Back to School at Washington & Lee

Some of you may remember that over a month ago there was something of a controversy over a decision taken by the administration at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, to remove replica Confederate flags from Lee Chapel. The university instead decided to return to public display actual Confederate flags on a rotating basis in the museum downstairs at the chapel, near where Robert E. Lee and family members have been laid to rest.

Seems to me there was quite a fuss at first over the university’s decision, but that fuss seems to have died down, as only a handful of Confederate heritage advocates have engaged in “flagging” the university recently.

For all the talk of protests, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns and the like, the policy put in place this July remains. I’ve seen no signs of that policy changing. Nor have I seen that the wave of protests, now reduced to a few ripples on a pond, have achieved anything, the overheated claims on some Facebook pages and blogs notwithstanding. Instead, we are now approaching the final stages of the drama. Between the return of students to their school (I foresee an uptick in discussion about the new policy from students and faculty), Young Alumni Weekend (September 19-21, 2014), Parents Weekend (October 11-12, 2014), and the Five-Star Festival (October 31-November 2, 2014), there are only a few opportunities left for certain folks to make a big splash.

Otherwise, we can anticipate seeing the occasional snapshots of a few people holding flags while making increasingly hollow claims about changing hearts and minds at Lexington. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish those images from those taken along the largely empty sidewalks by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond … and when’s the last time you saw a “Virginia Flagger” at the Museum of the Confederacy’s Appomattox branch?

It’s getting boring again.

Oh, I guess one can put up a flagpole here and there near an interstate and claim that’s progress, but those shallow triumphs increasingly resemble a rearguard action. And so another episode in the continuing heritage wars ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Pass the Kleenex.


6 thoughts on “Back to School at Washington & Lee

  1. Kevin Dally September 8, 2014 / 2:16 am

    Be very afraid…Southern Heritage groups won’t be saying the US Flag Salute at their meetings no more!

  2. Spelunker September 8, 2014 / 2:20 am

    Instead of “More Cowbell”, “More Flagpole”.

  3. Goad Gatsby September 8, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    Who knows, maybe in a year from now, they will have a fourth flagpole with a Confederate flag made in China.

  4. Rosemary September 9, 2014 / 5:36 pm

    Dr. S. Are you not baiting tthem?

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 9, 2014 / 7:42 pm

      Of course not. I am simply reporting the facts. But I note that the Flaggers now propose to be at Lexington this weekend. 🙂

  5. OhioGuy September 10, 2014 / 10:36 am

    Keep up your fine reporting of the demise of the Lost Cause movement. It reached its zenith in about 1961 (what an irony), and it’s been downhill ever since. I’m curious if you are aware of any other war in which the losers wrote a distorted view of the history of the conflict that was then accepted by many descendants of the winners for a century?

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