I’m taking a stroll, golf cart ride actually, through our small town. The route always takes me through our historic cemetery. By an odd coincidence, call it providential if you want to be spiritual, I was called to pastor the Baptist church in this town where a couple of relatives of mine had married (the second marriage for one, third and fourth for another), lived a short while, died and were buried.
The picture is of the grave of my great-great-grandfather. The color accent is the Confederate flag. The first year the flag appeared was a surprise. I quickly discerned that it had to do with Confederate Memorial Day, only unofficially observed in Georgia the fourth Sunday in April. I don’t know of another descendant of the man, a Confederate veteran, who lives in the area. I suspect the flag was placed by a local genealogical hobbyist who has an interest in the Civil War.
The flag pops up in April and is taken down after a week or so. There are no riots or demonstrations, no vandalism or occupying as a result of this tiny flag’s appearance in my fair town.
I am amused by the comments about the Confederate memorials, statues, and monuments.
“The confederacy only existed from 1961-1865, get over it,” a few commenters huff.
“These Confederate generals were treasonous rebels,” sniffs another virtue signaller on steroids.
While it pleases me that there are still people educated enough to locate the War in the proper century, much less get the actual years right, these people are light years from reality. The confederacy hangs heavy around here like the humidity in August. It’s atmospheric. It doesn’t depend on monuments, symbols, or holidays. My Faulknerian read on the matter anyway.
Some Ohioan, Oregonian, or Michigander sniffs about “Evil, pure evil” yet, somehow, the Union was restored without Nuremberg-like trials or re-education camps. My Confederate veteran ancestors, rebels all, signed loyalty and allegiance oaths, were pardoned, and went back, most of them, to a meager existence from farming and rebuilt their lives.
Would it be possible for the anarchists and summer-of-love occupiers in Seattle be pardoned from their crimes by signing such an oath? I suspect none would sign. I also suspect that the extremists are ignorant of the Chinese Cultural Revolution but would heartily endorse many of its traits.
It’s a wonder, lost to modern memory, that the South worked out many (not all) of these Civil War issues in a generally peaceful manner which is not to say all racial issues have been solved.
A few months before I graduated from the University of Georgia the Dixie Redcoat Band was renamed the Redcoat Band and it no longer played “Dixie,” the de facto anthem of the Confederacy. There were huffs and puffs but the administrative fiat was given a half-century ago and that was that.
The symbols are easy. Relocate them to private property, museums, or cemeteries. Stone Mountain might be difficult but it’s a big tourist attraction and brings considerable income to the majority black county where it is located.
Symbolic actions may have value but I don’t feel compelled to voice the latest slogans nor kneel before any human. Nor is vicarious guilt over my rebel ancestors a source of oppressive guilt, or any guilt, for me. I didn’t choose my ancestors. I choose my own acts. God help me to imitate Christ in doing so. I fail regularly.
As a teenager, I could have asked my grandmother about her grandfather, the man whose grave is adorned by the flag in the picture above. I was more interested in baseball than history, though. I expect that she wouldn’t have had much to say about the War. Likewise, my great-aunts who married CSA veterans were notoriously tight-lipped about such things. One had a trove of letters from the War burned at her death.
But, the statues and monuments are easy targets. I don’t know what racial issues were solved by this:
We do have the irony of the governor in blackface removing the statue, though. Only in America.
CSA veterans already have a symbol, a type of cross, on many of their graves. It was a late 19th century invention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Another ancestor of mine had one of these that was stolen from the cemetery, by some hobbyist no doubt. Miscreant.
Displays of flags and the like are protected speech. This cemetery is private property. There are no grand confederate monuments in my small town. The town was populated early in its life by Union veterans who were given land by the town namesake. But if someone has a nice obelisk they want to relocate I have an acre or so on my own property where it would look good, if not unusual. Always wanted an obelisk as my personal grave marker.