Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"A tree is best measured when it is lying down...."

The thing about a tree is, it looks tall and sturdy and enduring and immovable, until it topples over.

A windstorm can do it; or heavy rain; and suddenly the tree you thought so small against the sky is huge along the ground.  The tree you thought so powerful it was rooted to the spot, is uprooted and you can't say whether it was the force against it, or some decay you couldn't see until it toppled.  But it doesn't come down like a ruin, in bits and pieces, leaving a skeletal structure as a reminder of its former glory.  It comes down all at once, completely, catastrophically.  It falls, and on the ground you get the measure of it, even as it's now gone forever, and its decay or destruction truly begins.

Adding to what I said below, word now comes that The Citadel wants to remove it's Confederate Battle Flag (or Naval Jack, to add to the confusion about what to call it) from it's chapel.

But the South Carolina legislature will have to change state law, since the flag hangs at the Citadel for the same reason it is on permanent display on the state capitol grounds.

To put this in context, The Citadel was established close to Emanuel AME church because of the links between that church and the abolitionist movement.  It was established rather like Pilate's Palace, built to look down over the wall into the Temple at Jerusalem.  To the Romans, that Temple was a hotbed of political activity (in an age when religion and politics were not separated, and Rome exploited the combination); the Governor's Palace was both a symbol of Rome's power, and a practical reminder to the children of Abraham that Rome was watching (guards could literally look down from the Palace into the grounds of the Temple).

And now the Citadel wants to remove a symbol of why it was built in the first place.

To reiterate:  the Naval Jack returned to prominence in the South in the 1960's, a response to the civil rights movement which would shortly achieve, under a Texan president, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and which would culminate, sadly, in the death of Dr. King.  In 2000 that response was revived with the Heritage Act in South Carolina, the law that required the Naval Jack to fly on Capitol grounds (and apparently be displayed in The Citadel's chapel).

And now, 15 years later, it is being forced to disappear, even from South Carolina (though what the S.C. legislature will do remains to be seen).

When the support goes, it goes all at once.

And of course, the tree is still there, even if it's one the ground.  But that's why God gave us chainsaws.....

Unnecessary N.B.:  Josh Marshall continues to be amazed at the speed with which reverence for the "Old South" and the Naval Jack (I like that label, now) are disappearing.  But it isn't like that reverence was unbroken from 1865 to 2015.  It pretty much got started again in the 1950's, as Brown v. Board proved the power of the civil rights movement, which carried the day a decade later.  The response especially to Brown (which affected people with children in school) was a resurgence of the idea the war was about "state's rights" and "sovereignty."

The high school I attended was "Robert E. Lee."  The name hasn't changed, but with integration, the rebel flag and confederate symbols (the football team was the "Rebels") had to, and that prompted a huge interest in all things CSA for the time I was there.  Now all that remains, almost 45 years later, is the name of the school.  That could stand to change, too; it would upset some people, I'm sure, but it wouldn't bother me (actually the school's physical plant needs to be replaced.  Re-naming a new school would be an easy switch; easier than getting approval for a whole new facility).  Aside from a few of us who were around for the change, I doubt anyone much cares about that anymore (and probably the alumni don't, either).

The response to the civil rights movement that caught the rest of us up 50 years ago, that resurgence, is finally crumbling into dust.  In that context, it's hardly surprising that, 50 years later, the devotion to the Noble Cause is dissolving like a newspaper in the rain.  It was already yesterday's fish wrap, after all....

Adding:  when you can't even get a model of the "General Lee" from "The Dukes of Hazzard," you know it's lights out, America.


  1. I taught some applied lessons at one of the branches of the University of Maine a long time ago and I heard some of the most vicious racism I'd ever heard among some of the college students. Hearing that kind of language in a down east accent, among people who had never seen a person of color before they went to college can be kind of jarring. The hatred of the Penobscots, Passamaquadies and Migimacs is quite intensely felt as well. For the first time since, I believe 1820 the two legislative representatives from those first two nations have left the legislature over the policies of the putrid governor and some of the legislators.

    The past isn't over, especially among people who can pretend that racism is a problem in another region of the country. Splinters and beams.

  2. I think the return is because they don't remember it, so being racist is edgy, or "dangerous."

    Or they're just alienated, and racism is the go to response to blame somebody else for your troubles, or find somebody else to look down on/pass the shit on down to.

    Anyway, I thought once it would be over in the next generation; now I know it'll never be over.