will face as the twenty-first century unfolds.
The republicans can't get past parroting the same old lines about giving even more tax cuts to the wealthy, dismantling the public education system for some unworkable voucher program, or jumping into yet another overseas war in the case of our federal elected officials. It will surprise none with even a few IQ points that the vast majority of whites in this state vote republican. They generally hold to the idea that they have theirs and screw the rest of the people in this state even though this is ultimately a self destructive attitude.
As far as the democrats go in this state, they are a disorganized and demoralized mess. South Carolina does not have a single elected democrat to any statewide office and those who run usually get their asses cut. The democrat delegation to the state legislature is a minority in both houses but we do have a few dynamic individuals who could make things interesting in a few years.
If it were any other state in this country I would say the situation could only get better from here, but after all this is South Carolina so I'm not optimistic.