The Confederate South Should Rise Again ... in Private
It's OK to celebrate Confederate history—until you get the government involved.
True story No. 1: I have an old friend with a Confederate Battle Flag tattoo--an African-American woman born and raised in South Carolina. She's a JAG officer and a decorated Iraq war vet. Her sorority pledge nickname just happened to be "Rebel," but the tat is also a proud symbol of her Southern birthright.
Like a lot of native Southerners, she genuinely identifies with the sentiment expressed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell this week, describing "our Commonwealth's shared history" when he issued his formal proclamation that Virginia will once again celebrate Confederate History Month.
McDonnell's already come out and apologized for glossing over the seamy history of the Confederate States of America. As The American Prospect's Adam Serwer rightly noted, "If you're going to 'honor' what Confederate soldiers fought for, you should at least have the honesty to acknowledge what exactly that was--the 'freedom' to own black people as property."
But the main problem with Virginia's Confederate History Month isn't slavery--it's "Virginia." Because there's nothing wrong with Virginians or anyone else commemorating their Confederate heritage as long as the government of one of the 50 United States of America isn't the sponsor. That's really where McDonnell went wrong.
From now on, three simple rules should apply to any and all celebrations of Confederate History Month:
It makes no more sense to have the Confederate Battle Flag as part of any U.S. state's flag, or flying in front of any state's capitol building than it does to have the flag of imperial Japan flying there. If a country--including the C.S.A.--attacked the United States, then that country is our enemy. No matter how much diplomatic relations improve, rest assured you'll never see Kuwait flying Iraq's flag on the Emir's palace grounds.
On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with Confederate nostalgists putting Confederate Battle Flags on their T-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs. They've got a constitutional right to proudly fly that flag on the front porches of their homes. But once you ask any state, county or municipality to get into the Confederate business, you're asking the American taxpayer to endorse and subsidize a rogue apartheid insurgency--that lost. Thanks, but no thanks.
??? History Month
Since Confederate History Month celebrates the history and culture of a short-lived nation-state that attacked the good ol' U.S. of A.--and lost--Confederate celebrants ought to be precluded from ever complaining about any other holiday they may not approve of: Gay Pride Month, Indigenous Peoples' Month, Chrismukkah or Kwanzaa. If it's good enough for Dixie, then it's a Festivus for the rest of us.