The flag is down: The war is finally over

flag2For 150 years, we continued to fight the war. The South will rise again, indeed, was the cry, as we debated what had happened and what it all meant.

The flag flies on high as we somehow all acquiesce in pretending that the war was about noblemen fighting for honor, common folks taking up arms to protect their homeland.

The most vocal, the most virulent, believe the lie; the rest of us, we exercised our right to remain silent. We’d mutter under our breaths about how that flag didn’t represent the South that we loved, small towns and wide open spaces, winding country roads, fried chicken and sweet tea, front porches for telling long stories into the warm summer night, sweet music piercing the air that mixed Appalachian strings and African rhythms.

But when it came time to do something about it, we did nothing. Shame on us, because our silence on the flag spoke volumes.

The people who waved the flag the most strenuously knew what they were doing. The war didn’t go the way their fellow travelers had wanted, but you wouldn’t have known that for looking around.

Jim Crow replaced slavery pretty much pound-for-pound. Separate, but equal, meant no one was equal, with leaders keeping our attention so much on our own internal contradictions that we had no energy left for the other fights that mattered.

Here we are, 150 years later, and our region, so rich in natural resources, and in human capital, lags seriously behind the rest of the country and the industrialized world in education, health, overall quality of life.

The flag is coming down. We didn’t do it; as it turns out, a kid who wanted to start a race war by killing nine African-Americans in a church, blasphemy of all blasphemies, that one, ignited something else entirely.

However it happened, we’re now able to openly talk about how those self-styled nobleman and common folks weren’t protecting honor and homeland, but were traitors who took up arms in open rebellion against the very continued existence of the United States of America.

Which puts into perspective those who want to claim their reverence for that flag has to do with heritage.

A heritage of treason, a heritage of bigotry. A heritage of division and self-loathing.

The flag is down, the war is finally over, 150 years after Appomattox. Time to turn our full attention to the Reconstruction that has been a logical next steps all these many years hence.

– Column by Chris Graham