The Confederacy and Vietnam Veterans

by lewwaters

“American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God”

Black Confederate Soldiers 8I have no idea of the origin of the above saying, it has been around for a very long time and likely adapted from some other saying. But, it pretty much sums up the deep feelings of many Americans born and raised in the Southern States of America.

It also is a target of much ridicule from many Americans born and raised in the Northern States who simply do not understand the attitudes and feelings of those many Southerners with their attachment to their birthplace.

Nowhere can this be better seen than in the last few days as following the murder of nine innocent people at a Church in Charleston South Carolina and the focus being placed on a small flag representing the Confederacy in many people’s minds.

Forgotten are the nine victims and the nutcase racist that murdered them as outrage has snowballed into demands for all symbols seen to represent the Confederacy be removed or placed in museums, likely to be followed in years ahead to even be removed from the museums as well.

Questions are now asked if Military Bases named after Confederate Generals should be renamed, a lake in Minnesota named after a Confederate General be renamed, monuments to Thomas Jefferson, one of our founders and a former president, taken down and removed since he at one time owned slaves.

Even here locally we see calls from the local chapter of the NAACP for Confederate flags flying on private property in Ridgefield to be taken down and some citizens even suggest the county intercede to remove them or go forcibly remove the flags themselves, ignoring that people have rights to their private property. Or at least they used to.

There is even scorn now being heaped on the classic 1939 movie Gone With the Wind. Will the hysteria soon call for burning of classic novels like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?” Or “To Kill A Mockingbird?”

Honestly, in all of my 66 years I have never seen such a rapid lynch mob mentality by people in this country over a piece of cloth, while they ignore the growing threat of groups like ISIS beheading and slaughtering people by the hundreds because of their religion.

Ignored as well is that the flag being hated on was not an official flag of the Confederacy, but a Battle Flag that never flew over slavery and that many Black people today honor that flag due to their ancestors fighting on the side of the Confederacy.

It is history that is being revised and used as tool to deny a large portion of Americans their heritage, moving us dangerously close to a one-thought mindset, if approved by some ruling committee.

By now I am sure you are wondering why I included Vietnam Veterans in the title of this post, so I will clarify that.

As a native Southerner and a Vietnam Veteran as well, I have faced scorn for being both. Some look down upon me as some dumb backwoods hick and as is well known, returning from our deployments in Vietnam long ago, many faced scorn and derision for that as well.

While we today see images posted by those spreading this hate of all things Southern, we see the following.

Loser Flags

We have also seen many calls over the years from some of the same people of what losers we Vietnam Veterans are or that we “lost the war,” ignoring that we never lost a battle in Vietnam.

We Vietnam Veterans are proud of our service then, even though the government pulled us out. As Southerners, we’re proud of our ancestors’ service then to free themselves from the choke of the North and at the same time, we condemn the slavery aspect of the war, even though it was not the top issue, as so-called “modern historians” would have you believe.

In many ways, whether from the North or the South, those of us that served and lost buddies in Vietnam are somewhat like the Confederate Soldiers of long ago and like to show pride in our service.

But, following all of the calls to wipe out any pride in Southern Heritage this week, will one day descendants of the Vietnamese that have migrated to America being expressing offense at Vietnam Veterans showing pride in our service?

Will one day history books be purged of General Westmoreland, General Abrams or even accounts of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon be “sanitized” so as not to offend someone?

And what of those that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the War on Terror as once we seem to be prepared to throw in the towel?

Will they eventually be labeled losers as ISIS takes over and the Taliban retakes Afghanistan?

I really do understand that some people can be offended by a small flag, but isn’t everybody offended by something at some time?

Does only one group of people get to be entitled for their feelings to never be hurt?

Yes, it is popular this week to pile on any and every thing pertaining to the Confederacy, but what will it be next week?

Will these same people demand the American flag be moved to a museum because a hate group like the Ku Klux Klan highjacked it and flew it for several years prior to highjacking the Confederate Battle flag?

And where is the ACLU that boasts of taking a controversial stand for free speech by forcing Holocaust Survivors in the town of Skokie, Illinois to endure a Neo-Nazi rally years ago?

Why so silent now? Does free speech and freedom of expression no longer matter? Did it somehow go out of style?

This hysteria has gotten out of hand and if it continues, I really fear a backlash as well as complete loss of our freedoms in what is supposed to be “the Land of Free and the Brave.”

The time to think about this and leave this lynch mob mentality behind is now!

13 Comments to “The Confederacy and Vietnam Veterans”

  1. This is a good read. I disagree with you. I feel the Confederate flag is the flag of the enemies of the United States. It is a flag used for generations to intimidate black people. To remind them those the war is over that white people are still our masters. I enjoyed your candor and did learn a couple things. Look foward to more discussion.

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  2. I can understand why you feel that way, Fred. I will not tell you your feelings are wrong.

    But, I will also say that some Blacks did fly that flag back then willfully in battle and some were forced to fight while still others took advantage of the situation and fled, just like any other person would do. The history is much more complicated than people today realize.

    To me, it is sad, maybe tragic that a historic flag was highjacked by racist scum to terrorize anybody. But before they highjacked this flag they were waving the American flag and in f act, there was even slavery and oppression of Black men in the Union ranks and North.

    Again, a very complicated history.

    Yes, that war is over but it seems every now and then someone reignites it when there is no real need. Both sides have done it.

    But, I do not understand why you say Whites are still your masters. If you would like to, I would appreciate hearing why you feel that way.

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  3. Good morning Lew, I read you post last night and like Fred found it interesting and informative. I won’t be able to change your mind on most of your post and will not attempt to do so. That’s the way you feel, I can live with it for you. The one and only thing I would point out that would be consistent with your feelings is the local angle and the Ridgefield flags. I literally grew up on the other side of I5 from the rest stop. I find that location was probably picked out on purpose for the following reasons and why it should be objectionable at that location even for you. 1. Location – everyone on I5 can see it I believe. 2. Did you know Ridgefield was named by Union soldiers under US Grant (there’s a little more to the story too). That symbolism of a Confederate flag in northern territory is so wrong. My two cents.

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  4. Lew – I understand that you are not a racist. Like Fred, I have learned some things from your post. But you do understand that white supremacy is a part of southern heritage. It may be a part of your heritage that you reject, but the Civil War was fought by the south to protect a system of white supremacy. That system endured in the south throughout the reconstruction era, and to the extent that the flag was appropriated by people who engaged in state (meaning police, courts, state legislatures) sponsored terrorism against blacks and against people fighting for their civil rights in an era that is basically analogous to aparteid. The legal framework for that endured in many states until it was ended by the federal government in the 1960’s. We are really only 2 generations removed from the Civil Rights act and forced desegragation. The impacts of the systemic oppression that many blacks endured, not only in the south but in other parts of the country, are still being felt. I think that’s a big part of why there is such a big negative reaction to the confederate battle flag. For a lot of Americans, to have that flag continuing to fly at full mast when the US and state flags are at half staff looks like a great big middle finger to the victims of this tragedy, courtesy of the South Carolina State Legislature, which surely had its reasons to make if very difficult to have that flag lowered or removed.

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  5. Steve & Sal, I thank you both for being willing to enter this discussion. Hopefully we can all learn something from each other and come out better in the end.

    Steve, the Ridgefield matter is not so much about the flags and marker to me, but the fact that it sits on private property. As offensive as it may be to some, there is nothing in existence that doesn’t offend someone. Unlike flying a Confederate flag on public property, though, we are supposed to have private property rights and once that door is open to deny someone of a right to display an inanimate object because someone else doesn’t like it, where does that end?

    We already have seen it numerous times as Home Owner Associations have told Veterans to remove their American Flag, sometimes because of association rules, other times because it offended someone.

    We even have cases of where the American flag has been banned from display and that is a slippery slope I don’t care to enter.

    I’m glad you mentioned Gen. Grant, though. I find it odd that Confederate Generals are u8nder fire now because of their outlook on slavery back in the day, even though Robert E. Lee was opposed to slavery, but kept slaves on his plantation under the terms of a will, but freed them at the end of those terms.

    As for Grant, he too owned a slave and freed him in 1859, but managed more slaves on his wife’s farm throughout the supposed “war to end slavery.” He is venerated, though and his own slave owning is ignored and not taught.

    Slavery is a blight on our history, but it is history and especially the past 50 years, many strides have been made to right those wrongs, even though no one alive today was ever a slave under that abominable system.

    Sal, White supremacy was not restricted to the South. There likely isn’t enough room here to cover it all, but Frederick Douglas was complaining to the North about denying Black men serving in the Union Army when the South had already armed and brought in some free Blacks to fight.

    Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. appeared in Chicago in August 1966 and was met with a “backlash” from Northern Whites that he once described as, “I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate.”

    My point is, the North has their own sins to atone for, it was not just the South.

    And I again ask, if the war was solely over slavery, why was it still legal in a few Northern States? Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in those states and Delaware declined to ratify the 13th amendment in 1865, but enough states did ratify it to make it law anyway.

    Delaware did not finally ratify it until 1901.

    But if they were fighting to end slavery, wouldn’t they have ended there as well before the war and not after?

    And again, Gen. Grant’s managing of slaves that were not freed until towards the end of the war or shortly after.

    And yes, there are pockets still where Blacks have moved to and sadly they languish there. But to some degree that is due to the behavior and criminal acts of some. I think back to a brief comment made by a Black student after the Ferguson riot where he said words to the effect of “they better rebuild those businesses” after they burned several down and looted them.

    To me, that is an insane attitude to display shortly after you sat by and watched someone’s livelihood go up in flames.

    Kids today, regardless of color have more advantages than ever before. But they have to do their part in getting an education, stay in school, avoid drugs, don’t ridicule another for working hard to get out of the ghetto, accusing them of “acting White.” That benefits nobody.

    And yes, there are racists still, probably always will be. Even if outlawed outright, some harbor ill will no matter what. And that is in both sides.

    Incidentally, that flag in Charleston remained at full staff because it could not be lowered, it is fixed at full height and not run up on a rope like others.

    But if it had been able to be lowered to half-staff, would we have seen an outrage and cries of disrespect for that as well? I believe so.

    In the end, we are further apart today than ever before. What happened? Why is that? We were working and accepting each other more than in the past, but that seems to have dissipated and frankly, I don’t understand it.

    It is too easy to blame an elected official like Obama or Bush, but they are only one person and we are not duty bound to adhere to either of them.

    I guess I can only be responsible for me and my own space, try to inject a few thoughts to hopefully help bridge a gap, but I will say, I do not hold myself as any better than others, but sure as hell will not bow and scrape to any as my superior either.

    If we are all truly equal, then we might need to buck up a little and accept a little hurt feelings from time to time and be tolerant of each others culture.

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  6. I do not feel like white people are my master. That is not what I meant. white people that embrace the flag ignore what the Confederate flag means to black Americans. what the heritage of the south means to them. It is like a dare to defend your liberties whenever someone waves that flag. Am I American enough to burn that flag, to tear down that flag to defend myself from he offense?

    The next issue is why would a white person wave a flag they know is considered so offensive to black people? it has to be out of spite? There has to be a reason why a white person feels they do not owe any respect to any black person that is offended by seeing the flag that represents a Slave Based Nation that fought and died for the right to enslave their ancestors.

    So when I see a white person waving the Confederate Flag. I see a person that is daring me to take action. Daring me to stand up for my dignity. I do not see a person that wants to have a meaningful personal or professional relationship with me.

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  7. Lew – yes, I agree that racial segregation and racism are not (were not) limited to the south, just like anti-semitism was not limited to Germany. But if someone were to make the argument that the Germans need to fly the Nazi flag at a state building in Germany to honor the heritage of German soldiers who died in World War II, I suspect that a lot of people would complain about that for basically the same reason that people complain about the confederate flag. There are many Germans whose parents fought and died in WWII, and Naziism is a part of their heritage, but you don’t see many folks in Germany embracing that flag as a symbol of that heritage. And, in fact, the Nazi flag is banned by the German government. I am not suggesting that the confederate flag be banned, but I do question the wisdom of flying it at government buildings and the motivations of the legislators who pushed for it.

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  8. Thanks for coming back in Fred. Apparently I misread or misunderstood your comment and apologize for that.

    I do understand how some, many Blacks view the Confederate flag. But I am also reminded several others that have studied more see it differently, admitting their Black ancestors, both free and slave at one time fought under it. What of their views? Are they not entitled to embrace it while you hold disdain for it? I guess what I am saying is whose feelings matter more? Of course, each of us wants our feelings paid attention to, but is it right to deny one Black man’s views in order to protect another Black mans views?

    I do not say that to minimize your feelings, they are personal and you have every right to have them.

    But at what point does one persons feelings over power anothers in what is supposed to be a free society?

    If someone is holding it in one hand and a gun in the other hand pointed at your head, I’d likely help you kick their ass for threatening you. But, is it the flag that threatened you or the gun in a sicko’s hand that is the real threat?

    And again, my real concern is that we have jumped on a slippery slope that now sees monuments of Thomas Jefferson under fire, no mention yet of George Washington’s slaves, Grants slave owning ignored while venerated, Lincoln held up as a great emancipator when he actually proposed deporting all Black people, both slave and free andso much more.

    The classic movie Gone with the Wind is under fire now and for what? I don’t if you remember, but back in the 1970’s the comedy series Little Rascals was under fire with large portions edited out, making them hardly recognizable for “stereotyping” the Black kids. Not paid attention to is nearly all of the kids were poor and in the end, it was almost always the Black kids that got the White kids out of whatever predicament was happening.

    You said, “There has to be a reason why a white person feels they do not owe any respect to any black person that is offended by seeing the flag that represents a Slave Based Nation that fought and died for the right to enslave their ancestors.” I can only answer that for myself.

    In my view, I have studied well beyond what is taught in schools today. I am bothered that the full history of slavery merits little mention. Whites were brought over as slaves as well, long before Africans were. At one time, late 1600’s or early 1700’s if I remember right, it was legal in Virginia for a Black man to own a White man. This paper by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Did Black People Own Slaves? gives what I consider one of the most objective looks into the history of slavery.

    To me, your dignity is not and should not be defined by something I might fly (for the record, I Don’t fly a Confederate Flag at my home, I don’t even own one).

    In the end, neither one of us can change the wrongs back then. And considering that some White masters would go out and bed a slave woman, producing children, sometimes White that were held in the fields as slaves as well, many Whites today, even Southern Racists, just may have more Black blood in their veins and DNA than they realize or want to admit to.

    We can’t change anything, we can only look forward and treat each other equitably.

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  9. As I said before, Sal, this has gone well beyond just taking down the flag from the Memorial to Confederate in Charleston. That was only the start.

    I find it odd, though, that there is today more freedom to fly the Nazi flag and ISIS flag in our country than the Confederate flag. It has now become targeting private property and even long held monuments.

    That small flag in Charleston was removed from atop the Capitol Building 15 years ago and moved to a Memorial on State Grounds. Yet, media keeps claiming it flies over the Capitol.

    And as I said to Fred, I understand he views it negatively and why. But I also under that several others, both Black and White hold a positive view of it, partly due to their common ancestors and maybe (my personal thought here) to show they overcame the past and can respect each other today. I don’t know, each has and is entitled to their own view.

    I did speak once with a Black business owner here in town that admitted at one time, he thoroughly despised White people. But over time he came to realize that when he needed help in getting his business off the ground, it was the White people from a nearby Church that helped him the most. As he became more successful he began noticing some Black people approach him with an attitude of he owed them since he something more than they had.

    Today, he is another businessman working hard every day to make it in our society.

    Back on the subject of the flag, our American flag, Old Glory has flown over more KKK rally and fo a much longer period of time than the Confederate flag has. Yet nobody feels anger or fear over it flying.

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant all at one time or another owned slaves. Other than Jefferson, they seem to receive a pass on that.

    Likewise, Lincoln wanted to deport Black people out of the country, claiming in effect the races couldn’t live side by side.

    http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2014/09/lincoln_s_back_to_africa_solution.html

    Yet, he is venerated as the Great Emancipator of African Slaves and we shift focus and angst on a flag that never flew as the Confederate flag and was highjacked by hate groups 100 years after the war ended. If it were truly a flag of enslavement of the Black people back then, would we easily find several old photographs of Black Confederate veterans holding and honoring it today?

    And too, what with so many murders over the years, how did this one come to be defined by a small flag and plunge us into this battle of words and views?

    I truly do not understand why we have allowed ourselves to be so divided again.

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  10. Your information is incorrect at best. The US lost several battles and engagements in Vietnam…is common knowledge and I can count five off hand. The photo of the black man in the confederate uniform is misleading…at best he was a generals servant…not a combatant. As the south only had the Black Louisiana Militia who also were noncombatants..

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  11. The fact that you as a vietnam veteran and do not know that the US lost over 70 engagements…..Ia Drang….Xa Cam My…Ap Bac…Operations…Paul Revere…Hickey…and Utah just to name a few tells me how far you would go to stretch the truth. Free blacks often purchased slaves…sparring them from the brutal conditions they would have incurred at the hands of white slave owners…many were granted their freedom.

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  12. I guess that is what I get for paying any attention to Barack Obama 😉

    Barack Obama says U.S. never lost a major battle in Vietnam

    But, you are incorrect on the treatment of some Black Slaves owned by some free Blacks as explained by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

    Another aspect I did not mention and am currently reading up on and researching is Black Slaves owned and traded by Native American Indians.

    As I originally said, it is much more complex of an issue than is being taught.

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  13. As for your claim that at best a Black man in a Confederate uniform at best was a generals servant, apparently Frederick Douglas did not receive that memo back then when he approached the Union Army complaining of Black men prohibited from fighting in the Union Army when down South they were armed and engaged in the fight.

    “It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government and build up that of the traitors and rebels.”

    Frederick Douglass :: Fighting Rebels With Only One Hand

    Another account by Walter Williams: Black Confederates

    The real question is why has Southern Blacks been systematically robbed of a portion of their history?

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