Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Confederate Flag's Place in Real Life and Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Lately in real life national news, the Confederate flag has been in the news. Following the murder of nine people in a historic black church in Charleston south Carolina, there have been demands to take down the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia from the grounds of South Carolina's state capitol. But it hasn't ended there. Other states have begun questioning the use of the flag in the use of places such as personalized license plates, and some stores such as Wallmart and Amazon that were selling the flag have taken it down from sales stocks. Not everyone has been supporting the takedowns. Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, considered a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, has cautioned against denoucing the flag. Ben Jones, the actor behind the character "Crazy Cooter" in "The Dukes of Hazard" TV show, has defended the use of the flag, even though Warner Brothers has been distancing itself from the emblem of the show's car lately. Apple has gone as far as to take down Civil War games from it's app store because they feature the Confederacy, and it's flag.

For those less familiar with the United States, the controversy stems from different people in the country having very different views. For some, especially those from the Southern part of the country, the flag represents heritage and the Southerners who died defending their land in the American Civil War. To others, the flag represents the oppression of blacks, due to slavery in the South, in addition to segregationists and then hate groups using the flag beginning in the 1950s and 60s. A third group identifies the flag with rebellion and toughness. The flag has not always been unpopular. The flag has frequently been in cartoons and TV shows up to the 1980s, such as the popular "Dukes of Hazard" TV show in which the two heroes drive a race car with the Confederate flag prominently painted on top of the car's hood. Tourist spots had Confederate themed items such as swimwear and beach towels.

In a recent commentary in New World Notes, Hamlet Au brought into question Confederate flags and items made with the flag's pattern into Second Life, feeling because of it's use by hate groups, it's use could be considered against Second Life's terms of service. The result was a lively debate in the comments following his article. Checking marketplace for myself, one could get a flag for just a few Lindens. There were also Confederate (and Union) uniforms, useful for roleplays or a costume party, and confederate themed items such as jackets and swimwear.

Deciding to ask about someone knowledgeable about the Confederate Flag, I contacted DakotaCheynne, whom is with a Civil War roleplay group, as well as the Relay for Life team some members of the roleplay are part of. "He should come and get the correct historical meaning of the flag and what it actually stands for," DakotaCheynne spoke when finding out about Hamlet's article, "unfortunately it's modern day that made the battle flag into what they are talking about now."

DakotaCheyene suggested I talk to SadieIsabella, who was also with the Civil War sim in addition to being a teacher in real-life. After greeting her in Instant-Message and a few lines, she teleported over, "Greetings Sir." I mentioned why I was here, and she responded, "The flag is a choice, just like every thing else here. We choose to fly the Battle Flag, because this is a Historical sim and we represent the 1860s. It was not according to racial issues as is seen in the modern world only by some people."

I brought up the flag's design being on items such as bikinis and on biker jackets. SadieIsabella responded, "Any one can interpret anything to their own choosing. How do they not know that the person wearing the flag does it for historical reasons, not racial? Some people wear the cross as a sign of religion, some as anarchy against religion, and some as decoration. Why not disallow all flags, so others will not be offended. Exactly why we have the freedoms we do, to make choices."

"How many people have to be offended before something is not allowed? I am not offended. And I have black friends who know I fly my flag to honor my ancestors who gave their lives for what they believed is right. I am not a racist, and never intended flag to represent it either."

I asked her when and where she flew the flag. She answered, "I have one in my home. and have carried one to march in parades as the Mary Custiss Lee Auxiliary." Civil War themed events in both real life and Second Life where one place she flew it, "We honor the Confederate Memorial Day as well. We are not 'rising' again, only preserving a part of history that needs to be remembered by all."

SadieIsabella went on, "The Battle Flag is not the real issue. I believe power is the issue. The power to dictate to others what they should believe, do and say, according to a singular opinion. here are many Northerners who participate in the Freedom of their Battle Flag, and it is not a Rebel / Yankee issue. But it was a battle flag, a symbol of freedom to choose for oneself. No one forces the Battle Flag on anyone. At the time it was not even the National Confederate Flag."

"The racial issue occurred when Forest dispanded the KKK, and some continued to use it as a racial issue, and not just against blacks. Notice I said 'some.' Not all Southerners were involved in the radical KKK flag bearing racists. As you is a personal choice, and these are my opinions and choices, as a citizen of the United States, not a citizen of the Confederate States." *smiles*

I asked her what she had to say to those comparing the Confederate States of America to Nazi Germany, noting there was a WW2 combat roleplay in Second Life, but they had rules against the swastika. She answered, "Some people have made the flag into this type of hatred and I think those people are in the same category. Ask them why they chose the flag, and how to they feel about the Nazi. Usually they belong to the same type of groups, not me. The Nazis enslaved and killed humans. The Southern people did not enslave and kill people. The Northern states also had slaves." She paused, "correction, the Southern people did not kill slaves. The northern and southern states had slaves also."

I brought up the four slave states, using the term "border states," that had remained in the Union. She answered, "In history, border states were either free sates or slave states. Once (a territory was) voted (in) as a free state, slaves where not owned. This war issue was when states were added to the Union, they were either free or slave states to keep the (Senate) even." It was a balance of power issue, keeping the number or slave and free states even so they would be equally represented in the Senate to balance out the more populous North, and that being reflected with greater numbers in the House of Representatives, "As I said, this is about power."

SadieIsabella suggested propaganda then had an effect on how the war would be remembered by the North, "War issues were about economy. They used everything they could to get the sympathies of people on their side, from agriculture to slaves, to trade, to alliances. Had the war been postponed, the Industrial Age of machines, such as cotton pickers and others, would have replaced slaves. But money was the issue, and the South was rising in power in Congress. Slavery was a huge issue, and was used to tip the scale of sympathy. The North did not offer to provide for their well being by freeing them. They really didn't care, as long as the power was in their hands. And our government is the same today, power and control are the issues of the individuals and the group."

She then concluded, "I am an American, who appreciates all the sacrifices that the soldiers of our country have made and are making, even today. I salute the Confederate Flag, but I pledge allegiance to the American Flag. ... I will step off my soap box now. ... thank you for listening." DakotaCheyene told me, "I"m so glad you have come over and trying to make known the other side of the issue."

We discussed the Civil War roleplay for a while, then SadieIsabella had one more comment about the efforts to censor the Confederate flag, "If this proceeds and is successful, I wonder what doors will be opened next? When will it end, when there is no more history to preserve, and we are a conquered nation?"

The Civil War RP sim is in Dakota (240, 94, 28). So far, only human avatars can be active participants in the roleplays, but for the parties anyone who can fit through the door is welcome.

*note* Hamelt Au wrote about the issue again as I was writing this article. Apparently he has concluded Linden Lab is declining to intervene in the Confederate flag issue. He expressed disapointment, but some of those commenting disagreed, "Get a life, dude."

Bixyl Shuftan

1 comment:

  1. Yours truly was born in the Deep South and raised in Virginia, so the Confederate flag was just simply part of our life here when I was a child. There are certain "do"s and "don't"s about the flag, especially if you don't want to look like a redneck, but to remove it from sale from stores (and the idea of taking it down from SL Marketplace) strikes me as absurd.