Charlie's Blog: Heritage and Hate


Heritage and Hate

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

I love South Carolina. I realize that the image of South Carolina beyond her borders is very negative. We are at the bottom of every list of good things and at the top of the list of every bad thing. We are the butt of every joke a Northerner makes about the South, yet it doesn't keep those Yankees from moving down to stay. But I love my state the same way a mother loves her child even if he isn't on the honor roll at school. It is enough that this state is my state, and I will love her always.

South Carolina hasn't always done the right thing. But I can say the same thing for any other state in the union and even for the USA which I also love. I believe in fidelity for its own sake acknowledging that the good and bad of a place are preferrable to the doublemindedness of being a nomad. The legacy of all places and institutions are a mixed thing, and I do not think we should live at the extremes of hagiography or absolute condemnation. This would be the whitewashing of sins by some and the blackwashing of virtues by others.

South Carolina has been in the news recently because of the evil actions of a disturbed young man and the presence of the Confederate battle emblem on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse. There are those who believe the flag should be removed because it is a symbol of hatred. Others say that it should remain because it is a symbol of heritage. Where do I stand on the issue? I believe that flag should come down.

I do not believe that all of the flag supporters are hateful or belong to the KKK. But I do believe that they are ignorant of the history they claim to be preserving. What they are preserving is not history but a historical myth that the War Between the States (the Civil War for the Yankees) was about states' rights against an encroaching and overpowering federal government. But this is nonsense. For the South, the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery. The states' rights argument is propaganda after the fact to whitewash an evil. For more on this, I recommend this article from Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic that uses the words of the South's defenders to show that the cause was absolutely for slavery.

The cause of the South was not an honorable one because there is no honor in owning slaves. People who persist in the heritage arguments and honorable cause arguments do so at the peril of common sense. You can see even in the South Carolina Declaration of Secession quoted above that slavery was the animating cause of the conflict. It would help if those making these silly arguments could actually read. Instead, they go off in zeal and ignorance defending a belief in something that never existed.

If the South fought to defend slavery, it must also be stated that the North did not fight to eradicate it. This is another myth that needs to be exposed for its falsity. The reality is that a loudmouthed Yankee can be every bit as ignorant as a poorly read Southern redneck. The North was largely indifferent to slavery as indicated in this quotation from Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address:
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
The North did not care about slavery in the South. The abolitionist cause was a minority cause in the North. The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison even called for secession from the South:
By the dissolution of the Union we shall give the finishing blow to the slave system; and then God will make it possible for us to form a true, vital, enduring, all-embracing Union from the Atlantic to the Pacific -- one God to be worshiped, one Savior to be revered, one policy to be carried out -- freedom everywhere to all the people without regard to complexion or race -- and the blessing of God resting upon us all!
Why did Garrison call for secession? Because he had no hope in trying to eradicate slavery but merely to separate himself and this country from it. Secession was an easier path than war, and the North would have become a permanent sanctuary for escaping slaves from the South and not the tenuous one made by the Dred Scott decision.

I find the best way to understand history is through an economic understanding of events. The South had a valuable economic asset in a slave workforce. The North had a valuable economic asset in the South who they pushed to buy manufactured goods from the North by placing tariffs on imported goods from Great Britain. (Britain would ally itself with the Confederate States even though it had abolished slavery in 1833 in its colonies, The Brits wanted to get around those tariffs.) The North could care less about slavery as long as the South remained captured to buying northern goods. Lincoln would sign an emancipation proclamation later during the Civil War only as a cynical move to provoke a slave uprising in the South to help win the war. Slaves in states that remained in the Union would remain in chains. If all this sounds ugly and greedy and self-serving, it was. Towards the end of the war and afterwards, morality began to play a role in the direction of the nation. Trauma and bloodshed have a way of doing that.

Human history is ugly. From all my readings about history, the only firm conclusion I can draw is that the good things are almost always false while the ugly things are almost always true. And both sides tend to be the bad guy. A great example of this would be how Native Americans stopped slaughtering each other long enough to slaughter the white people who were slaughtering Native Americans. The only reliable history is the one written by people who acknowledge the doctrine of original sin.

This leads us to the present. Why do some people in South Carolina support the Confederate Flag? The answer to that should be obvious. They are racist. They may deny this in public, but they will confess it in private. And why are they racist? It is not because they hate black people. It is because they hate themselves.

When you perceive that you are at the bottom of society, the easiest way to get off the bottom is to put someone else beneath you. So, when you look in the mirror, you can say to yourself, "I am a poor pitiful piece of white trash but at least I'm not a nigger." You have nothing to boast about in your life except the small consolation that you were born white instead of black. The confederate flag becomes the badge of this identity and flying it even in defiance salvages the ego. To everyone else, it is just pathetic.

All humans are created in the image of God. This includes black people and the racist rednecks that kill black people. This imago Dei gives all people an inherent dignity and a right to that dignity. Beyond that, humanity has nothing to be proud about because that image of God is marred by original sin. We are all sinners. Pride is foolishness. It doesn't matter if you belong to the KKK or the Black Panther Party. All should be humble before God and acknowledge our unworthiness while also acknowledging that no one is worthless.

I love South Carolina, and I am saddened by all that has happened here recently. I wish South Carolina was a better place, and I think it would be a better place if that flag was removed to a museum. In its place, there should be a new monument to forgiveness. The Civil War began here in this state. I think it would be nice if it ended here.

UPDATE: Today (7.10.2015) by vote of the SC General Assembly and the signing of the bill into law by Governor Nikki Haley, an honor guard removed the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the SC Statehouse. Since posting this essay, I have heard various reactions and viewpoints about the flag, the Civil War, race relations, etc. I can agree that this act today is more symbolic than substantive. Yet, I think it marks a real change in the hearts and minds of many people in SC. If Dylann Roof wanted to spark a race war with his evil actions, he failed. I now pray for the souls of his victims, and I will pray for him, too.