There’s a scene in the movie Patton where the general arrives at the location of a terrible battle which took place the night before. The dead are scattered across the ground and a lone American soldier describes how the fighting raged through the night until the ammunition had run out on both sides. In the end, it came down to hand to hand combat with bayonets. The very brief but highly energized fight over the Confederate Battle Flag in South Carolina has pretty much reached that stage, but in this parable Patton would probably be talking to one of the Germans.
The way that so many prominent voices on the Right have headed for the sidelines, preferring to keep their powder dry and live to fight another day is somewhat discouraging. It’s not that I don’t understand the political pitfalls involved here. I get it. The Left and their media allies found a perfect storm of timing and symbolism which was custom made to serve their purposes and they rode it like the Silver Surfer. It’s hard to fault those who chose to get out of the way of that tsunami because it was a big one. And yet, not everyone was willing to head for the life rafts.
Over at Redstate, front page diarist Streiff has a piece, published on Tuesday night, which I recommend highly, even if it sounds like he’s packing up his rucksack and preparing to hide out in the Pacific islands like one of those lost Japanese fighters from World War 2.
For the past couple of days I’ve been ashamed and disappointed that RedState has decided to enter into the feeding frenzy over the Confederate flag (note: the flag in question is actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, but for sake of brevity I will refer to it as the Confederate flag) and have cooperated in tying that flag to the shootings in Charleston, SC. As humans we are, at the core, herd animals and we like to be liked. That is understandable and, from an evolutionary point of view, essential to survival. There is a line, however, between wanting to be liked and toadying. It it here that I fear we, as a site, have crossed the line and descended from the status of opinion leaders to catchfarts for all the worst impulses of the progressive left.
Were this an exercise in denouncing racism, I’d be on board. But it isn’t. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist, it clearly does. The flags the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, posed with were those of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. It is difficult to draw any other conclusion about their meaning when worn by someone with no cultural connection with those symbols. But the racism of the Dylann Roof variety is not caused by governmental action or social acceptance.
In the end, the off ramp which most Republicans chose to take was a familiar and comforting one: states’ rights. And on the surface it was a perfectly valid argument. We’re talking about one flag on state property, placed there through the legislative action of the elected representatives of the people. If those same officials choose to remove the flag, that’s their prerogative. But for the media and the Army of Social Justice Warriors, it was never about that. It was about redefining something on their terms and seeing if they could get conservatives to bend a knee, allowing them to establish the language of the discussion.
Nikki Haley did her best to walk that tightrope, saying that personal expression using the flag was still up for grabs and there would be no state police coming to impound your car if you had that symbol on your bumper. True enough. But there’s a current under the serene surface she presented which may as well have been represented by a different flag… a white one. It was an acknowledgement, as she said, that for some people the flag symbolized racism because it was tied to slavery. That is no doubt true, but it obviously doesn’t mean that for everyone.
Clementa Pinckney was not killed by slavery. He was never a slave. He may, in an abstract sense, been killed by racism since Dylann Roof was, without question, a racist. But the reality is that he was killed by one criminal. And even if that criminal chose to wave the Confederate Battle Flag while perpetrating his evil, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept his definition of the totem. The South is about a lot more than that, and that flag remains, for many, the only remaining symbol of their beloved region and culture. It may not be the best symbol imaginable, but it’s the one that they have left.
And now, through attempts at pacification, Republicans have allowed the Left to officially redefine it even for those who fly it privately. We’re accepting their terms and conditions in exchange for absolutely nothing. I return to Streiff at this point:
But in seeking popularity with people who will never ever like us, we’re cooperating with the left and its narrative of American history.
Streiff called his piece, simply, I Dissent. Count me with him in the ranks of dissenters. The battle may be lost, but you don’t yet know how much you’ve given up.