Seeing Stars and Bars and Stripes
Jay Thal (jay.thal@TCS.WAP.ORG)
Thu, 9 Apr 1998 15:56:30 EST
Well, this is what the First Amendment is all about.
Mike*s commentary on the Stars and Bars has seemed to stirred up a level of
invective beyond the heights shown during our almost gentile controversies on
So, let me enter the fray with a few observations.
We are dealing with facts (but not all the facts); truths (personal
interpretations of perceptions); and our psyches (which are often hidden from
ourselves as well as others).
I support Mike*s position that we cannot, and should not, walk away from our
history. It is our collective history regardless of which side our ancestors
were on, or even if they had a choice in their participation or lack thereof.
If we discard our history, consign the flags, and writings, and images to the
dust rather than display them as a reminder we are more likely to be doomed to
repeat a noxious page of history. For Mike that is the Stars and Bars; for me
they are the emblems of the Third Reich; for a Native American it may be the
Stars and Stripes and the tune Gary Owen. Each culture has that symbol. Our
memories might be less selective if the facts were more available. Shoah!
A flag is no more offensive than words, some would say. But that depends upon
the context and what they are intended to teach. What is the teaching behind
*the South will rise again.* or the singing of *Dixie*? Can we reach into the
psyche of the speaker or singer? No Mike, I cannot buy that part of the
argument that if you stand to show your respect that they will grant respect in
turn. It is no more adult to bite your tongue than it is childish to raise
objection. At issue might be respect versus disrespect.
J.R. reminds us from Brazil that few people had clean hands - neither in the
South nor the North. Economics rule(s)d. And our (though my family has been
here only 110 years) cultural hypocrisies continue to the present. Was the
shirt you (or I) wear made in Honduras? Only the methodologies of enslavement
The Ku Klux Klan was (I believe) the product of Indiana - hardly a southern
state. Civil disobedience/insurrection was practiced in Virginia by John
Brown. These were among the swirling eddies of history. It is the 135 years
since the end of the Civil War which tell us most about ourselves.
I suspect that the display of the Stars and Bars would be seen as little more
than an anachronism had they not been added to some state flags after Brown v.
Board of Education. Was not that a sign of disrespect? I would submit that
there was little difference between the Stars and Bars and the Stars and
Stripes until after reconstruction. deFacto racism persists, North and South
(and in some of our hearts) unto this day, but the difference was that southern
states went further to impose deJure racism (while others looked on) that has
only started to abate in some of our lifetimes.
Whether is was poll taxes, or unequal education, to name but two the South did
not rise, but it did defy. And the hypocritical (and reputedly hegemonic)
North did nothing. Democrats did little because they wished to maintain their
base, and when they finally did 35 years ago, an opportunistic Republican
southern strategy filled the void.
It seems to me that there is a distinct difference between displaying a symbol
as part of a teaching effort, and honoring a symbol as part of a ceremony. If
that symbol is representative of historic disrespect or degradation then its
ceremonial presentation tells us something about the person or group that has
embraced it. It may then be incumbent upon one to speak out, or walk out if we
are to stake out the high moral ground Bob speaks to.
We cannot change the past, and we must look at it sharply and critically. But,
we can change our future so it does not resemble that past. Should not that be
our goal for the youth we lead?
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City