By now you all know about the decision of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts not to renew its lease agreement with a camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the use of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel on the grounds of the VMFA.
Here’s what the Virginia Flaggers announced on their Facebook page:
This account contradicts a claim offered by Billy Bearden in the comments section of this blog that the lease offered the SCV was a last-minute surprise: the above account suggests that both parties had been negotiating for quite some time. Perhaps the Flaggers need to get their stories straight. They’ve had years to do that.
The Flaggers’ own account also testifies to the organization’s inability to affect the stance of the VMFA. The Flaggers themselves claim that they have nothing to do with the position of the VMFA in 2015, because it was what the VMFA wanted to do in 2010; yet the 2015 agreement shows that matters have not improved, suggesting that the past four and a half years of protesting practiced by the Virginia Flaggers have amounted to nothing when it comes to the VMFA’s position. Other people have claimed that the behavior of the Virginia Flaggers has not helped matters: Susan Hathaway’s disappearance from the sidewalk can be traced to concern about repercussions should the VMFA complain to her employer, who has contracts with the VMFA, about her conduct.
In short, although the Virginia Flaggers like to talk about their importance to the cause of Confederate heritage, all they have done is to testify to their impotence when it comes to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. All the Flaggers have achieved during the past several weeks is to erect a third, rather small, flag in downtown Lexington. They claim that size doesn’t matter, but that location is everything.
As before, the blog “Southern Flaggers” offered the claim that the VMFA was in violation of Virginia state law when it acted as it did. Yet, although the Virginia Flaggers have been around for four and a half years, the organization has failed to fight for the rights of Confederate heritage by filing a lawsuit. They have raised money for more flagpoles and flags, and raised money to defend Tripp Lewis when Lewis ran afoul of the law, but they have failed to raise money to battle the VMFA in court. That is a clear demonstration of the group’s priorities: spectacle over substance. Nor have we seen either the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Southern Legal Research Center, led by Kirk David Lyons, take legal action. This is a rather limp defense of Confederate heritage, suggesting that some folks don’t want to put their money where their mouth is. Perhaps all they want to do is to walk the sidewalks and run their mouths.
Confederate heritage deserves better … although critics of Confederate heritage smile when such tomfoolery is passed off as defending Confederate heritage. After all, isn’t it time for another prom dress lawsuit?
The failure of the Virginia Flaggers and other Confederate heritage groups to take effective action against the VMFA suggests that the real weakness in the movement is internal, not external. Kevin Levin has written that more and more people are turning their backs on a fading Confederate heritage. He may be right, although I don’t care to make such predictions. I’ve already offered my take on this issue. But what has happened at the Confederate War Memorial Chapel … and what has not happened … testifies to the ineffectiveness of Confederate heritage groups and their failure to take meaningful action to protect what they claim to prize so dearly.
There are those people who think that certain Confederate heritage groups are their own worst enemies. There are other critics who claim that they are the unwitting allies of their critics, almost as if they are a false flag operation (pun intended). What seems clear is that the case of the Confederate War Memorial Chapel clearly demonstrates the inability of certain people to effect meaningful and lasting change.
Nothing to see here, folks … just move along.