One of these things is not like the others. Question: does this image offend you?
How about this one?
Maybe this one?
The correct answers are:
c. Hell No and get a life.
So what’s different about them if our cultural elites have decided we’re all of a sudden enlightened and mature enough to take down rebel flags wherever they may be found?
Context, that’s what.
Flag (a) is the infamous banner above the South Carolina confederate memorial on Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Until a few years ago it actually flew atop the dome, after being placed there in the early 60’s by Gov. Fritz Hollings. Who, by the way, was a Democrat who did it to thumb his nose at the burgeoning civil rights movement. It’s been there ever since because Tradition and Heritage.
Flag (b) hangs in Charleston inside the cadet chapel at my alma mater, The Citadel. It was given to the school by some nice lady from a Connecticut yacht club in the mid-1930’s. It’s a replica of the Confederate naval ensign which was replaced (along with all the other flags in the chapel) in the early 80’s. So not even the original, which itself wasn’t even original. Again, still there because Tradition and Heritage. And again, I call B.S.
Flag (c) is from an image I culled at random from a Google search of Civil War reenactments, where one would expect to see lots of rebel colors. What are they gonna carry, rainbow pride flags? Then again, maybe that’s where we’re headed…
So back to my point on context. (A) has clearly outlived its usefulness and deserves to be removed, considering why it was raised in the first place. It took a hundred years to finally throw off the last remnants of state-sanctioned racism, and for my home state to keep flying a banner erected in defiance of what was clearly a just cause really pisses me off. Gov. Haley was right to demand its removal.
(B) was not hung in such a fashion, but considering all it has come to represent I think it’s best to remove it from such a prominent position at a place of worship. I wish things were different, but alas they are not.
If you have a problem with (C), then you need to have your head examined. The people I know who do these reenactments take their roles quite seriously – and I don’t mean the play-acting (though there is that) – I mean their drive to present history in a way that’s far more powerful than a classroom lecture or third-rate drama on the History Channel. To expect them to fly anything else is just absurd.
When I was a young man growing up in South Carolina, rebel flags were everywhere. We’d get the t-shirts at Myrtle Beach and put the plates on our front bumpers. And not a single damned one of us thought of it as a way to rub black folks’ noses in it.
Unfortunately, that’s precisely what we were doing. Doesn’t matter now that we didn’t intend it that way. To us it was a “southern and proud of it” symbol, back when thousands of Northern hordes were moving down our way, driving up property values and pointedly informing us of exactly how stupid and backwards we all were.
I am not kidding.
So, ya’ll don’t like Charlotte? Then move back to Newark or whatever other blue-state Yankee nightmare you came from.
Yeah, I didn’t think so. So why don’t you shut up about how much better hockey is than NASCAR or ACC basketball, and just have some more BBQ and sweet tea? Bless your heart.
Southern Pride is a funny thing: eccentric, like so much of the South can often be. Seriously, have you ever read any Pat Conroy? I used to wonder if the dude wasn’t hiding in our attic, taking notes.
But enough about my childhood dysfunction: back to our national dysfunction. The ugly truth is that the rebel flag has always made certain segments of our populace decidedly uncomfortable. I honestly think a lot of blacks tolerated it because they knew most of us didn’t intend it as a White Power Nazi Skinhead symbol. But the sad truth is that over the past few decades it has been fully co-opted by exactly those types of racist militant douchebags. And that sucks.
The Nazis didn’t invent the swastika, either. So think of it like this: if you saw one in a museum or at a WWII reenactment, would you be offended?
No? Then what about at a Neo-Nazi march?
Exactly my point. There is a difference between recognizing history and using a particular image to rally your troops, so to speak.
The Citadel endured a similar family spat several years ago. When I was a cadet in the mid-1980s, rebel flags were still prominent at home football games. And with good reason: Citadel cadets actually fired the first shots of the war (I dare any pantywaist civilian fratboys to match that prank). But over time, we couldn’t escape just how much that flag was becoming associated with some pretty unsavory groups. It was eventually replaced with this:
That’s “Big Red,” our battle colors during the war. Seems to me a quite appropriate and hopefully inoffensive replacement. But there’s just no satisfying some people. And if that offends you…too bad.
Here, have some BBQ. Bless your hearts.