A pursuasive speech defending southern history and the confederate flag.
| As someone born and raised in the south, specifically in the valley between the Appalachian and Allegheny mountains of Virginia, I have a question: Why is it that, in this society of political correctness and super sensitivity, the only ethnic group that it is still acceptable to (hell, even expected to) stereotype, to chastise, and to make fun of without regard for offending anyone is the White Southerner, the “Redneck”? We are thought of as stupid incestuous racists, to say the least. We are blamed for the Civil War, slavery, and every wrong committed during the turbulent years between the Reconstruction and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Our heritage as the backbone of this very nation is dismissed and denigrated by those who wish to rewrite history.
The outrage over the Confederate battle flag is a prime example of that dismissal of our heritage. That most Americans believe the Civil War was all about slavery, and that our flag is only a symbol of hate, proves the bias pushed by liberals throughout recent history. Today, I feel it’s safe to say that almost every college student would readily agree that the Confederates were “bad,” but not a single one could explain the real issues that led up to the secession of the Southern States; just as many know the origins and true meaning of the Confederate battle flag.
I think James Webb, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, said it best in his critically acclaimed book Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Mr. Webb states, and I quote, “Recent years…have seen a new kind of nastiness emerge…as dishonest or misinformed advocates among political interest groups and in academia attempt to twist yesterday’s America into a fantasy that might better serve the political issues of today.” He goes on to say, “The greatest disservice on this count has been an attempt by these revisionist politicians and academics to defame the entire Confederate Army in a move that can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy. Often cloaked in the argument over the public display of the Confederate battle flag…” I’ll get back to the flag in a minute.
Let me start with the primary issue, slavery and the Civil War. To think that so many people, mostly poor white men, would leave their families, their farms, their lives to fight a horribly bloody war (sometimes literally against their own relatives) to defend the right of rich plantation owners to maintain slaves is out right stupidity! The fact that poor farmers had to compete in the market with the slave labor of the plantation owners ought to be enough for the average person to understand that slavery was not the motivating issue for the War, at least not for the average Southerner. Southern farmers (not plantation owners) would have been much better off if slavery had not been so wide spread, or in existence at all. Let’s not forget that many slaves were owned, smuggled, and sold by Northern whites, as well.
As the Northern States embraced the Industrial Revolution and became more populated, the South began to lose seats (and thus a voice) in Congress. This presented a predicament for the Southern, mostly agricultural, States. The plantation owners saw this as an inconceivable blow to the Southern economy. The average Southerner saw this as an intolerable oppression, similar to that forced on their ancestors by England. This is an oversimplification, but it makes the point. When the Southern delegates reached an impasse in Congress, the Southern States seceded from the Union and the Confederacy was born.
The War did not start immediately. The Southern States wanted the same freedom from tyranny as the colonies did from the Throne of England. It was the North that started the actual War. President Lincoln sent Union troops to use force against the peacefully seceding States. This was the battle cry of the poor white Southerner: Freedom from governmental control and economic oppression from the North. This leads me to why White Southerners are the way they are.
We are a proud people, generally, of Celtic (Irish, Scottish, and Welsh) descent. Fighting for what we believe (even to the death) is a birth right, earned through centuries of conflict with those that sought to oppress us. The Romans, the English, even each other (in conflicts between different religious sects); we have fought them all. That’s even before we traveled to America.
We were (are) a strong people, even used by early colonial officials to provide a buffer between the fierce warlike natives and the English-titled aristocracy in the Piedmont regions of the South. We took up residence in the uncharted hills and valleys of the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. We brought with us our proclivity for strict religion, music, legendary story telling, heavy drinking, promiscuity, and not taking crap from anyone (especially not a centralized government). Yes, there seems to be some contradiction among those traits, but it’s true and we revel in it. We also have a habit of absorbing others into our culture. Germans, French, Native Americans, and (begrudgingly) even the English have married into or otherwise joined our society and become one of us through time. We are, by our very nature, an inclusive people, unless you pose a threat to our well being or sense of independence.
While many of us have spread to the far reaches of the United States, there are many others that have stayed in those hills and valleys. Some there live without even indoor plumbing, to this very day. Appalachia, as it’s called, is one of the poorest regions of the United States. The desolate economic conditions there result in substandard housing, poor healthcare, and a nonexistent tax-base, providing for little, if any, educational opportunities. These and other social ills lend themselves to drug and alcohol abuse, unwed mothers, and bleak futures, the same problems that plague inner cities nationwide. Still, you don’t see riots, crime, and gang violence occurring at an exponential rate that the mainstream media glosses over and wants you to accept as “expressions of rage.”
What you do see are these poorly educated Southerners with thick accents and bad annunciation in every liberal film student’s documentary on the South. Jerry Springer has gotten rich off of their public humiliation. It’s so prevalent in today’s media, that it is the interpretation the rest of America has of every Southerner. It is the equivalent of saying Buckwheat represents every African-American. It’s a slap in the face of a people and a heritage that helped found the greatest democracy in the history of the world. We have to correct this tragic condemnation of a people’s entire legacy!
Now, back to the flag, you know the One. It’s the flag you see on almost every RV in the infield of every NASCAR track on the circuit. The one that flies proudly almost everywhere you look when driving through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and so on. That’s right, the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederate flag. Are there that many Southerners just openly saying, “I’m a racist!”? Not likely, Billy Bob. It’s about pride and tradition, yet we are supposed to feel ashamed of it. As described on the web site www.sonofthesouth.net, the flag depicts the Cross of St. Andrew (“the apostle martyred by being crucified on an X-shaped cross” and otherwise known as the “Southern Cross”) with 13 stars signifying the 13 Southern States that were to make up the Confederacy, although only 11 ended up seceding. The flag originated as the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, now designated as a Virginia Army National Guard infantry battalion that recently fought in Afghanistan. The flag has come to signify the pride of a people that stood up to those who would oppress them. Sure, there are those that have taken this symbol of pride and twisted it around to fit their own agenda. Just as others have taken a Native American good-luck symbol, known to us as the swastika, and turned it into a pictogram of genocide. That should not be allowed to erase what the flag truly stands for.
Know this: Just because I am a Southerner, do not assume I am stupid. Just because I am a Southerner, do not assume I am a racist. Just because I might fly a Confederate flag, do not assume I hate anyone. What you can assume is that I am proud to be a Southerner. I also believe the Civil War should be called “The War of Northern Aggression.” My point is this: If you believe in equality and respect for all, remember to apply it to everyone; even me, the White Southerner, the “Redneck”.