Thursday, May 7, 2015

Teens betray ignorance in rebel flag posts

In case you missed it, high school students have gone stupid over the confederate flag. You'd expect that from North Carolina rubes visiting the Gettysburg Battle memorial, but what's really embarrassing is that it's happening right here in Colorado.

The first group of nincompoop teens to wave the stars & bars this past week was in Parker, an "upscale" suburb southeast of Denver. Kids there are pretty used to their white privilege and some thought it would be cute to pose in their prom gowns and tuxedos with a big confederate flag and a couple of rifles. The photo was posted in social media with the caption "The south shall rise again" or some such shit, and one of the kids even mindlessly tweeted, "I've bought my first slave." Fortunately, in the cold light of public disapproval the tweet was deleted, but the photo remained up as late as Friday.

Clearly, these kids weren't paying attention in Colorado History class, which I took in high school, and where I learned that Colorado Territory actually fought on the Union side, more or less, during the Civil War. Look up Glorieta Pass; it was a battle between Colorado militia, including units organized by Maj. John Chivington (he of Sand Creek Massacre infamy) and ill-equipped confederates out of Texas by way of Arizona. Chivington’s irregulars punished the confederates with an ambush on the first day of the battle, but had little to do with the decisive action on the third day that sent the rebs back south and saved the Colorado silver and gold fields. In any event, the flag flown by the Coloradans back in March of 1862 was the Stars and Stripes.

If they've lived in Colorado as long as I have, the kids might have been confused by the fact that, in the 1920s, a resurgent Ku Klux Klan briefly controlled Colorado politics. Gov. Clarence Morley, Denver Mayor Ben Stapleton, and members of the Legislature, judiciary, and many local councils and boards were members of the KKK. Apologists claim that ignorance ("they thought of it as another Elk's lodge") had more to do with Klan membership in Colorado than real bigotry. Most serious historians are unconvinced. Corruption and civic embarrassment ended the Klan's Colorado reign after about five years, but during that half-decade the KKK terrorized blacks, Jews and Roman Catholics all over the state, including right here in River City.

Frankly, I'm not willing to give the little snots that pass; if you live in Parker now, you water your damn lawn with South Platte River water taken off of Logan County farmland, and you ain't really from Colorado. So fuck you and your confederate goddamn flag.

As far as the North Carolina numbskulls are concerned, the Tarheel teens claimed they were waving the confederate flag to honor the rebel soldiers who were "defending their homes and families" at Gettysburg. This is, of course, pure bullshit. Everybody knows Gettysburg was needlessly fought because a desperate Robert E. Lee had invaded the north hoping to get behind George Mead's Union forces and threaten Washington, D.C. convincingly enough to force a negotiated truce. So it was actually the Union forces, especially those from Pennsylvania, who were defending their homeland.

Clearly, southerners have never learned – or stupidly refuse to admit – that they are on the wrong side of history. The confederate flag is not, and will never be, a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It is not and never will be a symbol of a valiant lost cause, of state's rights, or any of the other imagined virtues southerners continue to scrape up. The stars and bars is a symbol of slavery, a crime against humanity. It is the symbol of hopeless rebellion against human rights, a symbol of oppression and bigotry, a symbol of a regressive social order that remains, to this day, a stain on the fabric of American life.

We can never ban or outlaw the flying of the hateful symbol of the confederacy, but we can make sure that those who fly it are identified as hicks, rubes, and hillbillies. We can never let Americans forget that the men and women who secured the real hope of liberty and equality, unrealized though it may yet be, fought under the Stars and Stripes. As antagonists assault us from all sides, this is the true symbol of freedom.

Teach that to your damn kids.

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