by joe courter
Last month in this spot, the Publisher’s Note dealt with the concept of history as stories which, through time and selection, become the accepted narrative of our ancestors and their activities. The impetus was the release of Seymour Hersh’s counter narrative about the U.S. raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and also cited were the Armenian Genocide and Columbus as false narratives accepted as official history.
Well, the massacre in Charleston, S.C., opened up a whole other discussion about history and the conflicting feeling about accepted truth and actively correcting the record. The Civil War and the Confederate flag are now part of a raging debate across the country as to whether there needs to be an active correcting of the record and an inclusion of suppressed information to create a more accurate and complete picture of what went on 150 years ago and its ramifications to our lives today.
Florida folklorist and author Stetson Kennedy wrote a book in 1995 titled “After Appomattox, How the South Won the War,” which talks about how the victory of the North in the Civil War was quite hollow, and undercut in the years that followed. The White Supremacy that rationalized slavery did not go away, but regrouped and festered. Part of this was the increased romanticizing of the cause of the South. Confederate war memorials sprang up all over the South, including in 1904 one right in the center of Downtown Gainesville. In Kentucky, which was split in its Civil War participation 3/4 for the North and 1/4 for the South, there are 72 Confederate Memorials and 2 for the Union side, according to James Loewen in the Washington Post. And he points out lot of our military bases are named for Confederate Generals, too. Maybe Stetson is right on who won the war.
There’s always the argument that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about “states rights.” Well, the “right” that the states wanted to continue unabated was slavery; come on, folks, let’s be real! People can say that the flag is about “Heritage not hate,” but the “Heritage” it represents includes the ownership and exploitation of fellow human beings. It is a flag of an un-free country!
That cold-blooded 21-year-old racist who killed those nine people in Charleston said he was hoping to set off a race war. Well that war has been going on for many decades. It is a perpetrated by government-sanctioned policies which saw as acceptable the creation of ghettos with entrenched poverty, redlining by banks, blatant segregation in public accommodations, schools and even in who you could love or marry, and an unstated white supremacy in our media, which practiced a virulent form of cultural segregation in movies and TV.
Hillary Clinton, when asked about the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” fell back on the liberal line of “All Lives Matter,” she revealed that she does not understand the moment we are living in (or she just says what she feels will get her elected). For many of us, we are saying that we have had enough of the lies, the false narratives, and the increasingly obvious trends exemplified by the school to prison pipeline, the places (everywhere) like Ferguson, Missouri, where policing and the courts are a money generating trap, turning petty crime into a revenue stream.
It is a hopeful sign that a younger generation of activists is stepping up. When Bree Newsome scaled the SC flagpole and took down the flag, we had a huge symbolic moment. But there are others rising up. Environmental activists, social justice activists, many using blogs to get their message out and gaining traction (e.g., Prince ea), the Dream Defenders with Phillip Agnew et.al traveling to communities in struggle and helping focus the resistance. I believe Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning also fit in this category. And the tragic last letter of Leela Alcorn (see January/February 2015 Iguana) impacted so many people. We need to go beyond the old myths and false narratives, and face reality head-on and clear-eyed. The youth are leading the charge, we must have their backs.