Friday, June 26, 2015

The Confederate Flag and "I sang Dixie."

It looks like it belongs in the Dixie Putt-Putt golf course.
I  think the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina should come down, but I don't live there and it is not for me to decide but I can still have an opinion, like everyone else who has weighed in on the topic. I think it is unnecessary to offend other people unless there is goods reason to do so, and many people find the Confederate flag offensive.

Following the tragedy of the senseless shooting in Charleston South Carolina it seems the focus has shifted to the appropriateness of having a Confederate battle flag fly on the grounds of the state capital, as if there was a connection between the two. From the issue of the appropriateness of the confederate battle flag flying on the grounds of the state capital in South Carolina the discussion has expanded to other displays anywhere that memorialize the civil war in the South and pay homage to our ancestors and heroes.

As it relates to the fiberglass stature of Nathan Bedford Forrest on I-64, I really dislike it.  I doubt most tourist driving through know it is Nathan Bedford Forrest, however.  At 70 miles an hour you probably have no idea what it commemorates.  My dislike for the stature has to do primarily with aesthetics. It looks cartoonist. It is ugly. It looks like the kind of "art" one finds on a putt-putt golf course. Maybe travelers going up I-65 at 75 miles an hour think they have just missed a putt-putt golf course.

Also, I have to ask: the horse has a saddle, but no bridle.Why is that?  Should it not have a bridle? Surely General Forrest did not ride a horse without a bridle? Despite my dislike of the statue, I think it is a waste of effort to try to build a foliage barricade to hide it from sight.

In response to controversy over the Confederate battle flag near the South Carolina state house, Walmart, Amazon, Sears, and eBay have all stopped selling items featuring the Confederate flag and the parent company that owns the rights to the Dukes of Hazard merchandise has announced they will no longer license the General Lee car featured in that show. Other states and locals have began looking at the appropriateness of statues and bust of Confederate heroes and images on state and county seals that recall historical Confederate associations and names of streets, bridges, and buildings named to honor Confederate dead.

I understand the desire to ban the Confederate flag.  I guess if I were African-American I would find it offensive and want it banned.  I think I know how they feel because I feel much the same way about that hate symbol known as the "peace" sign.  That is the symbol that those who betrayed out troops in the field, marched under during the Vietnam war.  That is the sign carried by the American fifth column on campuses and in the streets of America that encouraged the enemy not to give up because they had massive numbers of supporters in America who were daily trying to persuade their own government to give up, pull out of the war and give the North Vietnamese an easy victory.  Now, that symbol of betrayal is sold on eBay, Walmart, Amazon and Sears and elsewhere as a fashion accessory. You can find it on backpacks and clothing and pocketbooks and any number of items. Personally, I would prefer to ban the peace sign over banning the confederate flag. I personally find the peace sign offensive. No one grantees me the right to not be offended however.

The flag we cal the "Confederate flag" was not a national flag of the Confederacy but was the
battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.  It only came to be considered the Confederate flag, later. I don't think most people who display it or celebrate seeing it being displayed think of it as a racist symbol. During the civil rights era, some southern segregationist appropriated the flag as their own symbol to show defiance to federal authority but time has passed since then and I think that to most people the Confederate flag is simply a symbol of southerness.

I myself am from East Tennessee, which during the Civil War was pro-Union. That is why East Tennessee was a Republican stronghold in a Democrat Tennessee from then on.  Areas of the South that were too hilly to grow cotton were generally pro-Union in the Civil War and became isolated Republicans strong holds for the next 125 years in an otherwise solid Democrat South.  So, I did not come from a pro-confederate part of the South, but I still had an identity that was represented by the Confederate flag. I never wore a confederate belt buckle or had a confederate license plate on my pick up truck (I never owned a pick up truck). I did however, own a Lynard Skynyrd album that featured a Confederate flag.

My favorite music has always been Country music but during the 70's I became a big fan of Southern Rock. My preference in Southern Rock never went as far toward the hard rock end as the spectrum as Molly Hatchet, tending more toward the country rock of The Charlie Daniels Band and Marshal Tucker Band.  For several years I attended the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jams held at Municipal Auditorium. These shows were a blast of great music and hard partying that easily ran ten hours long and while I saw everyone from Roy Acuff to James Brown and even an occasional classical musician or gospel choir, the foundation of the shows was Southern Rock. Many participants brought Confederate battle flags and waved them during the show.

Charlie Daniels would start the show by saying, "Ain't it Great to be alive and be in Tennessee!"  And, the crowd would go wild.  I think that like celebrating a shout out to being in Tennessee, the Confederate battle flag was symbolic of a shout out to being proud of one's southerness. A lot of Southern Rock bands not only celebrated being Southern but celebrated their State identity.  Charlie Daniels' albums often featured representations of the tri-star symbol from the Tennessee flag and at the start of his performance would say, "I'm Charlie Daniels from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee."  Marshal Tucker's shows would start with an announcement: "From Spartanburg South Carolina, it's the Marshall Tucker Band!" And, The Alman Brothers let it be known they were from Georgia and several of their album covers featured some representation of the peach, which represents Georgia. Southern Rock, like Country music often celebrated the South and a sense of place.  I still love the CDB song "The South's Gonna do it Again."

I know that now America is becoming so homogenized that there is not much sense of place any
Southern Motel
more. Almost any where you go, you see the same chain restaurants and people listen to the same music and you rarely hear a heavy accent. There may be more people living in Nashville born elsewhere than there are native Nashvillians. I don't know if that is really a good thing or not.  I certainly want foreign immigrants to become Americanized, and would not want so much regionalism that it was a source of conflict. By the same token, I think something valuable is lost when we lose the way we speak, the way we interact and when we all become antonymous individuals rather than people with a sense of place and history and a sense of belonging.

I think this search to take down symbols of southerness had gotten out of hand. Recently, mayoral candidate Charles Bone who is an investor in the lower Broadway venue Acme Feed and Seeds, responded to a complaint about a piece of artwork that hung in that establishment and he had it removed. The artwork features a women wearing a Confederate flag bikini in front of a sign that says "Southern Motel."  Wearing the Confederate flag on your butt is not honoring the flag. Any idiot who is offended by this piece of art should be told to "get over it."  As Tom Morales owner of the establishment said about the piece, it is "satirical commentary on Southern culture."

This is nuts! What next? Ban the songs of Stephen Foster? Ban the playing of "Dixie?" Burn down the surviving antebellum plantation
mansions? Remove the Confederate memorial statue in the square in Franklin?

Political correctness has already stifled speech in America to where conservative commencement speakers are disinvited from speaking if students object. People shout down views they do not agree with. Are we to become the American Taliban and destroy icons of the past because they don't fit our current ideology?

I'll close with this:

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