Confederate Flags and Statues – and Other Cultural Icons
By birth, I’m from the South. I can’t help that, and I wouldn’t want to. We have some of the best food you ever wrapped your mouth around. Now days, some of it is considered ‘gourmet’ food if you can imagine that. My grandma would just shake her grayed head and wipe her hands on her worn apron as she went on soaking those black-eyed peas.
Can you imagine making a whole movie with a title “Fried Green Tomatoes?” I can tell you this – the fried catfish we had was NOT farm raised either. You should have seen the dumfounded look on my 19-year-old face the first time I was up North and asked for iced tea with my meal one February and they didn’t know what I was talking about. I wound up with three cups of hot tea and a glass of ice finally. When my Texan friends and I tried to buy catfish from a fish market, they looked at us with disgust. Finally, a man agreed to catch some, but it was considered trash fish to them. One man’s trash is another man’s gold, I say.
Even going about the everyday business of shopping was weird up North. I would just chat away with ladies at the check-out and they would look at me with total distrust. I wondered if I had something in my teeth. And did you know that they have a completely different kind of Pilgrimage Garden Club than we do in the South?! Who knew? All this to say that the culture of the South is very different from the culture of the North. I didn’t realize that not only will the South not rise again, the North was determined to keep it’s boot on the South’s neck to be completely certain of it! Just kidding. I truly enjoyed seeing my country from a whole different light. Visiting ‘the other side’s’ forts. Eating white clam chowder instead of red.
Although I never visited the White House, I rode past it. Duty done. And I flew over the Statue of Liberty once. Another duty done. I’m not big on that stuff. The thing I did do that meant the most was visit the Museum of Natural History and saw the huge dinosaur bones. THAT was cool! Many years later, I spent a deeply significant few hours at the Viet Nam Veteran Memorial Wall (yeah, I served). So, even though I love the South, the North has its perks, too.
All that said, people around here keep asking about this Confederate Flag and statues thing. Okay, my black friends ask. (By the way, I get tickled calling them black. Actually, none of them are black. They are pretty much brown. I have met one or two truly black humans, and they were im-press-ive. Ebony! Beautiful.) Anyway, they ask my opinion which, as you know I never mind giving.
First thing out of their mouth is that it stands for slavery. I am quick to tell them that this is not true and, of course I explain that it stands for a group of states that wanted to cecede over many beliefs, slavery being just one. A big one, of course, but just one of many. At that point, I encourage them to look it up. (I don’t spoon feed adults.) They ask why powerful people say it stands for slavery, and I tell them point blank, “Because they want to keep you stirred up so you will stay angry and won’t move on. You are more manageable that way.” Dead silence, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.
About that time, I ask them if I have ever asked them not to wear their African American dress – you know the kind. Bright caftans and headwear. Or to not play the tribal-type music. That makes them pause. Then I explain that we are a nation of many cultures, and that the Confederate icons are as much a part of that as the Jewish icons, the Wiccan icons, the Scottish icons, the Native American icons, the Mexican icons, and so on and so on.
Personally, I wonder if the rich and powerful keep mixing up the pot to keep all of us angry and more manageable, so we can’t move on to greater things. You know what I mean? Blacks mad at whites. Democrats angry with Republicans. Everybody upset with “illegal immigrants.” Minorites enraged at law enforcement employees everywhere? If we quit focusing spending so much of our time, energy and money on all this silly stuff they keep pointing out to us, we might move on to greater things. Things they want to keep for themselves.