Note to Brits: It’s Not the Stars and Bars
I have always deeply despised the Confederate Flag. Now, this is the internet, which means out there is someone dying to pick a fight over anything, so let me say that I am perfectly aware that the flag many people call “the Confederate Flag” was not actually the flag of the Confederate States of America. It was a battle flag, and, needless to say, I hate that one too. I never really bothered about it much, living as I do in the North and generally feeling that I’d rather focus on issues of substance rather than symbolism. I do have to say, though, that I was happy to see it come down. I have working class white southern relatives who like to say how they’re “proud” to be southern and they don’t like that flag. They normally didn’t say anything, but one person showed me some plates with a Civil War theme that were given to her as a gift. Since I’m mainly directing this to British, let me specify, the U.S. Civil War, not one of the English ones. She said, “What am I supposed to do with them? They’re a little embarrassing.”
I know that for people in other countries the history and internal divisions of other places can be murky. I’m pretty sure much of the world has heard of the U.S. Civil War. What you might not know is that the divisions still linger. What I’m almost certain you don’t know is how much anger, annoyance and resentment still exists in the North towards the South. Sure, you probably know how much the South romanticizes their bloody war against the tide of history. What you might not know is how people in the North feel about it.
When you’re the winner, you have to be magnanimous. Whenever I’ve said anything to my Southern relatives even hinting that there are ways in which the North is culturally superior to the South, they call me a snob. I think “skinny Northern bitch” is a phrase I once heard. It’s a pretty effective method to bludgeon me into shutting up, though it doesn’t make me like southern food.
Every once in a while you will see a major flame war start on the internet because someone will say, “We should have let the South leave.” Southerners often express their outrage. What they don’t seem to realize is that it’s a common enough sentiment in the North. Political attitudes in the Western States are at least as different from the opinions in the Northeast, yet we never say that about them, so I imagine the war lies at the base of these resentful feelings. In high school, we spent more time covering Reconstruction than we did covering the war. For those of you who don’t know, Reconstruction was the attempt by the U.S. Congress to transform the Southern States in the wake of the Civil War. The feeling that Reconstruction didn’t go far enough or last long enough, that the South was forgiven too soon, is not an uncommon sentiment.
Although it’s probably not universal, and its extent is hard to gauge because it’s not polite to mention, there is more hostility and anger among Northerners towards any and all symbols of the Confederacy than you probably know.
So, you can’t imagine how jarring it is to see the flag of the United States of America referred to as “the stars and bars.” We call it “the stars and stripes.” “The stars and bars” is another flag altogether, the flag of our enemy.
I’m sure it was an accident.
And, since you’re asking, I think Hamilton should stay on the ten dollar bill and we should get rid of Jackson.