My Opinion: These Guys Are Wrong

Will wonders never cease? Rob Kailey, Mark Tokarski, Craig Moore and liz (aka William Skink) all agree: worrying about symbols is a waste of time.

Symbols are powerful: the swastika, hammer and sickle, crescent and star, stars and bars, stars and stripes … people have shed blood over them. Yet, according to this foursome, we need to overlook these symbols for the deeper, underlying causes.

And Democrats that are concerned about them are guilty of “optical illusion.” Folks that rail against the Confederate flag or a Confederate fountain have shallow motives and ignore the “institutional racism” that plagues our country.

Yes, institutional racism exists today in America. Yes, there was plenty of racism in the North before, during and after the Civil War. There is much work yet to be done. But I don’t believe that precludes people from opposing the symbols tied to slavery.

Skink, of course, holds the Democrats in contempt, particularly President Barack Obama (our country’s first African-American President):

Obama chose to protect the Wall Street perpetrators of a subprime loan system that was overtly racist … While the optics of Obama eulogizing one of the nine dead black victims of the Charleston massacre may be nice to see, on the surface, beneath the surface structural racism persists, while opportunities to make substantive changes have been squandered by the Obama regime.

To accuse Obama of institutional racism holds no logic. There may be other factors in play for Obama’s Wall Street choices, but racism? No President has spoken more eloquently against it than Obama.

Then there’s Tokarski, who takes the Ronald Reagan approach: “You cannot do for others what they must do for themselves.” Pull yourselves up by the bootstraps! He continues: “And it would not hurt to read the Southern side of that war, as the version we read these days has been Spielberged, or turned to sloppy sentimentality.” Read a Texas history textbook lately, Mark? They’ve got that “Southern side of the war” covered.

Moore says: “The southern colonies had developed culturally different from the North long before the Civil War.” Well, yes, if you want to call slavery “culturally different.” I realize that slavery existed in the North but by 1804 all Northern states had voted to abolish the institution of slavery within their borders. That’s nearly 60 years before the Civil War.

He also blames tariffs and state’s rights as the culprits.  But I ask again, if not for slavery would there have been a Civil War?

Kailey, as a metaphor, points to the Big Hole “Battlefield” as an example of a name that we happily keep on the record books. He is correct that it wasn’t a battle, it was a massacre, but he then goes on to say: “The visitor’s center makes that quite clear … ” Isn’t that what many Helena citizens want; clarification, not admiration, of the Confederacy? He’s working the meme that if we criticize Confederate symbols, then we have to do the same with anything named after slave owners Jefferson and Washington, or Copper King exploiters of workers Daly, Clark and Heinz. That’s a straw man argument.

I personally don’t think that the fountain should be removed but a little extra signage that better explains the Confederacy’s role in the Civil War should not be mistaken as acquiescence to political correctness.

We should celebrate this awareness that racist symbols should be eradicated or at least have a valid interpretation. It could lead to policies that advance social and economic equality, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Wow something you and I totally agree on Pete. Nice work. My son’s Comment at cowgirl didn’t put it mildly, when he said Black history in this state has been erased. … not to mention a lot of American Indian history as well.

  • Pete, this is a very cheap shot to mangle those discussions to support your meme and associate me and the others with Wallace. I guess I am wrong to have thought you were above such antics. So be it.

    As to the fountain look here: It’s amazing how people project the troubles within their own lives and souls upon mere objects. Clouds are where the imagination usually wonders is deciding what their shapes represent. By the way how do you pronounce Helena, like the Johnny Rebs who came here and called it Hel-eh-na or like the Minnesota immigrants who called it Hel-EE-na? After all, the fountain is seen by few while Helena’s name is repeated 100’s of times a day?

    Have you considered how the Union Flag in it’s march westward represents the symbol of an oppressive authority that killed 100’s of thousands if not millions?

    Have you considered Montana’s own flag. Oro y Plata with the plow. Certainly statements and symbols of taking land for exploitation. Remember the Marias Massacre?

    • I’m not sure you get to take offense because of a symbolic representation, Craig, when your argument seems to be that people should get over them. That being said, I suspect Pete used the image because it’s one in the library from an earlier post.

          • A quick reply since it’s late. I picked the George Wallace/Confederate flag image because it was in the Intelligent Discontent graphic library. I also thought that the flag symbol illustrated my point. After posting it, I realized that some would take offense, believing it was directed at them. That was not my intention. On the other hand, I’m not really that concerned about hurting a few people’s feelings. Until someone wants to search the Internet for a more appropriate, license-free image, and send it to me, the graphic stays.

          • Pete, whatever floats your boat which apparently, like the rest of the party Dems, is upon of sea of optics and soundbites. A boat whose oars are tar brushes. Truth and understanding be damned. As to both you and Don not having a better picture? Really? Two extremely media savvy guys like you and that is your excuse?

            Here’s a better picture with caption for you.

            A moment of reconciliation that just does not benefit the Dem party meme. Whatever message that attaches to the fountain, I hope it will convey that reconciliation so that we can move forward as a nation.

            • Craig says, “Whatever message that attaches to the fountain, I hope it will convey that reconciliation so that we can move forward as a nation.” On this we both agree.

  • I absolutely think you are characterizing my position, Pete. Norma does that with consistency so it hardly surprising that she “agrees” with you. I agree with an informative plaque on Helena’s Confederate fountain, strongly. What I don;’t agree with is the ridiculous notion that we can erase or purge racism in Montana with a symbolic gesture.

    Whether Norma knows it or not, likely not, I strongly agree with her about the racism this state has shown and continues to show to the Indigenous people who live here. That isn’t countermanded with plaques, meaningless accusations of treason against a long gone regime and exorcising the demons of a water feature. My argument about the Copper barons was not a Straw Man, but a Reductio ad Absurdem to the idiots (and I use that term deliberately) who think that putting the words TRAITOR or calling slavery EVIL, or rededicating that fountain as a urinal, actually accomplishes anything except telling people *how* to think. Doing that pisses people off. Right now, I don’t know that the Montana Democrats have the votes to spare.

    For the record, you were actually having a very interesting exchange with Craig about southern culture. What derailed it is that at that website certain commenters are afforded protected status, no disagreement allowed. Others were on a watch-list for right thinking. Sadly those two collided.

    • I was disagreeing with you about this earlier, Rob. Who is making the claim that “we can erase or purge racism in Montana with a symbolic gesture” No one. The argument that I’ve seen from the Helena City Commissioners who raised the issue and others is not that we will erase racism, but that a city should not be in the position of endorsing it.

      Let’s tell the truth about the fountain and the Confederacy. That won’t solve racism, but it’s a small, practical step a city can take.

      • Your take on many of those comments was apparently different than mine. What I was reading were people hoping that anyone defending the fountain’s existence would have to justify their racism to their “maker”. There were comments that the eradication of the fountain would heal racial divides and that it was the least we could do as non-racists. yes, it is truly the least we could do. Other commenters flatly said what objects should mean to people, with no irony at all.

        That the city endorsed a fountain funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1916 says nothing about what the city endorses now. putting up a plaque telling the “truth” about the Civil War is proper, as long as that truth isn’t just the flip side of a political correct lie.

          • That would depend on the directed intent of the plaque. There likely wouldn’t be enough room to give an accurate portrayal of the history of either war or fountain. If the intent is to moralize, then how bout “Slavery is bad, m’kay?”

            Either way, I don’t envy those who do have to write the text. It’s been my experience that attempting a moderate tone only pisses both sides of a disagreement off. My suggestion of a rename/re-dedication was actually serious.

    • Didn’t mean to mischaracterize your position, Rob. I happen to believe that “purging,” or at least explaining symbols, is a start. It might lead to discussions on the real issues of social injustice and inequality. Also, I believe that this debate won’t cost Democrats any votes. The ones who want to keep the fountain just the way it is aren’t voting the Democratic ticket, I’m pretty sure.

  • People, people, PEOPLE! Would you’all just calm down ferrchrissakes?! After all it’s just a fountain. That’s all, just a fountain. Or as we say in Spanish, un fuente. just a fuente, and fuente ALSO means source, as in the fount of all knowledge. A source. Yes, a source, a source of great division among the posters on the blogs like craigy the moor.
    Look, I THEENK I have a remedy, a simple but tasteful way to “honor” all the inbreds who fought and died for something as evil as slavery, for you just KNOW that they had to know that keeping your fellow human beings in the most horrific bondage was EVIL, and nothing else! NO ONE who could possibly consider themselves human in any sense of the word could have abided the torture of fellow human beings as they so cheerfully (and culturally) did! It’s their culture, right! Yet the inbreds from the south not only aided and abetted it, they FOUGHT for it!-their “right” to keep human beings as pets, slaves, objects! Not only that, these inbred retards were willing to fight and DIE to protect the one percenters of their day that owned slaves!
    Yes, they did all that. Does that make them shitbags of human beings? I would argue yes! It does! The southerners were moronic, inbred shitbags! And to “honor” them is to perpetuate the myth that they were somehow noble in their cause. They weren’t! Any thinking person of the day knew that what they were doing was wrong!
    But alas, gentle reader, I don’t want to be entirely negative on the subject, so I offer up my OWN fountain to be built with private funds right NEXT to the daughters if the inbreds from the south fountain. I think we need some balance, as the inbreds luv to say. Let’s show the little ones egg SACKLY what the fountain represents, shall we? That’s why I’m creating a non-profit to build MY fountain right next to the daughters of the inbreds fountain! Please feel free to contact me to contribute! My fountain? See below! It’s a doozy!

    • Ooops! MY fountain, that I plan to build right NEXT to the inbred fountain, to remind folks of THEIR heritage, the heritage that caused so much suffering and was pure, unadulterated EVIL! Hey, I think this provides a leetle balance for anyone walking by with their puppies! I might even include a leetle fire hydrant that says honorable southerners on it, just so’s folks will know what I think of the south!
      BTW, I’m a born and bred son of the WEST! Great granddaddy chased of the wild Indians to make his home! Well, they weren’t exactly wild, in fact they were very peaceful Indians, the Utes! The ONLY wild Utes were the friggin’ MORMOMS who dressed up as Utes when the slaughtered the wagon train in the Mountains Meadows Massacre! The indred south is NOT in any way the heritage of we Montanans! Never will be! They made their mess, let them LIVE with the infamy! We don’t have to!

      • p.s. I get a kick outta the cowturd site. Geez, NOW she’s recommending that we read some book by some outta state reetart about loving the land and the critters. Jumpin’ JEEZUS! Reminds me of the guy who got laid for the first time and thought that he discovered sex! Come ON, cowturd, stop insulting us with your outta state bullshit! SOME of us have kinda lived here for a long, looong time! If we want to love the land, we’ll look at our roots! What an insult to post such a venal advertisement! Put Montana in the title and your sure to sell at least a FEW copies to the transplants! But it does get kinda sickening! A river of bullshit runs through it! Reminds me a lot of the white folk who want to “educate” the Natives about their history and culture! See it happen all the time.

  • tell me Pete, is there anything inaccurate about that quote and post it was taken from? do you not believe Suskind’s account of that infamous meeting between Obama and the bankers? you can speculate about other factors all you want, Holder’s DOJ (I should point out in this parenthetical comment like you did that Holder is the first black AG, so hooray!) let the banks off the hook with a wrist slap. it was even discussed a few days ago on Democracy Now, check it out:

    I’m not accusing Obama of institutional racism, I’m pointing out how institutional racism is being actively perpetuated by an allegedly influential black man who is indeed our first African-American president. with an assist by his AG. I guess where you see a logic problem I see a denial problem.

  • When South Carolina’s legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag (and pole) from the Capitol’s grounds, it did more that send a symbol to the museum. It also removed the state’s sanction for, and implied approval of, the attitudes, beliefs, and policies symbolized by the flag.

    Helena’s Confederate fountain is in a public park. Until the fountain is removed, or placed in context by historically accurate text, it is Confederate propaganda sanctioned by the city of Helena. What is being sanctioned is the issue.

    • Well said. That is fairly precisely what Don and I have exchanged about in several places. Since in those other places, being direct can be construed as ‘bullying’, I state directly here my opinion that removal of the fountain is a shameful attempt to hide from the past, rewrite it such so that some may do a victory dance of superior ideology. An informative plaque is a much better idea though I remain unconvinced that it can do justice to the history of the fountain, the city of Helena, the state or the country which struggled against it’s own moral and legal destruction in a Civil War to repatriate the South built and driven by slavery. Those are fairly weighty matters to explain on a 5 by 5 metal poster.

      As I have attempted to explain, the reason I favor a rename/re-dedication is for the reason you bring up. Just shy of a hundred years ago, the city of Helena received a gift and accepted it for all the wrong reasons. Acknowledge that, and re-sanction it for what Helena hopes for it’s future. Name it after Fredrick Douglas, Martin Luther King, President Garfield or Grant or Arther. Let the city notables and potentates talk about unity and acceptance of diversity. Let it remain as a symbol of what Helena accepts and stands for now which they didn’t 100 years ago.

  • There is nothing wrong with ridding the state of losing Confederate memorabilia. There is also nothing wrong with getting more information to children about what really happened. How the daughters of the confederates lied about the south. Our state does have the sin of racism, whether it be our black history, or our redmans history( whites tried to erase it). What went wrong years ago in a less civilized world, can be made right today. and should be as an olive branch to the future of all mankind.

    In reality, and in my Opinion I would take down every confederate monument in the state as a teaching moment and erect them in a weed infested field. and name it, “Were bad Ideas and intentions go to die park.”

    Lest some southern lover of the civil war era raise his voice. let it be known the blackman started memorial day for the dead union soldiers as they buried them, and the confederate soldier on about every field of war after the last man died of bullet or cannon fire. You cannot deny that history exists, without the color of the dignified man who buried all….

    These objects of a losing side are roadblocks to a unified future, and we are gonna need everyone soon, all hands on deck. So I say tag the crap out of what is wrong with the past and carry on for a better future.

    Example: What started the syrian war, wasn’t differing Ideas as much as climate change. The Farming land dried up in Syria and the farmers were looking for Government help… didn’t happen for them.

    Thats the war we need to be victorious in…Fighting climate change. the rest of this hatemongering, needs to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

  • You guys never look at the bigger picture.

    “The Cost Of Cultural Marxism

    Marxism (collectivism) uses many vehicles or Trojan horses to gain access to political and cultural spaces. Once present, it gestates like cancer, erasing previous models of heritage and history in order to destroy any competing models of society. If you want to understand what is happening in America today, I suggest you research the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s. We are experiencing the same Marxist program of historical and social destruction, only slightly slower and more strategic.

    Younger generations are highly susceptible to social trends and are often easily manipulated by popular culture and academic authority, which is why we are seeing PC cultism explode with the millennials and post-millennials. In my brief participation on the left side of the false paradigm, political correctness was only beginning to take hold. A decade later, the speed of the propaganda has far accelerated, and we now have a bewildering manure storm on our hands. The result is a vast division within American society that cannot be mended. Those of us on the side of liberty are so different in our philosophies and solutions to social Marxists that there can be no compromise. The whole carnival can end only one way: a fight. And perhaps this is exactly what the elites want: left against right, black against white, gay against religious and straight, etc. As long as the PC movement continues to unwittingly do the bidding of power brokers in their efforts toward the destruction of individual liberty, I see no other alternative but utter conflict.”-Zero Hedge.*

    *cross commented at Liz’s site.

    • Swede, could you elaborate on just who these elite/power brokers are? Obama? Hillary Clinton, Koch brothers? Wall Street? You think they’re behind this “Cultural Marxism?” Why would they want to disrupt the status quo that seems to be working quite well for them? You’re starting to sound a bit like Tokarski and his conspiracy theories.

      • Central Planners and a consortium of usual subjects including Alinskyites, The Parasite Classes of Govt. employees, Union rank and file, Central Banks, Federal Reserve, MSM, and academia.

        All hiding behind the grassy knoll.

        Our future follow this pattern.

        #1: central planners manipulate economies to damage them.

        #2: damaged economies do very poorly, lots of problems.

        #3: central planners pretend to help (do more damage).

        #4: wrecked economies collapse.

        #5: central planners declare “markets don’t work”.

        #6: central planners declare “only central planning works”.

        #7: world goes totally “central planning”.

        #8: game over : permanent slavery.

        • Those Alinskyites certainly have a lot of clout. You see those community organizers driving around in their BMWs, Mercedes and Jaguars, and dictating policy to government leaders around the country. So do the “Parasite Classes of Govt. employees” (those would be your cops, firefighters, mail carriers, snowplow drivers, etc.) and the “Union rank and file” (electricians, steel workers, mine workers, nurses, etc.)

          If only it were true, then we lefties could quit agitating and go back to smoking pot, and having sex with whomever or whatever we’d like.

          As for the “Central Banks, Federal Reserve, MSM, and academia;” you’re sounding like Tokarski again.

  • Symbols really ARE a waste of time, and so are accurate history books! We’re ALL texassans now! And inbreds too! And why not? That’s just the southern fountain heroes rising again like racist little mythical water sprites to SAVE Merika! How romantic. How cultural. HOW HERITAGEY! Hell, I think I’ll take up the banjo and re-learn to SH*T on a couple’a logs out back! It’s my heritage!

    • Was it the texans that also wanted to get rid of scientific pages in the science books down there. Didn’t Rachel Maddow have to buy a domain and show the missing pages of the science books they tore pages out of( or were going to tear pages out of)????

      Thats exactly what we aren’t doing here. Even I would leave them up but like I said before, they would be moved into a weed infested field. You cant bury bad history, only correct the hell out of it when it isn’t history….but propaganda!

  • I love it when I am talked about in a forum in whcih I am not allowed to comment. But then, Pete, isn’t that what you want? Don likes it too – hall monitors and crossing guards love their little security nests. Man, what moral cowards you both are.

    I did a piece on the confederate flag and how its use these days is for perceived moral superiority among people of whom all lack that virtue. Beyond that, real history has been buried under victor’s narratives. There is nothing wrong with seeking out the South’s side of that conflict. After all, we are not morally superior to them.

    • Why don’t you write some more about how you don’t really think about racism? I thought that was a particularly enlightening aspect of your privileged radicalism.

      I block your comments when you post under a sock puppet name. That’s in the commenting policy. I’ve explained that to you, about 50 times.

      I’ll also delete your comments if you can’t manage to debate/discuss the issues of the post. This comment about “moral cowards” is an example of something that I couldn’t actually care less about, but I won’t put up with you insulting people when you comment. That simple. You can write about your conspiracy theories, poorly understand Jacques Ellul and Noam Chomsky, and give us half-baked summaries of Counterpunch articles to your heart’s content, but if you insult people, you’re gone again.

      As always, the choice is yours. My guess? You last two more comments, but I want to be hopeful.

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