Here I Go Again.

I am back to blogging for the next little while. In the early stages of laying out a project that I think will run 8-10 posts, but they’ll be laborious to write and keep to a reasonable length. I plan to finish two of them and then start publishing them weekly once I have a good start on the third.

Original photo of the flag of Mississippi, USA, taken by the author of the post years ago to illustrate an essay in which he argued that the confederate symbol should be replaced in favor of something more inclusive.
The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner. (Photo by me taken at a moment when Mississippians were all at one another’s throats about the flag. Original caption included because #context.)

Far as the topic goes. It will be an exploration of my own lived experience. It will also be an examination of the particular combination of meanness and hypocrisy that is southern conservative culture. Hopefully I’ll be able to connect both my own experience and the regional political culture to some things that are going on in the country at large right now and have been for a while.

Difficult to write, hard to let go of, uncomfortable to publish. Bound to make some folks unhappy if they read it. Absolutely necessary for me to do at this moment, whether anyone reads it or not.

Before I begin I’ma say this once, and then point back to paragraphs four through six of this post if it comes up again. I am fully aware that neither southerners nor white people have a monopoly on intolerance in this country. And also that I am quite a privileged dude, being white and male and (mostly) able to afford to keep utilities on for myself and those who depend on me for those necessities.

I will also note that if the people who depend on me for the roof and power did not find ways to buy groceries and school supplies, I’d not be able to keep all the utilities on and still buy fuel to get to work. I’m a mature, well-educated person who has never moved further away from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi than San Antonio. That little adventure only lasted about ten months.

I know where the Christian Coalition was born and I understand how it spread. I lived though it. I’ve paid my dues to the point that if criticizing one’s own culture were a privilege in this great country of ours instead of a right, I’d be privileged that way, too.

So I’ve got shit to say all summer long on this here blog, and I give absolutely zero fucks what anyone thinks about it. If you’re just checking in here because I landed in your feed for the first time since 2016 and you’re like “OH. That guy! I was fond of him! What’s he up to now?” But you have a problem with a sober, honest, angry, unequivocally negative critique of southern, conservative (and by extension bigoted, mean-spirited, self-dealing and short-sighted) political culture . . .

. . . your safest course is to get the hell out and not come back until you see a headline at the top of the page which clearly indicates I’m done with this and have lowered the intensity back into the normal range. No hard feelings & no disrespect to you personally intended. Scout’s honor.

If you’re interested this content, or if you’re disinterested but genuinely glad I’m back because you missed me, you should comment on this post and let me know. Comments will be disabled before I post here again.

Done.

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Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome, Newcomers!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I don’t have a whole lot of time to talk. I am on my way to NOLA (that’s how we say “New Orleans” on the internet) for Little Jedi’s birthday. If you don’t know who Little Jedi is, he is Diana’s youngling. My grandson is a year older, and he is also a Jedi, but since internet handles must be unique, we just call mine The Kid.

weekendcoffeeshare

These two have their birthdays in the same month. One at the beginning, one at the end. And they always celebrate at least one or the other in company with one another.

I’d tell you I was so pleased the Weekend Coffee Share was featured on the WordPress Daily post this week. It generated so much interest I had to stay up way too late answering comments on the thread. Also: Sharing the link all over Facebook and writing this post.

And I’d tell you I have plans. I’ve got a post coming on children and gaming at Comparative Geeks as soon as I can finish it. Another one on cultural literacy outlined for Part Time Monster. You’ll just have to wonder about until I get it figured out.

Oh yeah. Me and Hannah are still scheming big-time. And eventually, when things settle down, the Feminist Friday Project is coming back. So lots to look forward to as we get later in the year.

Here, and on Facebook if you pay attention to me there, you can expect the political chatter to get hot again soon. I’ve taken a break to let things settle and do other stuff this week, but I haven’t forgotten the politics. Wisconsin votes Tuesday.mlk_justice

I’m gonna rip the Mississippi Legislature a new one soon over a boneheaded “religious freedom” bill which will accomplish nothing except cost our state millions of dollars in federal court.

I am not done with Donald Trump, either. I’m just getting started on him.

You coffee share regulars need to be mindful of new faces on the scene for the next couple of weeks and welcome them. I did my best on that Daily Post thread to give everyone who expressed interest a personal response and encourage them to join in. Me and Diana can’t hover over the linkup this weekend, because we’re both out doing the same thing with the same kids.

So take a minute to encourage a blogger you’ve never met, if they happen to pop up on the linky list or on the hashtag.

Have a fabulous weekend, and a piece of NOLA history.

Thank You, Oregon, for Taking Down the Mississippi Flag

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Argue with me about this on the thread if you want, but fair warning: I have a zero tolerance policy for bigotry and meanness. And my threshold for that bullshit is even lower today than normal.

Oregon has removed the Mississippi flag from a public area of their capitol where they display state and tribal flags. The Oregon legislature agreed to take the flag down last year during the outcry after a shooting at a Charleston, SC church was linked to the Confederate Flag.

The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner.

The objectionable symbol everyone is angry about appears in the top left corner.

Oregon held off removing the flag to see if maybe we’d change our state flag, but after 12 different bills to change the flag were all allowed to die in committees last month, protests were renewed and Oregon pulled it down. (There are actually 19 different bills listed in this Jackson Free Press article; not sure what the discrepancy in the numbers over at Think Progress is about.)

I’ve written about this before, but your guess is as good as mine as to whether I posted it on a blog or on Facebook. Here’s my position on the issue, and keep in mind that lots of Mississippians want this symbol gone for various reasons. Several public bodies here refuse to fly it above municipal buildings, including the city government of our own state capitol.

People have the right to tattoo Confederate symbols on their own bodies, wear it on clothing, fly it in their yards, and otherwise display it on private property. The fact that so many of us find that an ignorant or hateful thing to do is beside the point.

We don’t ban the use of political symbols as personal expression in this country. Not even the swastika. Regulating the symbols we use to represent government institutions is another matter, and we have every right to object to government symbols when we find their use as such to be hateful and ignorant.

I want a better state flag. I’m glad Oregon took it down, and I hope more government entities, both in Mississippi and across the country, refuse to display it. I don’t think of this move as Oregonians thumbing their noses at Mississippi and looking down on us. I choose to see it as an expression of solidarity with Mississippians who want Confederate symbols relegated to museums and history books where they belong. So thank you, Oregon, for your support.

State flags don’t just fly in front of public buildings. They also find their way onto uniforms and into official documents. They get incorporated into the service marks of government agencies. And Mississippi has a long history of racist public policies we still haven’t shaken entirely.

Given the racial composition of our prison system, sending law enforcement officers out to do their jobs with a Confederate symbol on their uniforms is a terrible idea because that symbol has to inspire resentment and ramp up the tension any time a police officer interacts with a Mississippian who has strong feelings about the way we’ve historically oppressed people of color. (Note the careful wording there — there are plenty of white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Indian, and people of many other races or ethnicities living in this state who are angry about racial oppression, too.)

All that does is increase the already-way-too-high probability that whomever is being questioned will lose their temper and get arrested. It also makes the officers’ jobs more difficult and more dangerous. We already don’t pay them enough. At this point, given where we are with everything, sending a law enforcement officer out with a Confederate symbol on his or her shoulder is adding insult to injury.

It’s also stupid branding. Mississippi has an even worse image among the general population and around the world than it deserves. Mississippians are not inbred, barefoot, illiterate subsistence farmers. We even have people here who work for racial reconciliation every day of the damn week.

ms_great_seal

We have a pretty awesome great seal. Maybe we should incorporate it into our new flag. We can talk about that “In God We Trust” thing another day 😉

Once upon a time, my wife and several other family members  went to New York to sit in the hospital with one of her siblings. The New Yorkers in the waiting room loved, loved, loved her accent, but they assumed she was from Texas. When she told them she was from Mississippi, their jaws dropped and they said “But we’ve seen you reading! . . .?”

I have a cousin who went to college in the Midwest. She once told a new acquaintance she was from Mississippi and the first question that person asked was “What crops does your family grow?” This was in the last 10 or 15 years. Our flag isn’t helping that image one little bit.

I acknowledge my insurrectionist ancestors. Hell, I’ll even go so far as to admire their grit and their military prowess. If they’d had a more diverse economy, or a larger white population, or had managed to convince the great powers of Europe to recognize them as a state, they might have won that war.

I know all about the Civil War and I will tell you this. The Old South wasn’t fighting for the right to display symbols or properly acknowledge cultural heritage. Some number of southerners who fought in that war, mostly the elites, were fighting for the right to trade people like livestock. A few were supporting their states and taking a stand for (an unworkable) vision of federated government in a principled way. The rest were fighting a rich man’s war because their legislators and their employers and their preachers convinced them they were being oppressed by the federal government.

I think if we’re going to acknowledge our Confederate heritage, we need start by owning up to that last paragraph in its entirety with no arguments. We need to accept every single word of it.

I’m glad my ancestors lost that war. If they’d won, even if they had eventually abandoned slavery and re-joined the U.S., I would have inherited a meaner and more impoverished culture. So would the rest of us, including all you Yankees. The world would be a very different place.

I say working to preserve this symbol as an emblem of state power is a poor way to acknowledge my Confederate ancestors. At this point, it’s not just hateful and disrespectful to people of color. I’d be interested to see a question about the Confederate flag added to the General Social Survey because I suspect it’s actively offending better than 60% of the population by now.

If we could hold a seance right now and call up my Confederate ancestors, they’d be appalled at what we’ve become. And they’d be more appalled at the fact that we seem to be running downhill as fast as we can to a situation where we’re divided into two camps and willing to fight than they would be about all the diversity and civil rights.

The rich ones who understood such things would tell us to get over ourselves, to fix our shit at home, and to make every effort to help our government preserve our power in the international arena. And all of them would tell us we don’t want our descendants — including the ones so far removed into the future that we can’t see them as an actual possibility — to even contemplate another civil war.

If I know anything about my Confederate ancestors I know this: They did not take war lightly, and they suffered mightily for their decisions, as did the rest of the country.

I want the Confederate imagery gone from the official symbols of my state. Keeping it can only divide us even more than we already are. And we very much need to be finding ways to bring people together right now.

Mississippi Legislature: You are not the center of the goddamned universe. Oregon is telling you is this is not about you. It’s about the rest of the country too. They’ve been extremely polite about it, so please snap the fuck out of whatever haze you are in and do them the courtesy of listening.

Ed. – I’ve got a couple of substantial posts coming. One’s about how the meanness we’re seeing in these elections got into our public conversation. The other is a reaction/response/elaboration to Luther’s post on Michigan at Infinite Free Time. I hope to get both of those out before voting starts on Tuesday, and if you like this one, you’ll want to tune in for those. Also: Follow the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation on Facebook as a personal favor to me.