ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Relationship With the Confederate Flag

Reactions:  
Hijacked.

Or maybe I never understood anything.

Still, let me explain my relationship with the Confederate Flag because it's complicated.

So, many of you might not know that I grew up in the South. I don't talk like a southerner, nor have I ever. I don't represent myself as a southerner. I don't live in the south, unless you count Arizona as the south, but you really shouldn't. South by direction but not South by context. The South with a capital S is really everything that was inside the Mason-Dixon Line.

Now that's settled, I want to put right out front that I am not now nor have I ever been a racist. The first woman I asked to marry me was black. It could have worked out. She was a beautiful twenty something model. I was six years old with a bright future ahead of me. Sadly, she turned me down.

Growing up I was white and privileged.

I took my seventh grade class where I read the state history book about the War of Northern Agression. Of course, I knew it was the Civil War, which was about state's right, self rule, and the desire to keep owning human beings. All that I knew was bad. Terrible really.

I knew some of my friends were racists, their beliefs passed down for generations.

I heard the N word far too much for my liking.

But I also knew that the greatest number of white supremacists were in Western Pennsylvania (according to a published FBI report) and not my home state of Tennessee. The way that I saw it was that we were pulling ourselves out of the historical tidewaters onto the dry land of we're not racists and dehumanizing assholes. And the flag, the rebel flag, symbolized this.

It symbolized the notion that we Southerners were still being spurned for being Southern.

It symbolized an underdog who was misrepresented and misunderstood.

It symbolized an idea that we could unite, rise up, and overcome the hatred being flung at us from a distinctly northerly direction.

Only it didn't really symbolize any of that.

It symbolized hatred and was used--is used--to represent tired, old, backward thoughts about who should have what freedoms and who shouldn't and it pisses me off to realize this.

I used to be proud of that flag-- proud for all the reasons I thought it symbolized. But while I was proud of it for one reason, generations of racists were proud of it for another.

I remember a crystalline moment in the military. I was a corporal stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was the TC (track commander) of an M577 Armored Personnel Carrier. We'd called it Southern Comfort with neat stencils in front and back and a confederate flag flew on the whip antenna. I was standing on top of it one day, rolling some camouflage, and along came our brigade commander, Colonel Wesley K. Clark, who would eventually be commander of NATO Forces and an esteemed 4 Star General. The conversation went something like this.
WKC: Corporal, what is that up there you're flying?
ME: The confederate flag sir.
WKC: What's that mean to you?
ME: That we'll never give up, that we'll never lay down, that we'll keep on fighting.
WKC: (Nods his head thoughtfully) Problem is that there are a whole lot of people who wouldn't think that flag represents the things you say. They'd probably be offended.

And then he walked away. He didn't tell me to take it down. He could have, and probably would have later had I not listened to him, and removed it. He knew what it meant to others. I just hadn't figured it out yet.

Since then I've never put the flag on anything. I've never waved it nor saluted it. I still felt an old love for it, that is until now.  I guess I really never understood that racist assholes had long ago taken from me what I thought was of value. In fact, it had never been of value. I'd always been wrong. I'm sad for that because I am still proud to have grown up in the South. I'm just pissed that we can't have a flag to represent us, to represent the ideas I thought it symbolized.

Confederate Flag, this is where we part.

Good bye.

10 comments :

  1. Wes, growing up as a Connecticut Yankee with roots going back to the Adams family (John, Sam, and J.Quincey; not Gomez and Morticia) I always regarded the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of rebellion, of destruction and of wrongheadedness. The thing is, as I got older and more rebellious myself, I developed a respect for the Army that flew it. It has only been in the past few years that I have come to understand how it has been used and abused by people who would deny the real cause of the War. I have spent a number of years now exploring original source writings from the time and have developed a more nuanced understanding of the way the Secessionists thought. While the cause really was about maintaining the institution of slavery, much of what the Lost Cause historians said is also true. States rights and choice were a big part of the motivation but the rights they were primarily concerned with was the right to hold slaves. The problem now is that we see that motivation through 21st century values and find it so abhorrent that any other meaning is also tainted. That is a shame because men didn't fight and die with such fervor because they wanted to do evil. They believed in the justice of their cause as much as we today condemn it. Perhaps that can one day be recognized without condoning the motivation behind it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great reply. I can trace my family back to the Motz family who were Pennsylvania Irregulars during the Revolutionary War. They fought both Toris and Indians.

      Delete
    2. I'm sure many of the Nazis believed firmly in what they were fighting for. I'm sure most terrorists believe so much in what they're fighting for that they're willing to take their own lives in the process. Someone believing in something doesn't make their actions any less horrifying or condemnable

      Delete
  2. When I was growing up in Thief River Falls, MN, the Confederate flag was the redneck equivalent of long hair, purple sunglasses and love beads. All of the baggage that has become attached to it really didn't start to become apparent to me until I rolled into Ft Benning,GA when on my first day at basic some proud scion of West Virginia got all up into my grill demanding if I was for the North or the South. I still remember the look of his face when I told him none of my ancestors were speaking English back then.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good response, Bruce. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for this excellent post! As a native Californian, I always wondered about the Confederate flag. To me it was first of all a symbol of treason, as we were taught about the Civil War in a different way than those in the South. Gradually I also learned it was used as some sort of "code" for the Klan and other white supremacists. I don't think it belongs on any government building in our country--the South needs to get a clue. But then, they're teaching Creationism there, so I don't expect they'll get a clue about anything anytime soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Denise, you are absolutely right. I had a romantic notion about it that was just that, romantic, but not true. I'm glad I figured it out.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete