More Words about the Flag

It is a headline bound to get attention: “Neanderthal hybrid suggests humans bred with them much later than thought.”

“…modern humans and Neanderthals may have interbreeding in Europe as recently as 40,000 years ago.”

I didn’t know had been around that long.

In the body of the article. which comes from a study published in Nature, is an even more interesting sentence:

“Scientists are certain that our modern human ancestors interbred with Neanderthals suggesting that the species didn’t go extinct so much as blend in.”

So, when I go to a coffee shop or the mall, what should I watch for to identify a Neanderthal? Are they recognizable or have they blended in perfectly? Other than snarky remarks by some of the female persuasion, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one—a Neanderthal which means they have done a great job blending.

Do they have a secret handshake or a way of lifting an eyebrow to identify themselves to others in their tribe?

Genesis 6:1-4 may reference this.

All I know is that I don’t want to act like one or sound like one.

Driven by that fear I haven’t written anything about the social battles although I have done some research and lots of thinking and inner-family talking, I enter the fray.

I love South Carolina. My favorite restaurant in the world is a place called The Lizard’s Thicket in Columbia. They serve 17 kinds of veggies. Lots of stories are tucked away in the Benton Memory file that happened in South Carolina—99.7% of them good

I have never owned a Confederate flag in any shape or sewn on a ball cap or shirt. It has no emotional connection with me. We do feel attachment to South Carolinians in the Low Country and Upstate who do have an attachment to the Stars and Bars. About 2 miles from our house—not even on the south side of town—a Confederate flag is clearly visible. It is to make a statement! The statement is different than most of the people I have met. To some the flag is an expression of pride in their region and a life that was more genteel than gross. It is not an expression of racial hatred or refighting of the Civil War. (I have met people who talk about “the war” and I was stunned to learn which war they were talking about.)

I love the columns, the fences, the porches, sweet tea and everything beautiful about the South. I have never had to deal with the ugly parts or even seriously consider what went on—goes on—behind the “genteel.” I’m a kin of Scarlett O’Hara and her way to thinking. I love the plantations in my fantasy and deplore the select real plantations where brutality and sexual abuse was rampant.

I have this feeling that good people in South Carolina are figuring out the right thing to do with the flag with its various meanings and heritage. They don’t need a bunch of Yankees telling them what to do or to offer them moral guidance as if the people whose boots are on their own sacred ground can’t figure it out themselves. They are offended by “outsiders.”

One of my former parishioners has a passion for Civil War Reenactments. His home is close to Rock Island, Illinois. If you know Civil War history, you know that location was a terrible spot. My friend sees all this discussion as an attack on heritage and a precursor to the attack on the United States flag and regional shaming.

My thinking about the Confederate Flag’s questionable meaning and locations took focus when Pastor Steven Furtick, a South Carolina native, asked why a Christian would display a flag if it caused others so much pain. He has biblical authority for that as Paul talks about not doing the controversial if it causes a brother to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8) My Civil War history friend counters by saying to Walmart, which took the flag off the shelf because it offends some, that Walmart (and others) should then, using the same rationale, take Bibles off the shelves because they are offensive to some. Pork should come out of the stores for it offends Muslims and Jews. Offensive sexually-oriented materials should not be sold. You know the sexually-oriented books are not going away! Being offensive is trumped by First Amendment Rights in the sexual realm.

As we were discussing this in the relative calm of our living room, where the liberals among us (who surely were picked up at the pound when days old and adopted into the family) said “no discussion—just get rid of it!” I wondered what symbol carried as much emotional weight for Iowans. I couldn’t think of anything. I also was alert to how complex the discussion will become when “outsiders” start insisting we abandon or surrender a practice or symbol that we treasure.

So that is how Neanderthals are recognized. Whether we are stating our opinions about same-sex marriage or a cloth symbol or a picture of that symbol, if we are “on the wrong side of history,” we are being recognized as Neanderthal in our thinking and so named.

This issue has become viciously politicized. Not many weeks ago, we watched as gangs and mobs burned the flag of the USA—Stars and Stripes, not Stars and Bars. I don’t recall a comparable passion to do something about that. Removing any symbol that has become a synonym for hate is appropriate, but nothing has really been or will be changed. The Confederate Flag did not cause the murders in Charleston, nor will its absence from store shelves, or flag poles keep such things from happening again.

I’m left with the question about anti-racism and counter-hatred. What would the behavior and mind-set/worldview be that would “blend in” and surreptitiously change a culture? The best answer I have heard in this discussion has come through testimonies of people whose hearts have been changed through instant transformation in some and for others a longer, but just as radical, when Jesus Christ came into their hearts.  Blending in to become a change agent.

Really wondering about this!

©2015 D. Dean Benton

Writer, Wonderer

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