Pride, or Dixie’s Scalawag Penal Laws
Seven Georgia middle school students received a
one-day suspension last week. What was their crime? Their
t-shirts had a Confederate battle flag on it. (Punitive action
for similar wickedness has been taken in North Carolina, Kentucky,
Constitutionally protected freedom of speech comes
into play here, but more significant is the anthropological effect
of this censorship.
The appropriateness of Confederate symbols in official
positions can inspire honest differences among like-minded individuals.
Many decentralists might consider the Confederate Battle Flag on
a state pole to be a symbol of self-determination and liberty; other
anti-statists might object to state-sponsored symbols of any kind;
others might object to official endorsement of Confederate symbols
because of the Confederacy’s own statist policies. (See Emory M.
Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience and Jeffrey Rogers
Hummel’s "Republican Neo-Mercantilism versus Confederate War
Socialism," in Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.)
Private endorsement of Confederate symbols, however,
is beyond political purview. Placing a bust of A.P. Hill (an anti-slavery
Confederate general) on one’s desk or wearing a pro-Confederate
garment aggresses against no one and is a classic exercise of property
rights. (And yes, that means moral morons should be able to wear
t-shirts reading "Te Amo, Fidel" or "Mao 4 Eva!"
Start running roughshod over imbeciles’ property rights and you’ll
soon find your house nationalized.)
When the State and its agents proscribe personal
affirmation of the Confederacy or whatever happens to be history
non grata that month, the result is the erasure of the private sphere
and an offensive against cultural tradition.
History is a repetitive creature, and what’s happening
in Georgia and elsewhere is far from new. We may construe it as
a less potent variation on England’s ethnocidal campaign against
After Oliver Cromwell’s dispossession and slaughter
in Ireland during the mid-1600s, England began passing the Penal
Laws in 1695 under William of Orange. These enactments converted
the "barbarous wretches" and "devil papists"
(Cromwell’s descriptions of Irish Catholics) into a colonial caste:
deprived of religious liberty, disarmed, disenfranchised, land-ownership
The Penal Laws were an imperial attempt to abolish
Irish identity. While that resilient population maintains its rich
heritage, England’s hegemonic barrage did much to undermine Ireland’s
Gaelic tradition, with aftershocks still quite present.
Suspending the Georgia students for wearing an
"I Love Alice Walker" or "Viva la Raza!" t-shirt
would be inconceivable in our P.C. age that’s more deferential to
radicalism than white college students at a Free Mumia rally. Isolating
sartorial support of the Confederacy for penalty is permissible
discrimination, though. Eugene Genovese observes in The
Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American
To speak positively about any part of th[e]
southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and
an apologist for slavery and segregation. We are witnessing
a cultural and political atrocity an increasingly successful
campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white
southerners, and arguably black southerners as well, of their
heritage, and, therefore, their identity. They are being taught
to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame.
These words appeared in 1994. In 2001, Dixie’s
self-flagellation comes at the suppression of expressive freedom
and legitimate historical pride.
Ireland had to contend with cultural imperialism from a foreign
force, the South’s greatest adversaries are within its own borders.
It is not a Yankee juggernaut that today assails the South but a
scalawag-contingent. Confederacy-appreciating Southerners would
do well to execute their localist creed and concentrate on a much-needed
cleaning of these Augean stables.
Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.