Sunday, March 8, 2009
Rebelling Against the Flag
While on the way to work recently, I stopped at the gas station around the corner from where I live to fill up my car. Also filling up their tank at a nearby pump was a trucker who worked for a company based here in Michigan. The trucker (a white male approximately in his mid to late 40s) gave me a nod of hello and I returned the favor. Something else I noticed about the trucker is that he was sporting a baseball cap with the Confederate Flag symbol on the front of it.
I realize that many people who display the Confederate Flag do so without any racial or political connotations. In fact, I recently learned that some use the Confederate Flag as a symbol of generalized working-class masculinity, suggesting rowdy rebelliousness, and detached from any intended historical, Southern regional, or racial significance, although almost always in a white context. The trucker that I encountered likely fits into this category. Having said that, because of its racist symbolism (through its use by several hate groups), I get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see the Confederate Flag. Even though I live in Michigan, I see Confederate Flags (on the license plates and rear windows of motor vehicles) on a semi-regular basis. Because I don't like seeing them, whenever I'm behind a vehicle that has one displayed, I will go around them the first chance I get.
Although I feel it's bad policy for government buildings to display the Confederate Flag, I'm not saying that individuals should be stopped from doing so. However, I think it's important that they understand that the Confederate Flag stirs negative feelings in the hearts of many (including non-blacks). A few years ago, I was watching the "E! True Hollywood Story" about the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard and it discussed the controversy surrounding the displaying of the Confederate Flag on the roof of the Duke's car The General Lee. The creator of the show (Gy Waldron) was interviewed on camera for the "E! True Hollywood Story" episode. Courtesy of You Tube, I just watched the episode again. Waldron stated that painting the flag on the roof of the car was done innocently because it was commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s to see the flag painted on cars throughout the South. He added that because the use of the flag on The General Lee was not done as a political statement, he saw no reason to bow to pressure from anyone and remove it. I can appreciate that painting the flag on the car wasn't a political statement and why Waldron felt no need to remove it, but he lost me when he discussed the reason why it was used in the first place. The show debuted in 1979 and was set in the present, so why use something that was commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s? Although I haven't seen the big screen version of The The Dukes of Hazzard, I read that there was a scene that addressed the displaying of the Confederate Flag on The General Lee.
Rocker Tom Petty took a different view than Waldron regarding the Confederate Flag. Back in 1985, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released an album titled Southern Accents. In support of the album, the band did a tour they called "Pack Up the Plantation". As the stage backdrop, the band used a giant Confederate Flag. A music video (taken from the tour) for the song Rebels contains the backdrop as well as a scene of Tom draping himself in a Confederate Flag that was handed to him by a fan in the audience. When I first saw this video as a teen, it caused me to question what message Tom was trying to convey. Apparently, someone talked to Tom because I remember him doing an interview on MTV where he asked fans not to bring their Confederate Flags to his shows. He may have also discontinued the use of the Confederate Flag as the backdrop at his shows, but I'm not sure.
What are your thoughts on the Confederate Flag?