Wednesday, July 8, 2015
The Tom Fool Knot
It occurs to me that the phrase “heritage, not hate,” which upon googling extensively I could never find any decisive origin or coiner of phrase, though certainly the phrase is genius advertising, since it sells a bold-faced lie,* is akin to another lie of advertising: “love the sinner not the sin.” I didn't bother to search that one at all. Possibly google isn't the proper source anyway, and my stacks card for the Louis Round Wilson Library at UNC is long out of date. Let's say Reverend Falwell coined that one, and why not. He still doesn't hold a candle to the Reverend Admiral's ability to pray away hurricanes that set a bead on Norfolk's shores.
You could actually manufacture a Confederate Flag and stencil “Heritage, Not Hate” across the middle of it. If you did that you'd have a case of the Moops, but as we've just seen, the Supreme Court would still not agree with you. This is why Fox News is on the case.
Just last night, Mr. Hannity interviewed two erstwhile bakers from somewhere in Oregon who allegedly refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and were subsequently fined $125,000 by Oregon. That's what they said. They were obviously a nice hippy couple, these bakers. They claimed to hold a religion that required of them total fealty in all of their lives. It was a convenient, friendly religion. They were allowed, they said, to bake a cake for a couple living in common-law marriage. Different deal. Mr. Hannity was really nice with them, unlike the kid who's father was killed on 9/11 but who didn't think we should go to war with Iraq, or Islam. Hannity threw him right off the show.
Down in SC, State Senator Bright (who ran against Lindsey Graham last year) argued that taking down the flag was the first step, that next men would be coming into South Carolina and demanding that they be married. Somebody is going to realize, at some point soon, that you can find some Bible phrase somewhere in the whole book that suggests that eating with only members of your own race is the best policy if you're going to be sure of ending up in heaven. If they can find two such phrases—maybe google can help in this quest—they will have a religious based ground for re-initiating segregation in public accommodations, which was one of the centers of dispute back in the '60s.
There was no Fox News back in those days, nobody on the authority box to “balance” the police dogs and firehoses and burned busses and bodies hanging under bridges, or the huge non-violent marches and sit-ins. There was no Hobby Lobby Decision to provide the solid cornerstone for the edifice that looms in our terrible future. According to the National Review, the Courts' decisions this past month, on the ACA and same-sex marriage, have pushed the country to the point of insurrection. Senator Bright agrees. He argues that when the flag is lowered in Columbia, the country will crumble. He stands with Mr. Roof on this point.
The Oregon bakers seemed like nice folks. If they'd only had a decent pastor who could have helped them sort out their religious notions, they'd be in their modest business in their little town. Now they're stars on Fox, and they might end up being millionaires, like the Palins. It's going to be tough for decent pastors these days, with Fox on the case. As it is, the Confederate Flag outlived utter defeat at Appomattox, as the country outlived reconstruction. By the 1890s the Confederate Flag was back in business, flying over regiments in the war in Cuba.
When at long long last a grass-roots movement to end segregation arose in the 1950s, buttressed by the great Supreme Court Decision, Brown V. Board of Education, the Confederate Flag once against stood as a symbol of resistance. And so it stands, still. It's what it means to fly the flag, whether it's on the state capitol or on your car top. It says “I resist.” If we had a language like Chinese, where pictures are words, we'd possibly see this more clearly. Indeed, the phrase “I resist” could well be pictured in such a language with the little red Confederate flag. And as Senator Bright illustrates, it's easy to elide from some specific resistance to the larger whole. Take down the flag and the gays will be here tomorrow.
Even the argument continues the old rebel stand. It's tragic. The moment to take the flag down, in Columbia, was when Senator Pinkney's coffin rolled past. Instead, it is required that a group of mostly white men confer with great and all deliberate speed to decide, perhaps, at some point and possibly only for a while, that the symbol of resistance to the idea that here in America we are all Americans, shall not fly.
Thank god for Bubba Watson. He's a nice boy, he plays life like golf, on his instincts. He doesn't think people should be wounded in their hearts for his amusement. He and Dale Jr. should become fast friends and drinking buddies.
Over at Disney they took down another statue. When all the transcripts came out they finally saw past the work of a lifetime to the Cosby underneath, who thought it was fun to drug girls and then rape them. Once it was uncensored, in the actual court transcripts, there was nothing more to say. Not that Cosby will vanish historically, or that people will forget him. I'd think we'll always be able to rent his movies and tv shows. But just that there will be no more honor for him.
What does it take for that, when it comes to an idea so pernicious and deep. They justified slavery—white supremacy—with religious texts. Grant couldn't kill that vicious idea. Murdering Dr. King didn't do it. The great Civil Rights laws of the mid-'60s, passed in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, haven't held. Hannity is hard at work, finding the martyrs to the cause of segregated baking.
That's where the deepest problem lies. We are a species capable of weaving our own brains into knots of staggering complexity. All it takes is the help of an authoritative voice. Trump runs for high office. Fox marches on. Consider the effort at resistance in only little Cosby's case:
Oh he's nailed, but look what it took, and as has been pointed out, a fancy-dancy biography of Cosby came out last year which failed to mention these already known facts. Dealing with the Confederate Flag, that's only about a million times harder, and it's got a whole tv network behind it.
*Update: well what do you know, keep reading and new information will be discovered: From the SPLC Hatewatch Blog today:
The Danville chapter of the Heritage Preservation Association (HPA), which, in the words of ThinkProgress, “ardently supports the Confederate flag as a supposed symbol of cultural heritage,” pushed hard to have monument and flag installed in 1995 in front of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History. The HPA is the organization that coined the phrase “Heritage not Hate,” a sign of seeming moderation. But several years ago, in a revealing moment, its then-Alabama leader Linda Sewell was photographed accepting a certificate of appreciation from the leader of the Aryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The HPA, by the way, flies a version of the Confederate flag in front of it's "heritage" museum in Danville, VA. There is currently a controversy in Danville over whether it will continue to be flown, with a black city-council member being threatened with "exposure" if he doesn't sit down and be quiet. It's going to be a very long, hard struggle.