Why I Won’t Support Burn a Confederate Flag Day.

Yes, I call theodicy ‘the idiocy’, too.

Some clever monkey got the idea to counter protest the Beck 9/12 rallies by burning the Confederate Battle Standard.I don’t recommend participating. It’s not that I have any special love for that flag, quite to the contrary I believe it is the flag of criminal traitors who were fighting their right to enslave their fellow human beings. I think people who fly it today either don’t really understand it’s history or are displaying their racist pride. Either way, I’m not going to burn one any more than I would burn a Koran or the Book of Mormon or Jonas Brothers CD’s. The simplest reason is that I’m not the kind of person who burns the symbols and effigies of those I disagree with. It is a very aggressive and provocative act that hinders understanding and reconciliation between people; I can’t think of anything positive that has ever been achieved by doing such a thing; although perhaps under a truly repressive regime such an act could conceivably have some benefit there surely are far more productive things one could be occupying themselves with.

Being a teabagger doesn’t mean you’re a racist or an idiot or even that you are spectacularly misinformed, regardless of how often these things may be the case. What it means for a lot of people is that they’re just scared, and who can blame them? How many Americans have watched their retirement plan vanish? How many Americans have gone from feeling comfortable to hungry? How many people bought into the system and did exactly as they were told to by all the experts just to have it screw them into dirt? The answer to these questions is ‘more than eleventy kajillion’, which is a significant number when you think about it. That sort of thing gets people fired up.

Of course, there’s the predictable demagogues whipping all this fury into a froth and trying to direct it to their political advantage; that they even play at this perilous ploy is evidence of their arrogance and ignorance. It’s no mistake that all the lethal domestic political terrorism is coming from the right side of the aisle; pathological sociopaths who like to polish their guns and make enemies lists tend to enjoy the ranting of Beck far more than a Michael Moore movie. There is certainly something brewing in the backwoods.

One of the great things Americans have long cherished and been able to be rightly proud of before the world is that we’ve only had the one civil war. Otherwise, power generally shifts among factions and parties without too much fuss and bother. There is no point in being coy; since the election of President Obama the talk of secession and political violence from the right has gone from muffled angry muttering to loud cries that are starting to form chants. Burning a confederate battle standard at one of these events could easily precipitate violence.

This is not to say that I am encouraging anyone to stifle themselves for fear of the scary teabaggers; quite the opposite, I encourage everyone to speak out and engage in informative debate. It’s just that on the freedom-of-speech scale, burning any flag is the equivalent of rolling your eyes back in your head and belching ‘ffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yooooooooouuuuuuuu’ as loudly as you can into the face of a nun and calling it a theological discussion. I’d like to think that people who agree with me on the big issues comport themselves a little better than that.

11 Responses to “Why I Won’t Support Burn a Confederate Flag Day.”

  1. “Theodicy” _should_ be a value neutral term, like “tree”. However comments like the one in your first link are truly idiotic.

    A more helpful and instructive comment about the problem of evil was shared by Dr. Steven Ray my Christology professor at seminary. He paraphrased a comment by Rabbi Irving Greenberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irving_Greenberg) by saying

    “No statement, theological or otherwise, can be made that would not be credible in the face of burning children.”

  2. The Prof Says:

    Read the NYTimes article, and the comments from the guy who’s clearly rationalizing. Much as I don’t care for the Teabaggers (being, as many are, roused and funded by big corporations), they have every right to holler and protest and hate taxes and such. They do NOT have the right to shut down public discourse in a scream-fest, which is what they did last year while the health care bill was being bandied about. (There were also a couple of attacks.)

    But the fringe is fringier than it was under Clinton. And sooner or later some group or other will do something stupid, and many will die (probably innocent people, mostly). And of course, sooner or later somebody’s going to try to take a shot at Obama. And then the cretins who encouraged this will be huffing and hawing about how they can’t be blamed.

  3. Really the argument can go both ways. In more than one fashion the ‘fringe’ of the left is acting out in Washington. To put it simply, the reaction now is no greater than the action that was taken, of course with a few variables. Like Winston said, we have a faction that’s using the political and economic climate to their advantage. This is however to be expected, if I remember correctly I was promised hope, change, and an end to political lobbyists, in turn I was shown a rather large check to Goldman Sachs. That being the biggest (in my mind) of many examples.

    There are alot of factors and variables at work here, but in the end what I see is human nature, and a breakdown of our altruistic values (those that supersede the common minds among us).

    To give a good example, tonight I was drinking, and thinking, at a bar as I usually do. I witnessed a quite imbibed woman jump onto the stage and proceed to (butcher) sing the national anthem. As a military member I fought the urge to jump to my feet with my hand on my heart, but as I saw a crowd of young people ‘fist pump’ during the height of the tune, much of my initiative faded. In the end what I felt I saw was the death of an empire. As much as we may feel that Nationalism has taken it’s course in history, it served it’s purpose. Our values as American citizens are being replaced by our need for consistent entertainment. We no longer feel our roots so to speak.

    I feel utter disappointment at all of us, and my sorrow runs deep.

  4. Huck-
    While I agree very much with your concern about the end of Empire I cannot let the idea that the ‘fringe’ of the left is in Washington pass by unmentioned-Obama is a centrist technocrat whose primary ideology is one of pragmatism, which is why I generally approve of the job he’s been doing. The idea that the Obama White House or the Democratic leadership is enacting a socialist/Marxist agenda is an absurd canard that can only be swallowed by true believers who already swallowed some unholy Kool-Aid. I mean, your crack about the Goldman-Sachs bailout proves my point-what kind of Marxist bails out private investment firms with taxpayer money?
    (A: a really shitty one)
    However, our empire is balanced more precariously than most of us know and few of us care to admit, and that is something to be deeply concerned about. Like all good Americans I love our Republic and despise Imperialism even as I acknowledge that the American Empire exists and is a good thing. The Pax Americana has brought the world more true peace, freedom, and democracy than any other in history. It is not perfect and has many flaws but consider what Chinese Communism or Fundamentalist Islam would make of things if it held sway over the sphere. Say what you will about it, but Secular Capitalism gives us the freedom to say what we will about it, and that is the primary advantage it has over the others.
    Ignorance, mis-education and misinformation abound, and that is how Empires fall apart; the sapping of vitality comes from the fragmentation of culture and corruption of political systems. The wealth that makes an Empire great can then make it soft and corrupt; the undoing of the Roman Republic can be traced to when a king bequeathed his kingdom to Rome because he thought the Romans would govern better than his own heirs. India both defined and undid the British Empire. Perhaps this mass media pop culture that helped us to take over the world will be deemed responsible for our downfall when our seemingly inevitable mass lobotomy finally goes down and we’re all following Sarah’s Tweets like Gospel.
    Of course, the thing about hope is that it dies last. Our nation has been in really tough spots before and we came out of it even stronger every single time. We have made atrocious mistakes and had ridiculous arguments from the very founding of this country and if we are doing it right we will continue to do so for generations to come. I think it’s important to remember that even though our ancestors often shot at and tried to murder each other over these arguments they were trying to build a better world, the world we are living in now. We should not be spending our time trying to unmake that world but rather inventing tomorrow.

  5. Tinman-
    I’m familiar with Greenberg and I am in great agreement with him that the Holocaust has to be interpreted in religious terms; the 20th Century and WWII especially contained several events that effected humanity on a scale that can be appropriately described as ‘Biblical’.
    In the light of the Holocaust the question of whether or not there is an omniscient and omnipotent god-being who directly interferes with human events becomes irrelevant because any benevolence such an entity may possess clearly does not relate to humanity in any we can comprehend. In other words, the literal personage of the God Jehovah of the House of El who talked to Abraham either does not exist or is not benevolent as humans understand benevolence.
    I have an appreciation for how Buddhism deals with the question of theodicy, and that is to dismiss it entirely. I absolutely agree with Greenberg’s assertion that what evil and good is in the world is wrought by man and that the extraordinary evil of the Nazis existed means that extraordinary good can therefore exist in the world. That is one of the fundamental pillars of my faith.

  6. I think my difficulties with the piece to which you link are primarily linguistic. To me, theodicy is simply a descriptive term which describes the conoundrum/paradox of the existence of a benevolent omniscient god in light of the evil in the world. When folks call it “the idiocy” they seem to use the term to describe one of the resolutions of that issue which is theologically and morally indefensible. Then again, perhaps I am simply being a seminary snob. (Who, me? Never!)

    In broad strokes, you and I agree. You write”…the literal personage of the God Jehovah of the House of El who talked to Abraham either does not exist or is not benevolent as humans understand benevolence.” What I don’t agree with is when you write “In the light of the Holocaust the question … becomes irrelevant because any benevolence such an entity may possess clearly does not relate to humanity in any we can comprehend. ”

    To me, this is the ONLY question that really matters. The very nature of ones faith depends on how this question is answered. I’ve run out of steam and other responsibilities are crying for my attention! (literally!) This is something I would love to continue to discuss with you.

    • It’s late but I want to respond-you’ll get a whole post on this, dude. Good night.

      • Good. This is a continuing problem for me. It has been the forefront of my theology since I took a course on the Literature of the Holocaust at University. It is especially important now as I struggle with my decision about finishing seminary and working toward ordination. It is also interesting how having a child will make one consider the nature of the universe. I look forward to your post.

  7. Winston-

    Every government since the dawn of our modern technological revolution has acted more on behalf of their own power than the concerns of the American people, despite their claims to be doing the opposite.

    In that manner I would consider (atleast) the past two administrations to be ‘fringe’ in one way or another. I don’t know enough about the Clinton years to formulate an opinion on that, I was too young.

    Your post was insightful but I do disagree, I don’t feel that the actions of our administration are genuinely “American”, a term that could potentially boggle anyone that tried to define it. Truth be told I felt the same way about the Bush administration some years ago.

    I’ve grown quite apathetic in these last few years. I feel it’s inevitable the path we are on, with how freely we share information about ourselves, and how casually we accept commonplace invasions such as surveillance cameras on every stoplight snapping photographs for an automated traffic ticket.

    I do however admire your tenacity in continuing to fight for what you believe is right and “American”, through a medium that you perform so naturally in.

  8. Huck-
    I’m not sure where you are setting the yardstick for the ‘dawn of the modern technological revolution’ so I can’t really say if your characterization of modern governments is overly cynical or not. Still, I sympathize with your feelings about the modern world. It can crush individuals without notice, yet the individual is more empowered now than any other time in human history.

    Ideologies evolve while ideas often stay the same. Nixon thought nationalized health care was a good idea, and he wasn’t the only conservative of the past fifty years who thought so. It’s a very pragmatic solution to an immense and pressing problem; none of the alternatives, including ‘don’t do anything’ are workable in any long run scenario. The conservative judicial philosophy of Originalism pretends to know the inent of the framers of the Constitution. To hold that the moment of 1787 is the only true ‘American’ moment and that only the positions held by the individuals who participated in that convention are the only true ‘American’ positions is to exclude every living American from being an American as well as the last seven or so generations of Americans. Furthermore, the Founders often held contradictory positions and ideas not only amongst themselves but within themselves; Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase violated every one of his stated positions regarding the operation of the Executive yet it was the absolutely right thing to do.
    My point is that ‘American’ ideas are the ones that require us to think for ourselves to make the best decisions. Our greatest heroes are people of conscience who used reason and self-sacrifice to make our society a better place in which to live. What security and prosperity we have was hard won by generations who gave their blood and toil to us . You are too wise to be apathetic in the face of that.


  9. […] the World is a Stage on Top of a Pillar Supported by Nothing (Epistle to K. Lazarus) K Any metaphysical understanding of the world must take into account what is understood of the […]

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