Nikki Haley Keeps Digging Confederate-Flag-Shaped Hole For Her Dignity

Former South Carolina governor and current Donald Trump stooge Nikki Haley questioned in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday whether we could've removed the Confederate flag from the statehouse in today's political climate. This isn't because the president is a racist who has empowered racists. No, Haley specifically says the "reason is not the upsurge in white nationalism," which she considers a "disturbing trend that must be resisted." That's a pretty weak condemnation. It's like she's pooh-poohing all the live-action remakes of classic Disney cartoons.

Haley believes "media hysteria" is to blame for why apparently South Carolina's leaders would now choose to keep up a racist flag after a white supremacist murdered black churchgoers at Mother Emanuel. We just couldn't pause today and have the "thoughtful and prayerful dialogue" we had following the murders. Haley doesn't mention the name Barack Obama, who was president at the time and brought down the house during his moving eulogy for church pastor Clementa Pinckney. We lived through Charlottesville so we have depressing precedent for how Trump might've handled the tragedy.

We just talked about how Tom Nichols blamed liberals for why Republicans refuse to hold Trump accountable. Haley makes a similar, baseless argument. "Outrage" culture would make the "good" conservatives less likely to do the right thing and more likely to support Confederate apologists. Will you just look at what we made conservatives do with our liberal insistence on acknowledging history? This is a chilling sentiment when the president runs concentration camps. It feels like Haley and other "good" conservatives are shaking us down for "protection." All they ask in return is our silence and submission.

Haley's op-ed that the Post ran for reasons is filled with the same historically illiterate garbage about the Confederate flag that she offered up last week on Glenn Beck's show. Haley subjects us to more Lost Cause bullshit and the moral relativism of owning people.

HALEY: In South Carolina, as in much of the South, the Confederate flag has long been a hot-button issue. Everyone knows the flag has always been a symbol of slavery, discrimination and hate for many people. But not everyone sees the flag that way. That's hard for non-Southerners to understand, but it's a fact.

Southern racists have used this rhetoric for generations. During the height of Jim Crow, they often claimed it was only Jews "outside agitators" who were making a big fuss about the ongoing oppression of black people. Nice, polite black folks loved riding in the back of the bus. That's where all the heat was.

What the Confederate flag "symbolizes" isn't a difficult issue. People who believe the flag of an oppressive slave state embodies "hate" are objectively correct. People who believe a racist flag symbolizes "heritage" are deluding themselves. The actual Civil War lasted four years or just one fifth of a "Law and Order." That's a fad. Few people who still defiantly wear high-waisted jeans do so out of a sense of "heritage."

HALEY: There are a small number of hardened white supremacist racists who proclaim the flag as their symbol. The Charleston killer was among them. I will never understand the dark hatred that fills those people's hearts.

Lady, the "Charleston killer" didn't grossly misinterpret the Confederate flag like Charles Manson and "Helter Skelter." It's not a "small number" of white supremacists who "proclaim the flag as their symbol." It's the entire Confederacy that did so. You don't have to play Alexander Stephens's "Cornerstone Address" backwards to hear some hidden message. The Confederate vice president was very upfront about what this new nation represented.

RACIST MONSTER: Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics.

Haley puts a lot of effort into defending men who would've likely considered her only worth a visit "just around midnight." Germans are capable of fully rejecting the worst actions their country committed. There's more to Germany than goose stepping, and the South has so much more going for it than hating black people. There's jazz and cheesy grits. I think some white Southerners worry that if we get rid of all the Confederate flags and memorials, the only things left to celebrate about the South will be black AF: Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and all the slaves who tried to poison their "masters." But as my colleague Robyn Pennacchia points out, they also have Dolly Parton. That's a Southern heritage I fully support.

Dolly Parton - Smoky Mountain

I am not one of Haley's strawman "outside agitators" sticking my liberal nose where it doesn't belong. I was born and raised in the South and still consider it my home. I grew up with the twisted rationales for the "War of Northern Aggression," which presented the Confederacy as "rebels" against the Union Empire. But the true rebels were the people who endured and resisted slavery, who sacrificed their lives to free others from bondage. There were legitimate white rebels who fought against slavery in the South. Let's celebrate them. Let's honor their memories. We don't need to valorize a "Lost Cause" or those who fought to deny the humanity in others.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for my annual holiday viewing of Dolly Parton's A Smoky Mountain Christmas.

[The Washington Post]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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