Washington, DC, witnessed violent incidents and chaos on Wednesday, January 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, which houses the halls of Congress with its two chambers of representatives and senators. That was when the council convened to ratify the presidential election result, which confirmed the victory of US President-elect Joe Biden. The events took place after a speech and successive tweets by outgoing President Donald Trump urging his supporters to stick to his alleged victory. These rebels vandalized the property of some congressional offices, including the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and hours after the events, Trump was forced to plead with his supporters to return to their homes in fear for their lives. In the midst of these events, a picture taken by a Reuters photographer of a man carrying the US separatist Confederation flag and walking it through the halls of Congress spread. About this particular photo, journalist Clint Smith prepared an analytical piece, published by the “Atlantic” magazine, in which he analyzes what this image represents and what it tells us about the history and present of the United States.
As the rebels stormed the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, a man in a brown jacket and under a black shirt was strolling through the halls of Congress, carrying the Confederate battle flag over his shoulder. The photo, taken by Reuters photographer Mike Theiler, of this man stepping with the flag, which appears illuminated by the bright light from the pathway to the left of him. Immediately above it is a plaque of Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts Senator who has championed the abolition of slavery.
Sumner was attacked on May 22, 1856 by Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery attorney in South Carolina. It was due to a speech by Sumner criticizing the masters of slave owners, including a relative of Brooks, Andrew Butler, a senator from South Carolina. Brooks attacked Sumner on the Senate floor, and Brooks said, “Mr. Sumner, I have read your letter carefully twice. It’s defaming South Carolina and Mister Butler who is one of my relatives.” Before Sumner could complete his response, Brooks demanded to hit him on the head with the golden end of his thick stick that he was leaning on, and besieged Sumner under his desk as he tried to escape, until two deputies intervened and freed Sumner and pushed him out of the hall. Sumner did not return to the Senate for three years, and lived the rest of his life in constant pain and exhaustion.
Behind the man in a photo last Wednesday appeared a self-portrait of John C. Calhoun, partly obscured by the flag. Calhoun, a senator from South Calorina and vice president in the states of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, wrote in 1837: “I believe that civilization is in its present state, as two races of different origins and distinct colors are united and have other material and intellectual differences, the relationship between them now in the states The masters, the slave-owners, did not become an evil relationship but a good relationship, positively good.
The fact that this photo was taken the day after the electorate in Georgia chose a black person and another Jew for the first time in the state’s history to serve in the Senate, and it is a picture that shows a man next to a self-portrait of a vice president who encouraged the country to preserve human slavery, and another self-portrait of a senator who nearly died beating Due to anti-slavery, and the fact that it depicts a man walking with a Confederate flag while a mob of rebels bypassed security forces, broke windows, vandalized offices, stole property and wandered into Congress halls for hours, forcing the Senators and Representatives to go into hiding and suspending the ratification session on the election result. It is hard to believe that so much of our historical legacy and our present present can come together in one such image.
This image embodied the difference between the reality we had always claimed and what we have actually become. The image embodied this gap between our founding promises and our now-realistic reality. The man’s flag, which we all associate with separatism, was not the first to fly in the skies of the Confederate States of America.
In 1861, after the election of Abraham Lincoln, southern states began to secede from the union in order to consolidate the foundations of human slavery. Mississippi said in its secession treaty: “Our position is entirely based on the institution of slavery, the greatest material benefit to the world.”
That year, a competition was called to create designs for the new National Confederation flag. The winning design was known as “Stars and Ribbons,” which had three horizontal stripes, two in red and one in white, and a blue square with a circle of white stars in the top left corner. Thus, the similarity between this flag and the American flag becomes clear, which may not be surprising, given that many of the Confederate military leaders had previously served in the US Army. But in other ways, this similarity may seem strange. The National Flag Committee of the Confederate States of America wrote in announcing the winning design: “The flag must be simple, easy to manufacture, and be printable on banner fabrics, and it must be different from the flag of any other state or other place or group of people. It is expressive, and can be recognized from a distance, and its colors must be variable and constant, and finally, a point that is not the least important, for the flag to be impressive and impressive.
In fact, the stars and stripes were not recognized from a distance and were not separated from the American flag, which would be problematic on the battlefield. On July 21, 1861, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Washington, DC, the first Battle of Bull Run took place between Confederate and Union soldiers. The Confederacy won, which would not have happened had it not been for the tactical confusion and constriction, as some Confederate soldiers wore blue uniforms instead of gray, while some Union soldiers wore gray rather than blue. When the soldiers and officers of the two teams wandered into the battlefield filled with smoke, blood and corpses, they could not easily differentiate the two flags.
After that battle, the Confederate General called for me. G. T. Bergard with a new flag to avoid such a dangerous confusion, and in November 1861 flags of new separatist battles began to appear. There were several iterations of the design, but the most common version featured 13 stars (11 stars representing the breakaway states plus Missouri and Kentucky) inside a white diagonal cross, all set against a red background. In 1863, this design was placed in the upper part to the right of another larger, white flag that became the first official national flag of the Confederacy and was known as the “Stainless Steel Banner”. However, this version of the flag has been criticized because it resembled too much a white surrender banner.
Over the past 150 years, the design of the Confederate battlefield flag has become closely linked to the story of the secession itself, as the symbolism of the flag and the issue of those who fought under its banner cannot be separated, nor can it be separated from the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, who wrote in his disgraceful speech entitled “Stone Speech Zawiya: “The direct cause of the previous rupture and the current revolution upon which the Confederacy was founded, is the clear fact that a Negro is not equal to a white man.”
As I looked at the picture on Wednesday, I thought about the expansion and development of the meanings represented by the flag, how this science became a defining feature of the Ku Klux Klan marches, and how whites were brandishing it to intimidate black children during the application of the court order to integrate them into schools with whites, and how That this flag was part of the flags of states whose lawmakers worked relentlessly to deny black citizens their rights. And now this flag will forever be linked to the insurgency at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, whenever the nation witnesses a new recurrence of white fanatic violence, instigated by a troubled and cowardly president.
During the Civil War itself, the Confederate army never reached the Capitol. And he never, as far as I know, fluttered inside the halls of Congress until last Wednesday, the day a man wandered through the halls of government carrying a flag expressing a group of people who broke away from the United States and fought against it, and it is possible that he then left bearing much of this country’s history. With him.
This article is translated from The Atlantic and does not necessarily represent the Meydan website.