It’s time to Break It Down!
Last week, it was NASCAR, yesterday, it was the state of Mississippi. Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill that, symbolically, let its people go. Mississippi was the sole remaining state to feature the Confederate insignia in its official flag.
One supposes, given the independence of states, some state had to be last. For example, New Hampshire, didn’t adopt and observe the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, until the year 2000, fourteen years, after it was adopted as a federal holiday, in 1986. In retrospect, The Granite State acted swiftly. The Civil War ended with General Robert E. Lee’ surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, April 9, 1865. It took 155 years, 2 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days for The Magnolia State to relinquish The Lost Cause. Whoosah!
OK, so technically, Mississippi didn’t adopt the flag, which has red, white and blue stripes with the Confederate battle emblem in one corner, until 1894. With that historical caveat, it’s fair to note that the banner waved over the state Capitol Building in Jackson for 126 years. It’s surely less than 155 years, but for contextual purposes, that was 15 years before the oldest living Mississippian on record, Mrs. Malinda Johnson, who was born (1909 in Carroll County, MS), and 11 years prior to the birth of the oldest living American on record, Mrs. Hester Ford, who was born (1905 in Lancaster, SC; moved to Charlotte, NC in 1953). In other words, there is no one living today who was alive when Mississippi adopted the flag that it flew until yesterday.
Governor Reeves, a Republican, had this to say about the change, before signing the historic legislation:
“This is not a political moment to me, but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together to be reconciled and to move on.”
Yesterday’s signing capped a swift referendum on the flag by the state Legislature. The bill passed Sunday. The Governor had committed to sign it if it reached his desk. A commission will now design a new flag, including the words, “In God We Trust,” and without the Confederate emblem. Mississippi voters will vote on the new design in November.
The Governor also said:
“I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag changed. They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history — a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect.”
I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.”
A couple of weeks ago, in my Memorial Day post, I wrote about Old Glory, our nation’s flag, and the various flags that represented the Confederacy during its four-year tenure. Flags, banners, symbols emblems, and insignia representing the Confederacy have long been divisive proxies in American society. As with Confederate statues, the symbols have sparked an element of divisiveness in our country. Critics note that the flag represents the war to uphold slavery, while supporters call it a sign of Southern pride and heritage. Frequently, all of these symbols have been increasingly used as a rallying call for white supremacists. Moreover, the principal source of pride, of heritage, and even the most notable state’s right in the region was the right to own slaves as chattel property. Indeed, if cotton were King, slaves were metaphorically, the mint, working the land, and generating the King’s wealth.
As Americans, we often like to think of ourselves as exceptional. And there is no doubt, both individually, and as a nation, we are home to many extraordinary individuals, accomplishments, inventions, and discoveries. It is in that light, whenever I speak of, or write about the Confederacy, its flags, statues, and array of symbols, it is important to frame the discourse within the context of one simple observation. At the end of the day, no matter how magical anyone may have thought the period was, the Confederacy lost. That’s right, it L-O-S-T! It lost the war, and it lost the right to lord its symbols over the people it tried to claim as perpetual property, and over vast portions of the United States of America, and the many patriots, including slaves, who fought to ensure that such a perniciously evil and capricious system would neither carry the day, nor govern our nation. And when one thinks about that way, it really was not exceptional, in any way, form, or fashion.
Governor Reeves said all the right things. I hope he, and Mississippians of goodwill are committed to see it through to fruition, and that they succeed in avoiding the dangerous chain reaction outcome that he noted some of them fear. I wish them continued blessings, and Godspeed. “The Governor Signed A Bill: Mississippi Set ‘To Be Reconciled And To Move On!‘”
I’m done; holla back!
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