Honoring the Fourth With the Confederate Flag

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A Tea Party group in New Mexico brings its interpretive powers to bear on Independence Day:


The Las Cruces Tea Party circulated a signed statement among its members that the Confederate flag was included on the parade float because it is one of several flags that have flown over New Mexico during its history as a state and territory. Jo Wall, the secretary of the Las Cruces Tea Party, said her organization did not intend to offend people, but rather to accurately present the area's history. Despite the backlash, 

Wall said the Tea Party was right to display the Stars and Bars on its float. "Because it's history, and you can't change history. I know they're trying to, but you can't," Wall said.

This seems defensible enough. It just a display of history. Except it's not:

"I don't see why anyone should have an objection to it. The Confederate flag was never meant to be racial. I know it's been presented that way, but we don't see it as racial," Wall said.

Before I left twitter, in one of my angrier moments, I argued that people who call Lincoln a "tyrant" should be tried for treason. Or some such. (You may now see why I left twitter.) Of course they shouldn't but there are times when this sort of willful self-deception just leaves you foaming at the mouth.

I'd say that most of us understand that the war was "somehow" about slavery. But we've yet to get how much it was about slavery, and we've yet to come to grips with the profoundly anti-democratic roots of the instigators of that war. I don't know what else you call a group that fires on federal property because they've failed at the ballot box. I don't know what you say to people who fly the flag of gleeful defenders of slavery and insist that the flag was "never meant to be racial."  I don't know what you tell someone who claims the spirit of the Revolution, and then flies the flag Thomas Jefferson's declared intellectual enemies:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. 

It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Dude is right that the Confederate Flag isn't "racial" because "it's been presented that way." But it was presented that way by the people that commissioned it.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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