We are progressive Americans. We move forward. We build new technology to propel us into the future. We move fast. We are smart. Educated. We are always discovering better and more wonderful things to improve upon our lives…
At some point, we fell in a hole and landed back in the 1960s when the nation was ripe with racial tension and bubbling with anger and strife. Over a flag.
Why, yes, indeed. How silly.
But it isn't just about a flag. Anytime the average American is pushed to change and progress in the form of general acceptance of their peers, there is a good deal of backlash. Maybe it's because we do not look at these people as our peers? Are they less than we are? Do they work as hard? Have they earned anything?
Maybe you've witnessed the anger and disgust on social media as I have? There are a lot of memes complaining that we are too easily offended and that many of us (this would be directed as me, because I am somehow a liberal) need to stop whining about every single thing. Stop worrying about southern heritage and worry about what the government is really doing. Stop being a bleeding heart liberal, Gia.
You know what, friends, don’t tell me. I will speak up loud like a lion, offended or other wise. And for good reason. I am not going to play this game. I am not going to be silent and naive as we fail to learn from our past. I will call this nation out on our hogwash and double standards. Offended? No, I’m not. Disgusted, yes. I will never stand behind injustice. In our desire to cling to our “rights” we end up playing a tired old, ancient hand of card like our ancestors before us. We are not learning. We are not growing. We are stuck in the same nasty mud they fought and bled in…
In 1962, our nation prepped for the 100 year anniversary of the start of the Civil War. In South Carolina, the celebration meant resurrecting the Confederate flag--a flag that had not been seen much since the close of the war. Some believe it was a cheeky reminder to the present day federal government not to tread on state's rights one's more. Tensions were once again rising as President John F. Kennedy began to call for desegregation of black and whites in all public schools. A new war was unfurling across the nation. As the fight for civil rights began, the flag went up and stayed up. How sad it remained until 2015 when tensions once again arose in the fight for civil rights and equality of a different kind boiled to overflowing; it remained until nine African Americans were shot and killed inside their church. In that moment, a new generation of young people spoke up in the middle of a new civil rights movement that has been simmering across the nation. It's a movement that continues to shed light on racial injustice and the demeaning way in which we treat homosexuals and transgender people. In 2015, we still refuse to believe that all men (and women) are created equal.
There is no denying that as a nation, when it comes to how we view one another, there is no equality. We have failed. Because we have failed for so long, being "offended" and "whiney" is worth it. Some people need to cry out for change and speak the truth. Some people need to fight for the equality that we refuse to give. Some people need to question our "rights" and become extremely unpopular in the social network worlds...
Because we are failing.
We are ugly people.
We are not growing.
We are creating a heritage of strife to pass to our children.
Don't believe me?
As a photographer, I find great power in photographs. Here are some photos that speak a good deal of truth:
The 2015 Time Machine
Now, in the year 2015:
This is not southern heritage or equal rights. This is a stain in our nation's history that we refuse to cleanse ourselves of. We are not an accepting nation that loves and embraces change or freedom unless it fits our individual definition of freedom. But we don't get to pick and choose who is allowed freedom, equal rights and fair justice. We do not get to cling to emblems of great bloodshed and refuse to acknowledge what the emblem truly means. We do not get to do these things and be called free Americans. Why? Because I will speak up...and so will others. The tension will continue to rise until it nearly suffocates us and forces us to begin to look at ourselves. Do we like what we see? Is it attractive? Is it good? Does it make us proud?
We can change. In fifty years--in one hundred years--let's hope we can see the change and not just modern interpretation of our past.
PS: To my friends who may tell me it was a government led distraction--all of it from the flag to gay marriage--I would respond with, I care little about the government strings that may or may not have orchestrated these issues. I care about the conditions of our hearts. And they stink.