Our Civil War never ends. It’s not even intermission
Sometimes I think that maybe the Civil War is over. But then something comes along to remind me how, in many minds, the war never really ended. Once it was fought with swords, now it’s with symbols.
Conflicts break out over flags, movies, statues, stock car races and the names of military bases. The good guys still appear to be winning, as far as I can tell, but not without some effort.
Among the latest battlefronts is the new HBO Max streaming service, which is hitting the pause button on plans to include “Gone With the Wind” in its rotation of movies. That announcement happened to come a day after the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed by John Ridley, a director, novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter, requesting the move.
Ridley’s complaints were the usual ones I’ve heard and even expressed myself from time to time. The classic multiple Oscar-winning 1939 plantation potboiler depicts a jolly, noble, romanticized version of slavery in the Old South, and none of its horrors. It props up the noble “lost cause” version of secession, which was fundamentally about the perpetuation of slavery, and props up the “heritage, not hate" defense of such iconography as the Confederate battle flag.
HBO Max plans to show the movie, preceded by explanatory information to put it into “historical context.” And you thought it was long before!
Speaking of the battle flag, NASCAR announced last Wednesday that it was banning that distinctive flag from all its events, a move that Bubba Wallace, the only African American full-time driver in NASCAR’s top-flight racing series, compared to a checkered flag as a personal “win.”
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” he said on CNN. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
His outspokenness didn’t end there. Amid ongoing national and worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man under a white police officer’s knee, Wallace wore a shirt that read, “I Can’t Breathe/Black Lives Matter” for that afternoon’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway — and had the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter painted on his car.
Since NASCAR is known to be more Trump Country than coastal-elite, that was a pretty bold move.
Yet it also seemed fitting with the times in which tens of thousands of mostly nonviolent protesters were taking to the streets out of rage over Floyd’s death.