In this season of flag waving, it must be hard to be in Mississippi. The decision to remove the Confederate symbol from the state flag last week, the last state flag to bear that design, was brave and right. It signals new independence for Mississippians, new freedom from the burden of the region’s belligerent history defending a form of agriculture built on robbing rural people from another continent of their independence. But to some it must feel like a loss of independence, a stripping of rights to feel proud.
“They’re changing everything,” a Southerner lamented, caught on radio. I want to say “no, they’re just changing whatever they can before the window slams shut again and y’all go back to limiting their every move.” Four years ago the Mississippi legislature soundly defeated a bill to remove this symbol from their flag. Four years from now, will things have really changed?
“We’ve been living under this sign of slavery all our lives,” a Black Mississippian said on the same radio program. Despite having celebrated 155 years of freedom on Juneteenth of this year, it’s clear that emancipation from slavery didn’t relieve most black people from living in dependence upon an economic system that has made them pay, over and over, for being landless and poor. The current discussions about the need for reparations, and what those might look like, are one avenue toward seeing that things are better four years from now, not worse or the same.
But Blacks are not the only ones who have lived in a state of dependence since they were brought to this country against their will. Native Americans, once free, were brought to their knees whenever the wall of white people moving west entered their territories. Most of their descendants now live in a state of dependence upon the federal government (self-appointed “guardians”) and the willingness of people beyond the boundaries of their “reserved” lands to not encroach further.
Need I mention women and children?
To live in a state of dependence is to live in a condition of inequality, of constraint. Those on the topside of the relationship may not be able to see the constraints they place on others; their culture blinders them to the inequality imposed, the expectations involved. The independence they gain by having others do their dirty work, their menial labor, their bidding, may seem like it’s available to anybody. Let freedom ring.
But a system dependent upon making others pay for your freedom is not independence. It’s another form of slavery, enslaving one’s conscience to social mores, enslaving one’s humanity to inhumane ideas and effects. Here’s one example.
Two decades ago my father was approached by a slightly bedraggled man at a gas station. The man asked him for 75 cents for gas to get to a job. My father said no in response to his belief that his hard-earned money was for him, and that people who wanted money needed to work hard for it. Later, when he told me this story, his face contorted, tears came to his eyes, and he said “What would it have hurt me to give him three quarters?” He spent the rest of his life struggling to free himself from this mental hardhat.
We all live in dependence upon a system that believes this rubbish. We don’t see that the independence we truly have in this country comes from our great natural wealth and the ability and commitment we once had to see that it is available to all, the real level playing field. In the values we hoped to establish when we declared our independence from Britain in 1776 – the true flag waving we do every year at this time – we could find our freedom. Let’s begin again.
Trudy Wischemann is a patriot who writes. You can send her your dreams of freedom c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.