I love writing for the Atlantic, but I have learned to hate the comments section. My last post on changing attitudes surrounding the public display of the Confederate flag is now pushing 300 comments, but I would venture that 98% of them are worthless. It should come as no surprise that the post has been co-opted by a few select voices, who clearly have way too much time on their hands. One woman apparently spent a sleepless night and the better part of a day writing and monitoring the post. The level of vitriol and pettiness now being expressed is quite impressive and I have no doubt that they will get at least another 100 comments out of it. I did my best to respond to the few comments that actually touched on points in the post, but they are now lost in a sea of narcissism. The comments thread is a perfect example of why I moderate discussion here.
The comments included the standard litany of accusations that I am anti-Southern/Confederate and that I am part of a broader conspiracy that wants to remove all reminders of the Confederacy, including the flag. This is silly. In fact, the post in question was an attempt to challenge the standard narrative that paints Southerners as one-dimensional and makes a few descriptive claims that may or may not be true.
- Southerners (white and black) do not speak with one voice on what is acceptable surrounding the display of the Confederate flag.
- A growing number of Southerners (white and black) acknowledge the complex history of the flag from its use as a battle flag to its role in the resistance to desegregation.
- Over the past few years the flag’s visibility on high-profile public and private sites has waned.
- Organizations that have challenged the removal or absence of the flag from such places have met with little success.
Those are four descriptive claims that, like I said above, may or may not be accurate.
I do believe that the visibility of the Confederate flag will continue to suffer owing, in part, to the people who claim to be its staunchest defenders. This all or nothing attitude is simply not a workable strategy if the points I made above are accurate. Despite what my detractors say, I do not want to see the Confederate flag completely removed from our historical landscapes because it is part of our history. It has an important story to tell. The only question remaining is whether moderate voices will emerge from various constituencies to lead a discussion about what is and is not acceptable.
What is clear is that the status quo is untenable and even the most creative insults that you can hurl in my direction is not going to change that.