Black veteran, a ‘Son of the South,’ defends the Confederate flag
A huge Confederate flag is raised over the southbound side of Interstate 65 in Verbena, Ala., north of Montgomery Sunday afternoon, June 26, 2005. (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Jerry Ayres) (JERRY AYRES)
By Courtney Daniels, June 25, 2015, Al.com
In 2001, the Taliban shamelessly dynamited the Bamiyan Buddhas, two of the largest such carvings of the ancient world. Built in the 6th century by monks who made their homes along the Silk Road, the Buddahs stood for millenia until fundamentalists removed them from the face of the Earth. Such ignorance still abounds. Over the past few months, the onslaught of the Islamic State has wrought the systematic destruction of cultural artifacts from Palmyra to Nineva, all because they were deemed “offensive” by a minority that if it had its way, would ensure the entire world would adhere to a dark and revisionist existence.
A couple of days ago, in the wake of a childish debate over a memorial flag flown near a Confederate statue, a Southern monument was ignorantly desecrated with an attempt at the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. The spray-painted phrase was misspelled. The inanimate statue, a solemn reminder of the South’s fallen sons, didn’t take away any citizen’s pursuit of happiness, it didn’t interfere with the social and racial disparities that some claim as a detriment to advancement — it simply stood there, silent and bold, marking the bravery and errors of yesterday’s determinations.
From the gun debate to the flag debate (which are both somehow tied to this most recent, senseless shooting tragedy) it seems that liberal thought continues to show its fear of inanimate objects. Such a way of thinking never holds PEOPLE accountable. Instead it points fingers in every other direction.
The removal of a historical banner won’t stop racists from exercising bigotry. As a matter of fact, racists will be racists despite regulations and constant “feel good” legislation, no flag needed. The ignorance of the disgruntled protestors is evident in their refusal to acknowledge that the flag widely recognized as the “Confederate Flag” was never actually adopted as the flag of the Confederacy. They’ll also never admit or realize that not only was slavery not the motivating factor for the ensuing civil war, but that slavery was an American institution, not a Confederate one.
The Confederacy, in its prime, never mounted the atrocities of the Trail of Tears or the Black Hills conspiracy. But it seems that all because a few cowards in bedsheets once hijacked the gorgeous colors of a banner so rich in history to terrorize and intimidate other Americans, we condemn the Southern cloth to oblivion as a misnamed symbol of hate. It doesn’t matter that slaves outside of the declared boundaries remained enslaved in the North. Neither does it matter that many Southerners gave up plots of their property to house and provide compensable labor for black workers. It doesn’t matter that Lincoln, who is often regarded as the liberator of enslaved blacks cared less for the welfare of slaves than for the sovereignty of an entire country.
Where I come from, deep in the Heart of Dixie, I see that flag every single day with its bold red field and star-studded cross of St. Andrews in royal blue. I hold a certain respect for it that others fueled by emotion and misinformation wouldn’t understand. I revere it as a son of the South in a way that would confuse those on the outside looking in, who by the way are not entitled to commentary on which flag waves in our humid Southern breeze. I spot it on not so subtle scavenger hunts gracing a random shirt at the gas station, the hat of the guy behind the counter at my local bait and tackle shop, and the bed of a passing pickup with the accompanying decal “Southern Pride.” I smile because I know that if in need, that guy would give me that same shirt off his back. I smile because I live in a region that has a certain defiance that only a select few inherit.
As a black man who grew up in the South, I’ll admit I didn’t always see the issue with this same clarity. I blindly followed the sentimentalism of my parents and educators who passed judgement from a seat of victimization, failing to challenge evidence to the contrary. My opinion on the Battle Flag was swayed as a 13-year-old reading a contributor’s opinion in the Birmingham News, circa 2001. A white man with Confederate heritage, he acknowledged that he had never considered the flag flying on his front lawn to have held such a negative connotation in the minds of so many blacks. I remember from reading the column, he had a certain politeness that urged him to take his flag down and hang it indoors out of respect for those who didn’t like it. I respected his consideration and it prompted me to do my own homework on what role the Civil War and the flag in question played in my ancestor’s past and my own future. I realized then that I had foolishly labeled every white person sporting the flag as a racist, with no facts to back my claim and without placing myself in their shoes or knowing them personally.
In short, I’ve come to terms with it being a wrongfully vilified piece of Southern culture, as important to our collective heritage as RC Cola and Moon Pies.
In so many ways, the South is the conscience of the entire nation. In the 21st century with Americans abandoning all decency and forgetting to walk tall, the South still manages to maintain a certain air of moral obligation that has been all but lost in northern enclaves like Philadelphia where Americans scowl at one another, heavily divided by racial suspicion and bigotry, or cities like New York where neighborhoods a century after the Great Migration of blacks are still heavily defined by skin tone and distrust. In the South, we mingle. We play. We do like Willie Mays and “say hey” no matter the color of the person sitting on the porch. I walk into my local grocery with my daughter and like the tick of the clock, I know I can count on an endearing “Hey baby doll, you need some help?” from the attendant whose skin heavily contrasts mine. Her “y’all come on back now” is the most welcoming invitation I could ever hear.
It’s clear that as a nation, we are embarking on a new, revised, politically correct avenue of apology. The future is a dim one, void of backbone and fistfights. No more, “each according to the dictates of his own conscience.”
“If it offends my neighbor, make it illegal, dynamite it, wipe it from the face of the Earth” rages the contentious fascist. It’s becoming clear that what those progressives want is a new, bleak, unrecognizable South, its accomplishments and errors equally stricken from the annals of history. They wish its monuments to be no more, the names of its generals removed from every institution, it’s antebellum flair retold as a horror story as if Sherman’s destruction wasn’t enough of a disgrace.
I am from the great state of Alabama and live between the rivers of Tennessee. I am a proud American and maybe in ways, an even louder Southerner. Can’t help it. I relate because I’m a rebel in so many ways and I’m very proud of where I’m from. I can read an accent from either Carolina and know that I’m in good company. I can present my pistol permit to a Texas Ranger and trust that it will be honored four hundred miles in the other direction. I know that I can stop for small talk in any Waffle House in Georgia, and strike up a meaningful conversation with the Walmart shopper behind me in line in Mississippi. I don’t need to know those people, they already know me. I am related to them and they are related to me.
If you don’t know us but have an opinion about how we should live our lives or if you can’t dissect the FACTS of a situation without making it a divisive issue, as Southerners, we only have one thing to say to your folly: “Bless your heart.”
Courtney Daniels is a Birmingham native, former U.S. Marine and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom