Put That Flag Away 

It is a rather large irony — made larger in the course of recent tragic events — that the two most iconic elements of nostaligia for (excuse us, "homage to") the Confederacy are not what they are usually taken to be. The rousing

song "Dixie" became an anthem of the Old South only after hostilities had ceased, mainly because of its sentimental lyrics and on account of a bounce and vigor that proved an irresistible pick-me-up for a defeated people. The song was actually originated and first performed — get this — as a bridge tune in a minstrel show performed in the North in support of the Union war effort. True.

Something similar is true of the well-known flag with 13 bright stars arranged in a crossed-X pattern, the ubiquitous emblem that people refer to as the "Confederfate flag" and that significantly motivated the racist fanatic Dylann Storm Roof to murder nine gentle black people who had welcomed him into their Bible study group in a Charleston, South Carolina church.

The official flag of the Confederate States of America was a far dowdier affair, a kind of knockoff of the established Stars and Stripes of the federal Union. It had a ring of 13 stars in one corner and three bold bars — a white one flanked by two red ones filling out the rest of the design. The "white" part of that and subsequent emblems created for the Confederacy by William T. Thompson, the designer of several of them, was, in Thompson's words, to illustrate "the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race," and was meant to be "significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization."

The crossed-X version that many call the "Confederate flag" was actually employed, in two different but similar forms: as the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and as the Confederate Navy Jack.

Conspicuously, neither variant employs Thompson's blatantly racist display of white. Both of those emblems accompanied men involved in a conflict that would cost 600,000 lives on both sides of the battle line, and both were retired when that war was over, only to be revived for nostalgic — and, increasingly, commercial — reasons.

Though innocent of overt racism in its own right, that flag has become the symbol of that which well-meaning people call Confederate "heritage" and, as such is stained with blood and hatred. Anyone wanting to know the actual heritage of the Confederacy should merely read the published manifestoes of the Southern states at the time of their secession. They are redolent with white supremacy, couched in terms so flagrant and impassioned as to make the likes of the aforementioned William T. Thompson blush, and they are available to be read, in all their outrageousness, by anyone who cares to Google them.

As for that Confederate battle flag, which is now the subject of so much animus, it should be taken down from any official place and confined to a museum. That horrific war and the despicable ideology that caused it are over.

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