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A Tale of Two Flags

A Tale of Two Flags

There have been some changes in the United States and they can both be symbolized by two flags; one, the Confederate battle flag – the old stars and bars – and the rainbow flag that is the symbol for the LGBT movement. For the latter, the Supreme Court established that individual states could no longer enact laws that prevented couples of the same sex from marrying.

The former is more complicated. In the aftermath of the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina in which a white male entered a Bible study meeting in an iconic African-American church and shot nine people to death, including the Pastor who happened to be a South Carolina state senator, state governments around the South – Republican state governments at that – came to the realization that the symbol of the battle flag was more negative than they at first thought. Pictures of the killer holding the battle flag seemed to cement the relationship between violent racists and the Confederacy.

All of a sudden, the movement picked up momentum in amazing time – South Carolina, which flew the Confederate battle flag over a monument on State Capital grounds, has already run the legislature through that allowed it to remove the flag from the grounds of the Capital. Kentucky announced it was looking into doing the same. The governor of Alabama went so far as to remove the flag personally without any input from the state legislature. Even Mississippi, whose state flag includes the Battle Flag, is looking to make changes. Just a few weeks ago one would scarcely have thought it possible.

I think what’s stunning about this is not just the speed at which this change of attitude is taking place, but also that it seems to be coming from both directions, the left and the right. Sure, there is some righteous indignation coming from a certain segment from the South who maintain that the battle flag isn’t a symbol of racism but rather a part of their heritage.

Yes, the Confederacy is a part of the heritage of the South but hopefully not the legacy. You could also say the same thing about the Swastika; sure, the Nazi regime in Germany was a lot different than the government of the Confederacy but both of them stood for morally untenable positions. You don’t see Germans waving around the Swastika (for, among other reasons, that it’s illegal) but it is part of their heritage too.

And why should anyone be proud of their Confederate heritage? This was a government that largely benefitted slave owners – who only made up about 2% of the population – because the South perceived that this was the economic engine that made the South prosperous when, in actuality, it didn’t. It only made the 2% prosperous. In the meantime, while the North was building factories and improving technology, the largely agrarian society of the South was doomed to failure from the get-go. They simply didn’t have the resources and the industry to survive in the 19th century world economy. The government of the Confederacy – again, largely made up of the slave owner segment – sent their boys out to be slaughtered for an economy that benefitted only them that they intended to ride out to its inevitable conclusion, by which time they’d have bled the economy dry. Does that sound familiar? (*KOFF* Oil! *KOFF*)

I have friends who have been complaining about the rush to take down the stars and bars and before they get all over my liberal ass, let me clarify a few misconceptions I’ve seen in some of their social media posts. The first is that nobody is trying to obliterate the Confederate battle flag from the face of the Earth; the only complaint is that it shouldn’t be flying from state houses or government facilities. Technically, the Confederacy was a foreign government separate from that of the United States; you don’t see the flag of Spain flying over the state capital of Florida, or the Union Jack from the capital of Pennsylvania, right? The only flags that should be flying on state-owned properties are the flag of the United States of America and the flag of the particular state that the property belongs to.

I also tend to agree that digitally removing the Confederate flag from the General Lee stunt car from The Dukes of Hazzard is going overboard. The message here is to separate the state from the Confederacy; flying their flag implies tacit approval of the aims and philosophy of the Confederacy, which would include the subjugation and enslavement of Africans. I wouldn’t dare to speak for the African-American community, for whom the battle flag represents some very different feelings than those of the white sons and daughters of Dixie, but I would guess that flying a Confederate flag on state property would feel much like a slap to the face. In case anyone has forgotten, the Confederacy lost that war. they shouldn’t get to display their flag as if they won. And incidentally, respecting the courage and loyalty of those who fought for the South during the Civil War is a far different thing than embracing what they fought for.

I do find it…not interesting so much as inevitable…that the same people complaining about the eradication of their Confederate heritage by those gosh darn libtards are those complaining about the Supreme Court ruling that states could not enact laws that infringed on the rights of same sex couples to marry. In other words, the same folks who are complaining that Liberals are forcing their values on them are complaining that their values are not being forced on the LGBT community in regards to marriage.

Fortunately, they are in the minority. The majority of the country recognizes that granting the LGBT community the same rights and dignity afforded to straight couples when it comes to marriage doesn’t diminish the institution; if anything, it enhances it. Nobody – but nobody – can come up with a single concrete way that a gay marriage has any effect on a straight marriage. None whatsoever. Frankly, in an era in which relationships dissolve at the drop of a hat and more than half of all marriages end up in divorce, any chance to increase the amount of love that is generated in this country can only be one worth taking. We need all the love we can get around here.


One Central Question

One of the things that separate us from animals is our self-awareness. Part of the process of maturing is discovering who we are and either coming to grips with it, or changing the aspects of ourselves that we’re not happy with. Our lives are never-ending itineraries on a journey whose destination keeps changing.

The question we are constantly trying to answer for ourselves is who do we want to be? When we’re very young, the answers are usually fairly simple and direct; we want to be firefighters, astronauts, princesses. In that time of our life, we define our being by how others perceive us; the tendency is to want to be admired, respected and loved.

As we grow older and more complex, so too our aspirations grow more layered and detailed. We don’t just want to be cowboys; we want to be custodians of the western lifestyle. As much as we define ourselves by what we do, what we do is usually only a part of what we want to become.

It’s not just self-improvement and it isn’t a bucket list, either. We have goals in mind, benchmarks that mark a successful life, whether it be owning a nice home, having a career in politics or raising a family. For each of us, there is something that is important to us, and we measure our success in life by that mark. Standards of success are as individual as we ourselves are. What motivates you to drag your ass out of bed may not be the same for me

The problem with that is that as we gather more life experience, the things we value might change. I can truthfully say that the things that were important to me 30 years ago aren’t as important now. As I approach the half century mark, I measure my achievements in the good that I do and the inspiration I provide. At 40, I measured it by where I was in my career. At 30, I was looking for stability. At 20, I was only looking to get laid.

We are rarely satisfied with where we are. Oh, sometimes we are – but there’s always something we can be doing better. We could have more money, a bigger house, a better car, more sex. There aren’t many people who can honestly say “I’m completely satisfied with what I have and who I am.” In a way, that’s a good thing – most of us achieve growth by striving to improve our situation.

We have to look at our achievements not so much as ends, but as benchmarks, means of measuring our standards for our own success. After all, if one of your goals is to raise a family, your life isn’t over when your kids move out on their own. It becomes a matter of refocusing your life on new goals.

That refocusing keeps us engaged in life, and that is a key to living. When we stop being engaged, when we shut ourselves in our homes, turn on the TV and settle into a comfortable routine, it might be easy but it isn’t living. I truly believe that as we get older, that need to remain engaged becomes critical to our lifespan. I’m not sure if there is a scientific study behind it, but from what I’ve witnessed myself I think that those who no longer want to be part of life are more likely to die.

Of course, change is not an end in itself. When we make changes, it should be for good reason, not just for the sake of change. People are not like furniture; our natures shouldn’t be re-arranged because you’ve had the same one for too long. Changes also don’t have to be fundamental; remaining engaged can be as simple as taking a wine appreciation course, or learning a new skill, or joining a social club. It’s about reaching out and holding on.

It’s easy in this society to become isolated. Our goals are increasingly all about convenience; the more we can do from our laptops, the better we like it. Ordering things online is taking the place of going to the mall. Reading news bites on your Yahoo homepage is what we do instead of reading a newspaper. We throw frozen meals into microwaves instead of cooking. We have come to expect that our needs will be met as instantaneously as possible; we get frustrated when they are not. How many times have we found ourselves screaming at our computers when something doesn’t load as quickly as we want it to? There is certainly nothing convenient or easy about growth.

Growth is not a short-term thing; it’s a long-term evolution that continues from the moment we are born to the second we die. There are those who believe that our lives are evaluated by the amount of growth we achieve, and there’s some merit in that idea. Our ability to improve ourselves is one of the human traits that is responsible for our evolution beyond sitting around a cave, picking fleas off of our pelts.

But it is not just about evolving. It’s what we do with it. Setting goals and life aspirations not only measures our growth, it helps stimulate it. Understanding the nature of what we’ve achieved, using it to inspire others – that is what sets individuals apart as leaders. After all, it’s one thing if we grow individually; inspire growth in others and eventually we grow as a species. Now, that’s what I call a legacy.

Becoming who we want to be is the most important thing we do as humans. It is what defines us for our entire lives. It colors how we are perceived, and influences our actions. Those of us who merely float along on the tide miss out on what it is to be human. The problem that most of us face is that we don’t always know who we are. That makes it difficult for us to map out a route to who we want to become. Solving that riddle takes a lifetime.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as knowing the difference between the things we can change and the things we should accept. Happiness is, generally speaking, accepting who we are and where we are in life. There would seem to be something of an opposition between wisdom and happiness – ignorance, it seems, is bliss after all. However, if we accept growth as an inevitable part of life, we can be happy in our desire to make things better. It is, after all, all about the journey; the destination, not so much.