|so-called Betsy Ross flag|
We cannot legitimately celebrate history if we are not honest about what that history has been, both good and bad. We must separate the fact from the folk fiction and from the more dangerously toxic fake fiction.
|Union Jack from 1801|
Today we celebrate the birth of our nation, as Lincoln phrased and praised it:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In the UK, out of disgust with conservative anti-immigrant bigotry combined with economic and political stupidity verging on national suicide, both Scotland and Northern Ireland may leave the United Kingdom.
While the colonies which became the United States of America did this in the 18th century, the premise then was the lack of representation in Parliament regarding taxation and other important issues of colonial determination, and the failure of legal petition as a means of redress. No option existed in that period for either the addition or expansion of representation, or a legal option for the colonies to leave the UK if their petition failed -- but at least they tried petition first.
That left only the option of violent revolution and secession for those UK colonies. However, a few things should be noted regarding that revolution, beginning with the uncomfortable fact that it was not supported by anything like a majority of the people who lived in the colony, as required by modern secession provisions. Rather the divisions were roughly a third who were genuinely in favor of revolution, a third who were neutral, and a third who wanted to remain a part of the UK every bit as much as the revolutionaries wished to separate from the UK. OUR revolution never represented the majority, unlike the secession option requirement from voters for the secession of either Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have, respectively, a legal process for their secession, should they so choose, where in contrast no such possibility existed for the American colonies. In our own Civil War, there was a process in place under which the southern states could have opted to pursue a legal
separation from the United States, but they never attempted to use it. So far as I can follow in US history, there was never even a serious consideration of using the legal option; discussion of such an option is slim to none in the records of the time. Further, contrary to the conflict of the American Revolution, there was no equivalent history of violence perpetrated on the southern states by the United States government to that perpetrated by the UK in the colonial period.
Further, where the American Revolution was about representation, and while the United States in the earliest post-revolutionary period did not, by any stretch, support universal suffrage, they did systematically over a comparatively brief period of time expand the boundaries of who was eligible to vote. In contrast, there were far fewer voters in those southern states which formed the Confederacy, reflecting even then a pattern of an intentional lack of representation, and those states continue to have a shameful history all the way through to the present of voter suppression, the antithesis of freedom, the polar opposite of the central, core premise of the American Revolution.
Just over a year ago there was a mass shooting by a confederate flag waving racist in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina was also the state which fired on the Fort Sumter to begin the Civil War in an attempt for the Confederacy to violently secede from the United States. There was a fascinating profile of those modern pro-Confederate flag wavers filmed by, coincidentally, a crew from that quintessentially UK government funded news service, the BBC, who were in Charleston, filming a documentary about the Klu Klux Klan. What was clear from that documentary as well as from decades of history, is that those Confederate pro-slavery states have been a continuous stain on our history as a nation, opposing that core premise for the vote for all free citizens. Instead we have a history of traditions like the intimidation and lynching by the KKK, and Jim Crow, which attempted to approximate much of the horrors of slavery. They perpetuate factually false notions of race and racial superiority, interspersed and promoted with violence, which we now better know to be a faulty and artificial construct. Even a casual look at the views of so many of the modern Confederacy celebrating battle flag wavers resembles nothing quite so much as the worst of the Nazis and neo-nazis; in many cases they overlap.
There is no justification for treating the Confederate flag as some sort of equally respectable part of the United States history. The Confederacy was about denying people the vote and perpetuating slavery of people they insisted then (and now) were inferior human beings -- even denying the vote to many white people who were not wealthy. The Confederate flag continues to be about perpetuating the tradition of racism, bigotry, and hate crimes.
To assert - as some do - that it deserves some form of legitimacy because some individuals acted honorably on the Confederate side is a bogus argument. There is a comparable flag in Northern Ireland to the Confederate flag, and it is also not treated with equal legitimacy to the Union Jack, the so-called Ulster Banner. IF Northern Ireland does secede, they would either adopt a new and neutral banner, or join with the rest of the island, the Republic of Ireland, as one nation under the green, orange and white Irish tri-color.
There were honorable Japanese soldiers who fought against the United States in WW II, while trying to take territory that belonged to the United States. We don't put up Japanese flags alongside the
sunken ship Arizona at Pearl Harbor because of that. There were likewise soldiers on BOTH sides of the Civil War and of WW II who acted dishonorably and who even committed war crimes. The issue if we are honest in recognizing our history with symbols, monuments and flags, and ceremonies can never be about issues like the honorable and dishonorable conduct of individual combatants. That is an attempt to divert and distract from the premises for war, both legitimate and illegitimate. We are still suffering the continuing effects of illegitimate causes for modern war, and they, like the Confederacy, are a stain on our national history.
We cannot celebrate the 4th of July without considering the history of separation, and the new history of it being made.