My mailbox has been a little busy lately. There have been the Confederate apologists/revivalists who want to kick my ass because I am not a huge fan of slavery and sedition. There are also people who had a hard time reading an essay where I described someone with CSA battleflag patches on his hat and jacket as a "nice guy." They think I'm racist because I did not slap the man, scream at him for wearing such an evil sigil and then educate him about the error of his ways.
Let's talk about that for a moment. Life can be cut and dried about some things:
- Be excellent to each other. (Matthew 7:12)
- Live and let live. (Exodus 20:13)
- Mind your own beeswax. (Luke 6:37)
When it comes to day-to-day interactions, things like context and nuance can be important. When that man in the waiting room started to talk to me about computers and I saw his hat and jacket, this was where one of two choices had to be made: I could have treated him coldly after telling him I took exception to his choice of symbols to display or I could have done what churchy folk around here call "witness by example."
I chose the latter. Everybody can be redeemed. It's not our place to judge and it's certainly not mine to forgive or not. That is the right of those who are hurt by those sigils. However, it is my place to talk to other White people about what those can mean. Ask yourself this: Do you respond better to someone slapping something out of your hand or a friendly exchange? I thought so.
Something to keep in mind is there really are people who do not understand the full import of what they are endorsing. That man with the cap? He is most likely an example of what Santayana was talking about when he opined about the past. To him, the St. Andrew's Cross begins and ends with identifying with being from the South. I didn't do too deep of a dive into the matter. It wasn't the time or the place. I hope at some point, he will find someone who he feel comfortable enough that he will ask all the right questions. I hope so.
That brings me to another topic that came up in a couple of letters. Will I be changing the name of this website? No, I won't. "Dixie" has been co-opted by those who identify strongly with the Confederate States of America. Their version consists of the 13 lower southeastern continental states, the ones who seceded from the Union.
"Dixie" is a verbal shorthand reference to the Mason-Dixon line. The M-DL was a demarcation surveyed from 1763-1767 as a way to resolve border disputes between a handful of states. The actual line goes well north and west of the CSA states. This is a good model for who we really are. The physical, temporal, and cultural markers go much further than we imagine.
I am not asking anyone to forget the cruelty of the past. I am reclaiming what is vibrant, what is true, and what makes my home what it is beyond the memes adopted by those who would kill everything off rather than face their own darker natures. There are people who identify as Southern who see what is alive and true about this place. We see the need to work toward what is fair and just. This means overdue apologies, overdue expressions of gratitude, and recognition of unacknowledged brilliance that built this place. I have no illusions about that. We have a lot of work to do.
So the name stays. This is my home. This sense of being rooted in place defines me. It serves as a reminder that this is a work in progress and I cannot turn my back on it.