A Receding Tide? Flagging Interest in Confederate Heritage

We are coming upon forty days since a person fond of the Confederate flag gunned down nine people in cold blood in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Within days outrage and anger about that event became transformed into a rather testy debate over Confederate heritage and its symbols, with South Carolina’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia marking a important moment.

Of course, the debate did not stop there. People argued about removing the Confederate flag from license plates, famous TV cars, and National Park shops; there were discussions about moving (or simply removing) statues and one pair of bodies. As might be expected, defenders of Confederate heritage rose up in opposition and did their best to suggest that they were making up ground, although several of these protests were somewhat less impressive than their supporters claimed. For example, at its height a protest in Fredericksburg, Virginia, drew less than three thousand hundred dozen people, as this film suggests … and not a lot of people were paying any attention:

By the way, my understanding is that this was not a Virginia Flaggers function … too many people for that. But I also understand that 149 people promised to show up. Desertion remains a Confederate tradition.

By now we have a pretty good idea about what will happen. The once-surging tide will now begin to recede … not because Confederate heritage advocates have prevailed (they have lost serious ground) but because people soon get interested in other things. What happened in Columbia remains the emotional high point of this recent controversy. As many people pointed out, at most it was a first step in addressing far more serious questions. But it did not mark an end to gun violence, as we’ve seen since then; it did not mark an end to racism or to white supremacy; and in fact it remains to be seen whether the discussion that commenced on the heels of the Charleston murders will persist before people grow tired of it or turn their attention to the Kardashians or Donald Trump. Certainly the debates have grown predictable once more (and a little boring); while I expect to see a few more flashpoints in the fight over Confederate heritage in the coming weeks, I think the front is stabilizing, so to speak, as people sort out gains and losses.

This is not to minimize the importance of the discussion, merely its persistence. While the participants may continue to argue, the attention-span of the broader American public, always short, will decline absent another vivid event. Some people swept up in the initial fervor that looked as if it would sweep everything before it will find that there are other things to talk about, and it remains to be seen how many proposals will be acted upon. More will happen than one might have anticipated two months ago, but less than one hoped (or feared) might happen three weeks ago.

What do you think? What really happened over the last forty days? What will persist? What has changed? You tell me.

Another Controversy in Lexington, Virginia

It appears that we are on the verge of yet another controversy in Lexington, Virginia, and it may be of interest to regular readers of this blog.

On July 8, 2015, the following ad appeared in the Lexington (Va) News-Gazette:

Agnor Ad

The ad (and the paper’s decision to run the ad) has created a lot of controversy. The paper is hearing about it on its Facebook page, and it’s deciding how to respond.

Billboard Hill Lane is located northeast of Lexington, west of I-64/I-81. There are several billboards there … and there’s something else flying in the neighborhood. Care to guess what it is?

Are we to assume that Karen Cooper’s no longer welcome to go to Billboard Hill north of Lexington to look at her beloved Confederate flag while reminding us that “slavery’s a choice”? Hint: she’s not a Democrat, so that shouldn’t bother her.

Is This About Honoring Confederate Heritage?

The president of the United States came to Oklahoma yesterday, and this is what he encountered:

People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel that President Barack Obama is staying the night, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Oklahoma City.  Obama is traveling in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
People wave Confederate flags outside the hotel that President Barack Obama is staying the night, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Oklahoma City. Obama is traveling in Oklahoma to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We should note that the number of people involved in this particular welcome barely broke into double digits. so don’t let the picture deceive you. Here’s a more telling angle: Let’s take even a closer look … no Army of Northern Virginia battle flags are to be seen. In fact, we have four or five navy jacks … and three flags with messages on them that were not carried by Confederate soldiers. What might they be? Continue reading

Does Ben Jones Respect the Confederate Flag?

Most people familiar with American popular culture as rendered through television know something about “The Dukes of Hazzard.” That show has been in the news in recent weeks, when a television network specializing in reruns decided not to air it any more.

That sparked some controversy. Leading the charge was someone near and dear to readers of this blog, Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic in the show. Ben’s had a colorful career since then, including serving in the United Sates House of Representatives. He’s currently the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, coming aboard just as the SCV had to confront the removal of replica Confederate flags from Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University.

Everything I know about Ben from personal contact suggests that he’s a fine fellow who knows his baseball, but when it comes to these issues, we disagree a great deal, and his appearance here on this blog several years ago did not go well for him (although he deserves credit for making the effort). I also know that he continues to be proud of his work on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” including lending the name of his character to a string of stores known as “Cooter’s Place.” These stores are owned by Ben and his wife, so he ought to know what they sell.

Thus it occurred to me to find out what sort of Confederate flags are sold by the store owned by the man who is the chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

rebel-indian-flag

I don’t recall that even Stand Waite or John Ross approved of this flag.

This one confuses me. Aren’t you supposed to shoot deer? Are you supposed to shoot the flag? Or is this a wildlife preservation message? I can’t tell.

Nor can I identify the unit that deer flag honors. Same here:
I’m supposed to hook the flag and reel it in?

Well, perhaps this is a tribute to Confederate logistics and what might have been. 10-4, good buddy.

This is a traditional favorite. But I’m puzzled as to the Civil War connection. Perhaps it’s an artillery flag (red being the color of the collar for artillerists’ uniforms, as seen here.)

So much for regulation headgear.

Really? Maybe this commemorates Burnside’s Mud March, but I wonder.

Whatever floats your boat … but I don’t think smiley faces were placed on real Confederate battle flags. Rather, it sends the message that someone’s day is a brighter one if he offends others. Send one to Connie Chastain now.

There are more, but you get the idea. Or maybe you don’t. Want a Confederate flag bikini, for example? Click here. Swim trunks? Click here. Want to sleep under the flag? Click here. Want to go formal? Click here. Want to be the Confederate answer to David Cassidy? Click here.

And to you want to try your wet, sweaty body with the Confederate flag? Click here.

I was unhappy not to find this for sale.

And that, folks, is how to honor Confederate heritage and the service and sacrifice of the Confederate soldier and sailor. Tell ’em Cooter said so.

Note: Not all the images offered here are the images presented on the website in question … because some of them really weren’t very good. I wanted you to enjoy what was there with the best images of the merchandise possible. Upgrade your site, Ben.

On Moving and Returning Bodies: The Case of Nathan Bedford and Mary Ann Forrest

By now most readers of this blog have heard about the continuing discussions in Memphis and elsewhere on the fate of the bodies of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife Mary Ann. Debate over the Forrests, a monument commemorating the general, and the park in which they are currently buried commenced before the Charleston murders, with the name of the park being changed to “Health Sciences Park” (really?) on Union Avenue (that should bring a smile to some faces). In the wake of those murders and the discussions that have ensued, the Memphis City Council took the next step, proposing to remove the Forrests’ bodies and return them to where they were originally buried, a place Forrest himself chose–a Confederate cemetery.

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On Moving and Removing Monuments (and a poll!)

Just because the Confederate Battle Flag no longer flies on the grounds of the South Carolina state house does not mean that the debate over the display of Confederate flags, icons, and symbols is over … including monuments to Confederate leaders and soldiers. Today we consider the last category.

Monuments are creatures of the place and time when they are erected (and where) just as much as they are ways of paying tribute to a person, event, cause, soldiers … whatever the subject of the monument. They tell us as much about the people who erected those monuments as they do about the subject of the monument. One need only recall the history of the major monuments in Washington, DC, as well as the debates over more recent monuments placed in the nation’s capital to understand this point. Even ugly monuments (see here) have their own special message, although in some cases I believe the monument may actually mock or denigrate its subject (see there).

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Who’s an American Veteran?

People like to point out that Confederate veterans are American veterans (although they clearly are not United States veterans). After all, Congress says so (these same people distrust and dismiss what Congress says whenever it pleases them so I take this at face value).

So let me ask …

Are Native Americans who battled the United States for far longer than did the Confederate Native Americans? Should their descendants benefit in like manner?

Are those Americans who remained loyal to the Crown during the uprising of 1775-1783 American veterans? How about Benedict Arnold? He covered both bases.

Are those Americans who joined various terrorist groups (and apparently continue to do so) American veterans?

Whatever your answers, explain them. Surely you don’t want to rely upon the answer that simply because Congress says it, it’s true. You don’t always offer that answer, do you?

How Not to Defend Confederate Heritage (continued)

Last Friday more information appeared about recent efforts by what appears to be a Virginia-based Confederate heritage group to intimidate and harass people they have targeted as enemies of Confederate heritage.

Of especial note is this comment:

State police declined to say who was behind the video. But “we’re aware of the individual or group that produced” it, Geller said.

We note that certain Confederate heritage groups based in Virginia, most notably the Virginia Flaggers, have not said anything about this matter, although the Flaggers rushed to denounce Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black people in South Carolina. Nor has their mouthpiece/webmaster, Connie Chastain Ward, who runs the hate blog Backsass and who brags that she knows things other people don’t know about what the Flaggers are doing. Perhaps the cat’s got her tongue.

Recall that the Flaggers found themselves enmeshed in an embarrassing hoax once before courtesy of Tripp Lewis (see: Rob Walker), who is fond of threatening people and of posting videos. Food for thought. Perhaps the Flaggers’ silence constitutes a tacit endorsement of these tactics. We’ll see what happens now that the people who “monitor” this blog have had a chance to read this.

A Descendant of Jefferson Davis? A Question For Jenny Anderson Horne

It was the speech that attracted national attention and galvanized South Carolina legislators, propelling the state House of Representatives to vote to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.

It’s a powerful speech. One comment that stood out, however, was the claim at the 3:00 mark where Representative Jenny Anderson Horne declared that she was a descendant of Jefferson Davis, the only president the Confederate States of America ever knew.

Now comes word that perhaps Representative Horne misspoke.

Here’s Jefferson Davis’s genealogy, as presented by the Papers of Jefferson Davis, based at Rice University. A shorter version of Davis’s genealogy that circulated earlier and that includes some helpful explanations is here. Continue reading

From The Soldiers’ Flag to the KKK’s Flag: Some Thoughts

Defenders of Confederate heritage who have made known their support of the Confederate Battle Flag often argue that the battle flag (in both its square version–Army of Northern Virginia–and its rectangular version–Army of Tennessee) was the soldiers’ flag, and that in honoring it one honors service and sacrifice. Some advocates go further, and claim that Confederate soldiers did not fight to defend slavery (in part because they claim so few Confederate soldiers owned slaves).

Those issues are open for discussion, of course, but let’s set them aside for the moment. Rather, let’s turn to the use of the Confederate flag by the Ku Klux Klan … and why that group uses it.

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