Saturday, April 6, 2019

Pride in Dixie

I was at the local auto repair shop the other day and Russ and his friends were there sitting around the cracker barrel. They were discussing a story in the Norwich newspaper (there still is one, believe it or not) about our first selectman who had apparently allowed himself to be photographed in front of a Confederate battle flag at an outdoor meeting in the neighboring town. Evidently the flag just happened to be there, a homeowner was displaying it. The meeting was about building codes or some such anodyne matter.

So Dan should have known better but the interesting question for me is why we see so many Confederate flags here in northeastern Connecticut. The people who display them have probably never been south of New York. Not too long ago I saw a pickup truck in a restaurant parking lot. The front license frame proclaimed the owner to be the town fire chief. Instead of a license plate, it contained a Confederate battle flag. For a while it was fashionable to fly a U.S. flag on your pickup. Some guys actually had a U.S. flag on one side and a Confederate flag on the other. There's a house on a road that's heavily traveled because it connects Windham Center with North Windham, where there's a commercial district. This guy has a lot of old heavy equipment rusting in his yard, and a huge Confederate battle flag hanging from a tree.

I don't think I have to tell you that Connecticut did not join the Confederacy. Connecticut was in fact the home of many noteworthy abolitionists including, of course, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Lincoln won the state's electoral votes in a landslide. The state lost more than 4,000 men in the Civil war.

So what point are these clowns trying to make? There must be some intention behind the gesture. Unlike southerners, they can't pretend they're honoring their ancestors or remembering their dead. What do they want us to think of them?


  1. I live in a small/medium-sized town in NW Georgia. As you might expect, the Confederate flag is widely displayed, sometimes as car tags, sometimes as window stickers and sometimes as actual flags. I have not discussed with any of these people why they display the flag, but I have some suspicions. One is that there is probably a strong overlap with Trump voters, not too surprising in Georgia. Another is that they would vehemently deny that they are racists or that the flag itself symbolizes anything racist. The would probably also deny that the Civil War (or, as I like to call it, The Slave Owners Rebellion) has anything to do with slavery. It's all about culture and tradition and states' rights. But I also have a suspicion that if you scratch one of these people, you will find a racist. Maybe not a rabid racist, but someone who will occasionally, eventually, let slip their true feelings about race. They might object that they have black friends, and they may well, but I've heard enough white-to-white conversation to know that their friendships haven't completed obliterated their racism. I also fairly strongly suspect that anyone who displays that flag, no matter where, is using it as a tribal symbol. Connecticut flag-flyers are indicating that they are part of the same tribe as Georgia flag-flyers. It's the last, dying gasp (I hope) of white privilege and superiority.

    Maybe they don't believe it is their last, dying gasp, but I hope they are like a white South African that talked to a friend of mine years ago. He said apartheid would never end in South Africa, and the blacks would never gain political power.

  2. I agree with what Mark P wrote. It's about tribalism and probably white supremacy and privilege.