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11:03 a.m. - August 30, 2006
Wave That Flag
**PLEASE NOTE – The subject below may be a bit controversial, but all I ask is that you are respectful if you have any dissenting views or thoughts. Thanks.

It’s hard enough raising children.

It’s hard enough raising bi-racial children in BFE land.

So you don’t need things that complicate matters.

First off, I am all for the freedom of expression. I can’t tell someone what to think and I can’t tell someone they can’t print something or express their views.

Even though I abhor the nutjobs from Fred Phelps’ church, I do think laws prohibiting their demonstrations are over-reaching and trample on the first amendment.

So when I see idiots put stuff on web sites, or march in support of racist views, I cringe, yes, but I know it’s their right to be idiots out in public. Yes, it’s scary that people think the things they think, but I can’t stop them.

Yet, I get angry when I see something so close by in my hometown.

A few blocks down the street from us is a house that used to be an old gas station way back in the day. I can tell because most of the lot is concrete and has an area where you could imagine a sign being placed, as there is a concrete base that is there.

The house is small, but nice. The person living there has a grill out front and I see people sitting out there once in a while, looking at the busy street and enjoying life.

I noticed a flagpole that had an American flag. Then a few weeks ago, I noticed a second flagpole and a second flag.

And the feeling I got when I saw that flag wasn’t a good feeling. It WAS fear and loathing, as Hunter S. would say.

It was the Confederate Battle Flag. The Stars and Bars.

The ‘rebel’ flag has been part of the redneck culture here for years. Everyone remembers the General Lee from the “Dukes of Hazzard”, right? Well, that had a big old rebel flag painted on its hood.

One of the local high schools around here is Southmont, and for a while some students used to bring a rebel flag into games to wave. You know, the south and all will rise.

A lot of NASCAR fans have the flag on their cars. Maybe they think they’re a purer NASCAR fan because they’re a ‘rebel’ – whatever that means.

I do realize that southerners are proud of their heritage, and the Confederacy was a moment in their history.

I do realize that the Civil War, and the Confederacy, was a complicated affair, and there were myriad reasons for secession and the conflict, and that slavery was just one component of that.

And for the first part of my life, I didn’t really think much of people displaying that flag.

But I got to thinking about it, because I heard another side of the issue.

Yes, southerners have a right to be proud of their heritage and culture and traditions. However, part of that heritage was slavery. Another part of that heritage was segregation and egregious racism. And that part of the heritage didn’t end that long ago.

Liz and I watched a KKK documentary the other day. It was interesting to see how that group has evolved and changed. In the 20’s, the KKK was a very powerful group, especially here in Indiana (oh, joy). At that time, they were anti-catholic, pro-prohibition, and were allegedly morally upright and protected the virtues of womanhood. That all changed when the leader of the Klan here in Indiana was arrested and convicted of murder and sexual assault after getting a woman drunk and basically raping her to death.

But they had pictures of the huge marches the Klan had back then, and all I saw were American flags.

Later, the Klan devolved into loose, local organizations, mainly aimed at stopping the desegregation movement and keeping blacks ‘in their place.’

They showed a lot of footage of Birmingham in the early 60’s. I saw a lot of signs espousing pure hatred (like “Who Needs Niggers??”) and a lot of examples of Klan members beating blacks and whites who were standing in solidarity with the blacks.

This time, though, the Klan displayed two flags. The American flag and the rebel battle flag were displayed side by side.

Certainly, the Klan was using that flag as a symbol of who they were and what they stood for.

Well, if you were African American in the South in the 60s, that flag meant one thing – hatred. And if you were 20 in 1960, you are 66 today, and I am sure that the memories of the 60s are still vivid.

I really didn’t get the issue until there were flacks about that flag being displayed on the statehouse flagpoles in some states, and also incorporated in the state flags as well. I heard a report on NPR about the issue, and the people objecting to said flags had very sensible arguments on why those flags should not be displayed by the government, nor why they should be incorporated in the state flags. The imagery evokes terror and fear to several people.

The other side basically just stated the argument that it’s their heritage and we should remember the heritage. Well, you do realize that that heritage fought AGAINST the United States of America AND was for slavery?

So then, that’s when I realized that the rebel flag wasn’t a harmless piece of cloth, nor something that is a proud display of heritage and roots. To many people, it is a symbol of repression, of violence, of fear.

All thanks to the KKK and other groups in the 50s and 60s.

I have nothing against Civil War re-enactors who use that flag in their hobby. I really can’t tell anyone not to display it.

I just ask people to think about what it means.

The Bottle Rockets did a song called “Wave That Flag”, in which the closing lines of the chorus state “If somebody owned your ass / how would it feel?”

So when I passed by that house, and saw that flag, I wondered if the people who lived there really knew what that flag represented to people, or if it was just a way to display their love of NASCAR and being a ‘rebel’.

Because one day Katie or Kristin will ask what that is a flag of, and I’ll have to tell them. And that’s not a conversation I will relish.

 

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