Has the Trump 2020 flag become the next generation Confederate flag?
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Courtesy of FAMUNews.com
Dr. Nashid Madyun, director of the Meek Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum at Florida A&M University.
January 6, 2020, is an inflection point in American history. On January 5th, one could still make the argument, however disingenuous, that flying a Trump 2020 flag meant nothing beyond support for lower taxes and deregulation. But by nightfall the following day, after armed Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, chanting Where’s Nancy? and Hang Mike Pence! … after the Confederate battle flag was marched through the halls … after five people, including a Capitol Police officer, were killed … after American flags were torn down and Trump 2020 banners were strung up in victory … the Trump 2020 flag took on a new terrifying meaning.
As a symbol of insurrection, Black oppression and white supremacy, the Confederate flag’s message could not be clearer. But what gets communicated with the display of the Trump 2020 flag? Is there an equivalency? I talked with Dr. Nashid Madyun, director of the Meek Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Norine Dworkin: Dr. Madyun, seeing the mob, seeing the violence, then seeing that Reuters image of the Confederate flag parading across the second floor of Capitol, outside the Senate, I was stunned. You watched the riot along with the rest of the world. What went through your mind?
Nashid Madyun: The unfortunate part about that siege is that you had people who were passionate about what they felt was a stealing of an election. They believed in the propaganda they were fed, and they were very upset. Then you also had people who were taking advantage of the opportunity to stoke fear and return to racist propaganda and white supremacy beliefs.
Symbols take on a new meaning after action occurs, and when I saw the Confederate flag, the first thought that came to my mind was What’s going to happen tomorrow? The people who are fighting for one cause alongside people who are fighting for another cause, are they still going to fly these flags? If they continue to fly a Trump flag, they have to realize that now they’re supporting some type of tyrannical perspective and ideology, and they have to know people are going to look at them like that. We are in a new day for those symbols. If you decide to take up that banner, then you’re contributing to that propaganda. You are saying Not only do I accept the detrimental acts of those individuals associated with this icon, I am willing to promote it.
ND: In my community, people still had flags up after the election. After the Capitol riot, I expected, naively I guess, that those flags would immediately come down. I mean, who supports armed insurrection? And yet … those flags are still flying.
NM: Yes. They have to realize that now the Trump flag — it’s not the Trump-Pence flag because that’s still political — the Trump flag represents an ideology. Donald Trump is going to continue to push the ideology that he lost because it was a rigged election across specific states. As he sees lawsuits at the state and federal level and he sees his finances and revenue deplete because of business interests pulling out and not supporting his organization, then his best revenue stream will remain this political agenda.
ND: Trumpism is a direct descendant of the Lost Cause mythology this rewriting of history by the vanquished that obliterates what actually happened. This same whitewashing of history happens again in Germany after World War I with the dolchstosslegende the “stab-in-the-back” myth. This myth says that the Germans didn’t lose the war on the battlefield but were betrayed in the armistice by Socialist politicians, Communists and Jews, laying the foundation for the Holocaust and WWII. Something similar is taking shape here: spreading a giant lie to explain an election loss that Trump won’t accept. Are you concerned that the “Stolen Election” mythology might become ingrained in American culture the way the Lost Cause became part of American history?
NM: Trumpism is not going to go away. Right now any type of hatred ideology, any type of fear and dismay can be lumped under this banner of Something Was Taken From Me & I Believe This Cause. There’s going to be a long list of followers, and it’s going to be hard to wrangle this ideology back out of the American system, especially for the next four years because Trump has a war chest, and it’s going to continue to grow. He’s taking advantage of these fears and, quite honestly, the ignorance, because you have passionate people who are not informed.
ND: So we don’t know what’s going to happen because we are still in the middle of it?
NM: The fear is what is going on with the second impeachment. Nobody knows the extent and power that “Trump Media” has and what people who feel they’ve been taken advantage of will do. The people who’ve been taken advantage of have hundreds of millions of dollars and a network of people to support their cause. They have partisanship and they have power. So we don’t know how detrimental this could be in the next four to five years.
You have people who feel they lost the world’s Super Bowl. It’s going to be forever the hardest fought loss some people are going to absorb. For 20 to 30 years they will champion that, and at some point they’re going to tell their kids, Hey, Trump actually won and I believe America had an opportunity to be great again and everything that’s wrong with America is because two decades ago Trump had the election stolen from him. That’s how the Lost Cause was perpetuated, talking to the kids, generation after generation. We’re faced with that now if we can’t find a way to come up with a communication campaign of truth and reconciliation.