I’m sure if I looked I could find family flags fought under on all sides going back thousands of years. I know I had family on both sides of the civil war. Those wars are over and they aren’t my wars to fight. However, I get to learn how to honor my family by not fighting the same wars over and over and try to make a better world.
I made my mind up about monuments and flags long ago much like I made my mind up about tattoos. I stopped getting tattoos at a pretty young age after regret and modification of the ones I had. The permanence of the decision never stuck well in my confused and ever-changing idealistic young mind. Maybe if I got tattoos that had no really meaning it would be different but that’s never been my style.
On my 18th birthday I got a bald eagle wrapped in an American flag tattooed on my right arm at Black Cat in Decatur. I was a young, constitutionalist type punk, who had semi-nationalistic ideals about government and how the two-party system had run it’s course (I stick with that one). A “true patriot” if you will.
Some series of angst driven thinking lead me to get reoccurring detention for not standing for the pledge at school and next thing I know I’m getting a string of scuzzy trap house tattoos. I added a mushroom cloud followed by some dollar bills in the mouth of the eagle then some spiderwebs for flare. Add a wrong way direction street sign for intentional bad luck and there you go (pic in the comments). Whatever my ideas where at the time I never had a problem expressing them.
And that’s my point. I chose to get these tattoos and I can at least cover them up or even have them removed. Personal liberties are something we all cherish and it’s certainly a thing people in this country love to get on a soapbox about. My tattoos make a political statement in my own way as many peoples do but they aren’t public monuments, statues or flags to be displayed and revered over. And don’t get it twisted, these confederate monuments are political statements:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; it’s foundation are laid, it’s cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.” -Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens “Cornerstone Speech”
Cornerstone; an important quality or feature on which a thing depends or is based.
Monument; a statue, building or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event.
Commemorate; recall and show respect for (someone or something)
That opposite idea he is referring to was rebuttal of Jefferson’s forecast that slavery was an institution that this country could not sustain.
When I was a child I saw a KKK rally at Stone Mountain right in front of where the worlds largest monument is erected to commemorate the leaders of the confederacy. Those klansmen wore the same flag on their robes as did the men who flew that flag in the name of the confederacy. Many of the confederates were in the klan. I don’t need to tell you what they did. This was never a hard distinction for me to make and I’ve often scratched my head as to why people are so dead set on that flag and these statues. The daughters of the confederacy set off to erect these monuments during the Jim Crow era in the south and pretty much all of the state flags were changed during the civil rights movement, you connect the dots there yourself.
I learned about The Crusades and Spanish Inquisition in history books. I didn’t need a statue or mountain carving to teach me about Hiroshima. I did chose to tattoo a mushroom cloud on my arm though. Based on that laser show, I was always confused growing up as to whether or not those were America’s founding fathers. No joke, my mind would go to the thought that there are 4 faces on Mount Rushmore from the pictures I had seen in books and only 3 dudes on horses here so what gives? History had been rewritten and made kid and psychedelic friendly with lasers. However, I never learned about the Tulsa massacre at school let alone ever saw a statue for the citizens who lived there. There are no monuments teaching me about slave trade, segregation or lynchings. No flags of freedom waved that haven’t been used to oppress others in its shadow.
Myself and plenty of people I love have suffered abuse in our lives. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if an ancestor of that abuser decided to erect a monument or fly a flag to commemorate that abuser who had caused such grievous harm. But thankfully I don’t have to live with such a preposterous idea. There’s plenty who do though.
It’s a good thing flags and statues can be taken down and replaced with new ones built on a solid cornerstone principled in love, honesty, understanding and wisdom.
Reparation; making amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to OR otherwise helping those who have been wronged.
Notice what I underlined there and I don’t like that I feel like I need to pander here but I really am coming from a place of genuine love and want for restorative change. History is kept in books and museums and other recordings. If we are going to memorialize anyone let’s make sure it honors principles that we all agree on in space we share. I’m pretty sure you’re still allowed to build whatever shrines you want on your land, y’all! ❤️