A Confederacy of Dunces
VICE PRESIDENT Al Gore, Bill Bradley and John McCain have all denounced the Confederate
battle flag as representing slavery and have demanded that it be removed from
all public buildings. Whenever I hear white people somberly opining that the Confederate
battle flag symbolizes slavery, I can’t help wondering who their friends are.
Do their friends support slavery? Does anyone — apart from a few demonstrably
In a duly famous "Saturday Night Live" skit, Eddie Murphy goes on
a bus disguised as a white person and discovers that as soon as the white people
think all the blacks are off the bus, they start serving cocktails and dancing.
Politicians who claim the Confederate battle flag symbolizes slavery may as
well be claiming that all the white people get cocktails and music when the
last black person leaves the bus. It’s not true.
So as a white person, I would like to assure all nonwhites that these politicians
are lying: White people do not secretly support slavery any more than they drink
cocktails and dance on the bus.
The Confederate battle flag today has nothing to do with race. It stands for
a romantic image of a chivalric, honor-based culture that was driven down by
the brute force of crass Yankee capitalism, which was better at manufacturing
weapons than using them, and that shortly thereafter gave us the Grant administration
and the Gilded Age. (We’ll leave out trebling the average life span, ending
chattel slavery, creating a world in which half the human race gets beaten up
a whole lot less by the other half, and various other things that those money-grubbing
followers of that awful Hobbes guy somehow accomplished despite caring only
about making a buck.)
It stands for a proud military heritage shared by both blacks and whites in
the South. The reverence for tradition and pride in historical antecedents are
precisely what make Southerners, black and white, such stalwart patriots.
The Confederate battle flag controversy is a completely synthetic issue created
by the same people who believe there is a burgeoning class of brilliant blacks
graduating from law school every year, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg refuses
to hire them out purely out of racism. They are picking a fight in an election
year to enable The New York Times to distribute daily reports on the superior
Democratic response on the question of the Confederate flag.
It is also a completely illogical issue. If the Confederate battle flag can
be tagged as a tribute to slavery, how is it that the American flag has gotten
a pass so far? Slavery existed far longer under Old Glory than under the Stars
More urgently, what’s with the African garb and kente cloth worn by some American
blacks supposedly as a symbol of black pride? White slave traders weren’t dashing
into the jungle and capturing their own slaves: They were buying them, fair
and square, from their African masters. Slavery, as Joe Sobran has remarked,
is the only African institution America has ever adopted. Indeed, slavery still
exists today, at the end of the 20th century, in some parts of Africa.
There is no shortage of artifacts that could be accused of "representing"
slavery. Perhaps the race demagogues should be demanding that South Carolina
change the name of the state since that was the same state that fired on Fort
Sumter. They could take a page from the French Revolution and start changing
the calendar and the names of the months in light of the fact that slavery existed
during months with names like "February."
But there is one problem with a total rejection of all things related to slavery:
It was the Democratic Party that supported it. The Republican Party was formed
for the specific purpose of opposing slavery. I’ll start believing the Confederate
battle flag hurts somebody’s feelings as soon as the existence of the Democratic
Party hurts their feelings, too.
These are the rules — and pay close attention, because they are completely
arbitrary: "Dixie" is bad because it uses Southern black dialect.
Rap music, however, is good, even though it employs a black criminal dialect.
The flag under which slavery flourished for almost a century is good. But the
flag under which slavery existed for less than a decade is bad. One continent’s
slavery is good, but another continent’s purchasing of those very slaves is
bad. And for the final rousing conclusion: The party that supported slavery,
leading to the Civil War, is good. But the party that was created expressly
to oppose slavery is bad.
This is pure demagoguery. The only purpose is to breed chaos and hatred, and
to keep both blacks and whites off balance: Think this about the artifacts of
slavery! No, you idiots, think that! And today is the Fourth of Thermidor.