Striking One Banner, Raising Another

My wife wanted me to write about the evils of artificial grass–astroturf–as a replacement for the real thing in this time of drought. Nah. But I will begin with something equally fake–the notion that the stars and bars represents Confederate culture and history, and is symbolic of the valor of that side’s soldiers. It seems to me that the resurgence of that flag coincided specifically with and in opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. The flying of it is, therefore, an overt demonstration of racism.

Of treason, too, and–let’s face it–more like as not of idiocy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a history buff, and I love artifacts almost as lessons in themselves. When I look at an historic object, I am filled with a kind of reverence. There is, too, that bit about remembering history so as not being condemned to repeat it. The stars and bars, then, has its place–cemeteries, museums and Civil War battlefields–and that place necessarily is the past. It’s past improper for that flag to wave over any public space whatsoever.

And it’s past time it came down. The Civil War ended in 1865, making the United States something one refers to–for 150 years now–as “is” instead of “are.” The Confederate flag is fundamentally divisive. Just imagine Germany–had it not declared neo-Nazism illegal–flying the swastika, however sporadically, over government buildings until the year 2095. It’s unthinkable–not least because of the evil it represents–but more basically because Germany lost the war.

So did the Confederacy.

And so did all those who would deny to a segment of our population the rights marriage confers upon each wedded couple in this country. Because the June 26 Supreme Court decision was about more than the right of same-sex marriage–it ensured marriage equality.

Up runs the Rainbow banner! Now, I cannot claim to understand homosexuality–I remain, if quotidian, straight. But here’s the rub: There is no requirement for understanding when it comes to tolerance. Tolerance and understanding, in fact, can be mutually exclusive.

Still, as my grandmother so often admonished me not to, let’s not rest on our laurels. Let’s not, in our victory now, forget that although Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide in 1973, 40 years on it is a service in some red states becoming increasingly difficult to access. The Supreme Court seems to have sat on its hands while the right has pulled all manner of legal tricks, closing those clinics the mad bombers couldn’t destroy. And now–in response to marriage equality–the state of Mississippi has floated the notion of not issuing marriage licenses to anyone at all.

Will we be dealing with this settled issue until 2055–if not beyond? It is no great leap to picture a future landscape where, sure, one’s existing same-sex marriage is recognized–but prospective same-sex couples might have to travel hundreds of miles because there are only a handful of authorities who would marry them.

I say: Enough! Let’s let settled issues be settled. It’s not as if we’ve fixed everything else and can luxuriate in niggling. There is an infrastructure that needs attending to. There is a power grid that needs modernizing. There is climate change and global conflict which need coming to grips with. There are people who need to be fed, housed, educated and cared for, medically speaking. The list is practically endless. Abortion rights and marriage quality are settled hash.

I wish President Obama had mentioned something to this effect in his magnificent eulogy of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, which he delivered only hours after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark marriage equality decision. My wife didn’t agree with me, saying that it was neither the appropriate time or place.

I think it is always the time and place to speak out, if only because all these issues are intertwined. The striking of the Confederate flag is merely the furtherance of a discussion we’ve been having that’s lasted some 400 years now. And it doesn’t matter which group of people is being treated unfairly–so long as one is then any other group might be next. It’s all wrong.

How about no more marginalized Americans? Let us not be divided any longer by race, gender, religion, class, politics or sexuality. If insist we must on marginalizing people, why not the likes of ISIS, Boko Haram, or the branches of Al Qaeda?

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