The Confederate Flag… Symbolism & Meaning

Over at Kevin’s blog, as he has many times, there is some interesting discussion going on concerning the Confederate Flag and how it is displayed in public.  The issue centers around memory, how it is being celebrated, the flag’s meaning, and why it is displayed. I am overtly simplifying here the discussion there.

Anyway, just for kicks I did some google searching for “Confederate Flag” and came across some interesting images of the Southern symbol. Some I selected as they were funny, others not so funny.

What is the flag’s meaning and how important is that when considering its display?  If it is used as in a message of hate, obviously that is rude. If it used as a symbol of the Lost Cause myth, than that is ignorant. However it is used should that even be a determining factor? Anyway, consider each of these below and if you want chime in on what you think the meaning for each is, please do.

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800px-two_genuine_raggare_at_power_big_meet_2005.jpg

bikinis.jpg

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confederate-flag-florida.jpg

obama_yard.jpg

bumper-sticker.jpg

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_flag_heritage.jpg

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28 Responses to The Confederate Flag… Symbolism & Meaning

  1. Sam says:

    I think the Bikini Confederate Flag is the best one… but in all seriousness, I have more important things to worry about (my job, the economy, that super volcano at Yellowstone) than whether or not the meaning and memory of the Confederate Flag should even be an issue… I’ll leave that to Kevin Levin and those “intellectuals” who are just too smart for the rest of us!

    Chris, find a better subject to post on or I might start putting you in the “hate the South” category…

    Sam I am, the Redneck

  2. Chris says:

    Sam, which bikini one? Anyway, memory and history, if you haven’t noticed, are things discussed here from time to time so…

    As for the rest, please, you make no sense….

    C

  3. Steve says:

    It’s all about context. To know what it’s all about, you have to ask the individuals that choose to display the flag because they’re each going to have their own reasoning. Few symbols on the planet have universal meaning, why would the Confederate flag be any different? The real question is why people feel uncomfortable at the sight of it. Ask that question, then we might actually get some real dialogue.

  4. Chris says:

    Steve interesting post. Here’s a way to consider it. I think we can all agree that the sight of, say, the Nazi flag in public by Neo-Nazis or whoever, would be revolting. Why? Because as we know the Nazis murdered millions of people and attempted to exterminate an entire people. However, with the Confederate flag, I don’t think there is anything close to that kind of meaning or symbolism. Under the Confederate flag, the South fought to preserve its way of life as a Slave society. The rub is, of course, the Middle Passage and the potentially millions or so Blacks killed as well as the brutal and sometimes barbaric treatment of slaves. Is the flag a symbol of that? If so, than it would be a repulsive display, would it not? However, that is where the debate over its display gets convoluted.
    Chris

  5. “Anyway, consider each of these below and if you want chime in on what you think the meaning for each is, please do.”

    If I were alive during the Civil War, then I picture myself as fighting for the Union, a Yankee from Ohio. I think the Confederate flag today is part of OUR history, not to be forgotten or hidden away, but not to be revered. It represented the Confederacy. I think there are some today who use it as a symbol in a way that would raise eyebrows of surprise of an 1863 Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia. I’ll admit the sight of a Confederate flag alarms me. Below are my thoughts on the picture meanings, (CF = Confederate flag).

    #1. Man with CF staff resting on his shoulder
    Not sure what to think of this one. Perhaps he is part of a protest or boycott of whatever business whose front is partially shown behind him? Did the business display or act in a bigoted way?

    #2. Bikini
    This is a disgusting showing of the CF. This young lady should be stripped of her clothing depicting the CF. I volunteer my services. Obviously, this is a colorized version of an actual Civil War photograph. I did not realize they had bikinis during the Civil War! That Mathew Brady was quite the devil wasn’t he? Why don’t we see more of his great Civil War work in the bikini category? The Library of Congress is holding back on us. Forget what I said earlier about being a Yankee from Ohio during the Civil War, I’ll join up with her side, be it North, South, East, West, right-side-up, or upside down.

    #3. Men with black shirts, drinking beer.
    My impression is that these two boys may have no other motive than to drink as much beer as fast as possible and then have a good long nap. I’m not convinced they even know the CF is represented on their shirts, or what a CF is.

    #4. Ladies walking on sidewalk, in bikinis.
    I get the idea they are thumbing their noses at the CF. A protest.

    #5. KKK
    Nothing funny here. The lowest forms of human life proving how low they are.

    #6. Large CF flying above streets.
    Would have to know who is flying this flag and why. First thought is; “Whoa, I’m not driving around that part of town.”

    #7. House with Stars and Stripes and CF
    There is an Obama campaign sign in the yard, a scarecrow-like figure, and a cross on the side of the house. Total confusion here, I’m not sure what I’d be thinking if I knocked on the door. Looks like they try to keep a pretty neat place though.

    #8. Chevy with bumper stickers
    Looks like maybe someone who is really, really, proud to be of the South and from Georgia. Probably someone who has romanticized the Civil War, may not be making any racial statements…but maybe is. I think I’d have to meet this person and size him/her up some before coming to a conclusion. Could be nothing, could be something more, might be covering up rust spots, faded paint, or bought a used car and the stickers came with it.

    #9. Old bald guy with CF flag bedcover
    You don’t want to end up like this guy. Note that it appears to be a SINGLE bed, with a remote on it. Our guy Slick here, is spending a lot of time alone at night watching TV. I can’t read what’s on his T-shirt. I’m thinking maybe this guy needs a girlfriend or wife, I feel kind of sorry for him.

    #10. Heritage CF
    This is the second most interesting to me, but still lags behind the blond bikini picture by a huge margin. I confess I don’t understand “Southern Heritage,” but I’m glad to see that the owner of this CF does not add hate as part of his/her Southern heritage. I’m a Yankee from Ohio, who has lived in North Carolina for thirteen years. Over the years in NC, sometimes I have experienced some hostility about my being a Yankee, but 99% of the native Tarheels I know show no such feeling toward me. If I’d had my druthers, I would have been born and raised where I live now in NC. Being a Buckeye for a long time, my colors are Union blue, and scarlet and gray (GO BUCKEYES!). So, I’ve never caught on yet to just exactly what it means to have Southern Heritage in 2009. I catch a lot more grief from Michigan Wolverines than I do Southern Heritage types.

    Summary:
    I’ve mostly been tongue-in-cheek here, but have a few serious points too. Overall, first impressions mean a lot, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. Except for #5, I think there can be a lot of interpretations as to the meaning of each picture. More of an exercise about me than the pictures themselves? And what does this ink blot look like to you?

    FWIW.

  6. Chris says:

    Jonathan, wow, thanks for the commentary!
    C

  7. ghost says:

    “The rub is, of course, the Middle Passage”
    ==============================

    The Confederate flag was never involved in that particular episode of history. But the flags of Britain, Portugal, France, Netherlands, Spain and the United States were involved to the tune of at least 1.3 million deaths during the Middle Passage.

  8. ghost 2 says:

    I like the pictures. If people don’t like the pics. then don’t look at them. I recently have had my confederate flags ripped out of my truck and destroyed. Now me being a rebel, I have to take up new and fight the battle for a free south land. FOR ALL YOU YANKEES OUT THERE YOU CAN KISS MY REBEL ASS…….

  9. kerrie fuentes says:

    To me I think that this is a racis matter for example I am from the south and being a NATIVE AMERICAN this shows me that we have still have not changed are ways as a country. To me I was pissed off when they had that one stick with the NATIVE and the conferdial flag. I know that if that person came into town they would something like that on there car they would have had there ass kicked by all NATIVE AMERICANS that was around. JUST REMEMBER THAT MY ANTSISER WAS HERE BEFORE THE WHITE PEOPLE WHICH, THEY STOLE THE LAND FROM US!!!!!! NOW WHO IS RIGHT????????????????????

  10. Michael Schack says:

    I cannot see an answer to this. I find it so[powerful the responses that the post has drawn. Kiss my rebel..? It just might be an individual’s reaction to it, and will never meet a group consensus. Having family from the camps I cannot see a swatztiker with revulsion.(I know people have told me i is an old symbol of good luck. i guess a few million people ran out of luck.) Regarding these pictures the blond young lady in the bathing suit I will admit and lingered on her picture. While the guys in the sheets I zipped right by. Images are very powerful and tend to stay at an emotional level. I believe this post had hree people identify whre they live or came from. The bars and stars for me is just a flag only in the hands of white sheeted individuals or very angry people does it make me feel nervous

  11. Michael says:

    To me I think that this is a RACIST matter for example I am from the south and being a NATIVE AMERICAN this shows me that we have still have not changed are ways as a country. To me I was pissed off when they had that one stick with the NATIVE and the CONFEDERATE flag. I know that if that person came into town they would something like that on there car they would have had there ass kicked by all NATIVE AMERICANS that was around. JUST REMEMBER THAT MY ANCESTORS WAS HERE BEFORE THE WHITE PEOPLE WHICH, THEY STOLE THE LAND FROM US!!!!!! NOW WHO IS RIGHT????????????????????

    i fixed a few of your mis-spellings here. Native Americans still celebrate and practice things from their history/culture/heritage, there is nothing wrong with someone from the south holding onto their history/culture/heritage also.

  12. Elvis says:

    To me the Confederate battle flag does not represent racism or pro-slavery or any of the negative stereotypes that have been associated with it. To me, the flag represents the values of what America was originally founded upon as described in the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation. It represents States’ rights, a minimal intrusion of Federal government into people’s lives, and the traditional Christian values that our nation was founded on. To me the Confederate Flag is a beautiful flag. It has the x-shaped cross of St Andrew with 13 stars on it. Those 13 stars represent to me the original 13 colonies of our nation. Those 13 stars also represent Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples. The 13th star is located in the center of the X – that star represents Jesus Christ to me, with the surrounding 12 stars representing the 12 disciples.

  13. Carl W. Roden says:

    The Southern Cross banner today represents to those honorable Southerners who respect it as both a symbol of Southern-American identity no different that being a Scotsman flying the St. Andrew’s Cross would be in Great Britain; and lastly as a living memorial to the dead Southern men and boys of American wars (not just the War Between the States, but all other wars since–Southern men in US service have taken the battle flag with them in every major war to date).

  14. weston says:

    the kkk one wasnt funny at all, they need to erase that one,

  15. Matt says:

    I recently wrote a paper on the perception of the Confederacy in our society. My stance was: The perception is fogged by ignorance. For example the Confederate flag: The battle flag has Catholic origins and was presented to Confederate regiments as a testament to their bravery. I wrote that the use of the flag in the Civil Rights movement was what mainly gave it its bad image. I think that if our society understood more about the Confederacy and its flag, the clamor to get rid of the flag would be tempered. Thoughts?

  16. Erin says:

    Pshh, if these pictures offend you, you obviously dont know your history. “Some people” (NO IM NOT BEING RACIST) assume that these flags are offensive, becuase they think there racist. They symbolize the south people!! DUH! Everyone goes with flow. If Billy tells Bob there racist then Bob’s gonna believe Billy. my gosh….

  17. sammy says:

    The Confederate flag is a repersentation of people that live in the south. NOHTING MORE. I will have to agree with Erin.

  18. jm says:

    The second pic has to be the best, by far. That is really a sign of southern pride.

  19. Chas O.Hughes says:

    Sirs,My ancestors fought in mr. lincolns war not in defense of slavery,but because the south had been invaded!For hearth and home was the reason my g- g-grandfather was a member of the Wise County Va. (Bushwackers) He didnt own a slave,he fought aganist the foreign horde,lincoln used to invade,trample the constitution,and finally conquer the south.My heart aches when I see the flag that these patriots fought under disgraced!

  20. R. G. Simmons says:

    I have at least 6 ancestors that fought for the Confederacy in states ranging from Texas, Missouri, Tennesse, South Carolina and Georgia. I have to agree that a lot of ignorant racists and hate mongerers have infected public perception of the Confederate battle flag maybe past the point of redemption. While I have great pride and affection for what I personally feel is symbolized in this flag I can understand the knee-jerk reaction that many people have for it. As such, I do not fly the flag or have any bumper stickers of it on my vehicles. However, I have never felt a sense of racism when I’ve viewed the flag in traditional contexts and would be very affronted for someone to consider me a racist for taking pride in my family history. Especially since I have fought for this country right alongside whites, blacks, asians, and filipinos. My two best friends in the service was a white kid from Kentucky and a black guy from South Carolina.

  21. Ron Rebel says:

    To R.G. Simmons, I say only say that having six ancestors in the WBS should say something to you lineage and the values they upheld. You are a direct product of that lineage and to react as though you are not only neutral but afraid that you would offend someone if you displayed it, is a direct result of the brainwashing that you must have received in your youth. I have only been able to determine a couple ancestors that were directly involved in the WBS and I am damn proud of it. That’s what’s wrong with people today. They are afraid of offending others which goes against the grain of what our Constitution right providing – Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Defend – just to name a couple. Get some balls and stop rationalizing!!!!!!

  22. timothy says:

    Being a son of the south and all. I was taught that the confedrate flag is was and still is a symbol of heritage not hate. It was used as a battle flag. In fact the now georgia state flag is the confederate national flag. So for those that say its aa symbol of hate well yall need a history lesson.

  23. jennifer says:

    I am a northerner, born and raised. Up here I see the confederate flag displayed on cars quite a bit. Now, I can understand the flag being displayed by southerners, but why northerners? Here in the north I automatically assume that the person displaying the confederate flag IS a racist! Down south, I wouldn’t necessarily think that. It is part of thier heritage. I know the KKK is alive and well up here in the north as well as the south. They are the people who have given the flag such a terrible reputation.

  24. Jefferson Davis says:

    Here is the just of this whole matter…. why is it alwasy about the flag represents “Slavery” why is it not about the South wanted to preserve its way of life slavery or no slavery… Has anyone ever heard the saying;;; THE NEEDS OF THE MANY OUTWEIGH THE NEEDS OF THE FEW…. The point of the confederacy was not JUST about slavery, it was about the lives of more than just “the darkies” as called then. And when you look at the whole picture of the Civil War, was it not suppose to be about making all men equal, well then will someone please remember after the war was supposedly won by the North then why did the Union Gov continue to kick Indian men and their families off their land and faid their homes…… Right wrong or indifferent, the south was not ONLY fighting for what is beieved to be slavery, it was fighting for what is called the RIGHT TO CHOOSE…. Does anyone actully realize this government has been full of it since the day the tyrant was elected into office… Does anyone understand the meaning “Manifest destiny” if not go look it up…. This is the only reason the tyrant could not allow another government to come into existance. The Confederate Gov would have stopped the Union Gov from expanding any further than they had already. THE CIVIL WAR WAS NOT ABOUT SLAVERY….. PERIOD…. Why is it that Black people,,, OOPS sorry African Americans,,, don’t feel sorry for the Indian people ( on a whole ) and why is it that us whities war not refered to as English Americans, or German Americans as a everyday statement. Does not anyone actually know that the southern powers had been talkign about ridding itself of the slavery it had for over 20 years before the civil war, it just knew it could not happen over night and the economy and its GDP had to be replaced slowely with another means of continuing…. The thing that gets me the most of all of this is people who only have 1% of the information needed to have such a conversation actually believe themselves to have the insight to do so…. Two more things…. Go read about Mary Surratt and how this existing gov at the time committed LEGAL MURDER, just because it could….. And the exact date of Lieutinant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, ( at little big horn, ‘Custers last stand”) was mowed down on the 25th June 1876…. 11 years after the end of the Civil War… You see it wasn’t ok for the South to have slaves, but its must have been ok for the Natives to be put on reservations and be taught the anglo/saxon way of life whether or not they wanted it…. I’m in Minnesota.. Not from the South, Just a very educated Northerner. The Confederate Flag is not about slavery, or wanting to back to humans keeping other humans in chains…..Oh sorry, I forgot this gov keeps us in chains anyway. Only very intelligent people actually know, No one in this Country “owns” anything…. Try to stop paying the property taxes on your house ones, even when it is payed off… See if the GUBMENT don’t take it from you. You cant drive “your” car unless you get permission every year, Byandthrough puchasing your tabs. Nobody IS FREE in this Country, it has been the biggest magic trick of all time. We are no freeer than say the people in Italy, or France, or Canada…. Oh and for your information, the Canadian Gov was WAY more on the side of the C.S.A than the U.S.A. It is documented truth…. The intention of this blog is not to insight anger, its intention is to make people stop and think… This time in history is and will be very important, we all the advantage of talking to one another and getting the facts straight. So, when this gubment continues to pull all of these chinanigans Say like the Health care scandle, the creation of the now recession we have ( the over looking the Banks and thier evil ) we can all start to make the gubment that was written 222 years ago. Peace and God bless.

  25. student23 says:

    some people portray the confederate flag as something racist or disrespectful, but the truth is its apart of our history, through the anti-federalist who wanted less power to the government, and more to the states… now the fact that the southern states were fighting to keep there slavery, it says in the constitution that the issue of slavery would be addressed for at least 10 years, well it wasn’t banned till many  years after, and wouldn’t the issue of slavery be address later down the road if the articles of confederation were passed? i think so, just don’t be so quick to judge the reasoning for someone flying this flag, perhaps they are flying it for a racist belief which is wrong but does not mean we all do. i like this symbol from OUR history because it shows that some people have the guts to stand up for something they belief in, and many others will agree with me…

  26. student23 says:

    ***slavery would NOT be addressed for more than 10 yrs****

  27. Charles says:

    I am from the state of Mississippi. I do not believe at first that the conferdate flag was meant to be for racism but later it did become well know for racism. Slavery was not the main issue of the civil war it only became am issue later in the war when people were pushing to get a main issue. I am proud to be from the South.

  28. ScottIrish20 says:

    You are correct student23, for Lincoln’s Emanipation Proclamation of 1863 specifically exempted the slaves in the North as well as those slaves in areas of the South that had previously been conquered. This included much of Louisiana and Virginia, the latter being the birthplace of the plantation slave system. Those states that joined the Union after the Revolutionary War considered themselves independent political entities, according to the wording of the Tenth Ammendment to the Constitution. The Confederate flag was drawn from the Scottish St. Andrews Cross, in the context that the majority of the Confederate Army was comprised of Scots-Irish settlers (who also composed the largest component of Revolutionary War Patriots) who had fought for their freedom in Scotland and then Ireland before, and now loyally defended their backcountry, separatist, religious and agrarian lifestyle in America, against the elite, “Royalist Tidewater” plantation aristocracy. Fully 95% of these soldiers did not own slaves, and slavery was not a motive for their defense of their states from invasion. That the Confederate flag is a symbol of racial bigotry is one of the great blasphemies of our time. [includes excerpts from "Born Fighting" by James Webb].

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