A Response to a Letter to the Editor concerning the Confederate flag

6 Aug

Sometimes a letter to the editor begs a response, especially from a curmudgeon . . .

Letter to the Editor: ‘Symbol of the South’
Hickory Daily Record
Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 6:58 pm

The Confederate flag is the symbol of the South, and most who live in the South are proud to be a part of the genteel southern culture.

In 1861, the South seceded from the Union, and the “War for Southern Independence” or the “War of Northern Aggression” began over state rights. The “rebel flag,” more accurately known as the “Confederate flag,” was used by the South as a symbol of their country, the Confederate States of America (CSA).

The Confederate flag as we know it today is not the traditional Confederate flag of the CSA, which was known as the “Stars and Bars,” but rather is the battle flag of the army of North Virginia. Our modern Confederate flag was designed by William Porcher Miles, and was first used in December 1861.

The Confederate flag is an emblem of our way. It is a symbol of the way of life for which our ancestors stood, a way of life which they passed down from generation to generation, a legacy of love and never-ending devotion our Southern heritage.

Some people try to make the Confederate flag a token of white supremacy. Southern pride is not about racism. Those who use the Confederate flag to stand for racism are inflicting as much harm on the legacy of the South as those who are trying to ban it and are an embarrassment to all Southerners.

“A house divided within itself cannot stand,” so I’m asking all Southerners, regardless of race, to unite and fight for the South today as we know it. Together, let’s “salute the Confederate flag with affection, reverence, and undying remembrance.”

AC
Connelly Springs

——————————————————–

Ms. Compton,

I was born and reared in High Point, a once-quaint southern town not far from here. I grew up in an era many of my generation and I refer to as the “good old days,” when life was easier, safer, and less fraught with the fears and foibles of this modern era. We played outside until all hours. We rode our bikes throughout the town. We respected our teachers and our elders.

I also attended one of the foremost prep schools in the South, located in the heart of Virginia. It is approaching its 120th anniversary, and is steeped in tradition as well as the culture of the privileged.

In your call to honor all things good about the South, and especially to venerate the Confederate flag, you used phrases like “genteel Southern culture;” and “Southern pride;” “legacy of love” and more. You also used “state’s rights” and “the South today as we know it,” (which seems to me slightly contradictory). I am positive that you know exactly what you mean by those terms, but to tell the truth, their meaning and inferences escape me.

In the book, The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 20: Social Class, edited by Larry J. Griffin, Peggy G. Hargis, Charles Reagan Wilson, I found the following description of the Southern lady:

The ideal of “southern lady” was a public persona. Appearance mattered, and a lady must look her best in all situations. Not only must she be modestly attired and well coiffed, above all she must exhibit impeccable manners. She sat up straight and kept her knees primly together. She walked daintily, taking small, unhurried, steps, and walked most confidently when on the arm of a man … She listened attentively, complimented frequently, and never interrupted … Her purpose was to put others at ease and build up social connections.

I’ve lived brief spells in New York City as well as Portland, Oregon. While in NYC, I experienced the abruptness of its citizens, and in Portland, the overwhelming tendencies in favor of political correctness as well as secularism. Those exposures made me want to sing, “Oh I wish I were in the land of …

The sweetness, kindness and genteel attitudes of many southerners is frankly what those who immigrate here from the north and west and other various places find wonderful.
But you know, not everyone who lived and grew up in the south found it so.

The South at the time of secession was largely agrarian. Farming inventions were not being used on the tobacco and cotton plantations. Human flesh and blood was cheap, and enabled a few privileged Southerners to profit from the sweat of others.

By the way, the New Encyclopedia had this to say about those women not so fortunate in birth and status:

The upper classes characterized white working-class women as “crackers,” “hillbillies,” and (in more modern versions) “redneck mothers” or “trailer-park trash,” and black women as “Jezebel,” the seductress, or the servile “mammy.” Latinas were stereotyped as “either the innocent, passive, virginal Madonna [as played by Natalie Wood as Maria in “West Side Story”], or as the hot-blooded, fiery, sexy spitfire or whore, [as played by Rita Moreno as Anita]. All were judged against the ideal of the gracious, graceful, fashionably dressed, and well-mannered southern lady.

I’m not going to join you in saluting the Confederate flag with affection, reverence or undying remembrance. I’d like to think the South has learned much from a hard history. I’d like to think the South, with its dependence on ingenuity, hard work and commitments to family, state and union, has arisen a new being.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m willing to bet that the unbalanced numbers of people moving TO the South compared to those moving AWAY from the South bespeaks much more about a different kind of pride all can share. These are people who are not buying southern plantations, and not employing the free labor of others to realize gain. They are people who probably do value a state’s right to govern and operate unimpeded by the federal government.

So, I guess I’m asking — what’s your point? If it means a return to how women in the South used to behave and carry themselves, then I’m all for it!

L. Stewart Marsden, Hickory, NC

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