Lost in the Confederate flag flap is the simple fact that Dean is ahead of his time when it comes to liberals' attitudes towards the South. Dean's statements implicitly endorsed the idea that the Confederate flag is a symbol of culture, outside the context of racism, to many in the South. Most liberal critics (and even many Dean supporters) have argued that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol - this largely misses the point.

People flying the Confederate flag AS a racist flag are indeed, racists. But that's not the symbolism intended by most confederate flag wavers. An example by analogy: To many muslims, the American flag is a symbol of oppression, colonialism, dictatorship, abuse, etc. But that doesnt deter me from flying it with pride. This is because the same symbol can come to mean different things to different people. Symbols are by definition contextual.

Remember that while the Civil War was indeed about slavery (Southern high school teachings about the War of Northern Aggression aside), the sum total of Southern culture was much vaster than the single issue of keeping slaves. Dixie is a real culture and a real heritage, of which slavery is a black stain upon. But the stain does not define the dress (ahem).

Any intellectually honest liberal MUST respect the fact that Southerners love and are proud of their heritage *as a whole* - and understand that for Southerners, the vast majority treat the question of "is racism bad" as a resounding DUH. And are rightfully as offended by the implication of being asked explicitly as we are when accused of hating America because we dissent.

As an aside, I make NO such arguments in favor of the swastika as a cultural symbol. The swastika has no social value to German culture, it represents nothing but a single evil. Whatever symbolism the swastika possessed prior to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany has been obliterated for all time by the magnitude of that evil. You can tell an intellectually dishonest Southerner, in fact, by asking them if their support for teh Stars and Bars is like a modern-day German's support for the swastika. If they answer yes, you have a bona-fide racist ass on your hands. The only correct answer is no.

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