My Flag is the Black Flag: Some Thoughts on Charleston, Gun Control and the Confederate Flag (Keith Preston)
The recent murder of nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a deranged white supremacist has generated something of a backlash against the Confederate flag, long a symbolic target of the Left in America’s ongoing culture wars. Massacres carried out by a mentally disturbed lone gunman are hardly a novelty in the United States. In fact, they’re fairly routine. Sometimes the killers are motivated by racism, sometimes by other things, and sometimes they seem to have no apparent motive at all. Perhaps this should come as no surprise. A nation of 320 million people is statistically likely to include quite a few fruitbats among its populace.
Everything from video games to guns to TV to the Confederate flag gets blamed for these characters. But I think the real issue is family and community breakdown. Do any of these freaks have parents, siblings, neighbors, landlords, co-workers, employers, friends, teachers, etc. who could tell they were obviously severely mentally disturbed and probably dangerous? Both serial killers and public shooter/mass murderer types are uniquely American in terms of volume, frequency, and proportion, and I think it has to do with the hyper mobile, hyper competitive, impersonal, rootless anomie you find in American culture that’s somewhat unique on a world or historical basis. At the same time, America does not presently have the much larger scale inter-communal violence found in some other parts of the world, primarily the “failed states” of Asia and Africa, so maybe the occasional deranged lone gunman is a cheap substitute.
Whenever these events occur, the gun control do-gooders start crawling out of the woodwork and citing their statistics concerning how the murder rates in the European Union and Japan are considerably lower than those of the U.S. which they attribute to the generally stricter gun laws of those nations.
However, London’s subway bombing, Anders Breivik, Pim Fortuyn’s assassin, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre would seem to undermine the argument that gun control laws are much of a deterrent to lunatics who are hell bent on committing murder and mayhem. Also, gun controllers usually fail to point out that Jamaica and Mexico, two nations that have stricter gun control than the United States, are notorious for their violence while Switzerland, with arguably the most liberal (in the classical sense) gun laws in the world, is a comparably very peaceful society when compared with the United States. I believe the difference has less to do with the particular gun laws of any of these places, and more with the fact that Switzerland and Japan are societies with a great deal of political, economic, cultural, community, and family stability, with America being comparably less stable, and Mexico and Jamaica perhaps even less so in many regards.
As for the Confederate flag, I’m a native Southerner myself, having grown up in Virginia about thirty minutes away from the Civil War surrender site at Appomattox, and I have lived in the one-time capital of the Confederacy for 28 years. So for me, the Stars and Bars has always been a familiar cultural accoutrement and, frankly, I’ve always regarded liberals and leftists who engage in hand ringing over the Confederate flag to be a bunch of mush minded weenies. The commonly stated objection to the Star and Bars is that it was the symbol of a racist and white supremacist state, which is obvious enough, although this appears to be a selective indignation. After all, the founding document of the American Revolution is attributed to an author who was himself a slave holder, as were many of his colleagues, and who, as a sample of his other less than PC ideas, advocated the castration of homosexuals, which he regarded as a liberal alternative to execution. That same document refers to the Native Americans as the “merciless Indian savages,” whom the British were allegedly failing to do their part to help exterminate. It was not for no reason that the Confederate States of America later found a considerable number of allies among the American Indian nations.
While it is certainly true that the protection and defense of slavery was a principal motivating factor in the Southern secession, an inconvenient fact is that at the time the Civil War began, slavery persisted in the Union states of Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, West Virginia, and in the District of Colombia itself. Further, in the decade prior to the Civil War, the United States had invaded Mexico and seized a third of the Mexican territory, and the next stop after the conclusion of the Civil War was the continuation of the ethnic cleansing of the Indian territories. And while some of the Northern states had previously abolished slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act was still in force, and African-Americans were hardly honored citizens in most of the Northern region.
The principal issue regarding the Confederate flag in recent days has been the proposal of multiple states to remove the flag from their public buildings, and the decision of multiple companies to cease the sale of products depicting the Confederate flag. Theoretically, the United States is supposed to be a democracy, as are the individual state governments, and these elected officials who are calling for the removal of the Stars and Bars are merely straws blowing in the political winds. They know which way political and cultural currents are trending, and they know where the sympathy of the power elite lies, so they are merely acting accordingly. Likewise, the American economy is supposed to be a free enterprise system, and businesses are supposed to be entitled to market or not market whatever products they wish. No one would suggest enacting a law requiring Wal-Mart to continue selling Confederate flags, and the decision of Wal-Mart and other major companies to pull the Confederate flag will ironically benefit small-time vendors of Civil War memorabilia.
I generally regard such efforts to whitewash or eradicate uncomfortable history to be silly and counterproductive. The body count of Communism may be extraordinarily high, but I would prefer that Lenin’s stuffed corpse and mausoleum be preserved. I am also extraordinarily offended by ISIS’ destruction of ancient relics, and I even regret that some of the old Nazi monuments were subsequently destroyed (suck on that one, antifa!).
I do not have a personal dog in this fight. I am an Anarchist. My flag is the black flag, or perhaps the many flags of the various sects and tribes of Anarchism. I have no loyalty to any of the governments in the U.S., or anywhere else, and do not much care what flag they fly, whether the Star and Bars, Stars and Stripes, Hammer and Sickle, or the Crescent…unless, perhaps, these have a “Circle A” imposed upon them. Given the recently displayed zeal for removing the Confederate flag, some have asked whether or not the American flag will be next, as if this is not already happening. However, one should be skeptical of the supposed liberation such efforts are alleged to be bringing. More likely, it is just another case of “Meet the new boss, he’s the same as the old boss.”