Stars 'n Bars 'n Hammer 'n Sickle

by digby

A reader wrote in to respond to my post yesterday about the confederate flag and Christianity and anti-communism and schooled me a little bit on the long history of it's use in that regard.

It's really good so I thought I'd share it with you:

When I was growing up in the south in the 1960s, the confederate flag was used as a symbol of the forces fighting three perceived threats to civilization: communism, atheism, and race-mixing. These three boogie men were seen as an inseparable triad of evil; cords braided to make the rope that would be used to hang white, Christian America. In particular, I remember a billboard outside Smithfield, North Carolina on Highway 301, which spanned a gap in the then yet to be completed I-95. This sign depicted a robed and hooded clansman mounted on a horse before a burning cross. The text proclaimed, "The Klan welcomes you to Smithfield. Help fight communism and integration." I mentioned the location of the sign with respect to the highway system, as it was no doubt intentionally located to be seen by Jews from the north on the way to their Florida vacations. In addition to white supremacy and foaming at the mouth anti-communism, the reactionary forces of the south were also dyed-in-the-wool anti-semites.

The old line southern conservatives perceived any progressive movement that opposed segregation or unfettered capitalism as a fifth column dispacted from and controlled by the Kremlin. I remember my childhood opthamologist, Dr. Lloyd Bailey, had pamphlets in his office denouncing the nascent environmental movement as a communist effort, along with the trade unions, birth control advocates, and everything else this side of proponents of walking upright. If that name seems vaguely familiar, it's because Dr. Bailey truly had 15 minutes of fame as an elector appointed to the Electoral College of 1968. While Nixon had easily carried the state, Dr. Bailey exercised his privilege as an elector to disregard the popular sentiment and cast his vote instead for George Wallace, whom he thought more capable of saving the nation from the perils of the civl rights and antiwar movements. Dr. Bailey unintentionally provided the valuable service of being an object lesson in the anti-democratic nature of that institution.

To us southerners who lived through the 1960s, the ole stars and bars serving as a symbol of the self-proclaimed protectors of "democracy" and "christianity" from the red (and black) peril is an old, familiar story. Oh, and another particular aspect of that old southern bigotry was that the term "Christian" excluded Catholics, who could not be trusted because of their fealty and obedience to Rome, a foreign, and thus suspect, influence. It was quite a feat of cognitive dissonance to lump Jews and Catholics in with the godless Communists, as the right wing in Europe had only managed to lump together the first two as the common subject of their conspiracy theories. Of course, Mitt Romney's difficulties with southern conservatives is yet another product of the prescribed limits of acceptable Christian observance, which ranges from straight-laced Calvinism to wop-bop-a-loopa fundamentalism.

Plus ca change....

So, there's actually nothing new in using the rebel flag as a symbol of all that is pure and good and non-commie. It's a tradition.