Thank You, Oregon, for Taking Down the Mississippi Flag

Image

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.

Weekend Coffee Share: Three Forms of Madness

Image

If we were having coffee, I’d be going “god bless! It’s been more than two weeks since I published a post, and three since I’ve joined the #WeekendCoffeeShare.

weekendcoffeeshare

I’ve been thinking I have a time management problem for awhile now, and I probably do. But I understand time management and I do my best to manage the time I have productively. At this point, I’m viewing the time problem in the same way I view the financial problem.

I DON’T have a “money management” problem. I manage my money just fine. The problem is I have a prioritized list of expenses every month and a set income. It’s a simple operation.

  1. Rent and power always get paid first.
  2. Things like shoes, groceries, and medical have to come next.
  3. The rest gets paid out of whatever is left, and when I run out of money, well, I am out of money and have to let things ride.
  4. So, weird things happen to the lower-priorities. The trash bill tends to get paid three months at a time at the last minute. The cell phone and cable bills get paid just enough to keep from being turned off. Credit accounts are serviced as early as possible, and just enough to keep the accounts active. I’m doing some fairly subtle and creative things with a few revolving credit accounts just now.

This is no way to live, financially. And I think something similar is going on with my time at this point. I have a prioritized list of things I need to spend time on, and once I’m out of time, I’m just out of time until I get a weekend or a holiday or a legitimate day off to be free (those are few and far between.)

The problem is not that I am unaware of how time management works. The problem is that I have precious little time to manage.

So, here are some things I’ve been doing with my time lately, and some things I plan to do with it in the next little while.

Chess Madness

The grandson, who I talk about on the Internet from time to time, has developed an interest in Chess. He is also good at math and interested in any competition which can be constructed as a war game (I blame Southern Culture as the proximate cause for his love of battle, and finger Western Imperialism as the root cause of his fascination.)

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

We have a neighbor kid who is a few grades further along in school, loves to hang out at our house, and wants to get good enough to beat his older brother in chess. The neighbor kid has expressed a willingness to be mindful of the fact that he’s dealing with a 7-year-old and understands that being a good sport is a condition of me teaching him how chess works.

So we have three chess players of varying levels of skill willing to be kind and learn from one another. The two with the least experience are naturally good at the sorts of thinking that make for lifelong chess players, so of course I am going to give them as much time as I can afford.

What this means, as far as the time budget goes, is that sometimes I have to stop what I am doing, even if I’d rather be writing, and give the grandson 20 minutes for a chess game. Or stop for an hour and give the two boys three chess games to think about and learn from.

Because the chess gives us a reason to interact that builds useful skills and does not require an electronic device. And it gives us something in common to talk about. All kinds of reasons this is the #1 thing at the moment.

Doggie Madness

The doggies are second because they are living creatures who depend on me to feed them. I have a 3.5-month-old puppy I brought into my house willingly, and an older one who just sort of wandered up and stuck around because we fed him.

These are large breed dogs. the smaller one is not four months old, and she’s big enough to snag a pork chop off the kitchen counter if we turn our backs long enough.

we_iz_innocent

They are not bad doggies, but they are not especially well-trained, either. They’re requiring a lot of attention, which means a lot of time. Because I am not going to have two half-grown dogs that weigh better than 80 lbs counter-surfing in my kitchen. I am also not going to beat them to make them behave.

So you can see why this is consuming a lot of resources, and hopefully why it is important to me.

Feminist Madness

I started a Feminist Friday Project along with my sister Diana and our friend Gretchen a couple of years ago now. Somehow, against all odds and with the help of many other bloggers, we’ve managed to keep it viable up to this very day. Here’s the official archive of posts so far.Feminism_free

Most of the bloggers who have contributed so far are still in, and we’re working up to a major announcement.

In fact, once I am done with this post, the next thing I am doing is working on the feminist project.

My list is way longer. I’ve caught up on my tv in the last few weeks, and also read a comics series which demands to be written about.

This is enough for today, but if you want clues as to where I am going, read Saga, then watch Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones.

saga Cover

I’ve got things to say about all of that stuff. I will likely say it on multiple blogs and from a feminist perspective.

If you’ve not yet added your #WeekendCoffeeShare post to the linkup and shared it on Twitter at this late hour, you should do that stat.

Off to work for me now 😉

In which I ask an actually serious question in a straightforward way

Image

Who’s read Saga, either in whole or in part? What do you think of it and is it worthy material for a pop culture blogger who needs to buy one set of texts and get a lot of mileage out of them?

saga Cover

The reason I ask is that I need a large, rich text to fuel the next phase of my blogging. Puppies and personal problems are going to get old quickly, and the stand-alone photography has pretty much played out until spring.

I need books or comics to write about, and I have Amazon money to spend.

What I need is a relevant, significant, contemporary, ongoing thing that I can approach from different angles and write about for several blogs.

Saga seems to be the best bet, and my closest friends are telling me to pull the trigger on this one.

What do you think? Worthwhile, or should I order something like Civil War and go hard at Marvel?

I am at a crossroads here. Big decision, because it’s going to determine the content for most of my blogging through the end of March.

Advice, plz!