Whose Confederate Heritage?

This story out of Haywood County, North Carolina about the display of the Confederate flag on public ground is perfect for helping us to move beyond the popular narratives of North v. South and black v. white.  It’s a fairly straightforward story:

For years, David Crook had been making monthly rounds past the Confederate Memorial on the lawn of the historic courthouse and tucking a tiny flag into the ground at its base. And for years, an anonymous person who felt the flag carried negative symbolism had been pulling them up.  “They kept disappearing,” said Thomas Shepard, whose own ancestors fought for the South. “So we kept replacing them.”  The flag tug-of-war gradually ramped up, with a new one being put down and pulled up almost daily.  The county was forced to wade into the fray in June, when a local attorney complained about the tiny flag display and asked the county to intervene.

County officials decided to remove the flags for good and this enraged those who see the flag as central to their understanding of the Southern/Confederate past.  What I find interesting is the way in which this debate has been framed by the local newspaper.  They refer to flag advocates as “Confederate supporters” but this tells us very little about the wide range of views held by white Southerners re: their past.

Despite the heated emotions on display in the comments section of the article no one in this dispute has a monopoly on Confederate heritage.  It turns out that not all (perhaps not even a majority) of white Southerners have a deep need to see the Confederate flag on public property.  This does not imply that they hate their past or are ashamed of it in any way.  It doesn’t even necessarily imply that they have a problem with the Confederate flag.  Are we really going to argue that the UDC has turned its back on standing up for a meaningful Confederate past simply because it refuses to press the issue on the Confederate flag?  The UDC is the organization responsible for placing the marker on courthouse grounds in 1940.  Does anyone else not see the UDC as the last line of defense against the trivialization of the Confederate flag by its so-called “supporters.”  It must be upsetting to some that they can’t frame this debate along racial lines or even as a legacy of those meddling carpetbaggers.  Even H.K. Edgerton and his fancy t-shirts seem just a little out of place here.

This is just another example of why extreme flag advocates have become gradually more marginalized in the South.  It’s not because they are victims or because they are being discriminated against or even because others will not learn their history.  Their mistake is in their assumption that the flag means the same thing to all people (even white Southerners) and that it is indispensable to maintaining a meaningful connection to the past.

26 thoughts on “Whose Confederate Heritage?

  1. Lisa Germaine

    My ancestors came from Haywood Co. among other areas. I have some who were confederate soldiers, some who deserted, some who were injured and killed, some who were both Union and Confederate. I have ancestors who were Union soldiers, they also were injured and killed some were hero’s of the war.
    I, personally, have been berated by these very same ‘flaggers’ that I was not “following my heritage” . May I ask what gives these flaggers the authority to determine which “heritage” I claim? What gives them the authority to claim this is what long dead ex- confederate soldiers many who died as Americans long after the war ended, would want? Recently, they requested prayer as they went into their ‘first battle’ with the “enemy” flagging a historical group preserving a local historical cemetery~ seriously, going into battle! This is not about honor, heritage or the confederate soldier~ it’s about trying to refight the war and further the ‘new’ confederate army.

    My heritage, I am a proud American whose ancestors fought for the freedom we enjoy today and whose children are protecting that right at this very moment. The confederate flag has no part in that equation.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Lisa. You are a perfect example of the point I tried to make in this post. Of course, you said it much better than I ever could.

      Reply
      1. Michael Rodgers

        Flaggers presume, insist, and repeat. Always smugly and indignantly. It’s ridiculous. And sad.

        Reply
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  3. Billy Bearden

    An out of town lawyer, taking a client into Waynesville notices a little stick flag at the Confederate Memorial, then contacts his friend at the City Maintanance shop to yank the flags because “HE” doesnt like it. He tells the guy to ‘do it quietly’

    The Head maintanance guy then tells his underling to yank them, but the underling is uncomfortable with it, and makes very clear he is being told to do this, thus it is on record for all to witness.

    Now the excrement has hit the rotary device. Good. So it should be.

    The little stick US flags at the other memorials are untouched, just the Battleflags. We have seen this before, this is an attack plain and simple.

    The lawyer Bob Clark could have been like the nice folks over in the Watauga Society and simply pushed the flags into the dirt at Green Hill cemetery in Elizabethton. At least the nice folks in Waynesville allowed the UDC to place a marker on the Courthouse grounds. When a 3×3 marker that would contain the names of all the Carter County NC Confederate Veterans was sought to be placed in Green Hill, the Wataugans denied the SCV placement rights.

    Of course 2 Wataugan Society sisters sought unsucessfully to have parking banned for the Tennessee Flaggers as well.

    Instead of supporting the 1st Amendment, this lawyer is subverting it. It is another Flag Fight. just a shame that lawyer Bob didnt seek the removal of the US flags as well, cause it would be a national incident.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      An out of town lawyer, taking a client into Waynesville notices a little stick flag at the Confederate Memorial, then contacts his friend at the City Maintanance shop to yank the flags because “HE” doesnt like it.

      Wow! That out of town lawyer certainly has a great deal of power. Nothing you’ve said here addresses the overall point in the post.

      We have seen this before, this is an attack plain and simple.

      You just keep telling yourself that, Billy. :-)

      Reply
    2. Andy Hall

      That, ladies and gentlemen, is peripatetic Flagger/Confederate activist Billy Bearden, complaining about out-of-towners injecting themselves and their agendas into local disputes about displays of the Confederate flag.

      Irony is alive and well, folks.

      Reply
  4. Bill Hicks

    The flag(s) of the C.S.A. are being attacked by people who do not believe in the freedom to place any southern flags on Confederate veterans graves or even their memorials. The Confederate soldier was forced into a union he objected to and fought to stay out of it. A forced union is no union. He was a southern American, by birth and a Confederate soldier by choice. Germaine, you claim you are for freedom. I am for mine also. The flagging will continue for those who can no longer speak for themselves. The W.H.A.’s pushing of Confederate flags into the ground (admitted in police reports) is reprehensible. Your placing sticks on the graves, taping the U.S. flag to them so they would stand taller (also admitted in the police reports) than the Confederate flags is (“in your face—the C.S.A. is dead–this taller flag proves it”) is childish and discourteous. You and your sisters’ emails to the landowner of the parking area, attempting to pursuade him to disallow parking for flaggers shows how far you will stoop to destroy the freedom you claim to love. This is why we flag, and will continue. The public is with us. Your placing a locked gate, thus disallowing the handicapped entry and refusing to allow the S.C.V. entry to hold ceremonies is another slap at our freedom. The more the general public finds out about your pernicious conduct, the more they will see your real motives and they are very ugly. Kevin Levin, Corey Meyer, Blood of My Kindred, Confederate Rebel Kashie, or whatever AKA you choose to use, you have been all too quick to count us out. Flagging will continue.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The flagging will continue for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

      You don’t speak for them any more than I do.

      The more the general public finds out about your pernicious conduct, the more they will see your real motives and they are very ugly. Kevin Levin, Corey Meyer, Blood of My Kindred, Confederate Rebel Kashie, or whatever AKA you choose to use, you have been all too quick to count us out. Flagging will continue.

      You completely missed the point of the post. This isn’t about me or any other blogger. We are irrelevant to the relevant contours of this debate. The point you don’t seem to understand is that people who claim to have a stake in the Confederate past disagree over the display of the flag.

      I appreciate you taking the time to write, but this is a perfect example of why your position and the agenda of the so-called Flaggers is dead in the water.

      Reply
      1. Bill Hicks

        We are very relevant or you would not be spending so much time trying to debunk our work. We will, we will flag you……….count on it. Our memorials are coming down in various places, and that is not about the freedom this country is supposed to stand for.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          Best of luck with all that. As far as I can see this so-called Flagger campaign has accomplished nothing. :-)

          Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      That’s one impressive blog. I found one post with 2 comments and a bunch of links to stories involving the Confederate. Not very impressive at all.

      Reply
  5. Mark

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Robert E. Lee recommend to his soldiers that they accept the results of the war, go home, live peacefully and be as good Americans as they possibly can? I’m not saying Lee was a saint, mind you, because I am definitely not one of those ilk. I’m just saying that if they revere Lee so much, then why does it seem that some of them simply cannot take his advice? Anyway, the point Kevin is making here is that the Flaggers do not have a monopoly on Confederate heritage. In fact, even supporters of the Confederacy shouldn’t have a monopoly on Southern history, since many Southerners at the time strongly opposed the Conefedracy (perhaps most if you include the African-American population). Why shouldn’t the story of Southern opponents of the Confederacy be remembered as well? Anyway, I have gotten off on a tangent, so let me get off my soapbox and conclude by saying that I agree wholeheartedly with Kevin here.

    Reply
    1. Billy Bearden

      Because, Mark, IT IS A MEMORIAL TO CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS.
      It is a simple reminder of the men from that area who fought for the CSA. Yes, people will place wreaths and stick flags at the base, Mark, just as wreaths and US stick flags are placed at the base of the UNITED STATES MEMORIALS at the same location, Mark.

      Mark, we are not soldiers who served under Lee, and thus cannot obey that order. However, Mark, we follow the orders that were charged to us, by S.D. Lee, as members in the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

      Your hatred of anything Confederate oozes out of the screen in your posts, Mark, and that is fine – I do not care. However, Mark, not a single person will stop you from building a memorial to all those you deem worthy of paying homage to. No Flagger or SCV member will seek to have your symbols removed, like was done to Confederate memorials by Lawyer Bob, Marty Strem, and Lisa Germaine.

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        Your hatred of anything Confederate oozes out of the screen in your posts, Mark, and that is fine – I do not care.

        This is why no one takes you seriously. The guy expressed a different point-of-view and did not single you out in any way, but that does not prevent you from going on the attack.

        Mark, we are not soldiers who served under Lee, and thus cannot obey that order. However, Mark, we follow the orders that were charged to us, by S.D. Lee, as members in the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

        Some of you behave as if you are and not all Flaggers are part of the SCV. Regardless, you occupy one perspective when it comes to memorials and flags on public spaces. No one is preventing you from displaying the flag or any other kind of memorial on private property. The simple fact is that the flag has multiple meanings and not all of them are positive.

        Reply
      2. Michael Rodgers

        If you want Confederate flags at the Confederate memorials, then get the state legislatures to put them there, like Alabama did for the one at Alabama’s State House. If you or anyone else places any object on any property that is not yours, then whatever that object is, no matter how sacred you might think it is, is basically litter.

        Reply
        1. Billy Bearden

          State legislatures cannot dictate county or city memorials. South Carolina Legislature placed the flag at the soldiers monument in 2000 as it should be. The NC state legislature has no say in the Waynesville Confederate memorial.

          As the son of a US 3 war Veteran buried in Arlington National Cemetery, to hear you regard any American flag to the status of litter is fully deserving of my palm to the side of your face.

          Reply
          1. Kevin Levin Post author

            Watch it, Michael. You don’t want to challenge Billy’s Confederate credentials. He may go old-fashioned and challenge you to a duel. :-)

            Reply
          2. Mark

            I don’t see why the state government couldn’t overrule them. States do not work as a federal system. City and county governments derive their authority directly from the state government.

            Reply
          3. Michael Rodgers

            First, the NC state legislature does have a say in the Waynesville Confederate memorial. For example, the state has permitted the county to expend funds to build a fence around the monument to protect it, for example, from flaggers who might desecrate it by putting cheap tiny flags all around it.
            http://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bysection/chapter_100/gs_100-9.html
            Second, the claim that, under the law, Confederate flags must be given the same respect as USA flags is preposterous.
            Finally, freedom of speech goes very far, but it doesn’t extend to allowing flaggers to put things on property that isn’t theirs, and, moreover, it doesn’t extend to allowing flaggers to threaten bodily harm to others.

            Reply
  6. Doug didier

    Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg
    Rod Gragg (Author)..

    Men thrown into an impossible situation and then responded gallantly. Today the flag symbolizes why they were sent there not what they did.

    Reply
    1. Neil Hamilton

      Kevin has pointed out the fact that the Confederate flag means many things to many people. To me, it is part of our history and should be spoken of, and taught, and placed in the correct historical setting of its time, so that others can learn from the past.

      But to claim one small, vocal group has some sort of special or greater right to dictate what the flag means to everyone else is simply stupid, short-sighted, and wholly selfish is the most ignorant of views. The people of the southern United States do not dress the same, look the same, think the same, vote the same nor believe the same as this tiny group calling itself “flaggers” do. How could they, with as diverse and numerous a population that resides in the region in the present day?

      The group comes across as a sort of “heritage dictatorship,” demanding that one and all must bow down and accept the gospel of flagging, or be cast out into the outer darkness of PC and liberal thought.

      Sorry, but the majority of the people of the southern United States have far more to be concerned with than these people who think all should walk, talk, think and say what they say when it comes to the Confederate flag.

      Thank God.

      Sincerely,
      Neil

      Reply

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