Can We Love Imperfection?
|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— In a Letter to the Editor, the local kindly mystery book writer recently shared a refresher course on the Civil War along with a scathing attack on the “repugnant symbol” of the Confederate Flag. I hope he is not among the voices today that want to eradicate the Confederate Flag from Virginia history as the College of William and Mary has so recently done with its removal of the flag from the college mace and its plaque in the Wren Building that listed students and faculty who fought in the Confederacy.
Yet, I find the flag a poignant and important American symbol. Odd and also wonderful, isn’t it, that two writers who live and work and admire each other in Middlesex County could see the world and American history with such amazingly different visions.
I will try to explain why I respect the Confederate Flag and this will take every ounce of writing talent that I possess. It’s natural for me to do this because I support the latest dog that is being kicked. So I write this column in honor of all fallen Confederate soldiers who fought to protect the Commonwealth.
I am born and bred in Ohio and had no ancestors who fought with the Confederacy. A great-great-uncle fought on the side of the Union. The Wakefields came to America in 1872, so I had only one ancestor on my mother’s side in that tragic War Between the States. My great uncle fought against Lee’s army and after the war joined the cavalry and went West to fight Indians. He died at Fetterman’s Massacre in 1866, his body inundated with arrows.
That said, I wish to defend the Confederate Flag. I do so because the Confederacy is a part of U.S. history and all Southerners, both black and white, are my brothers, deeply loved, admired and fellow Americans. If they have made mistakes in past history, then so have I. No one is perfect. They are part of me and I am a part of them.
Here’s a personal memory that still brings tears to my eyes. Many years ago when the Deep South was suffering extreme drought, farmers in Alabama and Mississippi were crying out for help to feed their starving livestock. Caravans of farmers driving trucks moved out of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa filled to the brim with hay for their fellow southern farmers. I never forgot the love I saw expressed during that day. We can’t express love enough.
I also love and defend the American Flag, which represents our nation today and inspires great passion in most Americans. But, it also does not have perfect history. Still, we love the flag in spite of its obvious imperfections simply because we are Americans.
It is disturbing that some chapters in U.S. history, such as slavery, took place under both our American Flag and the Confederate Flag. Yes, under the American Flag slavery was at least tolerated in the United States, if not approved, until after the Civil War ended in 1865, when it was officially outlawed with the addition of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The American Flag denied women the right to vote until 1920; it stood by as Jim Crow laws suppressed blacks in Southern states for almost a century after the war; and it tolerated a plan to eradicate Native Americans by systematically destroying their source of food, and eventually rounded them up into reservations where many still live today. Not to mention what the flag witnessed as this nation happily helped itself to Mexican territories.
The American Flag allowed Japanese-American citizens to be “encamped” during World War II, and stood by as two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens.
In today’s world the flag flies over millions of fellow Americans trapped in city ghetto neighborhoods coping with high unemployment, crime, drugs, and poor schools with little hope of escaping the cruel new chains of slavery.
Our flag stands by as millions of fetuses have been aborted and will continue to be aborted, terminating lives at shockingly high ratios of black babies denied life, not to mention the latest grisly horror we citizens have recently learned of the sale of body parts farmed from still-living fetuses tenderly removed from the uterus in order to keep them fresh for the scalpel’s take.
What seems moral and right in one age may be considered barbaric and evil in another age. We make mistakes. But we do so together as brothers and sisters with love and forgiveness in our hearts hoping with each passing era that as we grow in our humanity we learn to control our shared egotistical and bestial genes.
I respectfully ask the kindly writer of mystery books to reflect on this question. What if future generations judge his generation as severely as he has judged previous generations? Can he imagine, as I can, that one day a group of morally indignant citizens might be so angry at all the mistakes his generation made that they may demand we ditch the American Flag as he believes we should now do with the Confederate Flag?
Kindly columnists warn against vitriol and hatred of our joint history and extreme judgment of others. We should stand for principles, but not by insulting our neighbors, their ancestors or heritages different from our own.