george floyd protests

The Army Is Finally Taking the Names of Traitors Off of Its Bases

Grant’s Grand Army of the Republic finally vindicated. Photo: Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

If the protests over George Floyd’s killing don’t produce anything else of note, they are already pushing across the line a movement that’s been in the making for 155 years: the final subjugation of the Confederate States of America by the Union forces that fought them in the Civil War via the elimination of the names and symbols of the traitorous racist rebellion from U.S. military installations.

Politico broke the news:

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is now “open” to renaming the service’s ten bases and facilities that are named after Confederate leaders, an Army spokesperson told Politico, in a reversal of the service’s previous position.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper also supports the discussion, the spokesperson said.

The recent uproar over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police drove McCarthy’s reversal, one Army official said.

The events of the past two weeks “made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public,” the official said.

It’s about damn time.

The practice of naming U.S. military facilities after Confederate leaders like Henry Benning, John Bell Hood, George Pickett, and John Brown Gordon was part and parcel of the post-Reconstruction “reconciliation” campaign that regarded the bloody rebellion as “the war between the states,” a morally neutral struggle between honorable men with different views of constitutional law. Treating U.S. military facilities as sharing a joint Union-Confederate legacy was a graphic way to symbolize this reconciliation — and the abandonment of former slaves to white terrorism and Jim Crow that accompanied it — and bond the former rebels to their once and future country.

Like the slogan that Democrats promoted during and after the Civil War — “the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is” — the idea was to celebrate restoration of the Union on the basis of just one condition: the formal abolition of slavery. That the South would be free to reduce African-Americans to a condition barely separated from slavery was the implication.

So ridding U.S. military facilities of these remnants of the Confederacy reverses a disgraceful betrayal of the cause for which hundreds of thousands of Americans died. And the Army isn’t moving alone, as The Hill reports:

The Navy is planning to ban Confederate flags from being displayed on any of its installations, in a move that comes after protests swept the nation following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. 

Admiral Michael M. Gilday said in a statement on Tuesday that he directed his staff to begin crafting an order that bans the flag from “all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft and submarines.”

The announcement comes just days after the U.S. Marines said that it would begin removing all public displays of the Confederate flag on its military bases. In a news release, the Marines said that all depictions of the Confederate flag, including bumper stickers, clothing and posters, would be barred from its installations. 

On the other side of the historic barricades, the George Floyd protests are also having an effect, as Mississippi, the last state to deploy the Confederate insignia on its flag, lurches erratically toward doing the right thing, as the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports:

As protesters and public officials in cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, take down Confederate memorials, Mississippi’s flag is once more being reexamined by residents young and old, Democrat and Republican, black and white. Google searches for “Mississippi flag” have surged over the past week.

Republican Andy Taggart, who lost a close race for Attorney General in 2019, has renewed his call for the flag to be changed. Mike Espy, the Democratic nominee for Mississippi’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, has called for it to be changed and was at Saturday’s protest in Jackson. Mississippi actress Aunjanue Ellis made a video addressed to Elee Reeves, wife of Gov. Tate Reeves, asking her to push for the flag’s removal.

It’s going to happen, perhaps sooner rather than later, as it’s finally being comprehended that Confederate symbols are with rare exceptions not just “historical memorials,” but central to a post-Civil War movement — which actually reached its peak as Jim Crow finally began to fall in the mid-20th century — to raise the rebel flag again in the same old cause of white supremacy. While the measures underway right now can be interpreted as the final defeat of the Confederacy, they also represent the end of a Neo-Confederate movement that sought to deny the United States the fruits of its great victory over the brutalization of one portion of the southern population by another.

Finally, the Army Will Take Confederate Names Off of Bases