self-determinative why of any choosing of a symbol in particular--whether it be the choosing of a symbol for the side of slavery, or the choosing of a side for the perpetuation of Jim Crow and segregation. It's sort of a way of trying to not see Nathan Bedford Forrest for the trees. I think it's a boring segue into a bit of the history of the political that tries to elide the history of the personal--in other words, it goes into what people meant versus what they did.
When people gather in the road waving that flag at the President, or wave it outside the White House during a government shutdown, I don't think I need a Weatherman to know which way that wind is blowing. It would have done no good, after all, to wave that thing at Clinton or Carter, white men of the south, who it might have represented at least in the heritage sense. When waved at Obama, though, it becomes just a little hard to separate it from the banner that supports segregation and doesn't recognize a black man in a White House. The term "usurper" has been used. But he was legitimately born here and legitimately elected by the American people. Using that term doesn't illegitimize Barack Obama as a man of Kenyan descent--it delegitimizes those of us who voted for him.
But this is all current events. We go from here to a weirdly mixed history--Lance Mannion did a truly excellent piece regarding KKK history, and how neither South nor North, nor Democrat or Republican, can quite acquit themselves of the eliminationist strain. Charlie Pierce points out that we haven't learned from history because we never even learned history. People come to an idea of that flag that isn't what history intended.
All I can say is--flags and history may be beside the point: how are we treating people here and now? Because if that treatment is crap--and it often is, maybe let's let history hang and just figure out how to be better people. But I do think that flag is a problem, and a largely racialist one, so maybe the people who flaunt it should get called what they are legitimately representing.