Twisted Symbols

The Twisted King of TupeloThere are certain things about life in America that I just don’t understand. Perhaps tops on my personal miscomprehension hit parade is my failure to understand how actions contrary to the public good can either lead the offender(s) to assume the mantle of respectability or fail to remove them from that desired perch. With that stated, I’ve decided to put my confusion to paper and relay to you, the reader, the long list of just what confounds me so. And since I’ve never shied away from controversy, the series of examinations in this article begins with a beloved American icon: Elvis Presley.

Elvis was a man who, at 24 years old, romantically pursued a 14-year-old girl, and who boozed and drugged his way through life right up to the point where he keeled over and died in a pool of his own vomit. What’s to admire? It’s a sad fact that we, as Americans, exist in an age where the so-called “war on drugs” is perilously close to being a lost cause, but Elvis Presley, a man who died from his involvement in the drug culture, receives stamps, movies, and numerous other commemorative items in his honor. So what are we saying, America? Aren’t we asking our children to “say no to drugs” above all else, but stating through our actions the contradiction that it’s just all fine and dandy to respect or idolize a dead drug addict? I believe that if this nation is to reduce the prevalence of drugs and save its ever-vulnerable children, then America must adopt an unwavering, unequivocal policy of ostracism towards those who violate the national drug policy. In short, I believe if America is to emerge victorious from the war on drugs (some war!), then violators should be neither honored nor praised. And if held aloft as symbols, then they should be made to represent the absolute failure of drug involvement–no contradictions stated, no exceptions allowed. With such as my beliefs, you’ll understand why I fail to understand why he and other celebrity addicts are revered by so many.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the sad fact that Elvis gained fame and fortune simply because he could sing with a tin-eared approximation of the so-called “Negro sound”, thus covering black music with a skin color that appealed to the majority population. Come to think of it, the only difference between “The Pelvis” and Pat Boone was that Elvis displayed something other than the stick-up-the-ass rigidity projected by the cardboard-stiff Boone. But it remains that they were virtually Siamese twins joined by the common bond of what was (and in some cases, is) America’s desire to put a pale-skinned façade on something composed of much darker hues. Yet, despite the presence of so many negative factors surrounding him, Elvis Presley is a symbol of Americana.

But where Elvis stupidly and accidentally checked only himself out of this existence, a seemingly innocuous couple nearly caused destruction on a global scale in a calculated fashion. In 1951, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of selling the U.S. permanently down the river by handing our precious nuclear secrets over to the Soviets. And due to them and other insurgents, the course of post-WWII history was inexorably altered, and America was thenceforth denied the preeminent status of being the sole nuclear power in the world, with all that such a unique military station would imply.

For the permanent damage done to America, for being party to forever crippling this nation’s strategic advantage, the Rosenbergs were each strapped into an electric chair and electrocuted in 1953. While it is true that American justice is not a perfect thing, absolutely concrete evidence of the Rosenberg’s innocence never really surfaced, though Ethel Rosenberg appeared to deserve just a bit less than what was her ultimate fate. Again, the Rosenberg matter was an issue of treason, and in my opinion, both traitors and their accomplices should suffer for the betrayal of our great nation.

Yes, our courts make mistakes, and yes, there have probably been hundreds of mistakes made, and there is just no denying that awful truth. However, while I honestly believe that the executions of the disloyal pair meant goodbye to bad rubbish in no uncertain terms, there exists a sizable portion of the American public that believes otherwise and persists not only in the belief of their innocence, but in proclaiming it. Books, websites, articles, and other sources of information trumpet their freedom from guilt while sullying the name and reputation of both the FBI and the American judicial system. As a result, the Rosenbergs are popularly depicted as the helpless victims of an anti-Semitic witch-hunt fueled by Cold War hysteria, and this has resulted in theirs as a now-martyred existence.

While I can definitely understand and sympathize with the anti-Semitic victimization aspect proffered by Rosenberg supporters, the available facts in the case appear to damn Julius Rosenberg directly, and they appear to damn Ethel Rosenberg through lesser means. Yes, Jews past and present were frequently demeaned and vilified, and I am doubtless as to the presence of anti-Semitism as a prime factor in the Rosenberg’s initial suspicion of guilt. However, it’s a long journey from suspicion to conviction, and to get there the roads traveled must be named “means”, “motive”, and “opportunity”. The Rosenbergs apparently walked all three, but again, I tend to agree with skeptics in my belief that Julius Rosenberg took Ethel’s hand and led her down a path to damnation.

The FBI declassified the case data, and the information is currently available on the internet under the Freedom of Information section on the FBI website (http://foia.fbi.gov). And again, the only “smoking gun” found thus far points to the Rosenbergs, though it smokes more when pointed in Juilius’ direction. Admittedly, both the FBI and our judicial system have proven themselves suspect on numerous occasions, but those unfortunate instances are the aberrations, I believe, and certainly not the norm. Nevertheless, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist possessed of higher suspicion than Oliver Stone, I believe it’s reasonable to accept the FBI information as honest disclosure from the agency. But again, for those who choose to ignore the facts, the Rosenberg name carries on as a symbol of religious intolerance and politically fostered judicial corruption.

I will state again that I believe religious intolerance was a major factor, but not the only factor, which initially drew investigators to the Rosenbergs like bloodhounds. Again, no incontestable substantiation of their innocence has surfaced in their support. So while there has been much offered in terms of speculation, little has been evinced to grant absolution. Yet, despite the chaos and near catastrophe they caused, the Rosenbergs are symbols.

Perhaps it is a warmth or an admiration for the imperfections within those who reject the American societal norm that spurs some Americans to eschew or wholly omit the inclusion of social expatriates into the otherwise abundant ranks of the publicly reprehensible. Before Waco and before Ruby Ridge there was—of all the places in this land of the free and home of the brave—Philadelphia. On the morning of May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police surrounded a reeking, rat infested row home in an evacuated section of West Philadelphia. Reeking and rat infested, you must understand, because the residents within detested cleanliness and embraced filth as was part of their cultist doctrine, and thus they stored uncovered garbage and other wastes within the house rather than properly disposing of it all. The vermin-infested home itself was a concrete-and-steel fortified bunker sheltering members of a radical organization called MOVE, and “move” is exactly what area residents wished they would do.

The MOVE members, all with the adoptive surname of “Africa”, were a vicious group of insurgents that seemed to delight in hoisting misery and suffering upon any and all who crossed their path. Armed MOVE members patrolled area rooftops, menaced residents, and continuously blared music and obscenities from blasting speakers. Their disgusting and unsanitary lifestyle drew waves of mice, rats, and roaches into their squalid urban fortress, and from there both the vermin and the stench literally poured into other area residences.

A war was brewing. Area residents, long tired of MOVE’s activities, urged the Mayor to act. He resisted. For two years he refused to act in strict obeisance to a citywide policy of tolerance towards the MOVE sect that dated back to a fatal encounter in 1978. That’s the year when MOVE first struck, when a Philadelphia police officer was killed by nine MOVE members who were then also based in a West Philadelphia row house. Cognizant of this, yet frustrated beyond communal tolerance, fuming area residents approached Mayor Goode again in 1985 with a two-pronged ultimatum that may have sounded something like this:

Do SOMETHING, you [censored] punk,
or else we’ll take this to the GOVERNOR.
Or better yet, we’ll take these mother[censored]s out OURSELVES!

Now that got his attention. Faced with intervention from the state, and wishing to avoid the murderous nightmare that is a riotous urban battlefield, Mayor Goode was forced to act.

An hours-long impasse began. Time and again the Philadelphia police demanded the surrender of the MOVE members, and time and again they refused to comply. With the 1978 conflict firmly in mind, and fearing for the safety of police officers should a full assault commence, Mayor Goode authorized the use of a bomb to be dropped by helicopter onto the house of horrors. That evening, the bomb was dropped.

And that’s when Prometheus came to West Philadelphia.

The explosion birthed a firestorm that incinerated sixty-one of the attached homes and killed eleven MOVE members. Of the eleven fatalities, five were children. Outraged and embarrassed, the city fathers impaneled a special commission to investigate the matter, and despite two years of restraint, Mayor Goode was officially accused of orchestrating the tragedy. A Grand Jury declined to indict him.

So, is the most potent symbol that of Mayor Goode, a man forced to terrible action after years of restraint? No. Is the most potent symbol that of helpless children made to suffer for the sins of their elders? Again, the answer is no. To many, the supreme and everlasting symbol of this terrible event is that of the poor, suffering, misunderstood MOVE members and their brutal, lasting torment at the hands of the racist Philadelphia police, the race-traitor Mayor Goode, and the conspiratorial West Philadelphia community. MOVE, you might be surprised to learn, has gained in death the status of urban Don Quixotes to some, martyred not for tilting futilely against windmills, but nobly against the merciless and unrelenting force of government and its cronies. Total bullshit? Of course it is. Yet, to many on the maniacally extreme political left, they are symbols.

The above contention has been applied to the Ruby Ridge, Idaho, incident of 1992. In that altercation, US Marshals surrounded the home of white supremacist Randall Weaver in an attempt to capture him over contempt of court and gun possession charges. Just as in Philadelphia’s first encounter with MOVE, an officer died. Unlike the initial MOVE incident, an apparent innocent, his son, died–shot in the back. The Marshals then summoned the FBI and another wild shoot ‘em up ensued. In the aftermath of that violent encounter, Weaver’s wife lay dead. Weaver was finally taken into custody, tried, and cleared of all serious charges. The Justice Department was eventually forced to make monetary restitution to Weaver to the tune of several million dollars, as though money could substitute for the lives of slain loved ones.

The difference between Weaver, the white supremacist, and the MOVE cult lies far beyond the realms of race and location. Weaver, though I loathe everything he then stood for, was largely innocent of the exact crimes for which his family was besieged. Guilty of being a bigoted hick, yes, but not guilty of the serious crimes for which he was accused and hunted. Conversely, MOVE was unquestionably guilty of everything the Philadelphia PD and the West Philadelphia community accused it of. I believe that Weaver, though he was a hate-filled S-O-B at Ruby Ridge, is a symbol of government run amok; in contrast, I believe the final MOVE incident is a symbol of government forced to final, cataclysmic action.

To others, particularly those on the extreme (and I again mean maniacally extreme) political right, the true symbolism of Ruby Ridge was a clarion call to action against the perceived forces of governmental tyranny. Enter Timothy McVeigh: self-styled patriot, white supremacist, and lest we forget, murdering scum and Oklahoma City bomber. McVeigh answered a call that was inaudible to any sane individual, and he decided to show his special brand of patriotism by blowing apart innocent people and most of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. In what is perhaps symbolic of McVeigh’s twisted mind, the murder weapon he used–a fertilizer bomb on a truck–was literally a load of shit on wheels.

Convolutedly, such an action was typical of McVeigh. He caromed through life spreading the fetid waste that is anti-Semitism and bigotry, and he was a “good soldier” in the war against tolerance. A known weaponry fanatic, McVeigh read anti-Semitic newsletters such as The Spotlight and The Patriot Report, and he obsessed over the Aryan Nations’ favorite book, “The Turner Diaries” by William Pierce. To further explain, “The Turner Diaries” is a (hopefully forever) fictional account of the extermination of Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and any other group not of 100% “pure” European descent at the hands of the Aryans. Again, a clarion call unheeded by the sane, though McVeigh heard it clearly.

Hate groups such as the Aryan Nations and The Order disparagingly label non-Europeans as the “Mud Races”, and espouse their total destruction at any and all cost. And you thought Adolph Hitler and the Nazis were dead, didn’t you? Well, they’re not. They’re alive and well, if not in spirit, then in a Klan rally, or a neo-Nazi demonstration, or a Church of the Avenger assemblage, or a Skinhead rampage, or an Aryan Nations march about to be held in your hometown. In addition, according to “The Turner Diaries”, the Aryans (all of the above groups consider their members to be “Aryans”) will trigger the cataclysmic race war and the signal would be–SURPRISE!–the bombing of a symbol of lasting governmental tyranny and oppression, a federal building, by none other than the Aryans, themselves.

The following people all have first-hand experience with the power of symbolism. Some of the names may be familiar you. Please read through the list before proceeding further into this article.

Aleman, Lucio Jr., 33
Alexander, Teresa, 33
Allen, Richard A., 46
Allen, Ted L., 48
Almon, Baylee, 1
Althouse, Diane E. Hollingsworth, 45
Anderson, Rebecca, 37
Argo, Pamela, 36
Avery, Saundra “Sandy”, 34
Avillanoza, Peter, 56
Battle, Calvin, 62
Battle, Peola, 56
Bell, Danielle, 15 months
Biddy, Oleta, 54
Bland, Shelly Turner, 25
Blanton, Andrea, 33
Bloomer, Olen B., 61
Bolden, Army Sgt. 1st Class Lola Rene
Boles, James E., 50
Bolte, Mark A., 28
Booker, Casandra, 25
Bowers, Carol, 53
Bradley, Peachlyn, 3
Brady, Woodrow, 41
Brown, Cynthia Campbell, 26
Broxterman, Paul G., 42
Bruce, Gabreon, 3 months
Burgess, Kimberly Ruth, 29
Burkett, David N., 47
Burns, Donald E., 63
Carr, Karen Gist, 32
Carrillo, Michael J., 44
Chafey, Rona, 35
Chavez, Zackary, 3
Sharon Chesnut, 47
Chipman, Robert, 51
Clark, Kimberly K., 39
Clark, Margaret L. “Peggy”, 42
Cooper, Antonio A. Jr., 6 months
Cooper, Anthony Christopher II, 2
Cooper, Dana L. Brown, 24
Cottingham, Harley, 46
Cousins, Kim R., 33
Coverdale, Aaron, 5 ½
Coverdale, Elijah, 2 ½
Coyne, Jaci, 14 months
Cregan, Katherine, 60
Cummins, Richard, 55
Curry, Steven, 44
Daniels, Brenda, 42
Davis, Sgt. Benjamin L., 29
Day, Diana Lynn, 38
DeMaster, Peter, 44
Deveroux, Castine, 49
Driver, Sheila, 28
Eaves, Tylor, 8 months
Eckles, Ashley, 4
Ferrell, Susan, 37
Fields, Carrol “Chip,” 48
Finley, Katherine Ann, 44
Fisher, Judy J., 45
Florence, Linda, 43
Fritzler, Donald, 64
Fritzler, Mary Anne, 57
Garrett, Tevin, 16 months
Garrison, Laura Jane, 61
Genzer, Jamie, 32
Goodson, Margaret, 54
Gottshall, Kevin Lee, 6 months
Griffin, Ethel Louise, 55
Guiles, Colleen, 59
Guzman, Marine Capt. Randolph, 28
Hagerman, Crystal, 20
Hammons, Cheryl, 44
Harding, Ronald, 55
Hawthorne, Thomas, 52
Higginbottom, Doris Adele, 44
Hightower, Anita C., 27
Hodges, Thompson E. “Gene,” 54
Holland, Peggy Louise, 37
Housley, Linda Coleen, 53
Howard, George M., 45
Howell, Wanda, 34
Huff, Robbin A., 37
Hurlburt, Anna Jean, 67
Hurlburt, Charles, 73
Ice, Paul D., 42
Jenkins, Christi Y., 32
Johnson, Norma Jean, 62
Johnson, Raymond L., 59
Jones, Larry J., 46
Justes, Alvin, 54
Kennedy, Blake R., 1 ½
Khalil, Carole, 50
Koelsch, Valerie, 33
Kreymborg, Carolyn A., 57
Lauderdale, Teresa L., 41
Leinen, Catherine, 47
Lenz, Carrie, 26
Leonard, Donald R., 50
Levy, Airman 1st Class Lakesha R., 21
London, Dominique, 2
Long, Rheta, 60
Loudenslager, Michael, 48
Luster, Aurelia “Donna,” 43
Luster, Robert, 45
Maroney, Mickey, 50
Martin, James K., 34
Martinez, Gilberto, 35
Mathes-Worton, Tresia, 28
McCarthy, James Anthony, 53
McCullough, Kenneth, 36
McGonnell, Betsy J. Beebe, 47
McKinney, Linda G., 47
McRaven, Airman 1st Class Cartney J. Koch, 19
Medearis, Claude, 41
Meek, Claudette, 43
Merrell, Frankie Ann, 23
Miller, Derwin, 27
Mitchell, Eula Leigh, 64
Moss, John C. III., 50
Nix, Patricia, 47
Parker, Jerry Lee, 45
Randolph, Jill, 27
Reeder, Michelle Ann, 33
Rees, Terry Smith 41
Rentie, Mary Leasure, 39
Reyes, Antonio, 55
Ridley, Kathryn, 24
Rigney, Trudy, 31
Ritter, Claudine, 48
Rosas, Christy, 22
Sanders, Sonja, 27
Scroggins, Lanny L., 46
Seidl, Kathy L., 39
Sells, Leora L., 57
Shepherd, Karan D., 27
Smith, Chase, 3
Smith, Colton, 2
Sohn, Army Sgt. 1st Class Victoria, 36
Stewart, John T., 51
Stratton, Dolores M., 51
Tapia, Emilio, 50
Texter, Victoria, 37
Thomas, Charlotte A., 43
Thompson, Michael, 47
Thompson, Virginia, 56
Titsworth, Kayla M., 3 ½
Tomlin, Ricky L., 46
Treanor, LaRue, 55
Treanor, Luther, 61
Turner, Larry L., 42
Valdez, Jules A., 51
VanEss, John K., 67
Wade, Johnny A., 42
Walker, David J., 54
Walker, Robert N., 52
Watkins, Wanda L., 49
Weaver, Michael, 54
Welch, Julie, 23
Westberry, Robert, 57
Whicher, Alan, 40
Whittenberg, Jo Ann, 35
Williams, Frances A., 48
Williams, Scott, 24
Williams, William Stephen, 42
Wilson, Clarence, Sr., 49
Woodbridge, Ronota A., 31
Youngblood, John A., 52
What you just read is a list of the 168 PERSONS KILLED due to the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19th, 1995.

As the “Oklahoma City Bomber”, McVeigh gained through his horrific actions the status and de facto title of Patriot for the New America; he has readied himself on Death Row to be martyred not for tilting futilely against windmills, but nobly against the merciless and unrelenting force of government and its cronies. With the stench of the same bullshit that was applied to MOVE fouling the air, I must state that I understand neither the glorification of the name nor the reverence for the actions of such a heinous creature. Yet, to many on the maniacally extreme political right, Tim McVeigh and those of his ilk are symbols of what it takes to build a new, allegedly better America.

The construction of “Aryan America” would necessitate the destruction of much of the current America and the slaughter of the true innocents within. I can safely make such a statement as I’ve noted, sadly, that extremist groups across the political spectrum do not seem to consider our nation, our America, as theirs as well. In particular, right-wing extremists consider themselves to be one with McVeigh, united as patriots engaged in a war to win America for the righteous people of America, the “real” Americans–all of them Christian, God-fearing, and white. The current America is, to them, a land ruled by the “Mud Races” whose government exists solely for the suppression of the alleged manifest destiny of the Aryans.

Given that Tim McVeigh is now the martyred poster boy for hate-mongers, there are, unfortunately, two other potent symbols of extremism, hatred, and anti-American sentiment to be discussed. These odious things were respectively birthed in the 1860’s and the 1920’s, and both rapidly grew to represent things of monstrous size and equally monstrous intent. In the resultant battles to contain these perversions of the human condition, hundreds of thousands of American lives were lost in two of the most vicious, bloodiest, and destructive wars this planet has ever suffered. Despite that, or perhaps because of their violent history, every right-wing extremist website I visited (whether it belonged to the KKK or some other bunch of obstinate and intolerant assholes), displayed at least one of the symbols.

Here is a portion of the birth certificate of the older creature:

“The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.“Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.“We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”
That envenomed text is an excerpt from the Declaration of Secession of South Carolina, as adopted on December 24th, 1860. The above section encapsulates the reason why the South broke away from America. Yes, there were other reasons, but the impetus (according to the above from South Carolina) was the all-consuming fear of the end of slavery as the South was accustomed to it. Thus did South Carolina, convinced that abolitionism was an erroneous religious belief, become the first state to defect from the Union in advance of Lincoln’s forthcoming presidency. In doing so, in seceding first from the greater America, South Carolina initiated both the secession of states and the succession of events that would later culminate in the birth the Confederate States of America. Thus in the fires of hatred, intolerance, racism, and animosity towards the greater nation was born the lasting symbol of the renegade anti-American confederation. Its name: The Southern Cross, the infamous battle flag of the Confederate States of America.
It’s history. Confederate flag supporters argue that flying the Southern Cross today is symbolic of their Southern heritage. They argue that it is not a symbol of racism or slavery, but of the fighting will of a people.
It should be history. Confederate flag opponents argue that flying any Confederate flag today is symbolic of lingering racism and the South’s heritage of slavery, sedition, and unbridled animosity towards blacks.
It’s complicated. Firstly, I believe that the Southern Cross is symbolic of both the past sedition and the continuing rebelliousness of the Southern counterculture. The past sedition was, of course, the Civil War–and that definitely is a historical fact. The continuing rebelliousness is the South’s reaction to gains by blacks after Reconstruction (especially loathed was the 15th Amendment) and during the Civil Rights movement; both efforts faced the crushing power of Southern animosity and violent resistance. Please remember that the senior member of organized American extremist groups, the KKK, started in the South during Reconstruction and is still strongest there.
An examination of the progression of the Confederate flag (that’s an unfortunate misnomer that will be clarified later) reveals just how complicated the issue truly is. To understand just how complex the “flag flap” truly is, let’s explore the origin of the flag of our mother country, Britain. However, before I do, I must say thanks, Mom, for all those talks about British history when I was a kid. She hailed from what was called British Guyana, and we had many talks about the British origins of (as she put it) “so-called Americana”. (You should’ve heard her in her prime, back when she’d just annihilate certain commonly held American misconceptions.) She had copious amounts of love for this, her adopted country, but she just wished that America’s educational system offered more courses in global history as would relate to America. After all, she argued, you cannot fully understand America without first understanding Britain.

Development of the Modern British Union Flag

English Cross of St. George
1
Scottish Cross of St. Andrew
2
Original British Union Flag
3
Cross of Saint Patrick
4
Modern British Union Flag
5

The combination of the red-on-white English Cross of St. George (1) with the white-on-blue Scottish Cross of St. Andrew (2) formed the original British Union Flag (3), a banner that dates back to the early 1600’s. In 1800, the diagonal red-on-white Cross of Saint Patrick (4), the symbol of Ireland, was added to the original British Union Flag, thus forming the modern British Union Flag (5). Before continuing, it must be noted that variants of the British Union exist, this article uses the above principle designs as the basis for discussion. With the preceding firmly in mind, the discussion of those things leading to the creation of the Confederate flags (yes, plural) now begins.

British Red EnsignUse of the original British Union Flag continued with the British Red Ensign. This flag was one used by both British vessels and the original 13 American colonies before the start of the American Revolution. Please note the overall design, where Britain’s flag is reduced to a small field in the upper left-hand corner of a solid red banner.

Continental FlagThe Continental Flag came later. Just like George Washington and the cherry tree, the story of Betsy Ross and the American Flag is a myth. Research I’ve conducted ranging from online inquiries to electronic encyclopedias consistently showed that belief in the seamstress’ patriotic creation is a lingering fallacy. The design of this flag was meant to symbolize a delicate balance: Colonial loyalty to Britain and unity against British aggression.

First American FlagNext came the first American flag, the flag that is commonly, and quite erroneously, attributed to Colonial seamstress Betsy Ross. In truth, the Continental Flag already had the stripes, so Congress merely replaced the Union Jack with a blue canton in which 13 stars were displayed. Do note that George Washington’s headquarters flag was a blue banner with 13 stars, but set in rows of 3, 2, 3, 2 and 3.

First American FlagFollowing close behind the first American flag (and the variant that was George Washington’s headquarters flag) came the “Stars and Stripes” as the next national flag. Of the all the versions of early American flags, the simple “block” layout of stars emerged as the standard. Although the number of stars would later increase and vary in sequencing, the “block” pattern first seen on Washington’s headquarters flag and later adopted on the national flag remains to this day as America’s per-state symbol on the flag. On a side note, at one point the number of stars and stripes numbered 15, not 13. At the time of the Civil War, there were 34 stars, and 13 stripes was the established standard.

First Confederate FlagThe first Confederate flag came into being in 1861 along with the spawning of the Confederacy. This flag was used to symbolize the new Southern coalition, and it was this flag that was first called the “Stars and Bars”, not the later “X” patterned banner. It lasted from sometime in 1861 to sometime in 1863, and the number of stars grew to match the increasing number of seditious states, thus going from 7 stars to eventually containing 13 stars.

Confederate Battle FlagAs the Civil War raged, the Confederate Navy began flying a flag called the Southern Cross. This flag became the military standard of the Confederacy after the first Confederate Flag was removed from battlefields. Do note that this flag was never flown as the official flag of the Confederacy. It was, however, the symbol of Confederate might and resistance, with 13 stars standing foremost as symbols of the 13 seditious states. Do note that the official Confederate flag did undergo changes that incorporated the military flag, as will be shown below.

Second Confederate FlagThe second version of the Confederacy’s official flag incorporated the Southern Cross in the upper left-hand corner and extended it down approximately three-quarters the height of the banner. Replace the white field with a red one and this flag almost becomes a throwback to the British Red Ensign. Stranger yet is the fact that it was a battle flag atop a white flag–the symbol of unconditional surrender and not the red of true passion. Duration: 1863 (approximate)–1865 (approximate).

Third Confederate FlagThe third incarnation of the Confederacy’s official flag was simply the second flag (complete with the We Surrender! white background), but with the addition of a red vertical bar that extended down the rightmost side of the banner. This was the Confederacy’s final flag, and it may have flown briefly as the war drew to a close in 1865.

And that’s it. That’s the history of the controversial flags, from British origin to Confederate finality. Oh, sure, I didn’t include flags like the many “Don’t Tread on Me” designs and other lesser banners, but in terms of the greater progression, that’s it. After the Civil War, the defeated former-Confederate states generally reverted to their pre-war flag designs. One by one, however, a few later adopted Confederate symbolism again.

Alabama FlagAlabama: In 1895, this state adopted what it called the “Crimson Cross of St. Andrew on a Field of White”. Some historical revisionists label this flag as a throwback to Confederate symbolism, and I argue that such classification is both unwarranted and a possible attempt at race baiting. It’s simply a red “X”, not the stars-on-blue “X” of the Southern Cross, and it’s certainly not reminiscent of the first Confederate flag. If anything, it’s a reuse of Britain’s original flag.

Florida State FlagFlorida: Adopted its current flag, a near duplicate of Alabama’s, in 1900. The banner features a Native American woman scattering flowers (seeds?) near a body of water, with a boat, a tree, the sun, and the sky as backdrop items. Again, historical revisionists have put in their two cents and unjustifiably labeled this flag as symbolic of the Confederacy.

Older Georgia State FlagModern Georgia State FlagGeorgia: Adopted a variant of the first Confederate flag in 1879. This flag design took the Stars and Bars, removed the stars, and extended the blue section to the bottom of the flag. In 1955, just as the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to gain steam, an image of the state seal was added to the blue canton and a variation of the great symbol of sedition—the Cross—replaced the “bars”. In January 2001, Georgia adopted a new design that recognized the historical significance of the Southern Cross, but minimized its prominence to a virtual “thumbnail” of its original size. The redesign remained controversial, so a new flag—one utterly bereft of the Southern Cross—was created in 2003. This flag, yet another variant of the first Confederate flag, remains in use today.

Mississippi State FlagMississippi: In February 1894, the current state flag came into existence. The flag prominently features an image of the Southern Cross in the upper left-hand corner. In 2001, Mississippians voted on the status of the Conferdate-themed flag. They were given a choice: continue to fly the Southern Cross as part of the state flag (itself reminiscent of the first Confederate flag), or fly a flag that featured 20 stars in recognition of Mississippi’s entry into the Union as the 20th state (while retaining the overall look of the first Confederate flag). By a large margin, the voters chose to keep the flag which included the Confederate Battle Flag.

All of the above now brings us back to the mother country. The Cross of Saint Patrick isn’t a racist symbol, and both it and the “X” pattern precede the Confederacy by hundreds of years, as I’ve noted previously. Therefore, that is why I have absolutely no problem with the flags of Alabama and Florida. After all, their crosses are identical to the Cross of Saint Patrick, and if there is any logical debate the religious flags could spark, then it would be the old “Church vs. State” debate. It’s not racist, it’s not a symbol of slavery, and it’s not indicative of any American atrocity whatsoever. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, kiddies of all ages…it’s just a flag.

However, the same cannot be said about the flags of Georgia and Mississippi. I believe that the presence of any Confederate symbolism on any flag within America is nothing less than the validation of an anti-American insurrection. Do we honor the FALN for the reign of terror it conducted in the 1970’s and early 1980’s as it tried to liberate Puerto Rico from US influence? Consider that when several members of the terrorist FALN group were freed by President Clinton in September 1999, they returned to Puerto Rico and received a thunderous hero’s welcome. Red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flags were waved furiously, and well wishers beamed with pride as the so-called freedom fighters returned to their homeland. It was a scene fit for conquering heroes, not fanatical murderers and traitors. Misguided exhibitions of Puerto Rican patriotism aside, the residents of Puerto Rico appear to have forgotten–or simply don’t care–that the FALN members assisted in 130 bombings on US soil, and they helped blow apart six people and maim numerous others. The terrorists were convicted on charges ranging from bomb making and conspiracy to armed robbery, yet they are treated as heroes in Puerto Rico.

However, is it right to do so? Is it right to glorify them or to revere their murderous actions? The FALN fought a terrorist war against the greater United States in an attempt to win true independence for Puerto Rico, which was (and still is) a US Commonwealth. Similarly, the Confederacy fought a war of sedition against the greater United States in an attempt to win true independence for the rebellious South. Therefore, if it is right for Southerners to fly any Confederate flag, then I argue that it’s right for Puerto Ricans to fly a special flag in honor of the FALN, and it’s also correct for black Americans to fly a flag in memory of MOVE’s struggle against the local government.

Nazi FlagOh, and as for the other symbol of evil mentioned a few pages back (the one that was born in the 1920’s), that would be the flag to the left. Yes, it’s that flag, the Swastika symbol of the Nazi party. The Nazis committed 6,000,000 murders—6,000,000 barbaric counts of attempted genocide bloodied their hands—and in their wake, much of Europe lay in ruins. The actions of Hitler, his sadistic followers, and every facet of the Holocaust are indeed things none of us should ever forget. However, with the horrific actions of the Nazis as a given fact, would an American of German descent be morally correct in flying the Nazi flag in honor of German scientific and technical achievements made during the Nazi era? After all, Nazi Germany did advance man’s knowledge of rocketry, jet propulsion, and other vital areas, but would flying the Nazi flag then be the representation of history, or would it be hatred in evidence?

But what does it mean when an American not of the above groups flies the Nazi flag, or the Southern Cross, or an FALN banner? What would it mean if images of the Rosenbergs were paraded about on America’s Independence Day or Memorial Day, or Veterans Day?

Or, what if the following banner flewAfrican-American Flag above homes across America? This is the flag of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, now commonly referred to as the African-American flag. It is a flag that symbolizes the results of over 27,000 slave ship crossings (each laden with hundreds of slaves) and the struggle of kidnapped Africans and people of African descent to survive in an often contradictory, frequently hostile land called—by some—AmeriKKKa. Given black Americans generally lack any knowledge of which African country or tribe to identify as their ancestral home, this is the flag that symbolizes the fight of a displaced people to be considered not as animals, but humans, and not as property, but as people. It is the flag that symbolizes the rise of a people from degradation and slavery to the White House and executive boardrooms. This is the flag that would have been somewhere within the headquarters of MOVE. Cognizant of the above, is flying the African-American flag an expression of a people’s strength and unity, or is it a symbol of a people’s separation from the larger population?

I now close this dissertation about the flags, the famous, the flaps, and the failures which form much of what symbolizes this nation by stating that America is unquestionably a great country. However, much of what this nation prides itself on is certainly questionable or thought-provoking, to say the least, leaving all Americans with much to think about the symbols we hold dear.

-Keith V.

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One comment

  1. A passionate look at our country's greatest difficulties–our willingness/unwillingness to embrace our differences as part of our sameness. Is there a one of us who can claim not to hold a neighbor/brother guilty of being someone we don't want them to be? Yes, the issue is bigger and more hurtful than that. Yet the process of forgiveness remains the same. Forgive ourselves for that which we hold against our brothers, for we are the ones we hurt by not forgiving. Best wishes, Kirsten

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