Thursday, June 02, 2022

Banning the Confederate flag at CMA.

by Rod Williams, June 2, 2022 -This year, CMA Fest is banning the Confederate flag. It joins a growing list of major country music events to ban attendees from displaying Confederate imagery.  

While the CMA is banning the confederate flag, it is not as if they are making a big deal out of it. If you go to the CMA website, you have to look for the list of banned items and are a couple of clicks away from finding the list.  Here is what the website says:

 The following items are prohibited from all CMA events. Exceptions will be made for medical equipment and medically necessary items after proper inspection.

  • Aerosol containers of any kind
  • Animals (service animals are permitted to assist guests with disabilities as defined by ADA standards; comfort animals are prohibited)
  • Bags that are prohibited by applicable Event Bag Policies
  • Balls, balloons or inflatables of any kind
  • Bikes
  • Cameras with a detachable lens
  • Camera attachments (such as tripods, monopods, selfie sticks)
  • Chairs of any kind
  • Any item that depicts language or imagery that violates the Code of Conduct
  • Confederate flag imagery of any kind
  • Coolers
  • Drones
  • Drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • E-Cigarette refill cartridges
  • Firearms, knives, other weapons or dangerous devices of any kind
  • Fireworks
  • Flags
  • Frisbees and projectiles
  • Car seat or carriers
  • Laser pointers
  • Lights
  • Noisemakers
  • Outside food and beverages, including alcohol
  • Poles or sticks of any kind
  • Scooters, including shared urban mobility devices
  • Seat cushions
  • Skateboards, rollerblades or hoverboards
  • Stickers
  • Umbrellas and other objects that obstruct another patron’s view
  • Video, audio and recording devices
  • Wagons or pull-carts
  • Walkie-talkies
  • Other items deemed disruptive, dangerous or offensive at the discretion of CMA and the venue. Visit venue website for additional prohibited items and restrictions before attending the Event. 

That is a pretty exhaustive list. I wonder to what extent it will be enforced?  I am betting that if someone shows up wearing a Hank Williams Jr tee shirt, or an Alabama tee shirt, or a Charlie Daniels tee shirt, or a Lynard Skynard tee shirt with Confederate imagery, they will not be required to turn it inside out. Maybe, but I doubt it. 

I have never worn any of the above tee shirts, but I have never worn any band's tee shirt. If you want me to advertise your band, you would have to pay me.  I am just not the band tee-shirt-wearing kind of guy. Most of my tee shirts are of losing political candidates and some causes I have supported over the years. I seem to have a habit of ending up with tee shirts of losing candidates and causes. 

I do not display the confederate flag from a flag pole in my yard, nor would I have a bumper sticker with the image on my car.  When South Carolina Nicki Haley had the Confederate battle flag removed from the grounds of the state capital building following the mass shooting at a church in South Carolina, I think she made the right decision.  I am, however, opposed to the removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate heroes or statues of other men of achievement who offend modern sensibilities. 

The Confederate battle flag has always had an association with racism and was carried at KKK rallies and such. Recently, with the emergence of alt-right populist-nationalist, we are seeing the Confederate battle flag being again tied to, or more frequently tied to, fringe right-wing groups.

While the Confederate battle flag is sometimes used by unsavory political movements, it is most often, I think,  simply displayed as an expression of regional identity and pride. Many southern rock bands and country bands included confederate imagery in their album covers and merchandise. The popular TV show Dukes of Hazzard featured a car called General Lee with the rooftop painted with a Confederate flag. I don't think that was a symbol of White supremacy or racism. It reflected an identity of harmless, fun-loving, good-ole-boy,  rebelliousness. 

I remember as a kid, maybe early 60's, prior to Pegion Forge being the tourist mega that it is now, there was only a hand full of tourist attractions. One was called the Rebel Railroad. It featured a deep heavily accented southern voiced narrator and the train was attacked by Yankees. It was a lot of fun, but I was only a kid. I still think it was harmless. 

Back in the 1980's I attended several of the annual Charlie Daniels jams at the Municipal auditorium. I loved these events.  There were a sea of Confederate battle flags and smuggled in booze and dope-smoking and enthusiastic music lovers having a good time. These were concerts that lasted for six or more hours and featured mostly Country and Southern Rock bands but also some classical and spiritual and Soul and Rhythm and Blues groups. A lot of Black artists performed. I remember soul singer Dobie Grey, fiddler Papa John Creach,  Rufus Thomas, and one of my favorites was James Brown.  I never actually cared for his music but he was a fabulous entertainer. These Black artists, if bothered by the Confederate flag, did not show it and the audience showed appreciation for the artist. Maybe some would see the flag as a symbol of hate, but I did not perceive it that way.  I don't think James Brown perceived it that way or he would not have performed at the event.

While it may be time to discourage the display of the Confederate battle flag, and while bands are probably wise to phase out the use of its imagery on their record albums and other merchandise, I kind of resent the attitude that no one can be permitted to do anything or show any image that offends another. 

My father was deeply offended by alcohol use and would not shop at a store that sold alcohol nor would he not watch a TV show sponsored by a beer brand. That was his right. Thankfully, his being offended did not mean others had to hide their beer.

I tell you what would please me to see the CMA's ban; the  hate symbol commonly called the "Peace sign." It offends me. If I was on the you-don't-have-the-right-to-offend-me train, I would tell you it triggers anxiety and causes me emotional distress. I don't do that. I just feel disgust, push it down, and let it slide. I don't even tell people I am offended.  People who are offended by the Confederate battle flag should do the same thing. 

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