Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heritage or Hate?

This essay was written with my extended family in mind, but our family’s growing diversity and the issues related to that growth are not unique. The opening and closing statements are directed at our situation, but the essay can be shared by many.image_thumb


  • Our Heritage
  • What Does the Confederate Flag represent?
  • Who made the Confederate Flag a symbol of hatred after the Civil War?
  • Our True Heritage? One flag, representing all.
  • As a family, what do we do?

Email=designates a footnote/explanation
at the bottom of the page

Our Heritage:

As descendants of both Union and Confederate soldiers (Harbert Ezell)Email1 and Eli LiteralEmail2 (neighbors in southern Tennessee) we have a right to be proud of these ancestors for serving and protecting their families. In considering why they chose to enlist in either army we have little evidence of their personal struggle in making their decisions concerning the conflict.

Was it the stated political objectives of the politicians and slaveholders, or was it a simple-man's decision that saw themselves as duty bound to protect what little they had once the war started? There could be many reasons other than slavery or so called 'state rights' for choosing to fight, and many of those reasons where probably out of their control. Email3

  • In any war the motives of a government decision to go to war are seldom the reasons that citizens choose to serve in that war effort, and the motives of the public in supporting a war are seldom single-minded.
  • Governments and historians have the benefit of redefining motives, and identifying motives post-war that were inconsistent with their pre-war arguments.

The soldier patriot on the other hand is subject to the deceptions of their governments military and political motives, as well as their blatant disregard for the welfare of the citizen soldier.

cw-soldiers_thumb4In remembering our southern ancestors we are not obligated to endorse or celebrate an unjust cause, or even a single unjust act. We didn’t commit the act. It happened, but that doesn't mean we have to make the same mistake of supporting an unjust cause in the name of heritage.
We can acknowledge our ancestors by recognizing their call to duty and their fallibility, as well as the wrongful nature of some aspect of their life, and then putting their life in perspective.

Every family's closet contains skeletons. We can be proud of ancestors in spite of their bad or wrongful deeds. By putting the past in perspective, acknowledging the role of uncontrollable forces and human error we can take pride without feeling guilt, but we cannot condone the un-condonable for the sake of taking pride.
We should not take pride in wrongful acts for fear of feeling the guilt of our ancestors or their cause.

  • Many uninformed Americans do believe the flag represents their heritage, but they ignore the facts surrounding the flags history.
  • For many well informed and well intentioned Americans the Confederate Flag also represent their heritage. It is possible to feel this way without condoning slavery or white supremacy, but as well informed people they can only do so by ignoring the facts surrounding the flags history.

It is not people of color who have separated ‘heritage’ from the Confederate Flag. One hundred plus years of association with slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow, segregation, church fires and bombings, and lynching's is what did it. The appropriateness of the Confederate Flag as a symbol of southern heritage was doomed from the moment it was accepted by the Confederate legislature in their defining of its purpose… pro-slavery and white supremacy.

Of all the flags that represented states, regiments, and units in the Confederacy most are unrecognizable to the general public, including those claiming the issue is about heritage, which begs the question: what do they know of their heritage?

Our heritage is not the politics of that or this time. Our heritage is that (right or wrong) our ancestors answered the call of their neighbors and community and made a simple decision to stand with their neighbors against what was presented to them as an oppressive action... right or wrong.
Our heritage is contained in our hearts, our memories, our recollections and family stories. It is in the acceptance of those skeletons as having once been flesh and blood that belonged to fallible men. Men that made mistakes, but also made good, or at the very least continued a line of descendants that has made good since their time.

What Does the Confederate Flag represent?

What we refer to today as the Confederate Flag was never the National Flag of the Confederacy. It was the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee, a blue and white Saint Andrews Cross on a red field(The Southern Cross). As the war moved along the design was incorporated into the second and third National Flag of the Confederacy as well as some other state and unit battle flags. Its popularity was owed more to being the battle flag of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia than any other assigned stature.realcsaflag2_thumb3

After the Civil War the flag did take on a symbolism of the sacrifices of the southern soldier. Being displayed at funerals and parades, and had it just retained this role it might be argued that it was a sign of southern heritage, but its role in the southern cause was never just as a symbol of the fighting soldier.Email4

Who made the Confederate Flag a symbol of hatred after the Civil War?

Why is the only flag from the Civil War that is recognizable as a symbol of hate the ‘Confederate Flag’?

During the Civil War period the Confederate Constitution and the flags of the Confederacy were all created and designated as symbols, definers, and proclaimers of the pro slavery, pro white supremacy policy and practices of the Confederacy. From the beginning the flag was primarily about slavery and white-supremacy.                      SEE "The Confederate Flag or Old Glory"

cfhate_thumbFollowing the Civil War all one has to do to answer that question of who and why, is review the legislative action involving the flags of the Confederacy, the actions of white Americans, and the inaction of other white Americans over the last 150 years. If all else fails to convince you of the relationship between the Confederate Flag and racial and religious hatred then just look at the remarks being made and actions being promoted by many of the pro-Confederate Flag groups following the South Carolina Church shootings.

In spite of its own hypocrisy the KKK (and other hate groups) lay claim to being patriotic and Christian. Many supporters of the Confederate Flag make an attempt to justify the Confederate Flag as simply being about heritage by implementing an argument that desecrates the meaning and symbolism of the American Flag and the Christian Cross. Email5

There has always been, and will be, a historical place for the Confederate Flag, and until the last Confederate Soldier was laid to rest there was an occasional personal and civic function for it.

Our True Heritage? One flag, representing all.

As Americans we do not celebrate our patriotism by flying flags of the:

  • 13 colonies,
  • we don’t wave the flag that flew during the War of 1812(15 stars, 15 stripes,
  • the Spanish American War(44 stars, 13 stripes),
  • the first World War, the second World War and the Korean War(48 stars).

We by nature relegate those flags to the museums, reenactments, private homes, and special events specific to those times, but even then we still fly and wave the modern 50 states flag of America, the modern day Stars and Stripes.

On the other hand there is not now, nor will there be, a legal banning of personal ownership or private display of the Confederate Flag or any flag. You may choose to paint the flag on your car, embroider it on your jacket, etc. You have that right. You have the right to offend, if that is what’s important to you. It’s a free country, free for all of us. Including the right to speak out when offended.

As a family, what do we do?

As a family what do we do about the appropriate symbolism of the Confederate Flag. One of hatred or heritage. While I have made the argument that the flag is not an appropriate symbol of our family’s (nor anyone else's) heritage, and there is too much history to reduce the flag or the Civil War to a difference of opinion over ‘state rights, I am sure that there will still be some that disagree. So what do we do?

Option 1:

sabOne option might be to substitute the original Confederate Flag, the Stars and Bars, for the Southern Cross(Rebel Flag), or do some research and substitute your ancestors unit battle flag.
This option only removes the ‘visual’ symbol of hatred through substitution, there may still be some social stigma to the ideal of celebrating anything to do with the civil war and slavery. The key to substitution working is that everyone choosing this option take some responsibility for protecting it from the proponents of hate. Don’t let idiots who just want to offend change what it represents to you.
At the same time be informed enough about the issues, and your heritage, to put it in perspective. Differentiate your ancestors role in the war from assumptions about his motives, about a soldiers call to duty, and that your recognition of him is not meant as an endorsement of the civil war and oppression.

Option 2:

I suggest that we do what we do every year, and at every family event or get together, and that is that we compromise on the side of good manners and civil mindedness by maintaining an environment that strives to assure everyone is comfortable in attending.

Whenever we’ve gathered in the past:

  • …we relied on those among us who have such bad habits such as swearing, telling dirty jokes, and chewing with our mouths open to try and refrain from doing so.
  • …we relied on those among us who indulge in such activities as smoking weed, or doing drugs to not whip them out in front of our nephew and nieces.
  • …we relied on those among us who do not understand tattoos, piercings, hunting, or gambling to not offer-up rude condemnations.
  • …we relied on those among us who have different religions/denominations to not interrupt grace or denounce each other.

Now, I’m not saying that these subjects don’t come up, and I’m not saying that they cannot be discussed, as a matter of fact I have no problem openly discussing anything. What I’m saying is, like we always do, let’s do so in a timely and thoughtful way.

Most particularly, as we always do, let’s be considerate, not offensive.Email7 
That’s all we have to do, just extend the spirit of good behavior to this issue.

Our family has really become varied and diversified over the last few generations.

  • In a family that divorce was once unheard of it is now almost as common as in the general population.
  • Descendants of John and Kizzie have been raised as Catholic and various denominations of Protestant, as well as non-religious.
  • Descendants of John and Kizzie are Hispanic, Filipinos, English, Scotch, Irish, and African, across several branches.

Our heritage is not limited to our southern roots.

Our heritage is not contained in a symbol that was designed to represent oppression and superiority. A design that grew in popularity as it was further used, for over 150 years, in the continued promotion of oppression and hateful superiority.

by Glenn Littrell

Heritage or Hate?” is a 4-part series on the subject of the meaning and appropriateness of the Rebel Flag, the Southern Cross. The 4 parts are:

Click on any of these titles to read.


Email1 Eli Literal lived in the area of the Lawrence County, Tennessee and Lauderdale County, Alabama (border counties). Eli did not enlist early in the war, and when he did enlist he was at an age that he was unlikely to be conscripted. He served in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry and is believed to have died from illness at Tunnel Hill, Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign. 

Email2Harbert Ezell lived in the same area as Eli Literal, we know of no connection to each other other than records that indicate they were neighbors in the southernmost parts of Lawrence County and northern Lauderdale County. Harbert and a nephew Will Ezell, fought for the Union. Two other nephews enlisted with the Confederacy, Robert and Lem. Both were captured and held as POWs. Robert would be exchanged and return to fight for the Confederacy. Lem was not exchanged and eventually enlisted in the GDL-Second-Creek-Cem-12_thumb1Union Army and finished the war as a Union soldier. Harbert would live to see at least one of his descendants (my Grandmother Kizzie) marry the descendent of a Confederate.

Unionists in Southern and Border states: People loyal to the U.S. federal government and opposed to secession living in the border states (where slavery was legal in 1861) were termed Unionists. Confederates sometimes styled them "Homemade Yankees". However, Southern Unionists were not necessarily northern sympathizers and many of them, although opposing secession, supported the Confederacy once it was a fact. East Tennessee never supported the Confederacy, and Unionists there became powerful state leaders, including governors Andrew Johnson and William G. Brownlow. Likewise, large pockets of eastern Kentucky were Unionist and helped keep the state from seceding. Western Virginia, with few slaves and some industry, was so strongly Unionist that it broke away and formed the new state of West Virginia.
Still, nearly 120,000 Unionists from the South served in the Union Army during the Civil War and Unionist regiments were raised from most Confederate states.

Email3   Motivations of soldiers:  The great majority of young white men voluntarily joined Confederate national or state military units…  …historians are of two minds on why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer and die over four years:

"Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, or state rights, or about the need to protect or to destroy slavery. Others point to less overtly political reasons to fight, such as the defense of one's home and family, or the honor and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men. Most historians agree that, no matter what he thought about when he went into the war, the experience of combat affected him profoundly and sometimes affected his reasons for continuing to fight." Michael Perman and Amy Murrell Taylor, eds. (2010). Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Cengage. p. 178.


  1. Following the Civil War the flag also came to represent a longing for a resurrection of the rebellion. It also came to represent a resentment and contempt for the northern ‘invaders’ and the ineffectiveness and corruption of the southern rebuilding effort.
  2. In time as southerners managed to regain their political power and wealth they began to face opposition to a return to the oppressive southern ways, in particular Jim Crow laws, segregation, and eventually the cyclical rise and fall of the KKK. While the KKK also gained popularity in the north there were three constants in their practice of hatred of any groups other than themselves.
    Those three constants were: the American Flag, the Confederate Flag, and the Fiery (Burning) Cross.

Email5The American flag flew over slavery for over 80 years before the Confederate Flag and therefore the American Flag should be seen as pro-slavery and pro-white supremacy. They make a similar argument for the burning cross.
The problem with these argumenta are two-fold:

  1. The American Flag never flew over a country unified in favor of slavery. Since the writing of the Declaration of Independence it had been a divisive issue.
  2. If you accept their argument then you accept the argument that the Confederate Flag is the same. You have not defended the Confederate Flag, you have only indicted the American Flag and Christian Cross as co-conspirators. Thus the desecration of the American Flag and the Christian Cross, in favor of the Confederate Flag.

Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina told Christian Examiner the Klan rationale for cross burnings is "blasphemous."

"It is blasphemous for the Ku Klux Klan to seek to wrap its white supremacist beliefs in the glory of the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ is the antithesis of everything for which the Ku Klux Klan has stood and now stands. In a just world, Christianity could sue the Klan for libel and defamation for seeking to appropriate the cross of Christ which symbolizes his sacrificial love for everyone, red and yellow, black and white, as a symbol for their racist and odious beliefs and practices," Land said.

While Land believes the Confederate flag should be relegated to museums because of the pain it causes African-Americans, he also believes groups like the Loyal White Knights are partially responsible for the current movement to remove the very flag they seek to protect from public property. Land told Christian Examiner, "The white supremacists and the Klan bear more responsibility than anyone for the movement to remove the Confederate battle flag from public places by the ways in which they have besmirched and sullied it by seeking to wrap their odious beliefs in its folds."

Email6   see “Why the uproar?”          
UPDATED: 8-25-15, Some sections edited out of “Heritage or Hate” to create “Why the Uproar”

Email7 see “Why the uproar?”
UPDATED: 8-25-15, Some sections edited out of “Heritage or Hate” to create “Why the Uproar”

We should be more considerate of each other, not just towards family, but our neighbors and our fellow citizens. Every major religion, and every major figure who preached peace, spoke of the same obligations of mankind. Of these one of the most consistent and important were summed up in the concept that we are to love one another. To show compassion, consideration, obligation, acceptance and responsibility for one another. The urge to offend, ignore and neglect each other can not be described as a desirable trait.


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