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Thursday, July 16, 2015

How About We Burn the Confederate "National" Flag Instead?

My youthful rebellion!

We did a water ski show at Lone Star Camp every Friday when we had campers during the 5 summers I worked there and the three years I was a camper before that. In that ski show, I skiied on canoe paddles, two by fours, anchored a pyramid, towed a canoe behind a motorboat, was jerked off docks, towers and from the shore. One of the more memorable "incidents", however, was the time I paddled stroke oar for a tandem canoe from which we flew a certain flag that has been much in the news lately.

I admit it. I owned a Confederate Battle Flag in my youth. One summer, I took it with me to camp - not sure why. I was hardly a racist. Quite the opposite, actually, to the chagrin of some of my relatives who were, in fact, die-hard racists. I had the flag because I was, at the time, quite in touch with my inner rebel. Our camp director that summer was a returned missionary, who was originally a Yankee from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He was proud of the fact, and a died in the wool Yankee, he wasn't at all shy about expressing his low opinion of Southern culture.

Now, most of us were from Texas, which we consider a culture far superior to either Northern or Southern culture. We shouldn't have been offended about his comments about Southern culture. After all, we were from Texas, not Georgia or Mississipi or, worse, Arkansas! But, there was something about his uppitiness that tempted us to sin. So for the flag pass during the ski show one Friday, we built a tandem canoe with a platform suspended between the canoes. To add insult to injury, we stood Elder Sandstrom's youngest daughter up on the platform with my Confederate flag on a pole. We paddled past the reviewing stand and unfurled it big as life before our Yankee boss.

We gave the poor Yankee all sorts of trouble that summer. He took some of the guys to a game between the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. Boston won the game. We heard about it on the radio while he and a few of the guys were in Arlington at the game. Now the good preacher had been all uppity about the superiority of Boston the whole week before the game. We knew were going to have to hear all about how the mighty Boston had beaten Texas in baseball. The group that had gone to the game had a couple or three of hours' drive time to get home. So before they could get back about ten of us went down by the cafeteria where there was this giant hollow metal "STAR" - symbol of the camp sitting in the grass by the flagpole.  We hoisted the star and carried it all the way to the camp's front gate (about a quarter mile or so).  We left it sitting squarely in front of the entrance, blocking the road entirely. 

If you want to burn the true flag of oppression
then this is the one to go after - the one chosen
by the upper-crust racists and slave owners
who wrote the Confederate Constitution
When they got home, the guys who went to the game had to move the star in order to get back into camp. It was quite a job because there weren't ten of them. Several times that summer, we ran the Confederate flag up the flagpole that summer just so the boss would see it when he came out of his cabin door in the morning.

I have to say this for Elder Sandstrom, he had the good sense to take it all in stride and to accept it for what it was - nothing more than a little regional pride. He did NOT attach to our little rebellion more meaning than there was to it. Truth is, there wasn't any meaning to it other than that. The picture above is of our nature instructor, Bow Walker, and me singing Elvis' Civil War trilogy at a campfire one night. It is a song that combines two distinctly regional anthems (Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie) with The Cruel War, a folk song about the tragedy of the whole thing. You'll notice the Confederate battle flag I had thrown over my shoulder during the song.

We were going to throw a US flag over Bow's shoulder but we decide it would be disrespectful. That's all the more sanctity that the battle flag has to most Southerners. It's decoration. That's pretty much it. We paint it on cars, put it on t-shirts, fly it at all sorts of public occasions, not because we hate black people, but because it's a symbol of Southern resistance to outsiders who want to change us.

I'm not defending racism here. I don't fly the battle flag anymore because some of my black friends think it's a racist symbol. I'm truly sorry if your feeling were hurt. At the same time, I kind of resent when others attach meaning to my symbols that I do not attach to them. They are, after all, my symbols. Right now, there is a massive movement to remove the Confederate battle flag from every monument in the South. Yielding to media pressure, NASCAR has even asked fans not to fly it anymore at races. As we speak, they're bowing to the forces of political correctness and scraping the Confederate battle flag off the top of the General Lee - soon to be renamed the Rosa Parks or some damned fool thing like that, no doubt.

The real irony here is that the only relatives I have who fought during the Civil War, fought and died for the Union. My southern relatives stayed out for religious reasons. Adventists were pretty much all abolitionists at the time. The rest of my Southern kin just weren't interested in fighting for the Confederacy. The only reason I had a Confederate flag all those years ago was because I sympathized with rebels - not necessarily Confederate rebels, but anyone who stood against some form of tyrannical authority. The folk who demand the battle flag be torn down, miss that bit. For that matter, part of the appeal to join my church was because it refused to kow-tow to human authority on matters of faith. I guess I've always been choosy about who I obey.

I fully expect there to be demands soon to haul down the Texas flag since it was also flown as a battle flag by Texas troops during the Civil War. The fact that Sam Houston, the governor of Texas resigned rather than sign the secession decree and that many Texans did not support slavery won't matter to people for whom everything is about brute symbolism. Also, some have said the Texas flag is a symbol of oppression of the Mexican people (we did rebel against Mexico after all). You would have to ignore all the Hispanic guys inside the Alamo and marching with the Texican troops at San Jacinto, in order to make your case, but somebody inevitably will. Texas' flag is actually more about resistance to the forces of progressive socialism these days, a fact that will soon draw it the ire of the rainbow flag waving might-as-well-admit-they're-Marxists crowd that's busily fomenting riots and blaming it on conservatives, Christians and anyone else who resists their ascension to power.

If you really want to divest the Confederate battle flag of its symbolism, you should just ignore it and let Southerners define what it symbolizes - at least if racial unity is your true goal. If you're just counting coup, you just might find that you won't be able to get away with it without some kickback. This clip from the film "Gettysburg" suggests what sort of people fought under the battle flag and what a tragedy the whole stupid thing was and a little bit about why some folk still like waving the battle flag to honor their soldier-ancestors and have no regard for the national flag of the Confederacy at all.

Just my opinion.

© 2015 by Tom King

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