Privileging Sensibilities

People know that I view the phrase “politically correct” in all its forms and variations as intellectually bankrupt. Once upon a time I recall that people who used the term did so to encourage others to be aware of the implications of language. Now it is used negatively as criticism: to bow to political correctness is to give in to the sensibilities of a particular group in ways that the critic finds nonsensical or cowardly. In short, it’s become a buzz term that can mean anything but often doesn’t mean very much at all, and its uses as a sort of rhetorical shorthand that allows the user to evade offering a more precise meaning. As an attack term, it also allows the user to avoid defending whatever he or she espouses.

We hear the debate often when it comes to the display of Confederate flags, most often the Confederate Battle Flag. That’s understandable: it means different things to different people. Although some people point out that the Confederate Battle Flag enjoyed a revival as a symbol of resistance to civil rights and integration in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s also been used simply to express a sentiment of rebellion or rebelliousness. Sometimes its use is ill-defined. Take, for example, The Dukes of Hazzard. I don’t think Bo and Luke were showing their support for segregation. The Dukes were a rebellious sort, and their targets included none other than Jefferson Davis Hogg. But I’m also not sure that the knew a great deal about General Lee, although they named the car in question after him.

Nevertheless, I doubt that today there would be a television show featuring a car with a Confederate flag adorning its top. People’s sensibilities have changed. One wonders whether F Troop, McHale’s Navy, or Hogan’s Heroes would be on mainstream commercial television as well.

Setting the Confederate Battle Flag in context calls for a great deal of thought and a willingness to listen, even to place oneself in someone else’s shoes. For many Confederate heritage advocates, it’s the soldiers’ flag, and in flying it one honors one’s ancestors who served. On the other hand, for those of us with ancestors who served in the United Sates military during the war, it’s the flag flown by people trying to kill our ancestors. For most African Americans, it’s the flag of an effort to protect and promote the enslavement of several million people through securing independence. Others will have their own takes on what the flag in question means to them, just as there are people, including some Native Americans/American Indians/indigenous peoples (each of these terms has been celebrated and dismissed in the culture wars) view the United States flag with skepticism if not downright disgust.

In short, we each have different reactions to different symbols. Those reactions often divide us. Is there a principled way to discuss how to address those various sensibilities when it comes to the display of contested symbols? You tell me.

56 thoughts on “Privileging Sensibilities

  1. Michael Rodgers August 5, 2014 / 4:44 am

    Al Mackey covered this ground pretty well here, and Kevin Levin made a good post on this ground here.

  2. Michael Rodgers August 5, 2014 / 5:20 am

    Also there’s the seminal work by John Coski, referenced and discussed by Kevin Levin here. I completely agree with Andy Hall’s concurring comment there, “The distinction between the flag as a symbol of sovereignty and as commemoration really lies at the heart of the matter.”

  3. Stefan Jovanovich August 5, 2014 / 5:30 am

    The presumption behind the notion of “politically-correct” is that individuals’ rights are somehow subject to public approval. The “flag controversy” over the Lee Chapel comes down to the simple question of who owns the space; if the Confederate Veterans did, then it would be their business entirely. Both John Brown and the Southerners who took over the Federal arsenals knew they were taking somebody else’s stuff. What united them was the assumption that their actions were “politically-correct” and that public opinion, by itself, mattered more than the liberty of property ownership.

    • Mark August 5, 2014 / 11:56 am

      Stefan, I’m completely baffled by your take on what “politically correct” means. I don’t even understand how John Brown would have thought himself politically correct even on the definition you gave.

      Many terms must be qualified to be useful. It doesn’t make them bankrupt. Statements may be vacuous and/or equivocal, and intellectual movements may be intellectually bankrupt. Many times terms are not qualified because of inattention, and many times ambiguity is exploited by intention as part of a rhetorical strategy to get equivocation past the unsuspecting. Where a term requiring qualification is used without it, rather than throw it out and search for another equally problematic one I’d prefer to simply ask “politically incorrect to whom, and why?” I’d also point out to them that without this specification a statement relying on it is simply vacuous, whereas with qualification it would not be.

      So I think vacuous statements and assertions are often made with perfectly useful and valid terms, and “intellectual bankruptcy” should be applied to things that purport to have intellectual capital, which is to say, movements or groups. For example, “Those people insist on making vacuous and equivocal statements where they refuse to specify what they mean, and it just goes to show you the intellectual bankruptcy of their cause.”

      BTW, if I’ve used “whom” incorrectly it is because grammar was never my strong point and I wasn’t never that worried about it.

  4. Sandi Saunders August 5, 2014 / 5:37 am

    Precisely for the reason you proffer, I think that there is not “a principled way to discuss how to address those various sensibilities”. For too many people, the object is to deny whatever sensibility someone else attaches to the battle flags. It is ubiquitous and its meaning as both the flag of their ancestors and their own dislike of government makes it a political statement many are happy, even determined to make. Many without being able to articulate why, and certainly no energy is expended in acknowledge the “sensibilities” of anyone else. The South will be the Confederacy for some people forever. No matter how much more we are.

  5. Spelunker August 5, 2014 / 6:12 am

    You make a good point that you can look at the flag from different viewpoints. IMO W&L tried to strike a balance. They removed replica flags and in their place they are installing on a rotating basis authentic flags. To me, that sounds pretty sensible. In a sense, the flags are being moved from one spot to another with the added bonus that instead of looking at replicas, Heritage types will now be treated to authentic ones? Sounds like an improvement to me. I too have Confederate roots, and I guess I’m just a Yankee, but I could really care less. This decision doesn’t affect my life in any way. If I or anyone else wants to look at the flag, we can just drive through Richmond and try our best to spot… Oh nevermind…

  6. Rosemary August 5, 2014 / 6:45 am

    The mascot for the Cleveland Indians is Chief Wahoo.
    He is beloved, strong, Cleveland-tough, and most significantly a uniter of all peoples from white nuns to black politician and more. …. Don’t have many native Americans in Cleveland that I know of. I understand why at first glance Native Americans do not like the Indians mascot. But I always thought they’d do much for their cause if they embraced it as it is beloved and a uniter of people. Chief Wahoo could be the open door for increased public support, understanding and positive publicity for Native American issues. This is outside- the- box thinking, but if Native Americans weren’t tough and mighty they’d never have shown up as sports’ teams names and mascots in the first place. I saw a talk by Mark Grimsely of Ohio State where he held up a t-shirt promoting a sports team named something like The White Guys. I’m a white gal but my first though was: : They are going to get creamed.
    This being said there is no way to rehabilitate Polish jokes…. and the casual way people referred to ethnic heritage when Hogan’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy, etc were hit tv shows has passed away. We are smarter now. Don’t know about more sensitive… Maybe we bash ethnical types less often for capitalist reasons… It is bad business to slam potential customers.
    None of the confederate flags have the same public relations potential as does the Indians’ mascot. The idea of a slave-holding republic is repugnant. The symbols of that republic don’t look good in a world where ethnic bashing is enough to get those who do it fired from their jobs and public positions
    In the days when McHale’s Navy was a TV hit, the rebel flag was something of an anti-establishment symbol, For some it still is, I’ll grant you. Yet as the confederacy is better understood these days, it is clear its symbols belong in museums.

    • Christopher Shelley August 5, 2014 / 7:22 am

      While I have no wish to hijack this thread, I can’t let this one go by:

      Rosemary, if you possibly believe “Chief Wahoo” is somehow ok, please read this, and search out the other scholarly studies that show how racist Indian mascots do actual psychological harm.

      http://www.ncai.org/attachments/PolicyPaper_mijApMoUWDbjqFtjAYzQWlqLdrwZvsYfakBwTHpMATcOroYolpN_NCAI_Harmful_Mascots_Report_Ending_the_Legacy_of_Racism_10_2013.pdf

      Unless, of course, you’re a mere troll. In which case, carry on.

      • Andrew Raker August 5, 2014 / 8:19 am

        I find Chief Wahoo be repugnant (and not just because of the drubbing my Reds got last night up in the Mistake by the Lake), but I don’t think policy papers will change Rosemary’s mind, just as pointing out the racist connotations of the CBF clearly hasn’t worked to change the minds of its staunchest defenders.

        I also think Dan Snyder’s PR blunders surrounding the Washington NFL team also show great similarities to the SCV/Flaggers’ ability to make themselves seem like even bigger jerks. Their inability to even consider criticism as valid, leading to name-calling, causes people on both sides to dig in deeper.

        Does anyone know what tribe Wahoo belongs to, though? He might need to get in on some Confederate flag action himself.

        With this example, my answer to Brooks’ question might have to be, with a heavy sigh, “no, there is no way to have a principled discussion about these symbols with some people.” Thankfully, I think there are a larger number of people who just aren’t passionate, and you can have reasonable conversation with them – but they don’t own sports teams, and they don’t show up to protest in Lexington, so it’s harder to find them to have these conversations.

        • Rosemary August 5, 2014 / 1:15 pm

          I am sorry to be misunderstood. Not my intention to offend. Idea expressed in introduction apparently complex and I now see definately easy to twist and misuse.

  7. Rosemary August 5, 2014 / 6:55 am

    Off topic but I’m on a roll…..
    Dr. S: I’m looking forward to the day when the topic of women’s rights shows up on this blog.

  8. Ben Jones August 5, 2014 / 9:30 am

    Hey Brooks,

    Is it a coincidence that “The Dukes of Hazzard’ appears in your commentary a few days after I joined the conversation? Frankly, I find your take on the show to be a bit, uh, clueless.

    The Dukes is not just a show that was once on television. That show was an enormous hit at a time when there were only three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. And on Friday nights “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Dallas” got astonishing ratings, sometimes 30+million a week. In the decades since, the way we receive entertainment and information has made a quantum leap into the world of the internet, cable systems, satellite dishes, 400 channels, VHS, then DVD, and instant access on cellphones and tablets. What I have discovered is that the show is possibly being watched even more now than it was in its first “heyday”.

    We did a “Dukesfest” in Nashville in 2006 that drew over 100,000 people from all over the world. The New York Times covered it. There were about 150 replica “General Lees” there. You never saw so many Rebel flags. And you never saw so many happy families. There was no racism there, no anger, no problems at all. Yes, symbols mean different things in different contexts, at different times to different people, and sometimes to the same people.

    Seeing the positive display of the Battle Flag on the General Lee by tens of millions of people for over 35 years now far outweighs the context of its use by segregationists during the Civil Rights Movement. I know, I was there.

    One might say that somehow that “doesn’t count”. But it does. Those who contend that any display of that flag is offensive because of its use by the Confederacy will not make its positive display go away. The DVDs of the Dukes are hugely popular, and several generations of Americans have fallen in love with the show and its simple “good guys win” charm in syndication and now on cable. The scale models of the General Lee are perhaps the biggest selling model ever, and the car has been voted the most popular car in the history of film and television by “scientific polling”.

    I am offended when that flag is displayed as a symbol of hatred. But often right next to it is the
    American flag and the Christian Cross. That offends me also.

    So, I’ve got more than one reason to honor the Confederate Battle Flag. Did you know that every time one is taken down, I put two of them up?

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 5, 2014 / 10:29 am

      No, it’s not a coincidence. That I may not share your take on matters does not mean I’m “clueless,” even if that’s your opinion.

      That the show remains popular with its fans does not address my observations. In fact, I’ve seen posts on FB attacking other stars of the show for their silence on the current issue with WLU. I don’t buy their argument, but that’s the way it is.

      I note that you take exception when I say that the use of the term “politically correct” is “intellectually bankrupt” but you don’t hesitate to call me “clueless.”

      Note: The blog has covered aspects of your show before. Look here and here for examples. So I’m not picking on you. Perhaps we can chat sometime about how your character evolved over the first season and the second season debate over whether Cooter should be clean-shaven.

      • Ben Jones August 5, 2014 / 4:08 pm

        Well, Brooks, suggesting that someone is “clueless” about the history of an old television show isn’t really some sort of put down, is it? I am clueless about any number of things. I don’t expect you history professors to know everything about classic t.v. action/comedy. It isn’t that you don’t share my take on matters. It is that on this I feel you are genuinely uninformed,

        For instance, you said, “Sometimes its use (the Confederate Battle Flag) is ill-defined. Take for example, the ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’.”

        Now, “The Dukes of Hazzard” is not an intellectual exercise. In fact, that is surely one reason it remains so popular. The flag was on top of the “General Lee”, a 1969 Dodge Charger, the fiercest car on the NASCAR back in the Richard Petty days. The flag and the car spoke to the spirit of the South, the fun and good times of Southern country living, and the independent rowdiness of these “good ol’ boys”
        in that wacky town. There is nothing else to analyze, Professor. “Sometimes,” as Dr. Freud said, “a cigar is just a cigar.”

        You said, “I don’t think Bo and Luke were showing their support for segregation.”
        Well, you are absolutely right about that one. There was simply zero racism in Hazzard. A fantasy world, but a good one….

        You also said, “But I’m not sure that they knew a great deal about General Lee, although they named the car in question after him.” Hmmmm. These guys were pretty smart fellows, actually. Not collegiate sophisticates, but smart as whips.
        So, what kind of remark is that? Why would you assume that a couple of farm boys down South wouldn’t know who Robert E. Lee was? Why, indeed?

        I did “address your observations”. You may not have like what I said, but I addressed them. But, sir, you did not address my observations. You slid right on past what I feel is an important piece of this discussion. The flag on that car has been seen millions upon millions of times by people of all races and ages.
        And it continues to be seen by millions and millions of people, while “The Committee” is feeling “unwelcome” in Law School.

        You say that you’ve seen attacks on other members of the show because they haven’t said anything about W&L. That is just plain weird to me. Why should they say anything about it? They aren’t political types like ol’ Cooter……

        You ask, “Is there a principled way to discuss how to address those various sensibilities when it comes to the display of contested symbols?”

        Well yes, I think there is. And there are a few people on here who are ready to do that, and in fact are doing it here and there. But there are also a lot of folks who are not., and doubtless ever will. And that is the “flaw in your slaw”. ( A saying of Rosco P. Coltrane’s.) He really was clueless!

        Ben Jones

        • Brooks D. Simpson August 5, 2014 / 6:16 pm

          Ben–Was there a show where Bo and Luke showed that they knew about General Lee? Luke, perhaps. He had served in the military. That’s why I said “I’m not sure.”

          I understand that people have seen the car. And, as you know, some folks objected to it, and that became an issue not so long ago, as you very well know. Now, it didn’t happen to bother me, but I’m not everyone. So I didn’t slide over that point like Luke slid across the hood.

          As for the attacks on the other actors, I felt they were bizarre, too. They came from Confederate heritage supporters. I’ll take a look to see if I can recover one.

          • Ben Jones August 6, 2014 / 11:30 pm

            Brooks,

            The strange thing is your presumption that they would not know the same things that any Southern child grows up learning. That comes across as a serious cultural prejudice.

            The flag on the car is only an issue to those people who object to any display of the flag, and would like to see it removed from even such benign displays as this. That is a narrow minded and ultimately hopeless idea. And that is also part of the political friction injected by the “true believers” who work in cultural misunderstanding of the symbol and its various meanings to Southerners.

            And that is one that I don’t feel that you fully comprehend either, Brooks. Your years in college towns in the upper South is not exactly a thorough soaking in the culture. For example, surely you must wonder about the wild popularity of “Duck
            Dynasty”. It is a show that has major cultural influence beyond its entertainment value.

            There is a serious body of writings on the various depictions of the South in literature, t.v. and film, and popular culture. And when a show has been faithfully watched by hundreds of millions of people in a positive way it becomes a major part of any discussion of its cultural impact and importance. It is both reflective of and influential in that cultural mix of perception.

            “The Dukes” has become a cultural “icon” , a permanent part of Americana.
            And its continuing popularity, with its unabashed display of the Battle Flag truly overwhelms the negative political attacks upon it.

            Folks can poo-poo that and denigrate the idea, but it is real. While some folks are busy kvetching and bemoaning that flag as a symbol of hatred, millions of others are watching it and loving it as a symbol of independence and free-spiritedness.

            And I keep putting up those flags!

            Ben

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 6, 2014 / 11:51 pm

            I asked a simple question about the show, and you say that it shows a “serious cultural prejudice.” Given what I see about what Americans know about their history, I disagree. But if you want to tell me that you know what fictional characters know, fine. I just guess they never displayed that knowledge on the show. Otherwise, you would correct me.

            Then again, your exchange with Mr. Epperson could suggest that you showed a “serious cultural prejudice” in assuming that someone from Michigan must be from Detroit.

            You’re not going to build any bridges that way, Ben. You just want to tell me what I don’t fully comprehend. Maybe the real issue is that I just don’t agree with you. Maybe the real issue is that you’re evading the questions posed by telling me that the South is a wonderful place. Heck, why does the SCV have only 30,000 members? You would think everyone eligible would join.

            But I’m glad you mention Duck Dynasty as a sign of the South we should all appreciate, especially with your message of harmony and community and tolerance. Like this?

            As Michael Hunt recalled:

            “I remember looking over [Robertson’s] shoulder at this big-screen TV . . . And the news was on. And all of a sudden [his] face pops up on TV, and it was a big controversy about some kid who had worn a Confederate flag to school . . . on a day they had titled ‘Redneck Day.’ And the school expelled the child.

            “And I said, ‘Phil, turn around.’ So he turned around and I could tell he was — visually — very upset. And he said, ‘I have never owned a Confederate flag.’ He said, ‘This is what upsets me.’ He said, ‘ “Redneck” is a term of endearment around here. And attaching that to a Confederate flag is offensive to me . . . That Confederate flag is not what we stand for.’ ”

            Guess you’ll have to have a talk with Phil. Of course, you may also want to ask the fellow who appointed you to your position whether he’s still a member of the League of the South. I hope not. Those folks have been pretty blunt about what they believe.

          • Ben Jones August 7, 2014 / 7:00 am

            Ahh, c’mon man! I didn’t say the guy was from Detroit, I used decaying Detroit as an example of a reason that people, black and white, are moving to the Sun Belt.
            You seem to have two voices, Brooks. And one ear.

            You know exactly what I meant about presuming the ignorance of Southern characters. Was Archie Bunker ignorant of U.S. Grant because he never mentioned it on “All in The Family”? You are either being silly or obstinate on this one.

            And the fact that Phil disagrees with me on the issue does not mean that he is not a good fellow or that he is right or wrong about anything. It simple means he has come to different conclusions on different issues.

            I wonder, Brooks, if you are not too invested in your tiny bit of blog-power to be genuinely serious about “building bridges”.

            Or if indeed, you are writing all this stuff….

            Ben

          • Ben Jones August 7, 2014 / 7:06 am

            And a p.s.: It surely doesn’t come as any surprise to you that the SPLC
            is considered by many, right and left, to have become something of a fund-raising scam operation.

            Morris Dees did some courageous things back in the day. Then he created the term “hate group” and goes around sticking it on everybody. It never occurs to
            the SPLC that there might be a little bit of hate in their hearts, too.

            Maybe I just got named a “hate group” by ol’ Morris!

            Ben

          • Sandi Saunders August 7, 2014 / 10:45 am

            Pretty sure that hate groups created the name “hate groups”, Dees was just willing to call them out for it.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 7, 2014 / 1:29 pm

            Is his information wrong about the association between the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans on his 2002 chart? Do the same people have the same associations?

            You can say what you want about Morris Dees. But that doesn’t mean that my question is invalid.

          • Stefan Jovanovich August 7, 2014 / 4:19 pm

            The League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the people who support them are beginning to have the same kind of political success that the anti-Masons eventually enjoyed. Like the anti-Masons they have become politically sophisticated enough to expand their political platform to include an issue – illegal immigration – that has broad popular appeal.

            http://dixienet.org/

            The Whigs grew out of a mix of grievance, nativism, and demand for patronage that was as thoroughly ridiculed by respectable opinion as the defenders of “THE FLAG” are now. The ridicule seems to have fueled them, not held them back.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Southwick

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 7, 2014 / 8:28 pm

            As long as we understand that it’s no longer about honoring heritage but having political success … maybe. But the LotS is quite clear that it defines success as secession. The SCV, with a membership that overlaps that of the LotS, claims that’s not what it is about.

          • Stefan Jovanovich August 7, 2014 / 5:52 pm

            The criticisms of Mr. Jones have historical echoes. One can find similar comments from the the supporters of Martin Van Buren in 1828 about Solomon Southwick. I am not saying Mr. Jones is a new Southwick, but he could be; he has the same combination of political grit and charm. Mr. Jones and the defenders of THE FLAG are no longer the political outcasts that they once were presumed to be. Like the Anti-Masons they now represent a significant group of voters and a sentiment that is growing, not waning. They also have an issue that resonates broadly, even if it is universally scorned by the academically educated – the question of illegal immigration. http://dixienet.org/
            Southwick lost badly in the 1828 race for governor of New York, finishing third behind the Adams’ supporters and Van Buren as the winner. And yet, within a decade, Quincy Adams had decided that the anti-Masons offered better odds than his own National Republicans; and in 1840. a nominee of the Anti-Masons was elected President.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 7, 2014 / 12:32 pm

            Of course, as more non-southerners move to the Sun Belt, the Sun Belt becomes less southern. So this migration will transform southern culture, and the people who move there won’t think of the Confederate Battle Flag as “their” flag … or at least not in connection with the Civil War. So it’s just the triumph of the carpetbaggers.

            I turn a deaf ear to what I’ve heard before. I’ve debated various issues before on the blog and elsewhere, and I don’t see the need to go over them again. I’ve heard a great deal of what you’ve said here before, and let’s leave it at that. For example, I don’t think you really want to get into it with me about Reconstruction and the lack of a Marshall Plan (as if that was in the cards, period). Government did not do those sorts of things then, but if you want to talk about terrorism on behalf of white supremacy after the South (a) after Jefferson Davis rejected compensated gradual emancipation and (b) white southerners failed miserably at self-reconstruction in 1865 with a friendly southerner in the White House, well, we can go there,. At least that way people here will learn some history.

            I don’t know what Archie Bunker knew about U. S. Grant on “All in the Family.” I don’t believe the topic ever came up. Given the prevailing understanding of Grant in the early 1970s, he would have been wrong about a great deal.

            But just keep on with the insults. Let’s put it this way … you may now chide me about my “tiny bit of blog-power” … but here you are, as the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, engaged in exchanges with people. Why would someone as intelligent as you waste your time in such matters on a place where the blog-power is so tiny?

            I’ve never claimed the blog is powerful. But you would be surprised at who contacts me and why. The numbers suggest that I reach as many people a month as you have in your entire organization.

    • Stefan Jovanovich August 5, 2014 / 11:18 am

      What Mr. Jones is trying to point out is that the “Confederate” flag most commonly known around the world stands for the “yee haw” spirit as well as other things. That spirit is generally admired even by those of us who think the secessionist politicians were clueless. Not understanding thar spirit and its overwhelmingly popular appeal can be a serious handicap; it certainly gets in the way of understanding of Grant, for example. The man lived for horse racing and jumping the way Giacomo Augustini did for motorcycle racing, yet even Professor Simpson’s biography comes up a bit short in explaining how much a passion for controlled speed comined with deadly risk shapes a man’s character and friendships.

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giacomo_Agostini

      • Ben Jones August 6, 2014 / 5:55 pm

        Thank you, Stefan, for a rare breath of common sense on this blog.

        “Not understanding that spirit and its overwhelmingly popular appeal can be a serious handicap….”

        Amen.

        Ben

    • Sandi Saunders August 5, 2014 / 12:17 pm

      I grant you that the “Dukes of Hazard” was a popular show but the stereotypical portrayals of the characters should make anyone pause before claiming they did anything to improve the image of the South or the Confederacy. In fact, I think the flag on the car, like it is on hats, t-shirts and pick-up trucks was just another thing people do without much thought and certainly without any agenda (though the show’s creator sure knew the vein to tap!). When pressed they will all “defend” their heritage but seldom does any real reverence or thought go into the symbols they flash. And in getting an explanation, it is often so negative as to be offensive to the North, the government, law enforcement and most assuredly diversity, affirmative action, race relations that it has nothing productive in it.

      I do not believe that a lot of the folks claiming to honor their heritage even grasp the solemn, painful, misguided mentality of the Confederacy at all. So many lives wasted, so many families ruined, so many generations scarred and scarring others. Maybe because you get to get up and go home after the war-play, you forget so many did not.

      The Amazing Rhythm Aces (dating myself!) had a song on an album called “Last Letter Home”, sung as if by a wounded soldier and the first time I heard it, it took me to my knees.

      ♫”I have heard the cannons thundering all night
      And I cannot sleep for wondering why’s a rebel’s cause so right
      And the morphine seems to do no good at all
      And I would run away it I would not fall
      I joined the southern cavalry for fun
      and I had rode a thousand horses
      Always had a way with a gun

      Now I’m among the horseless riders lying still
      Swallowed up by the cause on the widows hill
      And I dreamed about a rose in a spanish garden
      And I kissed you and I placed it in your hair
      And if I’m ever on my feet again I will
      And I will run all the way just to meet you there

      Through the day I watched those southern boys go down
      And they lay like Georgia peaches bruised and broken on the ground
      Through the night I wondered was it worth the pain
      And I cried not revenge I called your name” ♪

      You do not honor that by waving a flag.

      Like I said, too many say “Let’s do it again” instead of “Never again!” and it breaks my heart.

      • Stefan Jovanovich August 5, 2014 / 6:49 pm

        The Confederaye artillery was never so profligate with its powder as to fire their cannons “all night”. General Alexander’s doctrine insisted that all fire be observed and ranged. No soldier of honor would have used morphine for pain management; it was in such terribly short supply that there was not enough even for amputation surgeries. Fallen peaches bruise and brown; soldiers caught in the steel rain of concentrated fire become hamburger and flank steak.

        • Sandi Saunders August 6, 2014 / 4:55 am

          The song wasn’t written in 1864 either. Way to miss the point Stefan. Are you going to argue that no soldiers expressed horror, fear or doubt during or after the war too?

          • Stefan Jovanovich August 6, 2014 / 6:13 pm

            There is nothing to argue. The writer of the song wants to use the Confederate soldiers to make his moral argument, yet the writer cares so little about what the men actually went through the he/she gets none of the facts right. No one under serious fire avoids thoughts of fear, but those who continue to their duty know that horror and doubt are literary emotions that are, at heart, a betrayal of the people around you. This is a truth that the veterans on both sides understood; they also knew that the facts of actual war have nothing to do with causes, aims, or justifications. That is why so few soldiers letters say much about combat, and the REMFs are safe to think they know the truth of the story.

          • Sandi Saunders August 6, 2014 / 6:49 pm

            “REMF’s”? Wow, no southern gentleman I see. Actually many letters home were vivid and poignant on the war and battles.

            http://www.nps.gov/anti/forteachers/upload/Letters%20and%20Diaries%20of%20Soldiers%20and%20Civilians.pdf

            “My Dear Wife;
            Day before yesterday I dressed the wounds of 64 different men some having two or three each. Yesterday I was at work from daylight till dark today I am completely exhausted but stall soon be able to go at it again.

            The days after the battle are a thousand times worse than the day of the battle
            and the physical pain is not the greatest pain suffered. How awful it is you have not can have until you see it any idea of affairs after a battle. The dead appear sickening but they suffer no pain. But the poor wounded mutilated soldiers that yet have life and sensation make a most horrid picture. I pray God may stop such
            infernal work through perhaps he has sent it upon us for our sins. Great indeed must have been our sins if such is our punishment.

            Carrie I dreamed of home night before last. I love to dream of home it seems so much like really being there. I dreamed that I was passing Hibbards house and saw you and Lud. in the window. After then I saw you in some place I cannot really know where you kissed me and told me you loved me though you did not the first time you saw me. Was not that quite a soldier dream? That night had been away to a hospital to see some wounded men returned late. I fastened my horse to a peach tree fed him with wheat and hay from a barn near by then I slept
            and dreamed of my loved ones away in N.H…

            ~William Child, Major and Surgeon with the 5th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers September 22, 1862 (Battlefield Hospital near Sharpsburg)

          • Stefan Jovanovich August 6, 2014 / 7:40 pm

            Let me try again. The letter you quoted is not a description of the surgeon’s part in the fight itself, and he would have been the first to call himself an REMF or if you prefer someone behind the lines. He writes about the results of the fight for others, not the fight itself, because he was not there. When Eugene Sledge, who was a perfect gentleman of the South, returned home from the Pacific, he was told by a job interviewer that he had not learned a usful skill while in the Marine Corps. “No, Ma’am, I learned one: how to kill people.”

    • The other Susan August 5, 2014 / 12:32 pm

      Uh, yeah. And people love Indiana Jones and Sound of Music and dress up with those costumes and props at family friendly conventions too. That doesn’t mean its a great idea to use those costumes or props outside of that context.

      Leeloo, Nazi, Indiana Jones, Dr. Jones, Marion

    • msb August 6, 2014 / 12:25 am

      “Seeing the positive display of the Battle Flag on the General Lee by tens of millions of people for over 35 years now far outweighs the context of its use by segregationists during the Civil Rights Movement. I know, I was there.”

      Well, that’s just the problem, isn’t it? You know how you see it, but you cannot control (even if you know) what it means to other very large groups of people, and certainly have no right to expect or demand that they share your view. And why wouldn’t the views of, say John Lewis, who actually lived through the Civil Right Movement, matter as much as yours?

      I don’t say “political correctness”; I prefer “courtesy”, which demands a proper respect for the views of others, even when I disagree with them. If I did not behave in this way, the ghost of my born-and-bred-in-Texas grandmother would rise from her grave and demand, “Were you brought up in a barn?” Brooks is right that trying to reconcile diametrically opposed views of one symbol is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

      If we’re collecting views of the Confederate flag and “The Dukes of Hazard”, my two cents is that the flag represents treason, oligarchy, slavery and death (as well as gallant fighting) during the Civil War and brutal racist oppression during the Civil Rights Movement, which I watched live on TV. And the Dukes of Hazard seemed to me at the time (and since) to be based on the notion that (white) Southerners are stupid and lawless, stereotypes I would be glad to see the last of.

      • Sandi Saunders August 6, 2014 / 8:00 am

        Well said! I completely agree. Our manners and decorum are extremely important to us and a true vestige of our Southern heritage too. We are so much more than the Confederacy.

      • Ben Jones August 6, 2014 / 5:50 pm

        Just so’s you know, msg, during the civil rights movement I was attacked, sucker punched, shot at, threatened many times, marched, picketed, sat in, got thrown in jail several times, and saw America change first hand. John Lewis is an old friend and Congressional colleague, Andy Young was a mentor and friend. I was there on the line with them.

        While you were watching live on TV, I was there.

        So you might not want to jump to too many stereotyping conclusions.

        Ben Jones

        • msb August 6, 2014 / 11:36 pm

          My point was that everyone’s experience and viewpoint should count; I expressed no views about you.
          In view of your personal experience with seeing the Confederate flag used to express race hatred and the determination to preserve Jim Crow by violence, the conclusion that somehow a fictional TV series trumps actual reality is amazing. And why don’t the views of your African-American friends – and other Americans, of a range of colors – on the Confederate flag matter as much as yours?
          P.S. msg is a food additive; my username is msb.

          • Stefan Jovanovich August 7, 2014 / 4:12 am

            If, in the name of Union, abolition and the permanent punishment of rebellion, the Federal authorities have the right to deny the display of offensive symbols, then they do; and Mr. Jones is simply out of luck. The difficulty is that there is nothing in the 13th or 14th Amendment that gives the Federals the authority to do that, except when the Congress has declared war. Then, the Commander-in-Chief can enforce speech codes with a clear Constitutional conscience. The lovers of the banners of rebellion have, for now, the better of the argument; but one hesitates to predict what the Supremos may find next in the penumbras of good intentions. As Grant knew better than anyone, “the law of the land” as made by judges in the name of stare decisis is usually the last place to find any sustained application of logic, reason or the actual language of the Constitution. If Justice Story could find a Federal right to slavery in the document and get a majority to agree with him, some fool is guaranteed to be able to find 4 others who will discover that being offensive is a crime against public order.

          • Ben Jones August 7, 2014 / 6:23 am

            Sorry, msb, it would be easier here if everyone used their actual names, or made up a name like “Bob” or something. Turns out that “spell check” changed it!

            Of course you expressed views about me: You quoted me and then rebutted me. Or is there another msb who used my exact quote?

            My friends’ opinions do matter as much as mine. I understand where they are “coming from” and because they are my friends, they understand where I am coming from. We discuss these feelings all the time. That is how understanding is reached, not by political posturing.

            Those reactionaries who waved the flag back in the 1960’s were also waving American flags and burning Christian crosses. Both of those symbols have been used in the past to do good and to do harm also.

            You would be amazed by how much good will and common ground has been found through an old television show.

            And neither Southern heritage or that part of it which is Confederate heritage is going to disappear. It is who we are. And we have to work it out together down here as many of us have done.

            Ben Jones

    • Sandi Saunders August 6, 2014 / 8:02 am

      Good question. I think the answer is almost always, yes.

  9. Roger E Watson August 5, 2014 / 3:55 pm

    I must also be “clueless” since I found the Dukes to be unwatchable. Ben must be putting up a lot of flags these days !!

    • Ben Jones August 6, 2014 / 5:52 pm

      Roger,

      You are right. Ben is putting up more flags than ever.

      Ben

  10. Lee Elder August 6, 2014 / 8:48 am

    This string has had a wide range of topics that I found interesting to read. It seems to me that there are two topics on the board. I’ll add a third.

    Symbols: Like many millions of Americans today, I have ancestors that fought on both sides of our Civil War. I understand the argument that the Confederate battle flag is offensive for a variety of reasons and I understand why. The viewpoints have value.
    I also understand that a little rebel exists in all of us. Please note the distinction of the lower case r in rebel. I understand those who see the battle flag as a symbol of individualism. They would be wise to find a better symbol, but it’s their decision, not mine.
    Finally, I understand that many of us agree that the Confederates fought for a system of slavery. Slavery was a terrible thing and I am thankful that it is gone. I hope our American society someday reaches the point where race is irrelevant. But, be that as it may, I also value my Southern roots. I cherish my heritage. And, darn it, I root for the University of Alabama’s sports teams.

    Political Correctness: This is really very simple. My parents taught me to be polite to everyone. Anything beyond that is political dogma.

    Freedom of speech is very different. It means you can fly any flag you want in front of your house, be it in favor of Alabama or Auburn. It also means your neighbors can fly any flag they wish in front of their house and you have to live with it. I value our freedom of speech over the more trendy political correctness.

  11. Michael Rodgers August 6, 2014 / 9:02 pm

    Ben Jones and the SCV and the LoS and the VAFlaggers and others want the Confederate flag to be known and flown everywhere as the Flag of the South™ to represent that yee-haw spirit, can-do attitude, blue-collar practicality, and down-home charm unique to our Southern states. They’re focused on trademark creation and protection activities, better known to us as heritage defense.

    They want to fly the Flag of the South™ in somber ways to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Confederate soldiers, who fought as they were ordered to, for the states they served. They also want to fly the Flag of the South™ in joyous ways to celebrate the people — past, present, and future — of the South and all their cultural and technological achievements.

    Some of them want the Flag of the South™ to represent Southerners of all races and to be a welcoming symbol to make all people feel right at home with us and our Southern hospitality. Others of them, especially the LoS, want the Flag of the South™ to represent only white Confederate-Americans, True Southrons™, and to be a divisive symbol keeping non-whites and non-Southerners away, in hopes of fomenting a new race-based civil war.

    Liberals and others say that the Flag of the South™ is a flag of rebellion, insurrection, war, violence, slavery, and supremacy and should rarely be shown and never be flown. They say that it’s the flag of Jim Crow, resistance to the Civil Rights movement, and violence against African-Americans.

    Historians and others say that the important flags are the artifacts of the war, not those made years, decades, or centuries later. They want flags flown in context, historical context. It’s like the only flags they want shown are those behind glass cases in museums. But flags want to be free to fly in the breeze, not to be trapped and stifled and suffocated to death, encased in glass, in a dark and dreary museum.

    Will the Flag of the South™ be freed from the chains of history, the lashes of liberals, and the grip of supremacists to rise larger and fly higher than it has ever flown before, to welcome a new era, a New South?

      • Michael Rodgers August 7, 2014 / 5:03 am

        Kevin Levin’s article in TheAtlantic agrees with your assessment.
        “America’s Simple-Minded Obsession With the Confederate Flag
        KEVIN M. LEVIN AUG 16 2012, 2:25 PM ET
        Journalists love to recycle old clichés about the rebel banner. But its days as an official symbol of Southern pride are rapidly coming to an end”

    • Sandi Saunders August 7, 2014 / 5:21 am

      No. It does not. It will not. It never did. That is revisionist history, not the truth.

      Liberals and others say it’s “a flag of rebellion, insurrection, war, violence, slavery, and supremacy” because it was, and still is for some. “They say that it’s the flag of Jim Crow, resistance to the Civil Rights movement, and violence against African-Americans” because it was and still is for some. Please do not try to revise history and pretend it is just something we “say”.

      The flags have context, they have meaning, they certainly have value, but being flown everywhere for every reason, some heinous, some specious, has diminished not replenished the honor attached. Why Confederate Heritage preservationists refuse to see that is one for the ages.

      • Michael Rodgers August 7, 2014 / 10:51 am

        Good reply Sandi. I agree with you, Brooks, and Kevin. Very typically, the people who want to fly the Confederate flag are the ones who instantly make others think negatively of it. How they could possibly think that marching around flying it in everybody’s face will make it see more normal, positive, and appropriate is one for the ages.

      • Michael Rodgers August 8, 2014 / 5:59 am

        Kevin Levin has an example of its use in resistance to the Civil Rights movement as yesterday’s pic of the day.

    • Andrew Raker August 7, 2014 / 10:54 am

      Of course, people aren’t just in one of these categories. As someone’s who is liberal, a historian, and a descendant of East Tennesseans, well, the CBF will never be able to be reclaimed for me for anything other than a memorial or historical setting. But the overlapping identities in me are less interesting than the tensions that are within liberals from the Deep South, or even liberal historians from the Deep South (I happen to know a couple of those who are even eligible for membership in the SCV, though they haven’t joined).

      Not only is the South changing demographically thanks to internal and external migration, but I also feel that there are more white Southerners who have the complex identity I described above. For those reasons, I think the CBF will not be a major symbol for the New New South.

  12. Sandi Saunders August 7, 2014 / 5:13 am

    In truth, pornography is also a “cultural icon”. It is a permanent part of Americana too.
    Its continuing popularity, with its unabashed display does not overwhelm the negative (political and otherwise) attacks upon it.

    Being popular is not always being right and frankly, I think Mr. Jones assumes facts not in evidence as to just what “things that any Southern child grows up learning”. There is certainly the very real possibility that the battle flag has become so ubiquitous that the “real” meaning is lost in all those interpretations. How is that good for heritage preservation? Clearly it does wonders for hate. To display a symbol for your own reasons is not the same thing as honoring the flag, the Confederacy or even the South. Not to mention that by his own reasoning, the night-riders, KKK, segregationists, and secesh flaggers must also be honoring it.

  13. Ben Jones August 7, 2014 / 5:59 am

    A very good question, Michael. As a symbol, it means different things to different people at
    different times for different reasons. I live in a multi-racial, progressive South where most folks
    understand these nuances of the past. And I have never faced any animosity in explaining my love of the symbol, which I have done many times in many settings. I realize that there are those, including many on this blog, who are involved in various self-righteous crusades to simplify history and to demonize the Confederacy at every turn.
    As a descendant, I believe that it should always be displayed in a context that is respectful of ourselves and others. And for many of all races, the foundation of that understanding is in place.
    For others, anger and rage are easier than reason and compromise.
    And as one can easily see in the discussion here, some prefer heat to light.

    Best,
    Ben

    • Michael Rodgers August 7, 2014 / 10:56 am

      Ben, Thanks for your reply. Have fun putting up lots of Confederate flags in different places, at different times, and for different reasons. Regards, Mike

    • Sandi Saunders August 7, 2014 / 10:59 am

      I can just imagine the many “multi-racial, progressive South” venues where you and the Confederate Battle Flags “never faced any animosity”.

      Can you maintain with a straight face that yours is not also a “self-righteous crusade”? Your rhetoric alone belies a denial.

      As a blue collar Virginian with ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, the only “self-righteous crusades” I am involved with is the one that tells the truth, warts and all and honors the service of the Confederate troops but not the cause of the Confederacy. History really is simple. There is no need to revise what Jefferson or Stephens (and many more) were quite articulate about, at any turn.

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