The Confederate flag is the perfect symbol for angry losers and selfish winners

confederate-flag-1-1024x768Some people in the American South seem to think the Confederate Flag stands for freedom and the will to put up a fight in the face of tyranny. They also conveniently like to ignore the fact that the Confederate Flag came to represent the interests of people who happily enslaved other human beings to get cheap labor and enrich themselves.

It’s a rather disgusting fact that the Confederate flag has continued to hang over states in the South.

But it makes a perverse kind of sense. What other flag has been used to celebrate getting your ass kicked in a war? Well, from that perspective perhaps the Confederate flag does have more in common with the United States Stars and Stripes. America’s track record since World War II is decidedly mixed when it comes to winning and losing wars.

Vietnam was arguably a disaster in terms of lives lost and public relations for the United States. Fears over communism drove the war, but so did an obsession with world dominance that has bled into wars in Iraq a couple times. And let’s not even talk about Afghanistan. We’re still over there shooting at people in an act of presiding over a Civil War in a nation that has nothing to do with our real national interests. We could have pulled out of there the weekend after we “missed” getting Osama bin Laden and the world would not be any worse off than it is now.

America missed warnings about terrorist strikes, then tried to make up the difference by bombing and torturing people that had very little to do with the real reason why we got hit in the first place. Which was sticking our nose into the business of Middle East. Our devotion to Israel stems from moneyed interests that further want to protect a Confederate country formed from political actions back in the 1950s. Don’t believe me that Israel is a Confederate state?

[ kənˈfedərət ] joined by an agreement or treaty:
  1. a person one works with, especially in something secret or illegal; an accomplice:
VERB (confederated)
[ -ˌrāt ] bring (states or groups of people) into an alliance:
Israel flagWe don’t traditionally think of Israel as a Confederate state because the Judeo-Christian tradition refuses to accept that anything other than nationhood is acceptable for the Jewish state. But let’s not forget that Israel got is ass kicked several times by other forces in the Middle East. God apparently approved or let these things happen. The temple in Jerusalem got leveled a few times if Bible memories serve.
To be frank, Israel was reformed as a nation out of human will and in response, in some measure, to the outright massacre of millions of Jews during World War II. The argument over whether re-establishing Israel as a state or nation has raged ever since. Millions of Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East wish they could put an end to Israel. Its confederated status flies in the face of a history in which Israel appeared and disappeared over the course of history. As a result, key cities such as Jerusalem clearly share multiple roots in faith and tradition. The Crusades never really settled anything. They basically acted as a combined religious and civil war over jurisdiction of the region. The installation of the Israeli confederacy has resulted in permanent civil war in the region. 
Home bound
If America had accepted or enacted a similar outcome on its own soil, the Confederacy would still exist. The Confederate flag would fly in place of the stars and stripes.
And some people might like it that way. Had history taken a different course, the Confederacy might have been able to permanently refuse equal rights to black slaves in the South. After all, in the wake of the Civil War the South still enacted virtual slavery with Jim Crow laws enforced by lynchings, torture and discrimination.
Groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, which still claims to be a Christian organization focused on purity of the white race, played a major role in the ugly drama of the Old South.
Slowly these forces lost primary influence in the South. The Confederacy lost the Civil War. Civil rights movements struck down racist laws and granted black citizens of the United States full rights.
The Confederacy lives on
FlagWaiverYet the determined spirit of the Confederacy refused, in many respects, to die. The allegiances that drove the original Confederacy live on in full relief. The defiant response to America’s first black President in Barack Obama was in full evidence with statements by leading southern politicians such as Mitch McConnell, who vowed behind a white veil of innocence to make Obama a “one term President.”
It’s all the same stupid, confused logic of the Confederacy reborn. In the name of freedom the neo-Confederates ignore the history of the racist roots of the Confederacy and all its claims to “states rights” and “less government.” But really there is no logic behind the claim that less government equals better government. Because the less our government stands for human equality and opportunity, the more egregious the offenses become against those whose status is less than white or privileged by law in some other respect. We’ve already witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in American history from the middle class to the richest 1%. That happens to be the same percentage of slaveholders in the South. Do you see the picture now? The neo-confederacy would prefer to make slaves of us all. That is why the Confederate Flag should offend every one of us.
We’ve seen the actions of racists for more than 200 years. We’ve seen corporate interests ignore the impact that pollution has on the environment. We’ve watched discrimination according to sexism and sexual orientation. We’ve seen all this falsely supported by claims that the Bible supports such views, and that God favors a political party that claims to represent freedom even as it works tirelessly to limit or remove the freedoms of others.
john-boehner2-1024x780We’ve even watched the neo-Confederacy try to tie all this to national and individual prosperity, all while protesting social programs such as Social Security and Medicaid that clearly leverage the nation’s collective wealth to protect the elderly and sick in times of needs.
But the neo-Confederacy seeks to secede from a nation dedicated to helping others. Because just like the conservative causes that claimed to protest the second World War while secretly funding the Nazis with weapons in acts of clear war profiteering, and like the neo-Confederates who leveraged the Iraq War into a mercenary profit machine, the neo-Confederacy is a mean-spirited movement to divide America and reap profits from its hulking corpse.
Symbols of ignorance

All this seems to be lost on those who believe the Confederate flag stands for anything other than fighting for the cause of selfish interests and ignorance. And as for the battle to keep Israel afloat in a sea of resistance, the only true solution lies in recognition of other culture’s claims to the same historical claims of territory.

That’s how the United States converted from a Union and Confederacy to a single nation. Rather than the divisions of ignorance, race and selfish interests, it was respect born of mutual needs that ultimately brought reconciliation and peace.

You can wave all the flags you want, but in the end it is the white flag of peace that truly matters.

Armies of Heaven documents greedy madness of 1st Crusade

The First Crusade and the Quest for ApocalypseThe new book Armies of Heaven, The First Crusade and the Quest of Apocalypse (Basic Books, 2011) is authored by Jay Rubenstein, who takes pains at the end of his work to caution readers that applying the lessons of 1000 years ago to today is tricky business. “From our vantage point, with nine centuries of hindsight, it is tempting to look smugly or dismissively at the dreams and nightmares born of the First Crusade. The expected Apocalpyse, after all, didn’t happen.”

That is true. But the book reveals many other truths about wars of religion and how they can radically change our perspective on what constitutes humanity. And these revelations are just as important.

We learn that several hundred thousand Christian warriors marched from all points in Western Europe to converge in a mission to take back Jerusalem from their perceived enemies, the Muslims or Saracens. Who frankly had done a bit of murderous mischief, torture and taunting of Christian pilgrims to inflame Christian hatred.

On the way, the combined Christian armies led by lords and holy men of various social and economic status first fought battles with people who also happened to be Christians in regions near Greece. Indeed, the First Crusaders seemed willing to fight anyone who stood in their way. The First Crusade pretty much behaved like a column of army ants, devouring anything in its path.

It was a stunning enterprise, traveling more than 2000 miles, buying, selling and raiding their way along the road in a holy war that produced the deaths of thousands of people on the way to the Jerusalem. The process took years, involved many genocides, brutal sieges and greedy detours along the way. The avarice of military leaders interfered with the perceived mission of the Crusade. Prophets and priests who accompanied the armies became so desperate to get the Crusade back on track they even fabricated holy artifacts to trick military leaders into doing their bidding.

But most of all, the armies killed and killed some more, wiping out cities and entire populations of people in battles where literal rivers of blood flowed down the streets and body parts formed dams in the rivers and streams. Horrid decapitations and tortures became part of the psychological warfare employed by Christians to threaten the Saracens, another word for people of Muslim faith who occupied much of the territory east of Italy all the way to Egypt. The other critical talent of Crusade leadership was political wrangling. In some cases it saved lives. In others it simply delayed the inevitable wars for territory and plunder. In which case no one was spared. Not women and children. Yet they marched on.

The First Crusaders caught some lucky breaks. Took some wild military risks. Created what appeared to be miracles of God on the battlefield. Alternately they preyed to heaven even as they were forced to feast on human flesh, depending how their fortunes turned. The Crusaders once conquered the city of Antioch only to be besieged by another Army a day later. But ultimately they charged out of the city walls in desperation and caught a seemingly superior army by surprise, turning tables on its arrogant leader and turing the battlefield into a massacre even though many of the Christian warriors were astride donkeys and mules because their military horses had either died in battle or been eaten for food.

Rubenstein’s painstaking, brilliant work chronicles the religious fervor driving it all. To many of the First Crusaders, repentance meant turning to Christ to beg for victory, then turning around to slaughter the opponent, dismember and maim the dead. The Crusaders never seem to have read the part of the Bible where God denies King David the opportunity to build a house in His honor because David had too much blood on his hands.

In fact the book Armies of Heaven shows Christians 1000 years ago conveniently forgotting a lot of the bible in order to pursue their politically religious and economic passions. Many military leaders became obsessed with plunder, and even poor pilgrims who followed the armies to Jerusalem would sometimes disembowel enemy dead in hopes of finding gold in their guts. Generals bickered over who owned rights to the cities they conquered. Christian princes, having conquered cities, often turned to fighting over individual towers, houses and neighborhoods, promising safety to residents cowering in fear, then killing them wholesale when the doors were flung open. Greed knew no bounds on the First Crusade.

Even when the Christians conquered Jerusalem the biggest question was who they should name to be king. In fact the matter was never completely settled. One of the military leaders who was offered the job refused to accept it, secretly hoping his rivals would admire his humility and name him king anyway. They didn’t. The First Crusade accomplished its mission only to mill around Jerusalem like the hapless knights in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

But we should not be too quick to judge, Rubenstein maintains. The fact that the Apocalpyse was not brought on by the conquering of Jerusalem did come as a disappointment to the First Crusade, which left suddenly aimless and often jealous military rivals to wander back to Europe wondering what the hell really happened?

What the First Crusade really indeed illustrates is that the human propensity for greed and violence supercedes even the most holy objectives. The bible warns us of that. But people are quick to credit God for their luck in war, yet not quick enough to blame their supposed faith in God and Christ when it is used to justify the most base human behaviors imaginable. And so it goes.

The book Armies of Heaven ends with a chapter titled The Never-Ending Apocalpyse. Its main contention is that the atrocities committed during the holy wars of the First Crusade essentially brought back the genocidal traditions of the Old Testament in a scale of murderous behavior that really did border on the Apocalpyse. Some Crusaders did believe at points during the journey they were living through the first phases of the Revelation narrative and the prophecies of John. And who can blame them? They brought the madness on themselves.

But here we are a thousand years later and the utterances of fundamental Christians bear the same ilk and fervor as the First Crusade. Many seem to still want to bring on the apocalpyse. It’s pathetic, really, that Christianity cannot seem to grow up and out of its most murderous traditions. The literalistic interpretations of scripture that drove the First Crusade to first murder Jewish people in Western Europe and then lash out against Muslims in the Middle East continues to stoke the murderous hearts of zealots and theocrats today. The American war in Iraq was reflective of this New Crusade, as is the so-called War on Terror. And just like a thousand years ago, anyone willing to question the fixations of the new crusaders is called naive and anti-religious. It’s a horrid joke in the hands of history.

Whether these new apocalpytic journeys are justified or simply the product of our own teetering fervor for fighting old battles we may apparently never know. But the years keep rolling by, and the modern crusaders keep on looking east, eager for the apocalyptic kill. And if not that, then the plunder.