The Route

While acknowledging it’s just symbols and there are still real battles to fight, I am finding the sudden political retreat on symbols of the Confederacy fascinating, if only as a socio-cultural phenomenon. Josh Marshall wrote

I still cannot believe the Charleston Massacre has triggered quite this total a collapse of support, not just for flying the Confederate battle flag in places of honor at Southern state capitols, but for public display and honor for the Confederacy and the War of the Rebellion in almost any form. Whatever the precise cause or convergence of under-noticed trends, there now seems like no doubt that we are witnessing a watershed in the country’s long, wretched and denial-ridden wrestling with the public memory of the Civil War.

As the song says — There’s somethin’ happenin’ here; what it is ain’t exactly clear

For years, most of the American Right has defiantly refused to give up the Confederate flag and all symbols of the Lost Cause. Now, all of a sudden, it’s like some of them can’t put the Confederacy behind them fast enough. What happened?

Someone writing from Charleston made the point that one of Dylann Roof’s victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator, and he was a well-known and popular figure. The writer continues,

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Republican Senators who have come forward to release very personal statements about Sen. Pinckney’s death, especially among the Lowcountry delegation. The statements made about him strike me as more than just the generic nice things one is supposed to say.

Put another way, Roof made the very amateur mistake of killing people who couldn’t be turned into “thugs” by right-wing media. Every single outrageous harming or killing of a black citizen in recent memory has been followed by an avalanche of smears of the victim. Even the petite teenage girl roughed up by a cop at a Texas pool party was smeared on Fox News, I understand. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any such smears this time.  

It was a Bible study group, after all, killed by a teenage punk who had been planning it for months. No excuses this time.

This explanation is probably closer to it, though.

The Confederate battle flag — that bellicose assertion of a Southern “heritage” otherwise known as “white supremacy,” that defiant, “fuck you” of a symbol in whose honor the blood of far more than nine people has been shed — it wasn’t suddenly toxic because of last week’s massacre in Charleston. Multinational corporations, and the politicians they keep on retainer, weren’t disowning the flag because of a popular movement. The people hadn’t had the time to organize. The pavement on this road to Damascus was still wet.

Instead, what was actually happening, behind the scenes, wasn’t nearly so romantic. No one was breaking from their usual habits. Everyone, in fact, was doing what they always did. The profit-seeking entities were trying to maximize future earnings; and the state-level politicians were following their demands. This wasn’t a case of the powers-that-be doing something they resented. No one was pushed here; everyone was ready to jump.

In other words, all that white supremacy stuff is bad for business.

Not for the first time in 2015, the conservative movement has found itself on the losing side of a culture war battle it once routinely won. And just as was the case in Indiana, when a petty and combative anti-gay law inspired national boycotts and a business-sector backlash, movement conservatives cannot fathom how liberals aren’t to blame. It’s conservatives, after all, who man the ramparts to protect capitalism and big business. As he was ranting about “the left’s” war on the Confederate flag on Tuesday, one could almost hear Rush Limbaugh transform into Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” bellowing, “Has the whole world gone crazy?!”

The conservative movement fancies itself to be pro-business, just as it fancies itself to be pro-national security. But, increasingly, their ideas are out of touch with reality on both fronts.

Yet for all the right’s professed belief in “common sense,” the reason why businesses were, metaphorically, setting the flag to the flame continued to elude conservatives, even when it was staring them in the face. As CNN, the Associated Press and others reported, the Amazons, eBays, Sears and Walmarts of the world weren’t acting out of fear or sentiment. Their motivations were straightforward, cold, and rational. Walmart wants to shed its reputation as a Red State phenomenon; Sears wants to prove it’s not exclusively for dads; Amazon’s politics are, if anything, probably “liberaltarian”; and it’s hard to imagine eBay’s pro-Confederate market was ever that big.

To paraphrase the Dao De Jing — Capitalism is not sentimental; it treats all things as straw dogs. Ironically, and incomprehensibly to the fellow quoted in the New York Times yesterday, the route of Confederate symbols isn’t the beginning of Communism. It’s Capitalism that decided Confederate symbols had to go.

So it’s probably not true, as someone else said, that Dylann Roof is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the fall of the Confederate Flag. However, he did help create the moment that made the Route possible.

14 thoughts on “The Route

  1. This Roof punk/thug, wanted to start “a race war.”

    Well, he partially succeeded.

    But, instead of “a race war,” he started a “war” between GOP politicians to see which could “race” and take down that flag of slavery and treason first.

    Ah, ‘the law of unintended circumstances…’
    Now this punk will spend the rest of his life in prison – isolated, because there’d be a long line of black fellow prisoners looking to kill him – bemoaning how he was probably the most responsible for states taking down his beloved Confederate flag.

    ‘The bidness of America, is bidness.”
    And so, bye-bye badness.

    Hopefully, this is a start for even more change – and that ‘The arc of the moral universe will quicken, as it bends towards justice.’

  2. Maha — good post. A lot to agree here.

    Cund — also a good comment.

    I wonder what northern ‘patriots’ who love the Confederacy are thinking. I think they that besides a racial component what they saw in flying the flag of treason was a protest of government and current modern life. I wonder what teir new symbol of rebellion will be?

  3. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard any such smears this time.

    Quite right, but they have been smeared for being insufficiently thuggish, i.e., armed to the teeth and ready to take down Dylann Roof in a hail of return fire.

  4. PurpleGirl,
    I think South and North, West and East, the new F-U middle-finger from conservatives and bigots to modernity, us Libtards, DEMONrat’s, and ever increasing integration, tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness, will be the old Gadsden Flag!”

    “DON’T TREAD ON ME!”

    Don’t worry, they’ll all be buried with their hate, fear, bigotry, and victimization, intact until their final breath.
    It’s how they roll.

  5. Maha: A question for you. Do you happen to know what was the “Bonnie Blue Flag” that bore a single star? Clearly not the flag that has been in the news, but it must have been of major importance to the Lost Cause before it was lost. I had not seen it depicted in the various stories surrounding this development. Appreciate your knowledge and insights!

  6. I wonder what their new symbol of rebellion will be?
    The Gadsden flag! They’ve tossed away their rebel forage caps in favor of tricorn hats.
    Mr. Roof made a comment to his victims before he executed them to the effect that because of their skin color they were somehow taking something that rightfully belonged to him and people of the same skin color as him. His exact words I don’t recall,but the essence of his expressed thought aligned with the teabagger’s sentiment of “we want our country back”
    Maybe I’ve been dabbling in spiritual warfare more than would prove beneficial for me, but operating under the premise that Lucifer can appear as an angel of light. I have no difficulty in seeing the morphing of that racist demon cloaked in the raiment of the confederate battle flag changing outfits to appear more patriotic and become more obscure in appearance while being just as effective in deed.
    Whether they change their banner, their jargon,or any other outward signs that would make them appear less threatening and more palatable.The racism continues. Only the appearance has changed..The” niggra” that George Wallace railed against in his day is now the” inner city folks” that Paulie Ryan condemns for not having the gumption or moral fortitute to improve their situation in life.

  7. That is what I had understood, Maha. Mainly I was wondering if those who want to celebrate “heritage” could just adopt the Bonnie Blue Flag as their symbol; no cultural associations with George Wallace and lynching and fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators, but perhaps they could have something to cherish and have wistful dreams about the Cause. Do you think that the hardcore Heritage people would be satisfied with this flag? They could something to hold on to and the Stars and Bars could disappear into museums.

    • Ed — Personally, I think they need to let go of their cherished dreams about the Cause. It’s over. It’s been over for 150 years. The actual flags carried by actual soldiers were surrendered. Let them stay surrendered.

  8. “killing people who couldn’t be turned into “thugs” by right-wing media”

    Exactly, the GOP had no cover from the ministry of propaganda, they tried the “attack on Christianity” angle but that amateurish attempt failed miserably. Lucky for them they had this Indian-American female Governor to bail them out, though I’m not sure they expected this wave of anti-confederate public opinion and corporate action!

  9. Well, Coca Cola didn’t have much success with their new coke so I don’t think the racists are going to meet with much success in launching a brand new symbol of racism.

    Here’s a little something for you folks…When I was a kid I wanted to be Johnny Rebel..where the only law was a hook and draw.

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