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Pro or Con

I hate bringing up stuff I know will generate an argument. On the other hand, I love bringing up stuff I know will generate an argument.

And as I was driving back to the paper from an interview earlier I was listening to a talk show and was reminded of a short wire story we ran in the paper on Tuesday, about plans in the Tampa, Florida, area to fly a giant Confederate flag where two major highways intersect. When I say giant, I mean 30-by-50 feet, and a 139-foot flag pole. The group Sons of Confederate Veterans is raising the flag...on a plot of private land.

I've never been one to pretend history didn't happen. I wrote on someone else's blog recently about an incident when I worked in Richmond, Va. I was new. Different colleagues were taking me and other newbies out to show us the town. One night I rode with a colleague who was showing me residential neigbhorhoods. We drifted into one 'hood featuring statues of Confederate war heroes. My colleague turned ashen and started apologizing. I asked why. I mean it's not like we can deny the Civil War happened. And driving me past a couple of statues wasn't a hate crime. I didn't see the big deal.

That being said, there is a place for history and there's a reason to promote it. And there's a reason not to promote it sometimes. It's my humble opinion that while we shouldn't try to suppress talk of the "Old" South or try to erase the contributions of Confederate soldiers to their side of a shameful war, I have to ask why?

Why a giant flag next to a high-traffic highway? Why now?

Yeah, yeah, I realize pride in one's ancestors and all of that. But why not show pride in the result of their ancestor's work...by flying a giant American flag?

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SWF42

Because it's not about pride or patriotism. Sure, those might be the words they cloak themselves in, when called on the carpet. But really, it's about a big F.U. to those who are offended, or who dare to question the motivations.

When you know your message is going to be lost in the shouting about the way you're choosing to (supposedly) deliver your message, if you're sincere about your message, you choose a different method of delivery. Because it's the message that's important (or should be).

But for people who make this kind of choice in delivery, it's all about the method, not about the message.

~Jack~

James, you live down there so you should KNOW that there are some folks still fighting that war in their own way. I grew up in Jacksonville, in the '60s. In some ways, not much has changed.

James B.

SWF42, that was a deep comment. Seriously, I had to read it twice to get it. But you make your point eloquently. Someone who disagrees with you will post a comment. But your logic is pretty solid, I think.

Jack, it's hard to let go of the past sometimes, or at least to distinguish between the parts that should be embraced for historical significance and the parts that should be let go 'cause they're not that significant in the grand scheme of things.

Wavemancali

Why not an American flag? Because that's not the flag that their ancestors fought under. These people don't see the confederate flag as a symbol of racism. Just because the PC crowd has determined that the confederate flag is a racist symbol doesn't mean they are right.

Would you be offended if you saw a Buddhist temple decorated with swastikas? I wouldn't because I know that the swastika was a religious icon in Buddhism long before it became the flag of the Nazi regime.

When I see a Confederate flag I'll always assume that it's there as a tribute to someone's ancestral past or to acknowledge some historical context.

Thomas Jefferson owed slaves. He even slept with some. It doesn't mean he wasn't a great man. Owning the slaves was wrong yes, but society hadn't evolved to the point where it understood how wrong it was.

I remember jumping up and down on the seats in the car on road trips before seatbelt laws too. My parents were not bad parents for not making me wear a seatbelt, they were bad parents for completely different reasons :)

Their land, their club, their business.

Voice of Freedom

History is written by the Victors. The War of Northern Aggression has the dubious distinction of being of being the greatest loss of life in history of War. I ask why not the original flag of the Confederate States of America? The Bonnie Blue which would truly represent the CSA. We are in a very similar situation with $5.00 gas prices and taxes out the rear. The difference between then and now is the people got into the war reluctantly and they did not have a standing army. The men who fought and died for the CSA were Volunteers and the North had conscripts mostly immigrants fresh off the boat. If Robert E. Lee had not surrendered at Appomattox the United States Would be a much different place. The Crimes committed after the end of the war continue to this day. Get your nose out the trough and demand your elected representatives do their jobs.
My God Bless this Great Nation.

Ger

It doesn't matter WHY they are displaying it, it does matter THAT they are displaying it. It identifies the displayers as attached to some part of a past, loaded with negatives for most, that is better left in history books--not out in my face.

Weetabix

I wonder if sometimes people aren't unhappy in their current lives and look back with longing (and rose colored glasses) on a simpler time. They assume they'd be at the top of the heap and life would be copacetic. Kind of a simple-minded nostalgia?

James B.

Wavemancali, you're right about it being their property, so they can do what they want with it. That's why I made sure to mention in the post that the flag was going onto private property.

But at least with me, you lost your argument as soon as you used the Bhuddist temple analogy. I'm familiar of the signficance of what we in post-modern times know as the swastika to the Bhuddist faith. So if it is an old symbol in Bhuddism and it was flying on a Bhuddist church why would that be out of line? Presumably a temple would be flying the "swastika" in its original purpose, the spiritual purpose they determined for it, long before there ever was a Nazi.

So we know what purpose the Bhuddists had for the "swastika." And we know what purpose the CSA had for flying its own flag back when the CSA was briefly a nation.

How does that apply to the purpose or intentions of this group?

Either way, no one, not you or anyone else, is gonna take my words in this post to mean the Confederate Sons can't or shouldn't fly the CSA flag on their private property. I simply posed a question as to why not fly the American flag.

I got your answer: 'cause their ancestors did not fight under the American flag. So answer my question: sure, they're well within their rights. God bless 'em. But what's the purpose?

The CEO

The Confederacy, which no longer exists as a country, still has people who fly the flag in the country that defeated it in the war it lost, erected monuments to "it's military heros" in the country where it lost the war it fought, and where some people try to perpetuate some or all or as many of its most hideous traditions from a time that no longer exists.

You don't see statues of Napoleon all over Europe, or statues of Hitler. The Nazi flag is not flown anywhere without fights breaking out, or the ACLU getting them a permit to march plus police protection. German soldiers are buried in the same European Theater cemeteries as Allied soldiers, minus the political differences that caused the war they died in. What makes the Confederacy any different?

James B.

And Wavemancali, you're kidding yourself if you think this is a PC thing. If you've read this blog long enough, I'm harldly hyper-PC. On the contrary, I like to play Devil's Advocate, but in the end you're responsible for your own actions...and intentions.

I salute every Civil War historian and history buff and history fans, and descendants of Civil War veterans, etc., but those folks are not the same folks who "fly" the flag on bumper stickers and from the backs of their cars and on t-shirts with logos that yearn for the "good old" days. Don't get it twisted. You're talking about two different groups of people.

But this may be a moot argument, 'cause I'm not suggesting this war memorial group is the latter. I believe they're the former. I'm just asking a question about intentions, that's all, and about why we can't all just be unified under the American flag.

I wasn't alive when my "predecessors" came over from Africa. And I guarantee you if I mounted a giant African flag on my property I'd get eaten alive by folks telling me I should be more grateful for where I am and that I should live in the present, not the past...a past I've never visited.

John Longfellow aka lou dobbs

Here is the deal, whites and blacks need to stop fighting over the flag. Why? Because all i saw while living in Miami were latin flags. While whites and blacks fight over the flag, the latins, and more specifically the Cuban immigrants laugh at us, while waiving "their" flag.


P.S.

If the rebel flag offends black "americans" then we shouldnt fly it. Except of course in Hialeah, and Little Havana where everyone flies everything but the amerian flag.

James B.

Voice of Freedom, eloquently reading. I'm obsessed with history from that era, but I have to say I'm kind of glad Gen. Lee surrendered, 'cause otherwise I may not be writing this blog post today. I don't have enough faith in the all-around goodness of mankind to assume that eventually everyone in the U.S. (and the C.S.) would have been set free anyway...without some arms being twisted, I mean.

rick

i can not understand why people would want to remember the worst time in the history of the united states.
i remember a comedian named moms mabley, she told a joke how some people would have a staute of a little black boy sitting on a stumb with a fishing pole in his hand, she said, not to get mad, but go and buy that same staute, paint his face white and sit him on your stumb.
you do not have to get upset, just get even.
the thing with the confederate's flag even if you fly it upside down, it still looks the same, so buy one, and fly it side ways.
they make the comments, its not racism, its about the heritage.
if my fore fathers got the hell kick out of them, i would not want to remember it.
where is the heritage.

John Longfellow aka lou dobbs

Also, while i am at it, i was banned from the Herald comment board because i said "you cubans" to a cuban commenter who called me a gringo. But yet, i notice many derogatory remarks about black "americans" are left undeleted by that female who is the comment supervisor.

She emailed me and said, my comment "you cubans is racist," and then banned me. This is the first time i have been able to post in nearly three months. When i get a new ip, i am going to send her email to me all around the Herald. And i am going to ask her why she deletes "you cubans" but lets derogatory remarks about afro-americans remain.

James B.

Ger, alas there's where public sensibilites can clash with private property rights. I'd rather err on the side of the citizen's right to do what he wants with his property...even when what he chooses to do bugs me.

Weetabix, thoughtful notion. Thanks.

Monty, good question. I don't know the answer. I agonize - and I use that word loosely - over that question a lot. But I'd love to hear folks on both sides of the argument answer you.

Longfellow/Dobbs, you'll have to take your ban up with the person that banned you from the comment boards. As for my blog, let's not forget more recent history. On my old blog I eventually had to block your comments too, 'cause you stepped way outside of any sensible lines by taking way-more-than snarky shots at my wife, and by repeating what I considere to be irrelevant racist statements repeatedly. I'm not going to hash that past "history" out with you anymore than to say this: you may recall I welcome contrary opinions to my own. It's what makes this blog work. But I draw the line at personal attacks on my family and racist comments in general. I'm not suggesting you've done either of those things in your comments on this post. So consider yourself welcome. But if the old habits start back up, I'll block you again in a heartbeat. Argue away with me and everyone else who comments on this blog. But disagree in a civil way or you'll get blocked, plain and simple.

Rick, like I told the CEO, yours is a good question. Wish I had an answer. I'd like to see what others think.

I have to add though - and I'm not just saying this to appease people - I really do understand someone who appreciates history like fine wine wanting to hang onto a piece of it. This particular piece of history though sometimes tweaks my nose, depending on how it is shown appreciation.

AmraIregi

Greetings,

The idea of these individuals is of their own free will in this country, it's why we have "Freedoms,Liberties and Rights.

However there remains the unspoken truth that we reside in a land of "Two" Americas, always has been and always will be.

James B.

Amralregi, well said. I like to think we're drifting toward one America. But maybe I'm naieve in my optimism. Wouldn't be the first time. Thanks for the comment.

James B.

Sorry 'bout the typos folks. The comments came in a flurry, and I answered a number of them from my phone in order to be prompt. And typing on that little keypad can be a chore.

Anyway, on to biz. Longfellow/Dobbs, I thought about this more. You said some really vile things on my old blog. So you need to convince me. I just went back to your comments in this post. And already it looks like you're trying to test the waters to see what you can get away with.

Email me off this list. There's a link to my email on this page. Let's talk. Convince me that you're not the loon you seem to enjoy playing when commenting on other people's blogs and articles, etc. If I don't hear from you or you don't convince me, then I'm gonna follow the lead of "that woman" as you call her and block you right off the bat in the spirit of "better safe than sorry." And when you email me, if you do, use a real name. If you're Lou Dobbs, I'm Larry King.

mark

Wowser James, you have a hot topic on your hands here. I will give you my 2 cents. Being a guy from the "North" I never considered the Confederate flag to be an insult. We were the first Union state (Minn. 1st Volunteer Inf.) to send troops to defeat the undermatched and underfunded saps of the Confederate Army. The Confederate Army was a bunch of rag-tag rednecks who basically got their asses kicked by better prepared and smarter Union soldiers from the North. So as far as Im concerned the Confederate flag is nothing but cloth toilet paper. Now if some redneck Southerener wants to fly that flag, I will defend his right to fly that flag till my dying breath. Flying that flag is completely legal and within the rights granted by our Constitution. Without our Constitutional rights we are nothing.

mark

Wowser James, you have a hot topic on your hands here. I will give you my 2 cents. Being a guy from the "North" I never considered the Confederate flag to be an insult. We were the first Union state (Minn. 1st Volunteer Inf.) to send troops to defeat the undermatched and underfunded saps of the Confederate Army. The Confederate Army was a bunch of rag-tag rednecks who basically got their asses kicked by better prepared and smarter Union soldiers from the North. So as far as Im concerned the Confederate flag is nothing but cloth toilet paper. Now if some redneck Southerener wants to fly that flag, I will defend his right to fly that flag till my dying breath. Flying that flag is completely legal and within the rights granted by our Constitution. Without our Constitutional rights we are nothing.

mark

Wowser James, you have a hot topic on your hands here. I will give you my 2 cents. Being a guy from the "North" I never considered the Confederate flag to be an insult. We were the first Union state (Minn. 1st Volunteer Inf.) to send troops to defeat the undermatched and underfunded saps of the Confederate Army. The Confederate Army was a bunch of rag-tag rednecks who basically got their arses kicked by better prepared and smarter Union soldiers from the North. So as far as Im concerned the Confederate flag is nothing but cloth toilet paper. Now if some redneck Southerener wants to fly that flag, I will defend his right to fly that flag till my dying breath. Flying that flag is completely legal and within the rights granted by our Constitution. Without our Constitutional rights we are nothing.

James B.

Mark, you almost made me spit out my Yuengling. You don't mince words, do you?

Jeni Hill Ertmer

Ok, this whole discussion has me wondering about something within my own family -not to do with the Confederate flag, but with the flag of the country that was the homeland of some of my ancestors. My ethnic ancestry is from Scotland and Sweden and the Swedish side of my family has often hung a big banner of the Swedish flag at many of our family reunions. We all love to have little bumper stickers and front license plates that are of the Swedish flag too, as well as other things in and around our homes that denote this ancestry.
In doing that, remembering the heritage there, I don't think it makes me anti-American -just giving credit to a country that gave me half of my heritage. (The Scottish side of my family doesn't seem interested too much in recognizing our ethnicity, either by material things or even via special foods relevant to that country.)
Would this be considered comparable to the Confederate flag flying or not? Just wondering.

James B.

Jeni, that's an interesting analogy, or possible analogy. I've never had a problem with people having ethnic heritage paraphernalia around their homes. Why not? No harm in being proud of where you (or your ancestors came from). It was a popular radio talk show host topic though back in the early '90s to argue that when certain minority groups kept such paraphernalia around theirs was a disrespectful gesture and potentially anti-American. Fortunately, such nonsense didn't fly for most folks.

I had a buddy in high school whose dad was like that - very staunchly against anyone identifying themselves by ethnic heritage, whether verbally or through flags or other signs of personal pride. And yet, when you'd ask his son, my buddy, "what are you," he'd always answer "Italian," without a moment's hesitation. I don't think he got his dad's message.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Good comment, interesting thought.

Pamela

sometimes it is just simply .. .because they can.

bleeding espresso

OK I had something eloquent to say (it could happen) and then I got distracted by Mark's *fabulous* comment and your mention of Yuengling (I grew up a half hour from the brewery)...great topic James, as always.

I don't know *why* the confederate flag now either, but then I'm not from the south with ancestors who fought on that side--in fact, my ancestors were still farming, etc., in Europe during the Civil War.

I rather like Jeni's analogy, although somehow the confederate flag just *feels* different. And that's about as eloquent as I'm going to be able to get this morning ;)

Sharon

Why the Confederate flag rather that the Stars & Stripes?

Dunno. Maybe they're hankering after a simpler time? Maybe they want black slaves, rather than electrical equipment (it's always a possibility! I didn't say it was a good one)? Maybe it's a kind of tribal sign? Cos America as a whole is too big & too diverse & they want something more local.

I'll just keep flying the Union Flag (UK Union) but metaphorically, cos we don't do the whole 'flag thing'. & besides, we have to get planning permission for flagpoles.

Say It

Growing up in rural Virginia the rebel flag was everywhere. I know SOME people want to pawn it off as pride in ancestry, but seriously, I never met a rebel flag waving person that wasn't a total redneck still fighting the civil war.

SWF42

James, I couldn't have been too eloquent if you had to read it twice. :-) I'll try to be clearer in the future.

I live in the south. I am proudly Southern (capitalized on purpose). I have no problem honoring our dead. I have a problem with the symbolism that's overtaken the use of that particular flag. I have a problem with what that flag has come to mean.

Again, no one is going to hear your message if they're shouting about how you're delivering it.

James B.

Good point, Pamela. Maybe I'm trying to dig too deeply for answer.

Bleeding Espresso, I agree Jeni's analogy was a good one - perhaps the best to explain what supporters of the CSA flag are feeling inside. I get the cultural pride. But like you I just feel a little funny about this particular flag. I know what it stood for. I know it's historical context. It's just that I also know few of the people I've bumped into who display it have any deep knowledge of that history. It's simply a rebel thing for them, with possible racial overtones.

Sharon, all interesting possibilities. You know in some communities here, you have to get local government approval for flag poles on your own property also. Delevoper Donald Trump has been embroiled in a lengthy dispute with officials in Palm Beach County, where he has a mega-mansion, and I think a golf/country club, over the height of a flagpole and the size of an American flag he's flown over the property. The govt. says his pole/flag setup is too big.

Say It, I couldn't have been quite so direct, but I grew up in VA also, and I never saw a historian or Southern culture enthusiast flying that flag. I only saw/met/bumped into/crossed paths with guys who looked like they'd just come off the Blue Collar Comedy Tour (which I loved BTW!). And those guys had the flag plastered across their truck bumpers or in the rear windows of their trucks, etc. I'm not criticizing their look or anything like that. I'm just sayin'.

SWF42, take it as a complement that I had to read your first comment twice. I just meant that it was that deep that I needed to think about it and soak it up for a minute. It was good and I got you the first time, but this follow-up is just as tight;-)

Wavemancali

James,

I've been swamped and wish I had been able to reply again before now.

I think you're mistaken. I think if a Buddhist temple opened in any city in America tomorrow and had a bunch of Swastikas on flags gracing the grounds of the temple they'd be shut down by an angry mob or righteous town/city council within a week.

People aren't interested in other peoples viewpoints anymore they are interested in forcing them into line with everyone else.

Are their a-hole racists that use the flag as a symbol? Yes, absolutely. But the KKK uses crosses in a lot of their imagery too are we going to stop allowing crosses? People use guns to kill other people, doesn't mean we should ban guns either. You should never limit the rights of the good people because of the actions of the bad people.

James B.

Wavemancali, now you've got me all wrong, waaaaaay wrong. Regardless of whether we agree on which analogies are most applicable to the flagg being flown today (depending on who's flying it) you've never read anything on my blog under my byline suggesting that we limit the rights of good people from doing anything. I love our back and forths, but I defy you or anyone else to point out an instance on this blog in which I proposed, suggested, or even hinted that good people's rights should be limited.

Any question I asked in this post about the right or wrong of the CSA flag being flown was clearly rooted in the ethical and moral dilemmas, not the legal ones.

Wavemancali

Sorry, didn't mean to suggest you thought a ban was in order. I know you're not suggesting that.

I was trying to portray the attitude of people in general. If you polled your readership I'd guesstimate a 40/60 split. 40% would want to ban it 60% would find that to be denying people their liberties.

But as for pro and con I think you'd get a 20/80 split with 80% saying the flag is distasteful no matter what the Sons of Confederate Veterans say their intentions are when they fly it.

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