Yankee politicians go South

Presidential candidates have a way of poking their noses where they don’t belong:

Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential hopeful joining fellow Sen. Christopher Dodd at Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds.

“If I were a state legislator, I’d vote for it to move off the grounds — out of the state,” the Delaware senator said before the civil rights group held a march and rally at the Statehouse here to support its boycott of the state.

Oh jeez… There’s more:

Jim Hanks stood across from the Statehouse with about 35 Confederate flag supporters.

“We love this flag. We love our heritage,” said Hanks, of Lexington.

Some carried signs saying: “South Carolina does not want Chris Dodd,” referring to the Connecticut senator who, along with Biden, attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People rally at the Statehouse.

Hanks said that Dodd, Biden and other Democrats running for president “would probably say most anything if it would get them votes.”

I’m not a fan of the “stars and bars,” but I think it’s incredibly silly for candidates to inject their views in what is a very sensitive state issue. Whether a flag is flown on the dome or on state grounds, it’s up to the residents of South Carolina to decide. Jim Hanks is a racist; that’s clear enough. But that’s not his worst sin. You see, folks in the South are supposed to be considerate. The southerners I know would never display a flag that would make folks feel unwelcome. It’s called “manners,” and Jim Hanks would do well to learn some.

It’s a candidate’s right to pander like a “mofo” on the campaign trail (remember this?), but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do it. Senators Dodd and Biden should pay attention to getting the American flag out of Iraq and less to getting the Confederate flag out of Dixie.

Comments

  1. 1

    spews:

    Give me a break. This is a sad, but typical attitude towards the history of the South. Any attention that can be paid towards the incredibly racist history that is honored by the Stars and Bars, is good attention.

    Its easy for us out here to call this “pandering,” when we haven’t one percent of the painful history of the South. Ask a black man walking past the South Carolina statehouse if he thinks whether talking about taking down the Confederate Battle Flag is pandering.

    In a strict sense, only Dodd in this example is a “Yankee.” Biden is from Delaware, which technically was a border state, and at the time of the Civil War, was also a slave state, and sent units south to fight for the Confederacy.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The Stars and Bars mean different things to different folks. To some, it is a symbol of racism. But to many Southerners, it’s the flag their ancestors fought under, bravely and well, in the Civil War. I think these folks are misunderstood; in cherishing this flag, they mean to honor their ancestors, not the cause for which they fought. The cause itself is misunderstood; most southerners fought for states’ rights, not to preserve slavery. Few of the Confederate soldiers ever owned slaves; most were small farmers.

    It is possible to admire their soldiering without embracing their cause, and fitting to do so, not only because they fought bravely and skillfully, but even more than that, because in the hour of defeat they did a great and remarkable thing: They heeded the exhortation of their commanders to lay down their arms, lay aside bitterness, and be Americans again. For this, they deserve our respect.

    I say leave the flag be; it’s not waved as a symbol of racism or division, but in memory of magnificent soldiers.

  3. 3

    proud to be an Ass spews:

    Sensitive? My, yes. (white) people are forever telling (black) people to “not be so sensitive” and “get on with it” (rowing upstream, no paddle, but no complaints, in the face of predjudice). And, in turn, we should be aware of this racist motherfucker’s “sensitivities”?

    The Germans and the Japanese got over their heritage (mostly). What’s stopping the South? Since when is nostalgia for defending slavery a sensitivity worth respecting?

    Certainly the Civil war was our great national tragedy (well, before GW Bush ascended to the White House), but please, get over it already my white southern brethren.

    The “get over it” saw works both ways, ya’ know. God Bless.

  4. 5

    Dwayne Hickman spews:

    I’d like to inflict their “heritage” on them. The corporate race to the bottom could end where it began.

    I hear some of those ignorant crackers are trainable if you don’t spare the rod.

  5. 6

    spews:

    @ 2

    Well said. If I lived in SC, I’d advocate that the flag be removed from state property and “honored” somewhere else, perhaps at a site with a memorial paid for by private donors.

    @ 1

    Let’s not lecture folks across the country and tell them what their symbols mean. They’ve got their sordid history for sure, but at least they’re upfront about it. Us NW-types should remember that we have our own crosses to bear.

  6. 7

    Tree Frog Farmer spews:

    There are several salient points to ponder and keep well in mind on this complex subject. The Confederate South is the only region in the United States to suffer out and out military defeat, occupation, reconstruction, and social transformation enforced from without. Much like Iraq.
    We are still struggling with the fallout from those transforming events in the South nearly a century and a half later. It would be well to keep this in mind in our present endeavors in Iraq.

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 “The Germans and the Japanese got over their heritage (mostly).”

    I think it’s more accurate to say they’re in denial about it.

  8. 9

    spews:

    Goldy’s wrong- there’s nothing wrong with any person standing up for what’s right, even if that person is from out of state. Sure, it’s pandering for the cameras due to a political race (and come on- Biden? For President? Is he, or anyone else, serious?) but it’s at least pandering on behalf of the correct position on the issue.

    And Roger Rabbit is wrong, too. “States’ rights” is merely code for “right to continue slavery”. The whole “it was an economic war” or “it was about states’ rights” argument is, ultimately, merely cover for the fact that slavery was the “right” that the South wanted to keep.

    Sorry, but the right to keep fellow human beings as slaves is simply not a valid “right”. Even if you’re a vehement “states’ rights” person who despises Lincoln for the damage he did to that cause, you have to recognize and accept that more damage was done by the Southern states insisting that their right to keep slaves was so important.

    And those that claim that the Stars and Bars is merely a symbol for a heritage and way of life, and therefore is valid for some people to be proud of- those folks are missing the boat. It’d be like arguing that Nazi swastikas are valid symbols of German pride and power and that people shouldn’t be offended if some want to fly those flags.

    What matters is what the symbol is taken for now, and how it’s seen. Huge portions of the American public sees the Stars and Bars as representing a repressive regime that wanted to keep and protect and increase slavery.

    Even those that pine for the old-school “Southern way of life” have to recognize that the symbol is no longer appropriate. It’s not a matter of mere manners; it’s a matter of flying a flag that represents a government that tried to keep people enslaved. That’s wrong, and hence Biden and Dodd are correct (as anyone/everyone would be) to march against the use of that symbol.

    Biden’s a dork for other reasons, and shouldn’t (IMO) draw any support in his run for President, but this isn’t one of them.

  9. 10

    proud to be an Ass spews:

    They’ve got their sordid history for sure, but at least they’re upfront about it.

    Absolutely not in Mr. Jim Hanks’ case, Will. We can only continue to work continually to insure people such as him are political and social outcasts. He is not “upfront” about his heritage. He is, to use Roger’s turn of phrase, “in denial”.

    As for the shameful episodes in our local past, I should think that is the result of widespread ignorance, not some kind of simple piety for a lost (rightly so) cause.

    It is indeed thought provoking to read the history of the south in the ante-bellum period. In the decade leading up to the war, the south was a virtual one party dictatorship wherein hysteria was a political tool (that sadly took all too well). Dissent was not just dismissed or ignored, it was simply not tolerated, often with extreme violence. The south was a society in the throes of massive delusional fanaticism and manifested the social behavior of psychotic persecution complex. States rights was a nice sounding veneer (hell, New England had tried that one earlier under the “Virginians”). The struggle was, in essence, all about maintaining, nay spreading to the West, the “peculiar instituion”. Nothing less.

  10. 11

    Nindid spews:

    Will @6

    You are right to point out the NW’s bit of racism and we are by no means free from sin when it comes to these things.

    But do you see anyone erecting monuments to the good ol’ days when we lynched Asians and put them all on a boat bound for San Francisco? Maybe there are Seattle groups pining for the days when people with yellow-skin knew their place in society that I just don’t know about. Is our politics based on dog whistle racism? Not even close….

    I will agree that it is pretty stupid for Biden and Dodd to be making an ass out of themselves on this point if for no other reason than it makes Mr. Hanks look like he might have a point.

    But if you think that the Stars and Bars is not an essentially racist symbol then maybe you can start on your next career trumpeting the Burning Cross as a sign of Christianity and cultural pride. We wouldn’t want to tell those nice men in bed sheets what their symbols mean now would we?

  11. 12

    Nindid spews:

    Roger @8

    Actually Roger, the vast majority of Germans tackle their heritage head-on – or at least they are a lot better about it then the US is on a whole host of issues.

    We could trade personal anecdotes all night, but maybe the best way to make the point with this current topic is to say that it is illegal in Germany to traffic or display Nazi symbols of any kind.

    If you have ever been to concentration camp in Germany you might see what a great job they do laying out in rather excruciating detail what happened, why and who allowed it within Germany. Do you see that with our concentration camps in the US?

    Are there elements of German society that are racist today? Of course there are… but as a society they are hardly in denial.

  12. 13

    mirror spews:

    The Confederate flag is a symbol of the slavery side of a war whose primary result remembered by history was to end slavery in the United States.

    The primary meaning of the Confederate flag is as a protest against the results of that war. Flying it is a protest against the Emancipation Proclamation. As a cultural artifact, it is a symbol of refusing to willingly share the bounty of the country with persons of African descent.

    The encouragement by the modern GOP of this kind of racism has been used to support the ignorance and racism in the policies of George Bush. The argument over flying the symbol of the slave-owning race on a government building is very much connected with why we are in Iraq (and maybe bombing Iran) and the lies told to us and to ourselves about why we are there.

  13. 14

    Tree Frog Farmer spews:

    Nindid@12 said:”If you have ever been to concentration camp in Germany you might see what a great job they do laying out in rather excruciating detail what happened, why and who allowed it within Germany. Do you see that with our concentration camps in the US?”
    Not so long ago I thought I saw where they were selling off the site of Andersonville for housing developments and a theme park. . .seems this is how we handle our heritage in America.

  14. 15

    spews:

    @ throughout

    For the record, Germany is really intouch with it’s history. When the film “Downfall” opened, Germans had a great conversation about tha war. Lots of them said “I’m glad we lost.”

    That said, they are really touchy about it.

  15. 16

    xenophon spews:

    Gen. Sherman said, “the confederacy was the worst cause good men ever fought for”.

    The stars and bars, along with everything else having to do with slavery and the civil war belongs in a museum as a curiosity.

  16. 17

    Facts Support My Positions spews:

    In this corner we have the confederate flag, and what it stands for.

    In this corner we have the bill of rights, something about “all men are created equal” or something.

    Anyone displaying the stars and bars should be lynched.

    What it stands for IS lynching.

  17. 18

    Tree Frog Farmer spews:

    @16 Unfortunately, the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwermer, and the subsequent announcement to run for the Presidency by Ronald Reagan, all in Philadelphia, Mississippi, will not quite fit into a museum. . . .

  18. 19

    whl spews:

    There are people who view the Confederate Flag as a symbol of their Southern history.

    Fortunately, when I see a pickup truck on 35-inch wheels with the stars & bars fastened to the grill I have an absolutely clear understanding of what goes on in the mind of the driver/owner.

    He, she, or it wouldn’t know enough about history to even identify a photograph of Ulysses S. Grant.

  19. 20

    ArtFart spews:

    19 “Fortunately, when I see a pickup truck on 35-inch wheels with the stars & bars fastened to the grill I have an absolutely clear understanding of what goes on in the mind of the driver/owner.”

    Would you say that if the driver of the truck was black?

    I can’t say that I’ve seen exactly that, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time in a part of the South where one would occasionally see a black person wearing one of those denim jackets with the stars-n-bars on the back.

    Mind you, I don’t understand it either. It just is the way it is.

  20. 21

    Nindid spews:

    On the topic of flags and Southern-(ish) culture….

    One of the strangest sights to this NW boy’s eyes was seeing up close and personal the protests in Miami against the Cubans who wanted to keep Elian Gonzalez away from his father.

    The two main groups involved were the African-American community and rednecks from Kendall and Homestead. Being from the NW, young, and informed almost exclusively by corporate media, I was somehow surprised at the fervent patriotism of the African-American community. These guys were royally pissed that the Cubans were going around waving Cuban flags in America.

    The funniest thing to me though was how the African-Americans and the rednecks were joined together in one group. You had the Cuban-Americans one one side waving Cuban flags. The African-Americans waving US flags. And the rednecks waving Confederate flags.

    Looking back, I wonder if the rednecks understood the irony….

  21. 22

    spews:

    @ 6

    The thing is, I don’t think they are upfront about it. They talk about the flag as being a symbol of their freedom against Northern tyranny, yet they used it for more than a century to the same ends.

    As for our region’s experience with the Klan, it is in no way excusable, but it comes from a much different place than the Southern use of the Stars and Bars. I’m still not sure how you can say that talking to a state endorsement of a painful symbol can be pandering.

  22. 23

    Sstarr spews:

    First and foremost, the “Stars and Bars” is a symbol of treason. The people who fought against the United States, who fought to tear this country apart, were traitors. Worse than those who spied for the Soviet Union during the cold war. Worse than Benedict Arnold. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American Soldiers. Soldiers just as brave, and just as loved by their families as those serving in Iraq right now. The rebels did far more damage to this country than Osama Bin Laden or the Iraqi insurgency ever will. And what was the great principle they were betraying their nation in order to protect? Slavery.
    If you want to fly the “stars and bars,” feel free. However, if you choose to fly that flag or put on that bumper sticker of wear that T-shirt please don’t pretend that you love the United States of America.

  23. 24

    skagit spews:

    Wow, Will! You posted something interesting and everybody is talking about it! What an interesting read. Thank you.

    I agree that Biden should keep his comments to himself. He’s such a parader though . . . It is South Carolina’s business and not his.

  24. 26

    ArtFart spews:

    It would appear that Joe Biden has managed to add another stanza to the old joke about “yankees, damn yankees and God-damned yankees”.

  25. 27

    spews:

    @ 25

    ;)

    Just because someone at RS says it’s true doesn’t mean it isn’t! If I’m a contrarian on this, I plead guilty. You should write something attacking me at Washblog (you’re the only thing there worth anything!)

    Emmett, I’m not defending the flag, I’m just saying it’s a local issue that ought to be decided by the locals. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden poll so low in SC that they couldn’t get arrested.

  26. 28

    mirror spews:

    What if the Seattle city hall wanted to put up signs on all public buildings that had a yellow star in the middle with a red circle around it and a red line going through it? Would that be ok if they said they weren’t trying to intimidate anyone?

    Or how about if some cities in S. Carolina wanted to put up some “Whites Only” signs on some of their parks and public restrooms and said that, since it was not meant as an actual message to be adhered to but instead was mearly intended to celebrate history and culture, no one should be bothered by it?

    As for the black man with the stars and bars, is it ok to discriminate against gays just because Ken Mehlman hates himself?

  27. 30

    Mr. X spews:

    Fuck the Stars and Bars – the South lost the right to fly their war flag after when Lee surrendered to Grant (and I’d feel the same way if some idiot was trying to fly the Japanese Rising Sun and/or the Nazi Swastika).

    Apologists for “Southern Culture” can suck my West Coast Yankee dick.