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What begins with the Confederate battle flag ends where?

By

Anthony G. Payne

Battle_flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_svg

Judging from articles such as this, this and this, there is now almost a mania sweeping the land to remove every vestige of the Confederacy (Even TV Land got swept up in this by cancelling airing of old “Dukes of Hazzard” episodes) . Don’t get me wrong, I understand why so many people are incensed by Confederate flags and monuments on public lands. And although my ancestors on both the European (paternal) and American Indian (maternal) sides of my family tree lived in the CSA and in some instances served in its armed forces, I have never displayed a Confederate flag in any form anywhere at any time. Nor was the N-word ever uttered by my parents or any expression of religious, ethnic or racial bigotry or elitism. And as for my Civil War era forbearers, most were simple farmers and none owned slaves. As a boy I was told by various relatives that those who donned the grey in our family did so to repel Northern aggression and preserve the rights of individual states to chart their own destiny.

With this said many of my fellow Southerners — and some African-Americans as well — do have the Southern Cross (aka “Stars and Bars”) on display in various guises. And although various incarnations of the neo-Nazis and KKK and other white supremacist groups have waved the Confederate battle flag about for decades, I dare say most Southerners, especially those who had ancestors who served in the Confederate army or navy, are angered by this (At least those I grew up around in Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana felt this way).

But ask Southerners with Confederate ancestors whether slavery was one of the main reasons for Southern secession and many will say “no”. I’ve studied the writings they cite to support this point-of-view but do not find them convincing. History clearly shows that preserving slavery was part and parcel of the Confederate cause, although state’s rights and other issues also figured prominently as well. This is reflected in the lyrics of one of the CSA’s earliest marching songs, “The Bonnie Blue Flag” (1861), which opens with these lines:

BONNIE BLUE FLAGWe are a band of brothers and native to the soil

Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil

And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far

Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!

Chorus:

Hurrah! Hurrah!

For Southern rights, hurrah!

Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

And just to drive home the fact slavery and “white privilege” figured in the new Confederate government, consider this except from a speech by CSA Vice President Alexander H. Stephens that was reported in the Savannah Republican on March 21, 1861:

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.

I realize, of course, that some Southerners and others will continue to downplay or even deny that slavery was an integral part of the government of the Confederacy and its policies and vision. I have read more than a few lengthy articles and books by writers and authors who managed to weave incredibly elaborate arguments that pretty much shove slavery to the backmost burner on the proverbial historical stove. How is this possible? Are these men and women evil, delusional, bigoted, ignorant or just plain stupid? Most are none of these in my opinion. Consider how murder case plays out in court: Both the prosecutor and defense attorney or attorneys posses the same facts and information, but basically filter, weave and pitch them differently (One to leave no doubt of guilt in the minds of jurors, and the other to create doubts about this). When this all too human approach to analyzing and presenting historic chapters and events plays out in books, articles, movies, plays and such, the end result is invariably skewed one way or the other (Some come closer to capturing what transpired while others deviate to varying degrees from this).

There is also the all too human propensity to spin tales and myths that cast darker chapters in history and current events as well in a favorable light. So long as this sort of thing does not marginalize, ostracize, condemn or otherwise inflict harm on people or incite others to do such reprehensible things to others, it can and often does serve as a sort of collective coping mechanism and a means of preserving a shared conviction and some sense of the honor or dignity attached to it and its proponents or champions.

Think we Americans do not have our own sacred myths or make objects of honor (heroes) out of people unworthy of this? If so, you do not know American history.

To my way of thinking there is little doubt but that Confederate ancestors should be honored by their descendants for having the courage of their convictions. This doesn’t mean endorsing all they stood for or believed, only those aspects of them that were honorable and decent. For some this includes hanging a Confederate flag outside their homes or in their cars or trucks, or wearing clothing articles emblazoned with the “stars and bars” or tattoos bearing this or the like.

Now the argument has been raised in some quarters that the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Waffen SS who fought for Hitler had the courage of their convictions and if “sons and daughters of the Confederacy” can honor their ancestor’s for this, so descendants of those who served under the crooked cross should. Before I touch on this, I simply must point out that when it comes to honoring ancestors who fought for a losing and even vile cause, the waters get very muddy indeed. For instance, in Japan, where I lived and worked for more than four years, honoring ones ancestors includes an annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by the Prime Minister where the cremains of 1,068 war criminals including 14 Class-A war criminals are interred. The same rising sun flag that flew over Imperial troops sailors and pilots in WWII flies in various guises today over Japanese defense forces.

After WWII the German government, of course, outlawed displays of the swastika as well as use of the straight-armed Nazi salute and for good cause. The sheer magnitude of intentional, calculated evil committed in Hitler’s Third Reich and by its many puppets and willing supporters made permitting public displays of the swastika (outside of museums, documentaries, movies and special exhibits) or the giving of the Nazi salute anathema.

But does this mean that, say, a German today whose grandfather, great grandfather or other relative served honorably in the Wehrmacht (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force), Kriegsmarine (Navy) or Volkssturm is amiss in honoring their individual courage or valor? Is not the courage and valor shown by those German servicemen who had no part in any atrocities or other evils and were not members of organization that did such as the SS and Waffen SS, any different than that of allied servicemen who fought bravely and brought down their malignant empire?

You may be tempted to say that even honorable souls who served a failed, dishonorable and especially evil cause must be utterly renounced or at least never mentioned. In-a-sense, bury the past except in museum displays and politically correct books, movies, plays and such. “Tear down those flags and statues and erase every trace of these people and their cause”.

If you are inclined to say “amen” to this, I am now going to show you how its application to flags and heroes many, many Americans admire would require their purging from American culture.

Consider this: If we are going to remove all CSA symbols, flags and statues and such from public lands, then why not go one step forward and tear down Custer tributes (such as Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument) and others associated with the genocidal treatment of my American Indian ancestors and their brothers and sisters by the US government, the US military and many of its Presidents, especially Andrew Jackson?

After all, many of these so-called sacred icons and symbols are a painful reminder to we American Indians of the forced marches, reservations, massacres and others forms of calculated murder including attrition by intentional introduction of diseases such as smallpox, that were visited upon American Indian peoples by “fine American patriots” who felt God (“manifest destiny”) and being “racially superior” entitled them to do whatever it took to make America a white dominated empire that stretched from “sea to shining sea”. And just to underscore how profoundly evil all this was, no less than the patron saint of evil, Adolf Hitler, drew inspiration from abominable racist US genocidal policies and the reservation system it spawned in crafting his own version of hell on earth (Click to read more).

Should not the flags, statues, historic markers and such associated with these evils be tossed into the fire?

My question to you then is this: If we should elect to cleanse our land of the reminders of its darker chapters and failed experiments, what will be left? And isn’t forgetting the lessons of history not one of the surer ways to insure we repeat them?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anthony G. Payne, whose American Indian name is “Summer Cloud”, is a native born Texan and an American Indian (Bureau of Indian Affairs CDIB card holder) and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Despite having grown up in the “reddest parts” of North Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana, he is a political liberal who embraced democratic socialism in the 1980s. He is also a religious and moral conservative but no friend of fundamentalism/creationism or those pet beliefs of evangelical Christians that run contrary to what the Rabbi from Nazareth advocated and lived (Click to access Summer Cloud’s spiritual watering hole website).

In addition to having ancestors who fought in the armed forces of the Confederacy, one of Dr. Payne’s maternal line was an army officer (Lieutenant) in the Revolutionary War who fought British forces in South Carolina.

Additional Reading on various subjects touched on in this op-ed piece

Abraham Lincoln, Racist (New York Times)

There’s facts and then there’s facts. See how easy it is to create your own reality!

How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it

Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.

 

©2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

 

The Paula Deen train derails yet again (A Southerner shares his thoughts)

Train 2 - free morguefileNo doubt you’ve come across more than a few TV segments or Web items or both on the many eye-opening episodes from Paula Deen’s past involving racially insensitive words and deeds  (The latest being a just released NY Times story at http://nyti.ms/12mBZaO). What I found troublesome in all this was the argument (rationalization) she offered a while back to the effect that the South she grew up in was in some ways a bastion of antebellum bigotry and thus by extension it is almost expected that folks who grew up in it would harbor such notions. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is true. In fact, I know this is true because I grew up in the South (Texas and Louisiana) during the very time Deen did. I am Southern born & bred and have ancestors on both sides of my family that go back to before the Revolutionary war in South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. My great, great grandparents and their offspring lived as citizens of the C.S.A. and some actually fought under the stars & bars as Confederate soldiers. However, my Euro-American father and American Indian (Choctaw) mother never used racist terms or tolerated racist jokes nor even once used the N-word. Not once. And while I heard this pejorative word tossed about by other Southerners as both a put-down of African Americans and as a way to defuse their own fears of (I gather) being upstaged by them, I wanted no part of it. So it follows that a Southerner can grow up around racist words & thinking and yet not wind up perpetuating them in word or deed. This lends me to be wholly unsympathetic to Deen’s attributing what she said and did in the past to exposure to what amounted to “acceptable bigotry”.

At this moment many of my fellow Southerners are rallying to Deen’s side and marshaling all kinds of arguments to excuse her past “sins” and in-a-way redeem her person and legacy.   From what I see they are well meaning people, not hood wearing types or sympathetic to these living anachronisms, though most seem unaware that forgiving Deen’s actions is one thing but trying to rationalize them is quite another.

But let me add this: Attacks on the person who is Paula Deen should not be sanctioned or perpetuated. Attack bad ideas and actions, not the person in the sense of interpreting their motivations or what they feel (None of us can pull this off when it comes to our own being much less anyone else, as most of this takes place at a nonconscious level and is not accessible to conscious processes in our brains).

Let us reject racist ideas and actions and any rationalizations meant to excuse them, but not act as if this reveals what is in the hearts of those who toss them about and by virtue of thus defines their character or very soul (Unless the doer flat out says that their actions stem from heartfelt beliefs and convictions and actually does reflect their soul of souls. Then we should pity them and pray they wise up).

Choctaw Doc

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

   

 

How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it

Color photo from TIME, Inc.

Color photo from TIME, Inc.

Dr. Anthony G. PayneMy good friend Jim Haverlock recently asked, “How do you kill 12 million people?” He was,  of course,  referring to the Shoah or Holocaust. He wasn’t asking about the nuts & bolts of pulling off mass executions but, rather, how did so many ordinary and even extraordinary men and women willingly take part in Hitler’s Endlösung (Final Solution). This is a question that has intrigued and haunted me since early boyhood actually. In fact, as part of my quest for answers I read all of Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels diaries as a young man plus vol. 1 of “Mein Kampf” (Vol. 2 was unknown when I was a youngster), watched archival film of the Nuremberg & Doctor’s trials, and read just about every substantive book on Hitler, the Nazis and fascism that existed at the time (And everything worth reading on the subject since as well). As anyone reading this who ever took a course in World History knows, both Hitler and Goebbels stressed the use of propaganda and the “big lie” as integral to the creating and sustainment of the Greater Germania they envisioned. And both were extraordinary in their zeal and abilities to forge a monolithic state predicated on a shared national myth, and induce the German people to embrace it via lies, artful use of imagery and symbols, fear, rewards and appeals to entrenched biases that went back not just decades but centuries (Particularly in the case of antisemitism which sadly had its roots in early Christian teachings especially the Hellenized spin on Jesus and his message crafted & promulgated by Saul of Tarsus aka St. Paul. Learn more by reading Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity  by scholar & historian Dr. James D. Tabor).

One place to turn for insight is historian Dr. Daniel Goldhagen’s books plus those of psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo. They do a smashing good job of laying out the historic, sociological, psychological and economic forces, currents and mechanisms that set the stage for the rise of the Nazis and then sustained them once they were in power.

But, even after you’ve read and mastered these works and others like them you likely find yourself still perplexed by the fact so many people down through the millennia and especially during the heyday of fascism could ignore and in many instances take an active hand in wanton cruelty. After nearly a lifetime of studying human cruelty and complicity in cruelty and evil I know there is no simple answer to “why”. Certainly lack of empathy or reduced or impaired empathy for targets/scapegoats is vital to evil and, yes, lies play a powerful role as well, but there is so much more that works to foster wickedness than lies and people’s failure to detect them or act on them or neglect to search them out and deal with them. However, with this said it certain behooves Americans to be vigilant and to call out wrongs and evil as soon as they come to light.

Things are complicated by the fact that evil and good rely on similar mechanisms and tools to govern (God, too, relies on these – see my op-ed piece on this subject titled “Hitler & HaShem at http://www.healingcare4u.org/hitler-hashem.pdf). Heaven knows our government has used lies of varying magnitude to govern across the years of our country’s existence. Probably Nixon and his “Imperial Presidency” took this to a whole new level and set certain wickedness in motion that has grown in scope to this day. In theory, yes, a super crisis or series of crises could lead to martial law and suspensions of Constitutional guarantees. During the Civil War (or as it is better known where I came from, “The War for Southern Independence”) Abraham Lincoln threw many folks who questioned his administration and policies into jail and kept them there, thanks to his having suspended the writ of habeas corpus. However, people rebelled, the press raised hell and the Supreme Court ultimately undid some of the more egregious acts of hegemony. I think any move to contain social disorder by imposition of a police or ultra-authoritarian state would, at the very least, result in the formation of tens of thousands of militias and resistance groups across the land that would make keeping the lid on the pot problematic if not impossible.

Naturally, best to act now and prevent a quasi-police or full-fledged police state then try to overthrow one that is in-place. Keeping our representatives working and honest is certainly part of that.

While no one has knows the full rhyme and reason behind human evil and its various incarnations, it helps to be aware of and reject ideas, movements, and acts that arise from and feed evil: Among them being intolerance, the marginalization and dehumanization of others especially minorities and other vulnerable groups, and unquestioned belief in authority figures and an unwillingness to call them out when they violate the very civil virtues and Constitutional guarantees they are charged with upholding.

I would add this: Although I’ve been a democratic socialist since 1985 I find some ideas and notions articulated by conservatives and even some right wingers of merit. As a Southerner whose ancestors go back to Revolutionary War times (and beyond) in South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi, and whose paternal and maternal forbearers lived under the Stars & Bars (Confederacy) and in some instances fought for the C.S.A., I inherited a mix of ideas and notions, some worthy of consideration if not embrace, others that had no substance when they were articulated long ago and never will.  Of those that I deemed worth hanging onto was the longstanding Southern distrust of a powerful central government running everything including many aspects of people’s everyday lives. Although you might think a democratic socialist would welcome an all powerful centralized government, I emphatically do not. History shows all too clearly that the concentration of power in the hands of strongmen leads to abuses and skullduggery of the worst sort. Actually there are at least a few liberal thinkers who would prefer to see a decentralization of power in the US and other countries, and even the break-up of powerhouse countries into small nation-states (Especially those that are unstable or might become so and with this attempt to retain order and stability by imposition of a police or authoritarian state). I’m sure a world comprised of small, less powerful nations, say, the size of Switzerland, would by no means avoid many of the ills that plague major powers today, but I can’t help think they would have less influence and thus less ability to work evil in the world. And for those that do, their neighbors could form temporary confederations and impose various kinds of sanctions or, when regrettably necessary, military containment (Hey, sometimes the only way to stop a thug is send in the police).

But until power shifts from Washington to the states (if it ever does), best to keep an eye on the politicians on Capital Hill and do everything possible to keep our representatives working, honest and limited in the evil they can do. The same applies to the press and other so-called sacred American institutions.

Dr. Anthony G. Payne (waxing philosophic from his porch swing)

RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL READING

My spiritual watering hole website: http://summerclouds.weebly.com/

Why does God allow evil (Theodicy)? See Are you an atheist, religionist, deist, fideist or ???

CBN video presentation “God & Hitler”: http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/churchhistory/godandhitler/index.aspx

Restoring Abrahamic Faith by Dr. James D. Tabor

The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity by Dr. James D. Tabor

The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity by Rev. Jeffrey J. Bϋtz

How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson, Ph.D.

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D.

Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D.

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

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