Anyway, a reader of Digby’swrote a great email
explaining that to white Southern racists and their allies who hang the
Confederate flag in non-Confederate states, the flag has always
represented Christian values, honor, freedom, hating commies, puppies
and kittens. As someone who lives in one of the Confederate states, I
can also attest to the fact that some morons still call it The Rebel
Flag, as if it’s some symbol of a strike for justice and freedom,
instead of the reality, that it was a strike against freedom for
enslaved people.* The reason that puppies and kittens have been
attached to the Confederate flag is for the same reason that homobigots
have to paint their opposition to gay marriage as “protecting
traditional marriage” and their ancestors who protested interracial
marriage claimed that god separated the races for a reason—because no
one wants to admit they’re a straight-up bigot. It’salways something else.
I’ve thought for a while that to ascribe to racism the urge to hoist a patently offensive symbol and wave it around is to overcomplicate the situation. It’s not so much about race (or in the case of Christmas about Christmas, or in the case of marriage about marriage) as it is about yelling FUCK YOU in a crowded theater, and this maddening cutesy-bigotry happens at the moment to be the most effective way to piss off everybody in a 50-mile radius.
Bullies are racists and bullies are sexists and bullies are homophobes and bullies are smug self-satisfied semi-pro pseudo-Christians but what they are at heart are bullies, first and last and always, and until you get at that you won’t change anybody’s outlook on anything. The racism and sexism and religious bigotry are all ugly clothes they put on over their ugly selves, which is why they cloak their racism in the kinds of weasel words Amanda notes above.
The doctrinaire racists are off shaving their heads and building compounds in the woods and putting out pamphlets about the way race-mixing is evil as if that ship hasn’t sailed; the leaders of the more mainstream CCC-type movements are out there talking about people who don’t want to work and law and order being restored in the inner cities. Your rebel-flag-flying bemulleted dickweasel talking about his Southern heritage and the gloriousness of the Lost Cause, on the other hand, is trying to be a badass in the most pathetic fashion offered by our society: He’s saying something offensive, and then sitting back, waiting for your respect that he “said it” and “put it out there” and “if you have a problem with how much of an asshole I am it’s YOUR PROBLEM, heh” and such.
And the madder you get the more right you prove he is, in his mind, which is why argument is impossible. At some point in like grade school a large percentage of the population of this country became convinced that pissing everybody off was not only a personal imperative, it was an actualvirtue. This is a cousin to “keeping it real,” as the kids 10 years ago would say.
Until you get at the need to shove somebody else down to make the
shover feel like a big man you can teach all you want about the words
that are offensive and the words that aren’t, about what flag it’s okay
to fly and what flag it’s not, and eventually they’ll just find new words to cover their neediness and desperation. It’s not about bigotry, it’s about the power of the bully to smash someone else’s face in the dirt and make all his friends laugh. I really don’t believe it’s any more complicated than that.