The Lexington Controversy Considered

Well, this year’s Lee-Jackson Day has come and gone in Virginia, and people on cyberspace and the media have paid more attention to the efforts of several groups (although I’ve only seen the Sons of Confederate Veterans mentioned) to force Lexington to display various Confederate banners on city flagpoles.  And, folks, that is what this comes down to … forcing a local government to do as a minority (many who do not live in the area) wishes it to do.

According to one newspaper report, there were more “flaggers” (a mighty host of 300 … wait for the ensuing film) than spectators (some 100 in all).  I see nothing in these reports that suggests that flaggers were unable to enjoy their right of free speech and political protest.  I would venture that the Lexington City Council formed its current policy with previous court orders in mind, because various Confederate banners are no longer singled out: the only flags that can fly from city-owned flagpoles are the United States flag, the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the flag of the city of Lexington.

You can see that there were plenty of Confederate flags on display in the photo essay for this article … and yes, there are even a few images of the beloved “flaggers” included.

I have no investment in this issue.  If Lexington’s residents want to fly various Confederate banners (there is no single “Confederate flag”), they can do so … just not on city-owned flagpoles.  Indeed, if anyone wants to display various Confederate banners in Lexington, they are free to do so … just not on city-owned flagpoles.  And if various Confederate heritage groups think this is a worthwhile investment of time, money, and energy (as opposed to, say, restoring Confederate monuments and preserving Confederate cemeteries), that’s their choice.  And if the city of Lexington wants to govern which flags will appear on its flagpoles, well, that’s fine, too.

I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this controversy.  However, now that it’s come and gone, there’s little reason to spend more time on it.

Update:  The flaggers called a “press conference” and got some press coverage after all.  Bravo!

4 thoughts on “The Lexington Controversy Considered

  1. Margaret Blough January 15, 2012 / 8:12 pm

    It’s odd, for people who generally denounce governmental intrusion in personal decisions, that they are so adamant about wanting government-sponsored/sanctioned displays of the Confederate flag(s) (why do I get a sense of deja vu here?) What I see is little or no willingness to accept/admit that the biggest problem for the Battle Flag is not the 1860s but the 1940s-1960s. One simply doesn’t see the same adverse reaction to the First National Flag of the Confederacy or the state flag of South Carolina which is close to the first banner raised in support of the rebellion in Charleston, SC.

    • Andy Hall January 16, 2012 / 8:38 am

      What I see is little or no willingness to accept/admit that the biggest problem for the Battle Flag is not the 1860s but the 1940s-1960s.

      Modern “heritage” positions often run against historical practice, as well. Look at the sturm und drang over the removal of the CBF from the South Carolina State House, and the continued debate over its presence at the Confederate monument on the grounds there. The monument was put up in 1879; the flag wasn’t put up on the Capitol dome until 1962, nearly a century later. Until then, as far as I can tell, the Confederate flag was not regularly displayed in either place. So the folks who have their butternut panties in a knot over the placement of that particular flag aren’t advocating for a “restoration” of the flag to any historical precedent that would have been familiar to actual Confederate veterans, but rather more Confederate symbolism than real Confederates had.

  2. Barky January 17, 2012 / 7:27 pm

    I don’t understand the insistence on displaying an image that is patently offensive to an entire race of people. If I owned something that I knew offended the bejeezus out of a very large group of people (not just a fringe), you can be sure I would stop.

    I guess I’m not as wrapped up in symbols as other folks …

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