Jun
20

An overactive sense of history

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We were told during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s that some of the ethnic hatreds there dated back centuries. People in the Balkans were re-fighting battles lost 600 years earlier.

One knock against Americans is, it is said we have no sense of history. But during the Bosnian genocide, it struck me that the flip side to having no sense of history was having an overactive one.

Here in the South, there are some people with overactive senses of their own history. Specifically, a history symbolized by flying flags of the Confederacy from lawns, from pickup trucks, and in South Carolina, on the state capitol grounds. That particular flag flies on a pole from which, by law, it cannot be removed.

Why?

Americans with no sense of history will not appreciate how in the South the loss of the Civil War is, a mere 150 years after the fact, still the source of a gnawing, grinding anger for a minority with an overactive one. The myths of the Lost Cause, the Bloody Shirt, “heritage not hate,” “states’ rights,” “Forget, Hell!” and all the other post hoc rationale for whitewashing slavery, treason, Jim Crow, and decades of lynchings and other domestic terrorism are still alive, if only in small pockets. But they won’t let it go. Call it pride. Call it Scots-Irish stubbornness. (And a lingering inferiority complex.) But it is toxic. The defeat went down hard, and the memory of a defeated people runs deep. Ask the Serbs.

Enough.

After the mass shooting in Charleston this week, one South Carolina state legislator, a Republican, proposes removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds once and for all:

South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon announced on Friday night that he would introduce a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, citing the death of Sen. Clementa Pinckney during the terrorist attack in Charleston earlier this week.

“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Brannon, a Republican, told MSNBC host Chris Hayes in a phone interview. “Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m gonna introduce the bill for that reason.”

He showed more integrity than many of his cohorts this week.

John Fugelsang has one of the best (and upbeat) takedowns of Confederate flag-waving and why the South ought to let it go:

Of all the periods of your history, why do you want to celebrate those four years? … You are better than them! You are better than your ancestors who quit America because they wanted to keep people as pets.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : History, National, Race

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