Sunday, September 1, 2013

Of Decals and Misplaced Pride

So yesterday we went over to the Thresheree, that annual celebration of anything farm-related that has an internal combustion engine attached to it somewhere.  There are century-old tractors, some of which are the size (and shape) of railroad locomotives.  There are any number of categories of antique machines whose function remains opaque to this city boy, many of which ingest things at one end and spit out other things from another.  Most shake and rattle.  They may or may not roll.  There is a steam-driven pile driver that spends the weekend randomly pounding telephone poles into the ground, which is about as productive as anything you’ll get out of Congress between now and the midterm elections, really.  And this year they had a classic car area with everything from a 1924 pickup truck (with a wooden chassis) to a 1980 El Camino – in my opinion perhaps the silliest car ever invented, even if you include the Yugo, though Kim would disagree.

There is also a flea market.

Now, normally I like flea markets.  They are vast collections of useless junk advertised by signs sporting purely random apostrophes and spellings from an earlier, more democratic age, and that’s normally enough to keep me amused for hours.

And then I walked over to a booth and saw a decal for sale, the sort of thing designed to fit in the rear window of a pickup truck.  It had the Confederate battle flag prominently displayed – not an unusual sight in this day and age, sadly enough, as it appeals to people who claim to value their freedom without having to go through the ache of trying to figure out what that freedom actually means or where the real threats to it lie.  You’d be shocked at how many people there are like that running about unmedicated on the streets.  Or not, I suppose.  So it wasn’t the Confederate battle flag per se that struck me as the single most stupid thing I have seen in months.  It was the caption under it:

“Proud to be an American.”

Okay, then.

The sheer historical ignorance that would be required to display this particular combination of logo and sentiment is mind-boggling.  Did they not get the memo about the Civil War?  Are they unaware that this flag was carried into battle by the wrong side in an organized rebellion against the United States?  Or do they simply not care?

I am not sure how the flag of traitors is supposed to make someone feel patriotic, really.  Or proud.  Perhaps it is supposed to remind us that the United States triumphed over the treason of the South, eradicating the misbegotten wretchedness of the Confederacy from the earth – and in that context, I suppose it would make me proud to be an American, yes it would.

I’m thinking this is not what they were aiming at, though.

So, once more unto the breach dear friends, once more.  Say it with me:

The South committed treason in 1861 when it illegally tried to secede from the Union and then waged war upon the United States in furtherance of this goal. 

They did this to perpetuate their ability to hold human slaves – a fact that they were eager to declare in their own manifestos and which did not become embarrassing to them until well after the Civil War, which is when the whole “states’ rights” nonsense starts to become popular among apologists for treason.  It still is.

The Confederacy was then destroyed – thoroughly, completely, and without contradiction – and humanity is better off because of this fact. 

While that destruction served to advance the cause of liberty and freedom as well as to preserve the nation that had been created by the Founding Fathers, the fact that this had to be done at all – that such treason had even been attempted – remains a black mark on this nation’s history.

None of this should make anyone proud as an American to fly that flag.

I do not understand the need to glorify the traitors of 1861, to buy decals with their flags and pretend they were engaged in something that wasn’t vile.  I do not see any need to celebrate their deeds, their history, or their views – particularly not in Wisconsin, a state that sent more than its share of men to put down that evil.

To the extent that anyone can take pride in an ancestor’s actions – they’re not my actions, after all – I take pride in the fact that when the call came at least one of my ancestors fought to preserve the Union against those who would destroy liberty in the name of slavery.

If you’re really proud to be an American, be proud that the Confederacy failed.  Be proud that this nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, triumphed over those who would destroy it in order to perpetuate a caste system of slavery.

Put a Stars and Stripes on that decal, and maybe we’ll talk.


Lee I said...

Hear, hear!

mehitabel said...

Well said! Sadly, too many people can't see the truth when it hits them in the face.

Random Michelle K said...

Alas, the fool who thought that up is unlikely to wander by and read this.

Apropos only of the Civil War...

Saturday, during the football game, apparently someone on Fox kept referring to WVU's location as Morgantown, Virginia.

Despite WEST VIRGINIA being on the field in giant letters.

Which is why I, sadly, find myself unsurprised that people don't understand what the confederate flag actually means.

David said...

Maybe Fox simply refuses to recognize that the Civil War occurred at all and is just using the original location, before WV split away from the secessionist VA?

Or maybe it's just par for the course for a network that prefers ideological fantasy to reality.

Either way, drably depressing.

Unknown said...

As you know, I shared this with my daughter, who had many questions. I've now shared it with my son, who always has an interesting perspective. He compares the treason of the Confederacy to declarations of pointless wars by other presidents, e.g. George W. These result in the unneccessary deaths of American soldiers. I love asking for his opinion on things like this - he's always got a perspective I'd never thought of.

David said...

He makes an interesting point, but not one that really follows here. There is a vast difference between a pointless, poorly planned, or even unconstitutional war on the one hand and treason on the other.

Treason is defined in the Constitution: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." (Article 3, Section 3). This the South did when they set up the Confederacy.

Vietnam, Iraq and the like are not the same thing at all - they present a different set of problems For one thing, there is Article 1 Section 8, which explicitly states that Congress (not the President) shall have the power to declare war. No such declaration was ever made nor has there been such a declaration since 1941.

Unknown said...

No declaration since 41? I could have sworn that one of the Gulf Wars involved Congress properly? I recall speculation in the press about the outcome of the vote... what am I remembering?

David said...

If I recall correctly, Congress did authorize the use of force in the first Gulf War, but did not actually declare war. This is a half-measure, and not really up to the full Constitutional standard, but better than nothing. Similarly, Congress may authorize the use of force in Syria this month, but there has been no request from the president for a full declaration of war nor has there been any movement in Congress to debate this.