You get results. After the Charleston church shooting, almost all of the coverage was about racism. White, American racism. The kind of racism that grandma used to bake. And it wasn't just for a few days. It was weeks. Months later, we still had lead stories about the shooting. And for weeks after the shooting, a veritable witch hunt ensued as everything from Confederate flags on state property to Confederate symbols in Civil War museums were pulled down and buried. That's because the one thing we all knew about the shooter, because it was the one thing that was discussed about the shooter, was that he had a photo of himself holding a Confederate Flag.
So the emphasis was racism, race, American racism, America's racist past, white racists, current racism, Conservatives, and of course racism. And the result? This week during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual answer to an ecumenical council, it voted to request that member churches no longer fly the Confederate flag.
OK, I don't care. As a history student, teacher, and amateur historian in my own right, I never paid much attention to the Civil War. In my lifetime, the Civil War narrative has shifted. As a youth, the North was still the good guy because we fought the slave owners. By later elementary and through college, it turned out the North didn't give a damn about slavery. It was about the Federal Government and State's Rights. The important lesson being that all of America was a racist nation and didn't care about slavery one way or another, except to support it.
In the 90s, however, that began to shift again. After all, if the key issue of the war was about State's Rights, then perhaps the Confederacy wasn't so bad after all. Why single it out? The South had good points too. Read some popular Civil War books of the time or watch some 80s mini-series for some spins on that. So in the last decade or so, the shift has swung again to the war being all about Slavery, though enough emphasis was on America's universal racism that this hasn't helped the North. Because of that, I expect us to do a de-Stalinization on the South and probably won't see much Dixie or General Lee in my grandchildren's future.
Personally that doesn't bother me as much as the realization that it won't stop there. You'd have to be a fool to think it will stop with banning the Confederate Flag, or destroying Civil War monuments, or eradicating Jackson from currency. If you think it will stop there, then I have a bridge to sell you.
What gets me is the effectiveness of it. Why is the flag gone? Why are the nuances of history falling along the wayside, and formerly respected figures like Robert E. Lee or the positive elements of southern culture being swallowed up by our modern crusades of righteousness? Easy. They are the bad guys. They are the enemies. There was no discussion or debate after Charleston. Nobody dared say 'maybe it's not all about race', or 'maybe racism shouldn't define America', or 'maybe the South wasn't all that bad.' The few who tried were skinned. It was all racist, and all it did was racist and race and racism and things. America, its racist past, and all who defend its racist past might as well have crammed into the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and opened fire in unison. All were guilty. And half of the population of America was more than happy to accept the blame. That's what happens when you identify an enemy, emphasize the evil of the enemy, and make it clear you will stop at nothing until you eliminate the enemy.
Now, after the Orlando shooting? So far we have American conservative homophobes as the presumptive enemies to be defeated. Islam and Islamic terrorism? Eh, not so much. So following the ages old practice of knowing your enemy in order to destroy your enemy, who do you think will be most affected by the shootings over the next year or so? Muslims or even Islamic terrorists? Or Conservative American Christians? You decide. I know I have my hunches.