Most of my blog posts I also post on my Facebook account, where one or two friends actually read them, like & occasionally comment, most often with a ‘smh’. Yesterday, on a whim, I posted this picture of our cat, named Orange, sleeping in the fruit bowl along with a couple of bananas and apples. If as many of my friends read my blog as liked that damn cat picture, I could be famous! Okay, slight exaggeration, but wihin minutes I had some 13 likes, a couple of comments. I post my blog to Facebook and I can count on 1 like and one comment that goes “smh”, Facebook shorthand for “shaking my head.” My granddaughter has a theory that people do not like conflict and do like cute animals. I suppose she is right, but I do what I do, because it is what I believe in. I believe in speaking out against injustices. I believe that, just as I take my car to a mechanic when it does not work, because he knows cars far better than I do, I pursued an education for years, not just to dust off my degrees every week, but to use my knowledge and education to try to do something good. I mention this only because I was considering it as I started this post and was considering whether I should change the nature of my writing. I realize that I cannot change the nature of my writing any more than I can change my age or eye colour … it is part of who I am.
A friend recently shared with me the fact that it is illegal to give a Nazi salute in Germany and Austria. Of course, I had to know more. Turns out, in Germany you face up to six months in prison for this offense, and the law is enforced. It is also against the law to offer the Nazi salute in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, though the penalty is more likely to be a fine than jail time. And there are also lesser restrictions in Switzerland and Sweden. Why? Because these nations are not proud of the part of their heritage that stems from Nazi Germany’s reign of terror, from the Holocaust. It is also illegal in many countries to display Nazi symbols. It is, in my opinion, a very appropriate viewpoint. Each of these nations have many things in their heritage to be proud of … the Nazi reign is not one of them.
Which brings me to the thoughts of the symbols of our own heritage that we can take no pride, only shame in, the KKK and also the Confederate flag. There has, within the past year, been some rather heated discussion about the Confederate flag, what it represents, and whether it should be allowed to fly in such venues as public and government buildings in the south.
First, the KKK. The KKK represents one thing and one thing only: racism. Their current stated purpose is “Keep America American”, and they support white supremacy, white nationalism and are against immigration. They call for the ‘purification’ of society. They are the scourge of the United States dating back to the 1860s. The Klan is as much a pimple on the ass of American society as Nazi symbols are on German society. So why are they protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Several attempts have been made in the last 20 years to have the Klan declared a terrorist organization, but thus far none have been successful. Why? The Klan believes that the only true Americans are those that hail from ‘pure’ Anglo-Saxon ancestry, in which case most of us, including this writer, would fail their test. Why is the Klan allowed to exist in 41 of the 50 states in the U.S.? I actually found a recruitment flyer on my windshield when I came out of the grocery store one day. Though the number of KKK members has declined from their heyday in the 1920’s, there are still some 5,000-8,000 members in the U.S.
The Confederate flag is nothing more than a piece of cloth. Yet in reality it stands for much more. It is a symbol of racism in this nation just as much as the swastika is a symbol of Nazi anti-Semitism. Many in the south take great pride in the Confederate flag, claiming it represents ‘southern pride’ and the lifestyle they fought for in the middle of the 19th century. Many believe this. But I would argue that, though that lifestyle includes anti-bellum plantation houses, chivalry and a slower pace of life, it also includes slavery. We cannot remove the history of slavery and racism from that flag, thus it remains, for those who were victims of those institutions and for those of us not affiliated with the south, a symbol of hate. It was the battle flag used by the side who fought for slavery, who believed that African-Americans were less than human. That is the legacy of that flag today, yet so many cling to it, then wonder why there is such discord between black and white, north and south even now, 150 years after the end of the Civil War. Like Germany, Austria and so many others who lived under Nazi rule, the south has much to be proud of: some of the greatest music and musicians originated in the south, good manners & chivalry, wonderful southern cuisine. But the Confederate flag is not one of those things.
In recent months, there has been significant renewed disharmony between those living in the north and those in the south. Much is the fault of state legislatures and governors pandering to the right wing and singular religious groups. Much is the fault of the media. But much of this is attributed to bigotry in all its many ugly configurations. I am not so naïve as to believe that the demise of the Klan and the Confederate flag will solve the problems and that suddenly everyone in the south will open their eyes to the fact that all human beings are basically the same. But I do propose that it will make a start, that the eradication of those two hateful symbols, just like the Nazi salute and the swastika, will remove the daily reminders to both southerners and northerners of the past conflicts, conflicts that still exist today. This nation is represented by one flag and only one flag. It too is merely a piece of cloth, but as a symbol, it represents freedom for all.