The Confederate battle flag and its removal from the South Carolina Statehouse last Friday is obviously touching a tender nerve with individuals across the country. We can watch it come down, watch it be folded meticulously, and watch it walk away in the arms of a member of the honor guard with the South Carolina State Police, but what he holds so attentively is only a symbol, while the mentality remains the same in so many.
I was not going to write anything about this. In fact, I tried to forget about it and keep my views to myself. Deep down inside, I have always been confused on why I would see this flag in certain places or even flying on the backs of trucks occasionally. I have always been intrigued by the Civil War, reading books about it and even watching numerous movies set in that time period. I can’t imagine slavery, bondage and its awfulness, and feel so saddened to even think of it.
How could states turn against each other in war, killing roughly 620,000 soldiers. The recent events have weighed on my mind so heavily that I cannot simply deny myself to write something about it. I want to stand up for what I feel and know is the right thing. We all should.
I do have a FaceBook, Twitter and television – so I kept getting bombarded with different individual’s thoughts, views, remarks and obvious feelings about this flag and its meaning. If you are wondering what my views are, I feel certain you will know by the end of this column.
So many have suggested this Confederate flag is “our heritage” and must not be put away at a museum. For me, this is not a period of history that I think we Southerners should be particularly proud of. I have been shocked and sickened at the thoughts of those urging others to post/share/retweet the Confederate flag, using the crutch that this flag once stood for the South and everything we were fighting for.
What exactly were we fighting for? Do you know? Some have said tariffs, northern and southern parties, Republicans, Democrats, Sectionalism and “State’s Rights.” These are all part of the separation, but the overwhelming, undeniable and elemental issue was SLAVERY. Yes, in all of my research – I am yet to find anything that says the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.
I did my research, and here is what I came up with.
First, a few key terms:
Confederate States of America - the group of 11 Southern states that seceded from the United States in 1860–61. (The 11 states of the Confederacy were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.) South Carolina being first on Dec. 20, 1860, with Tennessee being last on June 8, 1861.
Civil War - a war between political factions or regions within the same country.
Secession - U.S. History. The withdrawal from the Union of 11 Southern states in the period 1860–61, which brought on the Civil War.
Sectionalism - excessive regard for sectional or local interests; regional or local spirit, prejudice, etc.
Slavery - the keeping of slaves as a practice or institution; bondage.
While many still debate the causes of the Civil War, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson writes that, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican President on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.” (http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/faq/)
Northern states had mechanization. Southern states relied on free, slave labor. The North became a threat to the South, and rather than learn a better, more efficient, and above all – morally right way to do things, the South stubbornly dug their heels in arrogantly, proudful and boastful – only to eventually lose a war that lasted roughly four years from April 12, 1861 – Spring, 1865. Too bad they couldn’t survive on speeches alone.
I do not like some of the actions I have witnessed recently, and I am sure there are things in this column I have said that some of you may not agree with. Also, please keep in mind – I teach English, not history – so I hope my research is proven true. I enjoy history, and learning where I came from and what price was paid to allow me the opportunity to live life as a Texan, and yes - a Southerner. I just hope that we can all agree that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of a heritage we should be proud of, but yet a time that we should be aware of. We should embrace equality, treat others the way we wish to be treated, and rather than wrap ourselves in a flag – wrap ourselves in Christ’ love for us.
I hope that you have learned something by reading this, as I have by writing it.
“We learn from history that we do not learn from history”
— Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Theo Acker is a resident of Waxahachie and a frequent contributor to the Waxahachie Daily Light.