In the wake of the vigorous calls to finally repudiate the Southern “Stars and Bars” Battle Flag after a Confederate flag-waving racist brutally murdered nine African-Americans in order to spark a race war, some members of the House of Representatives believed that it was important for our lawmakers to take a stand on the propriety of its public display in the House:
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., introduced a privileged resolution banning the Confederate flag from the House and House office buildings, unless it is displayed at a member’s office. The goal of his resolution is to remove the Mississippi state flag from the Capitol, which displays the Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner.
“I’m convinced that an effort to remove this flag from the hallowed halls of the House of Representatives is the right thing to do,” Thompson said on the floor.
Unfortunately, his fellow Republicans, including the GOP members of the Missouri delegation, preferred to equivocate:
Due to the nature of Thompson’s resolution, the House would have been forced to vote on the divisive issue, but on Thursday GOP leadership moved to send the resolution to committee, avoiding a floor vote for now.
The House voted along party lines, 240-184, to refer the resolution to the House Administration Committee. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., was the only Republican to vote not to send the resolution to committee.
While this strategy on the part of Republicans may have seemed like a clever way to avoid committing on a politically fraught issue, the stark nature of the division in the voting – Republicans against Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus – nevertheless provided, as Roll Call suggested the vote might, the defacto “first opportunity in recent history to get members of Congress to record their stances on Confederate imagery’s place on government property.”
With this vote, Missouri’s Republican House delegation made it clear that they, along with the rest of their GOP tribe, just want the whole issue to go away. On the one hand, it seems that the Confederate Flag is losing whatever respectability it ever had and to defend it might invite public shaming. On the other, to repudiate it openly would be to offend many of the diehards who whole-heartedly support the real meaning of the flag – and I don’t mean the mint julep that also figures in the so-called “Southern heritage” that defenders of the flag blather on about. These are the folks, after all, who make up the hardcore Republican base. Nothing like getting bitten on the backside by your own hitherto reliable Southern strategy.
This impression is backed up by the deep silence to date from the Republican Missouri delegation on the question of the Confederate flag. Visit our GOPers Web pages. You’ll find no mention of the vote, no mention of the flag controversy. Google their names in conjunction with confederate flag. Nada.
Maybe its early yet, but I’m willing to bet that the Missouri GOP reps won’t say a thing unless some interviewer puts them on the spot – and then we’ll hear about “states rights” – Mississippi gets to decide about its flag, not Congress, right? – or more of the specious drivel about the flag meaning different things to different people, and we must respect all points of view, correct? And then, of course, there’s always history. Like history’s going to go away if we don’t enshrine its bad actors (and actions) in our public places. Like it isn’t especially important that we call out those who seek to whitewash those bad actors.
The flag’s meaning has always been clear. And it’s always been shameful. It’s about the 12.5 million Africans kidnapped
out of Africa and sent to the United States (minus the nearly 2 million who died or were murdered en route). It’s about their descendants born into forced servitude. It’s about an entire economy that depended on this horror to survive and the fat-cat perpetrators of that system who started a treasonous, deadly war to preserve a way of life that depended on economic hegemony over an entire race. Lest you doubt:
In Germany, the censorship of Nazi symbols is still a matter of debate — with many wrestling over the dual necessity of preserving liberal freedoms while also recognizing the evils of the Third Reich. Far-right and even neo-Nazi groups exist and organize in the country, but raising the Nazi swastika is a red line that no one can cross.
Instead, at times, some European fringe groups have come up with another symbol to represent their hateful creed: the Confederate flag.
Sooner or later, our Missouri Republicans will have to take a stand. Will it be with the white backlash inspired by the election of the first black president? Or will they recognize the backlash inspired by the excesses of racists emboldened by their very own recent rhetoric? It’s a no-win situation; in the words of the song:
Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just what do you think I got to lose
I`m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
You`re the one will have the blues
Not me, just wait and see
From Blacklash Blues (Nina Simone)