I thought I'd take this opportunity to re-post a piece I wrote for my college newspaper about my feelings about the Confederacy and what I think people should do with that flag. I'm happy to say I've developed more as a writer since then, but this nevertheless captures my feelings on the subject. At least the ones that aren't best expressed with expletives. --JPB
While many of you will be drunkenly commemorating the 228th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I will be at my job, proudly wearing my American flag necktie and thinking about another glorious day in the history of this country: July 4, 1863.
On that day, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee began his retreat from the battle of Gettysburg, and Gen. John C. Pemberton surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the town of Vicksburg, Miss., ending a 48-day siege. These two events marked the turning point of the Civil War.
By capturing Vicksburg, a port on the Mississippi River, Grant effectively had cut the Confederacy in two and reclaimed the mighty river -- a vital supply and transportation route -- for the Union.
Admittedly, the Union did not fight to free the slaves. Nonetheless, my ancestors enslaved in Meridian, Miss., were much closer to freedom that day because the South was losing its war to keep them.
My motives for writing this are not merely to inform you, dear readers, about a day in our collective history. I write this to boastfully sport my American patriotism and, if you will, my "Northern Pride."
This weekend, perhaps more than many other days here in southern Indiana, or if you are traveling southward, you are likely to see people ignorantly, arrogantly and brazenly flying the battle flag of the Confederacy on their cars, pickups and boats or wearing it on their person -- all in the name of "Southern Pride."
Even though Indiana was a "free" state and never seceded from the Union, there were many Confederate sympathizers in this part of the state during the Civil War, and Hoosiers undoubtedly fought on both sides.
Regardless, anyone -- be they Hoosier, southerner or other -- who dons that symbol today insults the entire nation and the holiday we celebrate.
The supporters of the Confederate battle flag cite their pride of their ancestors' sacrifices for what they believed. But that relic represents the belief in barbarism, racism, treason and such an incredible greed that they would send men (most without the finances to own slaves) to die to keep fellow human beings in bondage. The actions of the illegal government for which that flag stands cost the lives of roughly 600,000 Americans. The Confederate battle flag is nothing to be proud of.
Furthermore, the true and sinister meaning behind the battle flag of "Johnny Reb'" can be easily determined by looking at its uses in more recent history. Forget that the Ku Klux Klan (founded in part by venerated Confederate "soldier" Nathan Bedford Forrest, ahem) and other white supremacist groups use it today for decor at their rallies and militia barracks. People need to only look at the many filmed images of Southern demonstrations against desegregation during the 1950s and '60s to verify its truly evil connotations.
Next to the picket signs with slogans such as "Segregation forever," "White is Right" and "Niggers go home," you very often will see the "rebel" flag proudly waving in the Southern breeze. The people carrying their beloved banner weren't Klan members; they were everyday men, women and children of the South, standing up for what they believed. (Hardly a coincidence, it was in 1956 that Georgia prominently incorporated the Confederate battle flag into its state flag. Its presence was dramatically scaled down in 2001.) "Southern Pride," indeed.
So, this weekend, if you happen to come across the aforementioned standard of sedition while camping or being otherwise outdoors, remember where you saw it in case you need toilet paper later.
As you run away from the drunken rebels with flag-in-hand, be sure to show your Northern Pride by wishing them a happy "Fall of Vicksburg" Day.
Have a safe and happy Fourth.