Update: Click here for more information on scheduled events as well as a link for LiveStreaming.
Artist John Sims and Julian Chambliss, chairman of the Department of History and Africa and African-American Studies program at Rollins College in Florida, will spend this Memorial Day burning a Confederate flag. The event, which supposedly will take place in all of the former Confederate states, is being organized by John Sims, who is known for his artistic renderings of the flag. As you might expect the event is getting a good deal of media attention, but all I see is a lack of originality and a good deal of laziness.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the burning of a Confederate flag, but it doesn’t come close to the power of Sims’s previous exhibit, “The Proper Way to Hang A Confederate Flag,” in which he tied a flag to a noose. I can remember a wonderful discussion at the time in my Civil War memory class about this particular exhibit. This is a step backwards in terms of artistic expression
Sims and Chambliss give me the impression that they take themselves to be at the forefront of pointing out the flag’s controversial past. According to Sims:
The flag is almost too toxic to handle, and for those who do, I’m suspicious of their engagement. Are you in denial?
Nothing could be further from the truth given the number of public and private institutions that no longer display the Confederate flag. Throughout the South the flag is under assault.
Professor Chambliss hopes that this event will lead to productive discussions within communities throughout the nation. If that were the goal than the good professor should use his position at the college to host such an event. From what I can tell that is unlikely. What we have here is a a lot of fluff that will do little more than ruffle the feathers of certain individuals and organizations.
Whatever artistic value this event holds, it is on the whole a wasted opportunity.