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July 04, 2015

Two Flags

Two Flags … won’t be flying at my house today, July 4th, Independence Day in America.

Neither the Confederate flag nor the American flag will fly at my house today. The Confederate flag has useful good meaning to some people, but it is so offensive to many Americans that it should not be used, and I never do. The American flag is a proud symbol, I display it every year, but as a small protest against our government I just feel I shouldn’t display it this year. Actually, the symbolisms of the two have come to tension recently.
I am proud to be southern born. Southerners have values and a culture that make us proud. We drink hyper-sweet iced tea and we have found that if you add enough sugar, rhubarb (otherwise unpalatable) can be made into a tasty pie. Well sugar and butter can make many things right. But, there is that ugly chapter of slavery, and the many decades of racism that can never be made right. The persistence of the Confederate battle flag is emblematic of the persistence of resentment in many southerners over the war between the States (Civil War). This was not a war to end slavery, but to abrogate states’ rights, in this case to secede. States joined the Union willingly; they should have been allowed to leave the union. The failure to allow this, and to pursue force, was the beginning of the loss of States’ rights, which is fundamental in the Constitution. We continue to live with the consequences today: a federal government larger and more powerful than intended or allowed by the constitution.
In the course of the War, slaves were set free, and I am glad for that. Slavery was unjust and a tragedy, it had to go, but it was already on its way out, and it could have been defeated in other ways. I wonder if some of where we are today might be different – disproportionately more people of African descent in poverty and incarcerated, for example – if peaceful means would have been pursued. The end does not justify the means, which was an unconstitutional exercise of power by the President and the federal government. Would that there had been a Martin Luther King type to lead the country at the time. Many Southerners are passionate about States’ rights, and the scars of the unjust war haven’t healed as of this day. None of that makes violence or racism right. I do think it has a lot to do with why the flag has persisted, as a symbol of defiance, not against abolition, but against the infamous war and the extreme punishment of southern states after the war. However, please take down that flag. You have a right to fly it, but if you love people, you will respect the offense it has become, and how it empowers racists.
States’ rights and constitutional government were further degraded recently when the Supreme Court struck down decisions and actions by several states over the issue of same-sex marriage. I won’t even argue their reasoning on the topic – and obviously they and the country were pretty evenly split on that – but marriage, which is a cultural institution, not a constitutional one, is rightly left to the states whether and how it should be regulated. The day before, they admittedly ignored plain language in a written law (ACA) and presumed the intentions of Congress to uphold the law. Many actions by the Court have been characterized as “activist”, going beyond their constitutional role. This continues to degrade democracy and the Constitution. Then we have the autocratic divisive Presidency, which could do so much to heal racism and political divisions, but does the opposite. Our congress is no better. The ongoing failure to cooperate in the best interest of the country is despicable. This is caused by career politicians who are more interested in re-election than in justice. None of the above would be acceptable to our founders, and shouldn’t be acceptable to us. Unfortunately, this is may be beyond recovery. Our vast entitlements, which reach almost everyone, assure that we will continue on the road to socialism. Our system is dysfunctional and we must seek the collective will to return to constitutional government and seek needed reforms. I am just not very proud of our government right now, so no flag this year. No amount of sugar or butter will help.