On a previous post, there was an exchange between the two Michaels: Michael Rodgers, who believes passionately as I do that the Confederate flag should not be flying on our State House grounds, and “Michael P.,” who seems to disagree.
The exchange had to do with the NAACP’s boycott of South Carolina over the flag. Michael Rodgers had asserted (in his defense, as but one of five reasons, the other four being perfectly legitimate) that the boycott was a reason to take the flag down. With THAT, I had to respectfully disagree.
We MUST remove the flag from the grounds. But in order to accomplish it, we must first ignore the NAACP’s efforts to FORCE the state to do so, and get others to ignore it as well. It’s a necessary precondition to getting to the point that we do the right thing.
It is my firm belief that the absurd, ineffective NAACP boycott is one of the things keeping the flag up. It plays to the cranky white neo-Confederate’s sense of persecution. And it plays to the genetic predisposition of white South Carolinians (including those who could easily be persuaded to put the flag away otherwise) to never, EVER let anyone MAKE them do something.
I have that genetic predisposition, so I understand it. Allow me to explain: If flying the flag at the State House is the right thing to do, then NO amount of economic pressure should EVER induce us to take it down. Coercion should be resisted at every point along the line. If flying the flag is right, we could keep flying it even if the boycott were successful, even if it starved us.
The thing is, it is NOT right to fly the flag. But since the NAACP gets all the ink and has positioned itself in the mindless media (which is always all about a FIGHT rather than reason) as THE opposition to flying the flag, there is no way most white South Carolinians are going to go along with someone who is trying (however unsuccessfully) to HURT them into making them do its will. That fact, that the NAACP is doing its damnedest to try to hurt SC, obscures the wrongness of the flag for the white majority.
We’re talking about the white MAJORITY instead of the wacky neo-Confederate activists. The majority that can take the flag or leave it alone, that neither weeps for the Lost Cause nor sits up nights fretting about the social injustice of flying the flag in the faces of black people who are also citizens of our state.
The majority, in short, that needs to be won over. These folks don’t want to ally themselves necessarily with the people who play Confederate dress-up, but they don’t want to side with the people trying to hurt SC. And unfortunately, as long as the media continue to paint the issue as one off conflict between the extremes, as a mandatory choice between those options, the average person who just doesn’t want to spend time thinking about it wants to stay out of the whole thing, would prefer it not be brought up at all.
For those people — and we’re talking about at least a plurality of people in this state, defined as having the above-described attitude — there is an all-too-convenient default position: Embrace the “compromise” that in the minds of intellectually lazy people “settled” the issue.
And we’re never going to be able to deal with that problem as long as the NAACP continues to wage its farcical boycott. Unfortunately, I see little chance of the NAACP dropping it. It is an organization that, sadly, has become defined by conflict. Drop the conflict, and too many people in the group’s leadership would feel that they’d lost their raison d’etre.
So we have a HUGE challenge before us — changing the conversation so that it is NOT about those people on the two sides of that conflict caricature.
We need to move South Carolina to a more mature place. In fact, I’ve never seen removing the flag as the goal. I see the flag going away as a sure SIGN that the real goal has been achieved. And the goal is a South Carolina that has decided, in its own collective heart and mind, that it has outgrown such foolishness. That we are bright enough to understand that relics of history — particularly such painful history — belong in museums, and should not be given present life at the center of our public, common existence. And that we are one people, with common interests and respect for one another, having outgrown the desire to wave defiance in each other’s faces.
THAT’S the goal, growing up as a people. Once we do that, the flag will become a footnote of history.