June 24, 2015

5 reasons not to ban the Confederate flag -- from a Canadian immigrant

Gavin McInnesArchive

I'm a Canadian who immigrated to the U.S. That gives me a detached outsider's perspective on the calls to ban the Confederate flag in the wake of the Charleston mass murder.

In fact, I can give you five reasons why the rest of America shouldn't ban the "stars and bars."

First, in terms of sheer numbers, the Civil War was an American holocaust that should never be forgotten.

It also wasn't really about slavery anyway. It was about states' rights and secession.

And PS: Lincoln was a racist -- but most Americans aren't.

There's more...

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commented 2015-07-10 02:03:26 -0400
Thanks Maurice. I think we generally agree, but as individuals, we just tend to endorse and emphasize different points. Similarly George Patton, for the most part, I don’t disagree with you. But can you at least acknowledge that the winners in history are uniquely empowered to determine how the original conflict will be viewed by future generations? You almost said as much already, by noting that the Confederates simply ended up on the wrong side of history.
And as we call it in Canada, the Second World War (not WWII, which is an American term) WAS NOT about the Final Solution. Anti-semitism, genocide of Jewish people (among numerous other peoples), and the promotion of a “pure” German race, were only small parts of Hitler’s and the Nazi Party’s ultimate agenda. To claim otherwise IS historical revisionism. But that’s not to say that the Holocaust didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t a deliberate, systematic attempt to exterminate all Jewish people. It happened, yes, and we should remember it and be able to recognize the early signs so as to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. The war itself, however, was about so much more.
Like any other symbol, the Confederate flag is capable of many interpretations. If you disagree with it, don’t wave it. Just like I am free to show my disagreement with Gazprom’s sponsorship of the FIFA Women’s World Cup by not watching the event.
Funny how that didn’t make major news headlines and wasn’t the subject of mass protests, unlike Tim Hortons’ contract to show in-store Enbridge advertisements.
commented 2015-07-04 08:13:44 -0400
McInnes is completely wrong on this issue as are my fellow conservatives who support this position. The reasons he gives are intellectually bereft. Hundreds of thousands died on the confederate side?…too bad, they were on the wrong side of history and morality…millions of Germans and Italians died in the service of fascism, yet I do not see that as a justification for flying the Waffen SS battleflags despite their fanaticism on the battlefield (and neither do the Germans FYI). The war was not about slavery but “States Rights”?… funny but just about every state who joined the Confederacy specifically stated that slavery was part of the justification. I can just hear the next iteration of this argument…WW2 was not about the Final Solution…it was about building autobahns and Volkswagens and being pushed around by the Treaty of Vesailles (forget the inconvenient parts of Mein Kampf). The flag is not about racism but about heritage?…it was not a significant part of Southern culture until the 40’s when the the Dixiecrats used it as a symbol of protest against segregation and states such as Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss University used it specifically as part of their opposition to segregation in the 60’s. Slavery did not help build America?…revisionist history does not change the fact that both the North and South were heavily dependent on slavery for their economies prior to the Civil War. Lincoln may have been a racist in the early part of the War, but actions speak louder than speculation (we on the other hand dismiss the racism of Laurier and King as being just people of their times). McInnes is not well informed on this topic and should realize that sometimes being out of step with majority opinion is not conservatism, but ignorance (exhibit A: Donald Trump).
commented 2015-07-03 21:18:49 -0400
Erin Berney, good post and I agree with everything you’ve said. But since the Civil War was such a hideous event in American history, and the bloodiest conflict in history in relation to its size, I suppose I prefer to focus on whatever positive outcome it may have produced. Yes, Lincoln was a racist… at least in the beginning, but as the war progressed his attitude towards blacks changed dramatically. It didn’t happen suddenly; It was a slow progression, but it did happen. Gettysburg changed Lincoln completely. All people should be granted the grace to redeem themselves and I think Lincoln did redeem himself. When Fredrick Douglas spoke about his first meeting with Lincoln he said “unlike with many of his white abolitionist contemporaries, I found no hint of condescension in President Lincoln’s demeanor”. Lincoln thereafter considered Douglas a friend. I’m not certain whether or not Douglas felt the same way about Lincoln, but he did consider him to be a great man, and said as much.
commented 2015-07-03 02:55:00 -0400
Okay, Maurice. I would concede that and apologize for misrepresenting what you wrote. But I still disagree that it was “the” catalyst. I argue that slavery was merely one example of the many grievances shared by the southern states that wanted to secede from the U.S. union and form an independent confederacy based on the primacy of states’ rights. The viability of such an endeavour, that — had the war ended differently — would likely have prolonged the system of slavery as a necessary evil, and can be endlessly debated by economists and political scientists.
Slavery was, admittedly, a hot-button issue of the day, all around the world. Britain had already formally abolished the slave trade in its colonies and territories. History has shown that the abolition of slavery was one of the first human rights causes — one that became capable of uniting disparate people across vast divides of race, religion, gender and social/economic class.
For the Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln, who was quite a racist himself, despite his “Emancipation Proclamation”, slavery as an opportunity, and they used it as a tool to garner support for the war. In fact, Lincoln’s primary objective with the civil war was saving the union, not ending slavery. Both his campaigns were concerned only with limiting the expansion of slavery into new U.S. states — to assuage the Republican Party’s wealthy, abolitionist supporters in the north — not with eliminating slavery for the states in which it was already practised. In a campaign debate with Senator Steven Douglas in 1858, Lincoln said the following: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”
Lincoln also said: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Therefore, I argue that had many southerners not already been up in arms over the issue of states’ rights (and okay yes, specifically property rights over their slaves being recognized outside their home states), they would have been able to keep the slave trade going at least within their borders.
Likewise, I will admit that if the war had not happened, slavery would have lasted a great deal longer than it did. But the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment were, in my view, first and foremost political manoeuvres designed to increase voter support for the Republican Party, and secondly to re-supply the vastly depleted union troops so it could defeat the south and end the war.
Prior to the civil war, slavery was already declining as America industrialized. Slavery is a predominately rural system and was already showing signs of not being able to survive in a modern, urban, industrial nation. You can see this clearly enough in the border states like Maryland and Missouri where it was fading in the years before the war. The price of slaves consequently began skyrocketing, such that plantation owners may have eventually been forced to find cheaper, alternate sources of labour in any event had the 13th Amendment not abolished slavery as an institution altogether in 1865.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 had already guaranteed the extension of property rights in slaves to the territories in the Dred Scott decision. From Wikipedia:
“Republicans denounced the Dred Scott decision and promised to overturn it; Abraham Lincoln warned that the next Dred Scott decision could threaten the Northern states with slavery. The Republican party platform called slavery “a national evil”, and Lincoln believed it would die a natural death if it were contained."
Rather than wait for the federal government to legislate in response to Dred Scott, a “radical” abolitionist by the name of John Brown took matters into his own hands by raiding the Harpers Ferry Armory trying to incite a slave insurrection, prompting the creation of southern militia groups and precipitating the civil war. Some defend him as a martyr, but his actions define him as nothing less than a domestic terrorist and religious zealot whose insane belief in the need for a violent slave insurrection is eerily similar to that of Charles Manson’s ambition to stoke an all-out race war, just over a century later.
I’ve often heard conservatives defending the Republican Party by pointing out the fact that Lincoln was a Republican and Lincoln freed the slaves. It all sounds very noble, until you realize that American politics is ugly. It’s always been so. It may seem particularly dirty today, by modern standards, but just think about what it must have been like in Lincoln’s time, in the years leading up to and during the Civil War. And if you think sudden emancipation was a picnic for former slaves, try brushing up on a little history of Reconstruction.
I got a little off track here, but I mean to show that while slavery was certainly an important issue, it was not “the” issue that caused the war. I argue that the north, as the victor invariably does, redefined the primary cause of the Civil War as being slavery, and that its chief motive was pure, political and economic gain, rather than any actual desire for racial equality.
The way I see it, the Union flag is no less steeped in slavery and racism than the Battle Flag of North Virginia (the “Confederate Flag”). The point is that we need to remember the dark parts of our history along with the light. To do that, we have to resist the temptation to rewrite and effectively whitewash our past by banning the display of symbols like the Confederate Flag that serve as historical milestones. If we succumb, I fear we will be erasing evidence of our fiercest struggles, obscuring our own footsteps in the sand, so to speak, and thus making it much more difficult to appreciate just how far we’ve come from that dark time.
commented 2015-06-28 02:57:40 -0400
I’m more about gloating over the war of 1812. The time Canada kicked US ass. That should have been commemorated nationally after 200 years. Screw the U.S.. That’s all they think of us
commented 2015-06-27 19:02:21 -0400
Very entertaining! And informative.
commented 2015-06-26 19:41:32 -0400
So the Banksters were eager to take over the South . . . 50 years later ole Woodrow Wilson enabled the FED and the Banksters have controlled the US ever since.

Imagine if the loser had worn a Chick-fil-A Tee Shirt . . . instead of Gold’s Gym . . . the insane left would have blamed the restaurant. Roof was a far-left loon who would have been quite at home in the South with the Democrats of the first half of the 20th century.
commented 2015-06-26 15:28:07 -0400
Erin Berney, we’re arguing semantics here. In fact, if you read my post, we’re not in disagreement. I said the US Civil War was INDIRECTLY about slavery. Yes, the direct cause was disagreement over the rights of any state to unilaterally secede from the Union. Lincoln, along with most of the north, were of the legal opinion that all signatory parties to an agreement must agree to any changes before they could be implemented. In this case, the change being the southern signatories of the agreement to form the Union, backing out of their commitment. The Southern states, however, disagreed and felt they legally had the right to leave whenever they wished. That disagreement was the cause of the Civil War, ignited by the Federal Government’s determination to continue to occupy and defend Federal properties in the Southern States, even after secession began. But why did the Southern States secede? Did they not secede because of the Republican Party’s, and particularly Lincoln’s, views on slavery? They felt that, with rise in anti-slavery sentiment to positions of power in the Capital, the tide was turning against them, so it was in their best interest to cut ties with Washington and the Northern States. That caused the Civil War, but the INDIRECT CAUSE was SLAVERY, or more precisely Lincoln’s attitude towards it.
commented 2015-06-26 08:11:49 -0400
Erin Berney, I agree with you, the American Civil War was about the right of states to govern themselves and not be dictated to by an omnipotent federal gov’t.
As long as I can remember, the Confederate Flag has been a symbol of anti-establishment, protest, M.C. gangs and hatred. Maybe it should have been banned along with the Swaztika and the Rising Sun.
commented 2015-06-26 04:16:09 -0400
Neil and Maurice, you are both wrong. Gavin is right. The Civil War was not directly concerned with the subject of slavery, but with the right of states to govern themselves within the larger union. The constitutional authority of the federal/northern/union government to act to prevent individual states from seceding from the union was the real cause of the Civil War – the north thought the south couldn’t unilaterally secede, and the south thought it could. Slavery just happened to become a focal point of this much larger issue. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Quebec’s Secession Reference comes to mind. But whereas in Canada, our issues have mostly centred on language, race has become one of the most divisive issues in the U.S. precisely because ignorant people continue to mistakenly believe that’s what the Civil War was really about.
The Confederate Flag, as it is popularly known, is actually the “Battle Flag of Northern Virginia”. The stars and stripes are arranged in an “X”, as if to say “cross me out of your union”. That is what the flag means, and it has nothing to do with racism or slavery.
And yet some claim that every problem in the U.S. today is inextricably linked to racism and the pre-Civil War system of slavery in the south. I challenge that claim, and argue that the Civil War completely eradicated all traces and profits from slavery. The war and its aftermath reduced the south to rubble, forcing it to begin eking out an entirely new existence from scratch. For a multitude of reasons, the Civil War must be remembered for being, at the very least, a crucial moment in American history that defined its international reputation as a nation that values individual liberty and equality above all. Both sides, north and south, believed they were fighting for these same ideals so much so they sacrificed nearly 800,000 lives to achieve their respective goal. Accordingly, they both deserve to be treated with honour and respect, and at the very least, to be remembered.
As an aside, Abraham Lincoln and the early Republican Party may have campaigned on an abolitionist platform, but they didn’t believe in racial equality any more than the average, southern slave-owner. I was initially impressed when I first learned about the abolitionist origins of the U.S. Republican Party. I am Canadian, but spent a few years of my adolescence in Chicago, and have always been fascinated by American history, especially the Civil War and its aftereffects. I have a few degrees, a BA in comparative literature and a JD/LLB, and admit most of my knowledge comes from Michener or Jakes novels.
Nonetheless, I have since come to understand that Republican abolitionism was also necessarily engaged in political manoeuvring aimed at enhancing both Lincoln and the Republican Party’s voter support base. The north/union didn’t really care about slavery, but it certainly cared that the southern states weren’t falling in line. Initially at least, the north wasn’t at all interested in ending slavery in the states that already had it. Lincoln didn’t call the troops to fight out of pure, egalitarian sentiment for the plight of black slaves in the south, but to assert federal authority over the secessionist states and militarily preserve the union in one piece. This is what Lincoln really did. Ending slavery was merely a consequence, a deliberately-aimed punishment of the southern states that would economically cripple them for decades to come.
For all the above reasons, the Confederate Flag should just be left alone. It’s not a symbol of racism, but of the end of slavery in the U.S. Voting to call yet a further vote in order to ultimately decide whether to remove the flag from South Carolina’s Capitol grounds in response to the actions of a crazy, white-supremacist, terrorist/psychotic mass murderer, is, however, absolutely insane. What happened to the U.S.’s trademark stance of not negotiating with terrorists? Calling the vote only legitimizes the usurpation of the flag by radical fringe groups that twist and distort its original meaning and historical significance into something hateful, shameful and ugly.
commented 2015-06-25 21:53:41 -0400
Gavin, you are bang-on with everything except for #2. As Maurice says below, the war was indeed about slavery. The Republican Party was started in 1854 by an anti-slavery Tea Party of sorts – Americans who were shut out by the elites of both the Whigs and the Democrats, both of which were pro-slavery. It was the party of abolitionists and Lincoln was indeed one. The war was started when Lincoln was shockingly elected President on a platform of ending the Missouri Compromise, banning slavery from all Western territories, and thus isolating the institution of slavery both morally and geographically. The Southern slave states had a hissy and attacked Fort Sumter when Lincoln moved to fortify it with troops; the rest is history, and when it was over, slavery was gone. When the war ended, Lincoln gave the highest ceremonial honours to Abolitionist leaders.
commented 2015-06-25 15:40:58 -0400
A certain small percentage of society’s socially-retarded losers are going to become truly hateful. Some of them will seek out a cause to excuse their loser status and to justify the violence they wish to employ – because they lack the guts and honesty for critical self-examination. This turd just happened to latch on to the anti-black stuff – he could just as easily have been one of those disaffected losers that run away to join ISIS.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that this has a hell of a lot more to do with “loserism” than racism.

We could make the same claim that the losers from middle-class North American homes who join ISIS are doing so because of the attractions of the banner of Islam; but I don’t think that the shrill harpies (and their parroting eunuchs) who would outlaw the rebel flag would call for the banning of the star and crescent.
commented 2015-06-25 12:29:39 -0400
Gavin; I don’t get your shtick, but I get the message and that message is solid and sound!

MYTH – The Confederate Battle Flag represents racism today.
FACT – The Confederate Battle Flag today finds itself in the center of much controversy and hoopla going on in several states. The cry to take this flag down is unjustified. It is very important to keep in mind that the Confederate Battle Flag was simply just that. A battle flag. It was never even a National flag, so how could it have flown over a slave nation or represented slavery or racism? This myth is continued by lack of education and ignorance. Those that villify the Confederate Battle Flag are very confused about history and have jumped upon a bandwagon with loose wheels.”
“Note: It is necessary to disclaim any connection of these flags to neo-nazis, red-necks, skin-heads and the like. These groups have adopted this flag and desecrated it by their acts. They have no right to use this flag – it is a flag of honor, designed by the confederacy as a banner representing state’s rights and still revered by the South. In fact, under attack, it still flies over the South Carolina capitol building. (OR NOT) The South denies any relation to these hate groups and denies them the right to use the flags of the confederacy for any purpose. The crimes committed by these groups under the stolen banner of the conderacy only exacerbate the lies which link the seccesion to slavery interests when, from a Southerner’s view, the cause was state’s rights.”

All the rest is just more of the same lefty/liberal BS and lefty/liberal race baiting, racist ignorance, hypocrisy and whining!
I know what that flag really stands for and that is why I proudly have one – I just don’t display it publicly on my vehicle or home – given what has happened to my vehicle just for having an NRA sticker on it – I wouldn’t want to have to go to jail for ‘catching’ some lefty/liberal coward, sneak thief in the night vandal in the act. Now how messed up is that? Boy, the lefty/liberals have sure messed things up good…
commented 2015-06-25 09:31:27 -0400
Good essay by Gavin. I am an American-born Canadian living in New Brunswick, and my family on my father’s side are and were Southerners. As a young boy growing up, in the 1950s, I would hear Southern tales of various types, basically hero-worshiping Southerners about what they went through during the Civil War and Reconstruction. For these people, flying the Confederate flag is about remembrance and keeping alive their separate Southern culture. On these grounds I would support flying the Confederate flag. This, when the U.S. media cartel are now lobbying for its removal.
Yet there is a nasty undercurrent of far-right wackos (neo-Nazis, hard racists, Ku Klux Klan types) that in fact fly the flag to support their own interests. The mass murderer in Charleston followed these people. While going to military prep school in the U.S. I took a course from JEB Stuart’s (a famous Confederate cavalryman) grandson. JEB Stuart was known as a gallant cavalier who represented the best in Southern society. Yet his grandson was a hard-right member of the John Birch Society, who in class would say that their was nothing wrong with slavery, who ranted and raved and was generally nasty. There is a nasty side to slavery and the Southern cause
Having said that conservatives should oppose the current anti-Confederate flag lobbying by black groups and the corporate media.
commented 2015-06-25 00:44:20 -0400
Ah the natives get their digs in on something totally unrelated. We all know you’re about extorting more money for moochers. When the government wants accountability for the $5B annually they scream racism. Then we find that chiefs pay themselves $1M a year and everyone is poor. When the government wants to change the Indian act to allow for business and private property they say no, the system is fine as it is.
Is this revisionist history? No, it’s undisputed verifiable fact.
Now try to keep on topic. You’ll have ample time for your belly-aching later.
commented 2015-06-24 21:24:49 -0400
Actually the US Civil war was indirectly about slavery. Slavery was the catalyst. When Lincoln was first elected President, he didn’t believe that blacks were equal to whites, that’s true. But he was also dead set against slavery; he believed that every man had the right to do whatever he wished with the fruits of his own labor, and that everyone should have the freedom to rise as high as their talents would take them. He just didn’t believe that blacks were capable of rising very high. He had no intentions of interfering with slavery where it already existed, just halting the further spread of it, as new states were add to the Union. Actually, the way the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights is structured, he had no authority to end slavery. It didn’t fall under federal jurisdiction. However, it was his attitude towards slavery that triggered the secession of the southern States. So the Civil war was about preserving the Union, but the catalyst was Lincoln’s attitude towards slavery. However, as the war progressed, Lincoln’s attitude towards Blacks changed dramatically, particularly after the bravery and fighting skill demonstrated by Black troops. This lead to the Emancipation Proclamation and, after being elected to a second term, the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery forever. In fact, in his last speech before his assassination, he proposed giving freed slaves the vote. Apparently, John Wilkes Booth didn’t much care for that. As far as the Confederate flag is concerned, abolishing it solves nothing and changes nothing. It’s equivalent to hiding one’s head in the sand and pretending the Civil War never happened, and that’s just plain silly. I don’t know if public government buildings is the best place fly them though.
commented 2015-06-24 19:48:38 -0400
here ….here…
commented 2015-06-24 18:35:38 -0400
Cultural Genocide is the new term used by Canadian Natives because some people attempted to obliterate their History. What would you call banning the Confederate flag ? Revisionist history?
commented 2015-06-24 17:07:28 -0400
Very good article Gavin ONE POINT I would like to make is that slavery was ended in Canada in 1836
As one who has traveled all over the United States I too can attest to the fact that the United States is not a racist country. Having done business and been friends with many black and Hispanic and white and mixed people in the U.S. In my life I have been helped and have helped many black Americans from the back woods of Georgia to the cities of Florida from Baltimore in the north to New York city every where. This racist president along with the other race baiters have done everything to split the races. Just another point Old Glory ie the Stars and Stripes has waved above slavery longer than the Stars and Bars.
commented 2015-06-24 15:31:42 -0400
I agree with Gavin on this. Most of what Canadians know about the US is based on what the media class tells you. Having received grade 7 & 8 education just outside NYC I too was surprised when we were taught that the revolutionary war was primarily about the colonies rebelling against the Currency Act that imposed the private central Bank of England on the colonies which would issue currency as a loan to the colonies. I too was surprised to learn that the Civil war was about the 3 S’s: States’ Rights, Succession and least of all – Slavery. Disney taught us the opposite. He made the least important the important one and everything else as minor issue. – What a lie.
Don’t remove the flag. That’s what the race war mongers – Obummer, Sharpton, et al – want. Stand by our American cousins as they fight off tyranny with the use of the Second Amendment – think Bundy Ranch incident as that amendment in action.
Learn from that because that will be here too in the near future.
commented 2015-06-24 14:27:26 -0400
Usually, I have serious issues with Gavin’s “humor” and satire.

This time, I have to say, “Well done, Gavin!”

Now, if we can take that same rationale and apply it to OUR “issues”, such as minorities and the Natives…
commented 2015-06-24 14:17:38 -0400
Good report and commentary Gavin, and so true. But like everything else, there are some that are blind and some that choose to be blind to the truth.
You will never convince all those that think this is politically correct. That’s what it really boils down to, being politically correct.
commented 2015-06-24 14:01:55 -0400
I have no objection with the Flag coming down, however it strikes me as initially a knee jerk PC reaction which has led to everyone scrambling trying to out PC everyone else.
commented 2015-06-24 13:57:07 -0400
Vlad, you’re serious you think a flag needs to be banned? So what else should be banned? It is pointless to even go down this rabbit hole, not even the Koran should be banned are you suggesting the state should decide for us what to think? Go away you’re an imbecile.
commented 2015-06-24 13:56:35 -0400
Vlad, it doesn’t look to me like you actually watched the video, or if you did, it made no impression on you at all. Gavin is basically saying that the flag is irrelevant. If the flag was banned some people would immediately find something else to bitch about. Next thing you know, people will be saying that drawing a picture of Mohammed should be illegal… oh, wait.
commented 2015-06-24 13:53:41 -0400
Yeah, good reddens, indeed.
commented 2015-06-24 13:16:29 -0400
This flag ban is long overdue. This flag represents nothing that is current. At best, this flag belongs in a museum.

The “shooting” was the excuse used to get rid of this flag. Good reddens.