The Virginia Flaggers were established on September 5, 2011.
Now, before we get started, I’d like to point out a minor correction to how the Flaggers summarize the history of the Old Soldiers Home in Richmond:
Confederate flags had flown over the grounds since the opening of the Old Soldiers Home in 1885. Those flags did not trouble the Union soldiers who donated the organ to the chapel; nor did they trouble Ulysses S. Grant.
The Old Soldiers Home (which, I should point out, is not the chapel) opened on January 1, 1885. Ulysses S. Grant died later that year, and in fact never left New York state during 1885. He never visited the home, and there’s no evidence that he said anything about the display of such flags … or that he even knew they were on display.
But then it’s never been about history, just “heritage.”
So what have the Flaggers achieved in the two years of their existence?
Not a great deal, and certainly nothing when it comes to the major items on their agenda.
Their efforts to compel the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to place flags mounted on the outside of the Confederate Memorial Chapel have failed. In fact, they refused to support a compromise proposal offered by Kevin Levin.
Their efforts to reverse a ordinance in Lexington, Virginia, banning the flying of certain banners on city flagpoles failed. Indeed, the mayor who supported the ordinance was reelected by a larger majority.
Their efforts to force the Museum of the Confederacy to fly a Confederate flag outside its new facility in Appomattox, Virginia, failed (and in fact the Flaggers no longer bother with the museum).
Their efforts to force a confrontation at the VMFA led to the arrest of Flagger Tripp Lewis.
Perhaps their most embarrassing setback happened when Flagger leader Susan Hathaway had to admit she was duped by a false report that a filmmaker working with the Flaggers, Rob Walker, had fended off two people attempting to vandalize a Confederate monument.
Not a lot to brag about over two years … and then, of course, there’s this …
… where the Flaggers openly embraced white supremacist Matthew Heimbach, with spokesperson Connie Chastain repeatedly fumbling the story while Susan Hathaway remained silent, unwilling to disavow him.
The Flaggers hope to reverse the course of their own history later this month with their newest enterprise: erecting a fifty-foot flagpole along I-95 south of Richmond upon which they plan to fly a large Confederate flag. This achievement will mark their first significant success. Of course, next to no one driving by the flagpole will have the faintest idea what the flag represents (although I’m sure those Flaggers who live in the area will drive by it a lot). Others who associate the flag in question with resistance to the civil rights movement or as the flag of a government founded upon the cornerstone of slavery and human inequality will find it a deplorable sight, and certainly not the right way to welcome people to Virginia’s capital. But the flagpole project will be an accomplishment, and the Flaggers will try to make the most of it by claiming that they thwarted efforts to stop their project in its tracks. Of course, most of the people who voiced opposition (or even simply mocked) the whole idea never tried to prevent its erection. Again, folks, it’s “heritage,” not history, so the fact that the Flaggers got their facts wrong is no surprise.
Some Flaggers have promised us that this is only the beginning. I can’t wait.
The Flaggers say that their actions “are changing hearts and minds in the Capital of the Confederacy!” Perhaps, but the result has not always been what they intended or desired. Many hearts and minds have been mobilized in opposition to the project, starting with an online petition.