So let me tell you a story…
In the spring of 1999, I was at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. for Army training. Being in the military surrounds you with people from not only all over the country, but the world. During this period of my life, when I’m struggling to find my own identity, I was quite sadly a raverish type. Basically, I dressed like this…
I believe in being honest about ones failures.
Yes, that’s what I wore everyday, I listened to stuff like Crystal Method and DJ Scribble, I wore children’s necklaces and said, “Yo, Dawg” and “PLUR” all the time. Yeah. I know. I was a tool. Well, one day, I got into a fight with this guy from like Arizona or something, and he got all up in my face. I made fun of his yellow and brown teeth and love of Lynrd Skynrd, and he bowed up, squinted at me with one eye with his head cocked to the side, and literally drawled at me, “Yew fuhckin RED-NECK!” I simply recoiled slightly in confusion for a second and then started laughing at him. Me? A REDNECK? I’m wearing a visor and pants that had a 69″ leg opening at that moment. In my car I just finished listening to Fatboy Slim.
“I’m a REDNECK?!” I simply turned around and walked away laughing. He pushed me hard from behind to try to get me to fight and I just laughed harder and walked out of the barracks laughing the whole way.
The only reason he called me a redneck is because I was from Mississippi.
And that my friends is why Southerners are so attached to the Confederate flag, and “The Lost Cause.”
Have a good night!
Oh, you totally don’t get it do you?
You see, by my virtue of being born and raised in Mississippi my whole life, to this guy, and countless others, I’m a Redneck. A tobacco chawing, cousin humping, inbred, banjo playing, homophobic, racist, sexist, uneducated hillbilly from “Miess’ippi”. And that’s what’s the deal with the Confederate flag.
Still don’t get it do you?
Okay, you see a guy from Brooklyn is always going to be a gold chain wearing Goomba. A guy from Chicago is a sausage and beer swilling mook, Portland are hipsters, people from L.A. are shallow flakes, Boston is nothing but Irish Southies, on and on. All over the country each state, city, gets its own little culture, but the South? We’re all racist ignorant Rednecks.
You see, Southerners have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to America’s racist, religious fundamentalist, and terrible legacy. It’s always all of us. All of the South is like that. Meanwhile, those racists, homophobes, thug cops, Bible-thumpers everywhere else in the country, “Don’t represent us!”
Pure unabashed, myopic, and self-deceiving bullshit. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You “Yankees” are just as bad as us. However, we have developed this meta-narrative in our culture, that you can’t even point that stuff out without a massive knee-jerk reaction. Hell, just the fact that people can call Southerners “Rednecks” and it sounds more descriptive than insulting, while a Southerner calling people “Yankee” makes them sound like “Redneck.” The South can’t even defend themselves without having it sound racist and ignorant.
And that’s really shitty, because it ends up allowing the rest of the country to smugly feel better about themselves. When the South produces a bigoted idiot, it’s because of the culture. When everywhere else does, their place of origin is irrelevant.
Like if I said the name: Mike Huckabee, you immediately know that he’s that bigoted guy from Arkansas. But If I said, Michelle Bachman, you would struggle to remember where she’s from probably (Minnesota). Rick Santorum? He’s from Georgia, right? Nope. Pennsylvania. Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly are from New York. Ted Nugents from Michigan, Keith Ablow is from Massachusetts. Tucker Carlson is from San Francisco. Glen Beck is from Washington. Michelle Malkin is from Philly, Scott Walker is from Wisconsin. Wayne La Pierre is a New Yorker. Sarah Palin will always remind you she is from Alaska.
See, where I’m going with this? All of these race baiting, homophobic politicians and pundits aren’t Southerners. These are some of the most vocal hate mongers in America that aren’t wearing swastikas or white hoods, and they are DAMN YANKEES! Damn Yankees that have taken money and spoken in front of avowed racist organizations. But that’s not important, they’re one offs.
If you took the 13 formally announced major Presidential Candidates from the Republican Party, 4 of them are from non-Southern states. If you throw in Christie and Scott Walker…
Before Barrack Obama, who were the last two Democrats in the White House? Bill Clinton, a drawlin’ feller from Arkansas and Jimmy Carter, a born again Georgian. The last couple of Republicans? George W. Bush, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Two Texans and a guy born in Illinois and was governor of California.
Yeah, the Bush’s are from Texas….except they were both born in either Massachusetts or Connecticut! They’re Carpetbaggers!
“But Amanda, they’re not known for being born there!” Fine, want to play it that way? Then we Southerners get credit for Jim Henson, Lipsynka, Lance Bass, the band R.E.M., Tennessee Williams, Helen Keller, Ellen Degeneres, Juliet Gordon Low, Steve Martin, Patton Oswalt, Justin Timberlake, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, Gordon Cooper, Fred Haise, Alan Bean, John Waters, Hunter S. Thompson…
You’re welcome America for all these alt culture, progressive, or intelligent people.
You see, you don’t even think of the South producing anything other than hillbillies, hate, and ignorance.
And that honestly pisses the South off.
We’ve been America’s butt monkey for years. Abraham Lincoln swore “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” for ending the Civil War. Well, instead the South was left burned to the ground, the economy in shambles, and was basically left holding the bag for America’s long history of racism.
People tend to forget that the largest race related riot…hell largest civil unrest outside of the Civil War itself were the New York Draft Riots in 1863. You see, rich white Yankees didn’t want to go fight, so they could buy their way out of the draft for about $200 bucks, leaving the poor whites to go fight the war. Well, the average white man in New York City had no love for black people and could give a rats ass if they were slaves or not. All they knew was, was that they were getting drafted to go free them. Well, that stuck in their craw. They lynched black men, rioted in the streets, and fought a running battle against the U.S. Army. Blacks were so frightened that they fled New York City by the thousands, not to return for decades.
Meanwhile, while those Boston freedom fighters in the Revolutionary War were talking about all men being created equal, they figured slavery would just work itself out of existence, and caused so much fighting during the Convention that they actually wrote into our hallowed Constitution that they wouldn’t even think about resolving the issue for another 20 years! That’s right, those free states tossed slaves under the bus before the Constitution was even finalized! Well, ol’ Eli Whitney comes along and revitalizes slavery with his cotton gin, and slavery is back. For the most part, there was never any real effort to end slavery on the part of the North outside of the abolitionists.
The massive railroad networks, fledgling banks and financiers of Wall Street, and garment and cloth factories thrived off of cheap slave labor that produced that cotton. Just because the North banned slavery, their industrial prosperity still relied on it. But we don’t talk about that. Just like how the Swiss don’t talk about their Nazi gold… Turning a profit off of slavery’s products was fine, just owning those slaves was bad.
Then of course for years after the war, they were just as segregationist as the South. I have mentioned how Indiana’s state legislature in the 1920’s had dozens of KKK members. Klansmen were found as far North as New Jersey. Good old hipster Portland? Klan mayor…
“Oh but that’s all in the past! You guys are still racist down there!”
Oh as opposed to you guys who have some of the most racially segregated cities in America? Chicago is the most segregated city in the nation. And in New York City? Apparently walking while black is still suspicious activity.
“What about Ferguson?”
What about Fruitvale?
“What about McKenny?”
What about Eric Garner?
“What about that shooting in Charleston?”
What about the fact that it’s Southerners pulling down those Confederate flags? Last time I know about a bunch of white feel good types coming down South to save them from themselves was in the 1960’s.
A couple of gun shots and you guys went home and decided to protest the Vietnam War from your draft exempt college campuses.
Speaking of college campuses…
Guys like Lothrop Stoddard, Madison Grant (inventor of the term ‘Nordic Race’. He got fan letters from motherfucking Hitler), Harry H. Laughlin, just to name a few were the creators of eugenics in America. All of them Yankees and Ivy League educated. They were so influential they even got W.E.B. Dubois believing that only 10% of the black race was worth a damn. These were the guys that created forced sterilization, created Immigration quotas on undesirable races, and people like New York blue blood Teddy Roosevelt liked the stuff they were pushing!
Oh, and let’s talk marriage for a second since were on the topic of selective and desireable breeding. As late as 1948, California had laws preventing interracial marriages. Indiana had them till the mid 1950’s. And you guys are laughing at the South for not wanting to issue marriage licenses to gays? Gay sex wasn’t legal until 1980 in New York and Pennsylvania. Rhode Island made in legal in 1998. The US Supreme Court made it legal in 2003. So good for you New England, you were were only a few years ahead of the South.
And California. Don’t try to sneak off. How did passing Prop 8 work out for ya? Didn’t it have to go to court in that wonderfully enlightened and liberal state of yours? You had to go through the same process as Mississippi you pompous assholes. All you got going for you is you didn’t directly ban it, but you sure as hell couldn’t pass it in an vote.
But again. What does this have to do with the Confederate Flag?
It’s a scrap of pride.
When your entire existence is portrayed in popular media and stereotypes as being ignorant, racist, stupid, inbred, poor, and mean, you get to be well…a little resentful. Especially when you turn on your T.V.’s and see all these places that make fun of you having their own little issues of race, homophobia, religious bigotry (don’t forget the NYPD spied on Muslims after 9/11!), but no matter what, you’re still the bad guys. Well you grab on to what you can to still feel good about yourself. Like your religion. Sure, they make fun of your Bible thumping, but when the you’re poorest state in the union but second in percentage of charitable donated income, you got that. When you’re overall more willing to give to charity your time and money than California and New York like Alabama is, you hold onto that pride.
And in the sense of the flag in this day and age, its not about slavery, racism, or other bigotry, its about the time you stood up for yourself and gave these people who culturally bully and belittle you a run for their money. You kicked their best and brightest peoples asses for years. You just ran out of bullets and people really. That’s what it means.
When you went from being the wealthiest places in the country to the poorest. And I mean like Third World poor, you hold onto the times of your dignity. Don’t believe me, just ask the American Indian Movement and Leonard Peltier.
That’s what that flag means to the majority of Southerners who support it, it’s defiant pride. Misguided, myopic, revisionist, and twisted pride. A pride that blinds you to things you should face, and admit. A pride that ends up becoming hate. A pride that ends up blaming someone else for your own failures. It becomes a poison in the veins of your identity. It makes you more twisted than before.
When someone has that twisted, hateful pride, that level of resentment, that clinging to a whitewashed past, it’s easy for others to scapegoat them. “Hey, at least we’re not THOSE guys!” Then the cycle keeps going. People won’t let that raging prideful person forget why they all twisted. Those wounds don’t get a chance to heal. And that prideful maniac lashes out, even more resentful, more entrenched. You’re not allowed to overcome your pain and past and so it comes to define who you are. You take pride in your pain. You embrace your pain.
The Confederate Battle Flag is the bloodied, tattered bandage that keeps getting ripped off the identity of the South anytime race and bigotry comes up in America. And like a penitent who wants the world to see how they suffer cause it makes them better, they show their blood and bandages to demonstrate they at least have their defiant pride and identity to still go on.
But what does that have to do with me? I’m that Southerner that used to think that flag was a badge of honor till I got smarter, wiser, and more cynical. I’m still proud to be a Southerner. I’m proud of the hospitality, the kindness, the creativity, the beauty we create. I’m proud of how blacks and whites in the South have intermixed to provide some of Americas proudest cultural works of art and music. I’m proud that every time when I say that I’m a bisexual transgender Democrat from Mississippi still living in the South, who uses big words, quotes Descartes, Basho, as well as the Bible without a mush mouthed drawl, I make someone stare at me in utter confusion because I’m not a banjo plucking hillbilly. I’m proud to be White America’s whipping girl, who points out its not just our fuck ups that caused the whippings. I’m proud how angry and defensive it makes them get when I do. I’m proud to point out that ridiculous flag that still flys over my birthplace, isn’t a Southern peculiarity, but an American one. I’m just proud that we make everyone else uncomfortable when they see the thing, because it’s not just our fault the things it represents are still here.
So here America, look at our Southern bandage. Looks like you could use it.