Bring down the Confederate flag, not memory of Civil War fallenRoundup
tags: Confederate flag, Dylann Roof, Charleston, Nikki Haley
So it looks like the Confederate flag will finally be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. As GOP Gov. Nikki Haley and many others have admitted, the “Stars and Bars” reflect America’s long history of racism. It’s only a matter of time before they’re gone.
But the Confederate flag currently stands atop a monument to, yes, Confederate soldiers. Will we eventually remove the monument, too, and thousands of others like it?
That’s what I’m afraid of. In the wake of the Charleston murders, the campaign against the Confederate flag has morphed into attacks on other historical vestiges of the Confederacy itself. And anyone who cares about history should be alarmed by that.
Critics at the University of Texas have demanded the removal of a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, which was recently defaced by vandals. Others called on Tennessee officials to remove a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan founder Nathaniel Bedford Forrest from the statehouse in Nashville.
In Maryland, there’s a move to rename a park that currently bears the name of Robert E. Lee. And some people in Minnesota want a different name for Lake Calhoun, which memorializes the prominent South Carolina slavery advocate John C. Calhoun.
But these efforts will eventually make it harder for us to come to terms with our vexed and complicated history, by whitewashing out key aspects of it. And the anti-Confederate campaigns also lose sight of a key distinction—developed most famously by George Orwell—between patriotism and nationalism.
To Orwell, patriotism was simply the “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life,” while nationalism reflected a desire to gain more status, prestige, and power for that place. Patriotism was inward-looking and defensive; nationalism looked outward, always trying to gain the upper hand. When patriots went to war, it was only to protect the motherland; but when nationalists fought, they sought to put someone else down.
From its inception, the Confederate flag has been a nationalist symbol par excellence. “As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race,” a Georgia newspaper explained in 1863, when the Confederacy adopted a flag showing the “Southern Cross”—a precursor of the Stars and Bars—on a background of pure white. “A white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”
And when white supremacy came under fire a century later, during the civil rights struggle, white Southerners rallied again under the Confederate flag. “It is becoming the symbol of the white race and the cause of the white people,” a Georgia legislator explained in 1951. “The Confederate flag means segregation.”..