First, some confessional crap. My momma was born and raised in South Carolina. That means I spent a chunk of my youth there. We’re talking Deep South. Somewhere in a box there are photographs of me as a kid wearing a Confederate foraging cap. When I was a boy I actually owned a Confederate battle flag — the Stars and Bars. I grew up hearing about the War of Northern Aggression. And here’s a sad truth: I found the faded romance of the Lost Cause attractive.
Of course, I didn’t have a fucking clue what that Cause was, or what it meant. I just like the idea of heroic country boys standing up and fighting against a much bigger and better equipped army. I felt the same way about the Revolutionary War, about which I was equally clueless.
So I understand these guys, the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I understand they’d like to dissociate the Stars and Bars from its racist history. I get it — they want to distance themselves from dumb-ass, low-class, racist redneck white trash. I understand that they want to see the Confederate battle flag through a gauzy starlight filter that makes the Civil War look like a glamour shot from a cheap magazine.
But let me just say this to the Sons of Confederate Veterans: c’mon guys — wake the fuck up — this is NOT a good idea.
Seriously, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have convinced the Georgia Department of Revenue to allow them to put the Stars and Bars on their license tags. I am NOT making this up. There’ll be an extra fee to get this custom license tag (call it a tax on stupid people), but ten dollars of that money will go to the SCV in order to “promote Southern Heritage through educational activities and preservation efforts around the state.” Whatever the hell that means.
You guys, it doesn’t matter how you want folks to see the Stars and Bars. It only matters that for 98% of the world it’s a hateful symbol of racism and oppression. It only matters that it makes ALL Southern folk look like fuckwits. A symbol means what the majority of people think it means. You remember how the Swastika used to be a Hindu symbol of good luck and prosperity?
No, of course you don’t. Because the Nazis completely shit all over the swastika and now for most of the world the symbol means “I’m a white guy who hates Jews.” That’s what has happened to the Confederate battle flag. Doesn’t matter what it might have meant to your great-great-great granddaddy; now it means “I’m a white guy who hates black folks.” Now it means “Black folks, please throw rocks and shatter the windows of my car.”
Seriously, this is stupid at the cellular level. You can put this licence tag on your brand new Lexus or your Volvo station wagon, but this is what people will see when you drive down the street:
I don’t know…maybe it’s actually a good idea to let these cretinous flag-wankers identify themselves to the public at large. ‘Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’ as the god-botherers would say. ‘Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.’
This licence tag, I suspect it will bringeth forth rocks through the windows. Can I get a hallelujah?
Yeah, stupid is as stupid does…this doesn’t help the South’s image much at all. But I would surely love to see photos of you as a kid wearing that Confederate foraging cap.
I was your classic towhead buzzcut Southern boy. All I lacked was bib overalls.
Luckily for them, based on my experience attending grad school at Vanderbilt while living in Kentucky, they are themselves the most likely rock throwers (and purveyors of other sorts of violence).
Being the Civil War Reenactor that I am, I have a plate frame on my car that says so, with both the Stars and Bars, and the 1863ish US flag. It is faded and I need a new one, but even I will admit that I am careful about whether or not I have it on the car depending on what state I live in. Virginia and north, I was ok with it. When I went to North Carolina with my car, I was glad I had Virginia plates at the time.
I dearly love Civil War history. I’ve got a stupidly large collection of books and guides, and I’ve visited a lot of the lesser-known battlefields (and most of the well-known ones too, of course). It’s a fascinating and horrific part of our history.
I’m going to spend too much time reading your blog. I like how you take them at their word (which I don’t, honestly, and I have lived in the Deep South) and still take the argument apart.