As I look back on the year in regards to the words I have written, there is one subject that I believe epitomizes the divisions we experience, not only as Americans, but as one human race. That is the Confederate flag. Regardless of your thoughts on that particular symbol, there is no denying the divide that it creates among the people of South Carolina. Furthermore, there is so much propaganda used in the conversation that it becomes difficult to have an honest conversation on the matter which makes it impossible to hear truth and make progress.
In South Carolina, the issue of the Confederate flag sets the standard for polarizing. It is impossible to separate that flag from racism and hate. Even today, it’s hung alongside swastikas and inked on the skin beside other tattoos that say “white power.” Yet, there are many people, including local politicians, who claim that it is nothing more than innocent history of which we should be proud. There are politicians who would hang that same symbol on a government building.
The claim that it is a “battle flag” and a symbol of “state’s rights” and “Southern culture” is true. But it is more than that. To deny that it also symbolizes racism, white supremacy, murder, and hate is to deny the earth is round. It is to deny the Holocaust. It is to deny any attempt at peace in the name of selfishness. Yet, there is such a passion for this flag in 2017 that we must have police and barricades to physically separate people on the streets of Charleston.
How is it that this flag, representing a country that rebelled against the United States in the name of freedom to enslave dark-skinned people, is more important than fellow human beings more than 150 years later? How have we come so far and yet, gone nowhere?
As I reflect on the “us versus them” mentality that has plagued us incessantly, I wonder why decency is so hard to define and appreciate. Why is feeding a hungry person, regardless of the cost, a point of political division? How is it that sexual harassment is less important than maintaining a Republican/Democrat majority? Why is the idea that everyone deserves health care a point that divides us? Would you turn your back on someone bleeding to death in front of you?
These divisions have become more prominent over the past year and have been exacerbated by leaders who utilize our differences to divide us and empower themselves. They hope that by keeping us distracted with hate that they can grasp power that would otherwise be unattainable. Because we are, collectively as a people, more powerful than any one person in the White House and even a collection of congressmen passing late night agendas could ever be, it is imperative for the selfish to keep us with swords at our own throats. We are led to believe that America is, itself, a war with two sides. Yet, this is the lie. This is how our country has become diseased. Our own government has fooled us into believing that in order to succeed, we must pick a side and push their agenda at any cost and without regard to ethics, morality, or humanity.
We have bought into this and we celebrate at the oppression of our neighbor. We boast of victories that shame and instill fear in others. Children of Middle Eastern descent who are called terrorists are just minor speed bumps to a “greater” America. This may seem one-sided. However, the “victory” of a Democrat being elected in Alabama only works to display the strengthening of the divisions. How many of us celebrated Doug Jones, yet know nothing about him or what he stands for, aside from the fact that he’s not Republican. There is hate and division there as well and it is welcomed among the Democratic elite because it empowers them and ensures more votes in the future. Republicans will respond in kind.
Which brings me back to the Confederate flag. Heritage. Hate. State’s Rights. Slavery. Rebellion. If we could take one big step, perhaps we could bury that flag once and for all while honoring its rebellious spirit. What a beautiful thing to come together and refuse the division on which Republicans and Democrats thrive. To rebel against the machine that is our government, take it back through common sense approaches. Demand our leaders address issues independently and honestly. Realize that democracy is not a dichotomy of red and blue. We can make America great again, but we must take the power back. We must make the government work for us because, right now, we are nothing but slaves to propaganda. We are numbers; a census of their armies. Let’s put our weapons down and in this season of thanksgiving and reflection, wrap ourselves in the arms of our “enemy” and ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your neighbor.