Interpreting the Confederate flag
On my journeys so far I have not crossed paths much with the Confederate flag.
My young, ignorant British viewings of the flag came from, yes, you guessed it The Dukes of Hazzard and those naughty champs Bo and Luke riding in the General Lee, which hosted the flag on the roof…
Anyway, then as I grew up and through the VERY LITTLE that I learned about the Civil War at school (we were preoccupied with the Wars of the Roses and that conquering in 1066), and the movies that I watched (actually, predominantly North and South and Gone with the Wind), I acquainted the Confederate flag with the South, racism and, yes, a symbol of hate.
Having spotted the flag several times during the trip to the Eastern Shore, I commented upon its presence, maybe a little disturbed by it flying so high, and in a Northern State…..
An interesting Facebook conversation and debate about the flag ensued when I posted the picture, which has thus prompted me to try and interpret today’s Confederate flag….
FB friend 1: ‘V distrurbing. I’m currently in South Carolina, and you see the confederate flag everywhere down here. I even saw a bumper sticker that mentioned “not being ashamed of this flag”.’
Me: ‘Surprised to see it in Maryland….’
FB friend 1: ‘Yes, however, “our Maryland” is very different from most of the state. Living in the DC metro, we are surrounded by a highly educated population, whom are mostly transplants from other areas. The Eastern Shore for example, might as well be Arkansas….’
FB friend 2: ‘To some (not all) people in the South it doesn’t represent anything evil or racist, only a recognition of the confederacy and that people died in an ugly and bloody civil war.’
FB friend 3: ‘I’m in South Carolina and I haven’t seen too many confederate flags. Guess it depends where in the state you are.’
FB friend 1: ‘Come to Charleston….they’re everywhere.’
FB friend 4: ‘I lived in Hagerstown, MD and also close to Gettysburg, PA. I used to see it all the time and definitely not in a historic battlefield context.’
Jason Pressberg, a columnist for Pendulum online at Elon University in North Carolina (NC), writes an interesting paper about the flag and how it is interpreted:
‘The Confederate flag is still a symbol of southern pride. Visiting Wal-Mart, you’ll find it on bumper stickers, hats and t-shirts of the local Elon and Burlington (NC) customers that shop there. Many Elon students also have Confederate flag bumper stickers and paraphernalia.
‘Ask anyone who has this symbol, and they’ll most likely tell you it has something to do with “southern pride.” But if you’re a Northerner like me, you might become uneasy by this.
‘No matter where you grew up, you will very likely receive an extremely biased education, especially regarding the Civil War. The New York public school district that I was taught in left me with the impression that it was a battle between the North, the good guys, and the South, the bad guys. The Northerners were abolitionists, fighting from the good of their hearts to end slavery. The Southerners were the cruel masters of the slaves, fighting to keep their wicked slavery ideals.
‘I also came to college thinking the Confederate flag was and is an evil symbol of hate. (Obviously, I was in for a rude awakening when I came to Elon.) But to the Southerners I’ve met that identify with it, they think of the flag as a symbol of the joys and values of being Southern. Many of these qualities, like common courtesy, are some of the things that are so refreshing about the South compared to New York. It’s not that people aren’t nice in the North; they just don’t care to be.
‘But the flag will never be an acceptable symbol, neither to Northerners, civil rights activists, or African-Americans. Sure, the flag no longer means the enforcement of slavery to most of the Southerners that associate with it, but some things will never change to those on the outside who view it.’
And I guess that’s why I find it uneasy to see in plain view, in the daylight, outside someones’s home…..
FYI, Jason concludes: ‘After the Holocaust, there was a movement in America to change the Swastika, once an aboriginal symbol of peace, back into its original meaning. The symbol, it was claimed, was once a good symbol and could be used for good again. The movement died when it became apparent that the world would forever associate Swastika’s with the Nazis, never again with anything to do with peace.
‘The Confederate flag, unfortunately, falls into the same category. You can try to change its meaning, but outsiders will always view it as a sign of hatred and bigotry.
‘This has real consequences, most notably in the Southern-dominated sport of Nascar. Blacks have been trying to be a part of the sport for years, but with symbols like the Confederate flag still prevalent at many Nascar races, it has been hard to stay focused. Why would anyone want to be a part of a system that encourages a racist flag to be flown at its events?’
Jason finishes by stating: ‘The Confederate flag has to go. There are many good qualities about the South, but there are other ways to glorify them than just this one. Its meaning has not and will not change: even if Southerners consider it to be just a symbol, it is still entrenched in racism.’
I often use Urban Dictionary for fun, inane or generally amusingly-inappropriate definitions of words, but this time, I think they’ve almost got it spot on… ‘The Confederate Flag: a flag that’s usually flown in the south, most of the time flown to represent southern pride and heritage, but sometimes is flown to represent white power and racism.’
And that’s why it’s so open to interpretation……
Ta-Ta London, Hello Awesome…..
A recent piece by US journo Sarah Lyall has had a mixed reception from different audiences. Some people love it, find it funny, amusing, touching. Some people wonder why she spent 18 years in the UK at all…..
This is her piece about London on her return to the USA…..
This sentence, particularly, might ruffle a few Brits’ feathers – or resonate…. ‘Britons admire and consume American culture, but feel threatened by and angry at its excesses and global dominance. They are both envious and suspicious of Americans’ ease and confidence in themselves. They want American approval but feel bad about seeking it.’
I do kind of agree with this…. ‘Who are we, and what is our place in the world? It wasn’t until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games last summer, with its music medleys and dancing nurses and quotes from Shakespeare and references to Mary Poppins and sly inclusion of the queen and depictions of the Industrial Revolution and compendiums of key moments in British television history, that the country seemed to have found some sort of answer.’
(We did, at least, manage to re-establish our sense of patriotism without having to create a new Empire 😉 )
Brits, Americans…. your thoughts?
Patricia W. Murray
So, I met a lady at an event in Easton, MD. I noticed her as she scooted along and stopped to dance with the children. Smiling, she’s always smiling, I thought. She was vivacious, bright and cheerful – people flocked to her. Who was she, I wondered?
So I asked….and this is Patricia’s story.
‘I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Chiari Malformation & Mast Cell Disease, along with other maladies. Due to a fall in 2003, I was in braces, confined to a bed, and then wheelchair bound for 5 years. Due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I cannot heal properly and have had many surgeries, including brain surgery, along with many spinal surgeries. I am IV dependent for hydration and I use oxygen when needed.
‘I just started walking again in January 2011. I use a cane when needed, and many braces under my clothes. I have to wear my braces when hooping also.’
‘I have been hooping since I was three years old and was a Hoop Champ at the age of ten. I have been teaching hooping for almost two years, health permitting. I am also a Motivational Speaker and the President/Executive Director/Founder of the Murray-Wood Foundation for rare maladies.’
Wow. She was amazing, I tell you. See www.murraywoodfoundation.org for more about Patricia and her causes.
NB. This was Part 2 of the Eastern Shore blog – expect Part 3 tomorrow with all sorts of amusing bits and bobs in (including Peter Popoff’s God’s Own Mircale juice still to come!)….I’m too pooped to write anymore!