- Flagged Up, Locked, and LoadedThe Confederacy’s Call, the Trump Disaster, and the Apocalyptic Crisis of White People
“Lock and load, stay vigilant. War is on the horizon.”—Carolina Tactical Response Force Militia Facebook page, July 2017
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”—President Donald Trump, August 11, 2017
As the Orange County, North Carolina organization Orange County Taking Back Orange County posted on its Facebook page on August 5, 2015: “Ok y’all it’s getting down to crunch time. It’s time to #flagup or shut up. You have a choice, you can answer the call of our homeland. You can stand as brave as our men and woman did in the war of southern independence. Or you can stay at home.”
The Facebook page of ACTBAC, the corresponding Alamance County group, featured the North Carolina Tactical Response Force Militia page, whose content indicated how such an answer to the call of the homeland might play out: “Lock and load, stay vigilant. War is on the horizon. Train train train.” Also on the same page, photos of the Tactical Response Force Militia include white men in camouflage and military gear training in the woods with rifles, scopes, and caches of materials, shooting at targets from standing or lying positions in a field. There are seventeen men lined up in one photo, [End Page 22] with one African American standing out. They do not hate people, the page insists.1
I began this essay last summer, and the “crisis” of this special edition of south has accelerated over my process of research and composition. On August 8 (the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima), President Donald Trump now famously threatened that “fire and fury” would reign down on Kim Jong-un’s North Korea, potentially triggering a process with no good military solution that might result in the death of ten million Koreans and Japanese as a way to “defend the homeland.” On August 12, a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville drew hundreds of alt-rightists of the most blatantly fascist stripes for “blood and soil.” One Facebook post contradicted “a perception outside of Charlottesville”: “This is NOT two sides egging each other on to avoid violence for more attention. This is one side of terrorists declaring that they can and will hold a town hostage . . . and the town responding to that threat.” The Friday night torch lit Nazi march through the University of Virginia campus also surrounded the prayer service at St. Paul’s Memorial Church across from the UVA campus so that its attendants had to be accompanied to their cars, some by members of the Redneck Revolt. Cornel West, a keynote speaker, commented to Amy Goodman that “antifascists . . . saved our lives” (Democracy Now). That afternoon, white supremacist James A. Fields drove his car into a crowd and killed Heather Heyer and injured nineteen others, who, according to the above post, were “on their way back from helping to repel a white supremacist march to a predominately black housing development” whose residents had already handled the threat. In response to this outbreak of fascist violence, President Trump not only refused to condemn white supremacy, given how much of his base was represented in Charlottesville, but embraced them.
These events as I finished this essay give urgency to my examination of the neo-Confederacy that focuses on a handful of North Carolina counties in the context of the state’s actual Civil War history and the history of North Carolina far-right movements over the past forty years. The resonance between Trump’s threats to North Korea and the state’s paramilitary’s are but one indication of the reach of the far right into the highest echelons of the U.S. state as the country’s ongoing crisis of whiteness reaches apocalyptic proportions.
Just as the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville provoked the largest white supremacist rally in this century, the ongoing meaning of the Civil War roils beneath many of the alt/far-right movements, some [End Page 23] of which take the form of neo...