It’s hotter ‘n heckfire out there kids, so Chris and Laura are here once again to battle the demons living in your newspaper and your computer, including: the Confederate flag, actual demon The Devil, his dark minions in the pit of despair we mortals call Missouri, and, in unrelated, non-demon news, Sweet Briar College, and of course Taylor Swift. Roll it!
This morning, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced plans to remove the Confederate battle flag from specialty license plates issued by the state. The action followed a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that states could decide whether or not to issue such plates, but more importantly, a renewed controversy surrounding the battle flag following the racially-motivated murder of 9 parishioners at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.
Let’s keep it 100 on the battle flag: before anything else, it was the symbol of an armed insurrection against the United States government, by a force whose principle goal was to defend the rights of their states to allow the enslavement and forced labor of other human beings. After the end of the Civil War, it was largely used to commemorate Confederate war dead or at gatherings of Confederate veterans—that is until the beginning of the modern Civil Rights movement, where it became a rallying point for racist opposition to equal treatment of whites and blacks.
In my experience growing up white in this area, the relationship to the battle flag was somewhere between a schizophrenic acceptance of racial equality with a deeper resentment toward blacks for trying to upend the status quo and a milder, “yes, but…” attitude, both of which sought to obscure or soften the sharp lines of division. But the fact remains that for many African-Americans on the other side of the division, the battle flag is a symbol of malice and terror every bit as sinister as a swastika. Nothing I can say about my non-slave-owning-ancestors-who-just-fought-for-their-home-state can change the fact that the flag under which they fought has been appropriated by modern racists and used as a tool of terror against them for decades.
So the question is: Is it fair to ask white Southerners to give up the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of their regional identity, simply because some extremist, dead-end elements have appropriated it to represent white supremacy, terror, and hatred against the minority African-American community? The answer is, yes, it is.
I say this as one who has deep admiration for my forbearers, both in the South and in the North. The American project has been a long, hard slog, and it’s inspiring for me to know that members of my family were part of it from a very early stage. Whether they were early settlers of Virginia or Pennsylvania, signers of the Declaration, soldiers facing each other in blue and grey, or workers and engineers in factories that helped turn the tides of history in the World Wars, I try every day to be worthy of their struggles and dreams. But I also know that the choices they made were ones that fit their time, and not necessarily ours. So while I am willing to honor the service of my ancestor who fought for the Confederacy, I see no reason why his decision should bind me to support a symbol like the battle flag or ideas like slavery, racial segregation, or armed insurrection against my own country that I find repugnant and wholly out of place in our time.
Even more than that, the refusal to let go of this symbol drives a wedge in our community. It creates a line of equivocation for ordinary people between the backwards extremists who have appropriated the flag and those they terrorize and seek to subjugate. White people of good intention, who value their history as I do, are forced by these extremists into the false dichotomy of having to choose between giving up a claim to their history, supposedly symbolized by the battle flag, and a path of racial reconciliation with their neighbors. It’s not an illogical choice for them to choose the flag, even though their hearts and heads would pull them towards a more harmonious relationship with their African-American neighbors. But clinging to the battle flag only empowers those extremists—the war over the flag’s meaning is long over, and it was won by segregationists, white supremacists, and cowards. Let them have it, and by doing so, let’s get past another division in our communities.
Chesapeake—my hometown and frequent host of the Gravedigger monster truck at elementary school career days—made the news for a church sign that read “REMEMBER SATAN WAS THE FIRST TO DEMAND EQUAL RIGHTS.”
The pastor of the church insists the sign doesn’t target any specific group. Yes, it could be homosexuals. But it could also be women! There are also countless ethnic minorities to choose from. Sometimes it’s best not to question the mysteries of The Divine.
A local resident who preferred to remain nameless said (I swear I’m not making this quote up, and also I suspect it may have been my father they reached for comment) said, “I’m a church-going person. I know what Satan does. He’s not good, that’s one thing for sure, but I wouldn’t put it on the side of the road to upset people’s feelings about what’s on a sign.”
Luckily the intended audience likely moved the hell out of Chesapeake long ago.
A settlement was announced by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, allowing the continued operation of Sweet Briar College, which had been slated to close this summer. The 114-year-old women’s college has faced declining enrollment and a diminishing endowment. A group of alumnae have pledged to raise $12 million to keep the college in operation through the 2015-16 academic year. The case had reached the Virginia Supreme Court, with concerned friends and alumnae arguing that the college’s board could not unilaterally close the school down. As part of the settlement plan, most current members of Sweet Briar’s board will step down, and new candidates will be elected from a slate proposed by the opponents of closure. Sweet Briar’s current president will also be replaced.
It’s heartening to see a committed group of community activists succeed so spectacularly. It will be interesting to see what new strategies they bring to the table to keep Sweet Briar operating as more and more private liberal arts colleges come under pressure, and more single-sex institutions are forced to go co-ed.
Hyped up on the notion of equal rights, Satan’s devoted following is filing a federal lawsuit against Missouri’s whack-ass abortion regulations. The Satanic Temple is arguing that the state’s 72-hour waiting period and “informed consent” booklet given to one of their members pre-procedure violated her religious freedom. The Satanic Temple is currently suing Missouri in state court over the abortion laws, as well.
Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves (real name: Doug) noted in a press release: “We anticipate that our efforts will set a precedent in the favor of reproductive rights for generations to come, and bring a sudden halt to the current horrific trend of sanctimonious superstitious assaults on women’s freedom of choice.”
Hmm. Satan is starting to sound like a pretty sensible dude.
Man, look up! There’s some cool stuff happening in space this week. First off, the NASA probe Dawn has reached its destination, the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has found some truly odd stuff, including highly-reflective bright spots on the surface (thought to be ice or possibly salt, as seen below) and a pyramid-shaped mountain more than three miles high. Secondly, an intense solar storm this week has allowed the Northern Lights to be visible as far south as Texas. Find some dark skies tonight and keep your eyes peeled, you might just see them.
The Pilot’s new editor Steve Gunn introduced himself in a very nice column on Sunday, and Hampton Roads wasted no time in welcoming him. Hahahaha. I’m kidding, of course. We rushed to the comments to correct his grammar (which wasn’t wrong in the first place, but that didn’t stop us).
Gunn noted he was excited to move to this “dynamic metropolitan area.” I guess he’s telecommuting? (KIDDING. Sorry. Chesapeake native. The bitterness never really dies.)
He was, however, suspiciously silent on the Pilot’s historic lack of Taylor Swift coverage, which we here at IYRTP are forever having to pick up the slack on. Journalism is such a dying art.
This just in: It’s too hot outside. And when it’s this hot, you have to go to the movies. Most summer movies are way longer on special effects than they are on plot (but I did like Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road, for the record), though, and you might want to, you know, use your brain too. Luckily, our very own Naro Cinema is showing two fascinating docs this week. Tonight at 7:15, come see Matisse: From MoMA and Tate Modern, an inside look at the recent Matisse exhibitions at London’s Tate Modern and New York’s MoMA, introduced by the Chrysler Museum’s chief curator, Jeff Harrison.
Tomorrow night, the weekly New Non-Fiction Film series continues with Seymour: An Introduction, a profile of virtuouso-pianist-turned-music-teacher Seymour Bernstein, with an introduction and post-show discussion by Dwight Davis of WHRO-FM and Oksana Lutsyshyn of ODU’s Music department. These films are always interesting, and the discussions are entertaining. And best of all, air-conditioning is included in the price of admission.
Oh yeah, and go see Wayne’s World on Friday night.
And finally in the Swiftybeat, Tay Tay announced on Tumblr that she would be withholding 1989 (i.e., this generation’s Pet Sounds, Abbey Road, Purple Rain, Nevermind, and Thriller all rolled into one) from Apple Music. Her beef? The subscription music service offers subscribers a free trial for the first three months, during which time Apple would be withholding cash-money from artists.
In her post “To Apple, Love Taylor,” (I sort of wish this story was about Courtney Love now) Swifty noted: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”
Apple quickly reversed the policy because Taylor is unstoppable force of love/a PR nightmare. Eh, six to one.
Long ago, a prophesy foretold of two great ones who would alter the course of history with their unmatched witticisms about the world around them. But until they arrive, Chris O’ Brien and Laura Watkins are filling in. Sharing a love of tacos, cats, justice, as well as an overarching ambition to perform history’s greatest karaoke duet of “Lightning Crashes,” and last but not least, a common ancestor in Charlemagne, Chris and Laura excel at beer drinking, trivia, and giving the Price side-eye to the patriarchy. They’re also pretty sure they were orphaned Russian siblings in another life, but that’s a story for another time.