Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stars and Bars

The First National off my front porch this afternoon. Fresh out of its plastic package.

In December, Jennifer gave me a Confederate Flag as part of my Christmas presents. She loves giving people lots of little gifts. It is more fun for her than big gifts. This was a real treat, I have to admit. A First National Flag. So festive and hopeful, before all the battles and defeats and deaths.

It was February 1861,
in Montgomery, when the Confederate States of America officially formed. But, when Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the first President of the new government, there were no flags flying over the ceremony. A photo of the moment is strangely void of flags of any kind. The sketch in the Montgomery link of a parade of what appears to be a southern regiment clearly shows but few flags. The Stars and Strips is, in fact, quite prominent. Secession was so fresh that the US military flag still served the newformed regiment.

First National Flag was adopted later, in March 1861, and was obviously inspired by the United States flag. Since the convention of secession was held in February I try to put out a Confederate Flag each year during this month. To commemorate many things, I guess. Arrogance, chivalry, honor, and pride, a belief in the original spirit of the American Revolution. It was a different world and these things were still prized.

This year it seemed proper to place my Christmas present flag, creases and all, out into the late winter sunshine. In honor of the original convention of the Antebellum South's most outrageous suggestion that it could be independent. It felt warm today, bright and sunny and temperatures in the mid-50's. There was a nice breeze, a bit brisk at times.

Some might think it racially prejudiced of me to fly these flags. The Stars and Bars is certainly not the same thing as the Confederate Battle Flag but, of course, that is a rather lost distinction these days. It is prejudiced by association, I suppose. But the funny thing is is that these people who might think me racially prejudiced with my flashy symbolism are of themselves only expressing a prejudice against me. I am no racist, though I harbor many cultural prejudices, as do we all.

My g-g-great-grandfather who fought for the Old South could not read nor write was probably a bigot and completely racist. Am I, too, guilty by association? Is there no space for celebration of the Confederacy left without racism? There is no place for his bravery, his humanity trapped within the large political and cultural forces of the day, to be recognized in the freedom of flying flags? Perhaps not for most but there is in me.

So the irony is the prejudiced ones are the ones dictating what this flag can mean. Of course, we can't speak of it from this perspective. It is a trashy, unenlightened perspective. Race overides every other possible way of looking at my ancestor. That is the prevailing prejudice, the essential theft of southern symbolism by right-wing extremists and left-wing interpretations of southern sins.

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