Another Flag Incident: You Can Guess Which Flag

Looks like the David School in Floyd County, Kentucky has decided to boycott a game with Allen Central High School over their fans waving of the Confederate flag during the game.  The David School basketball team includes one black player.  Ned Pillersdorf, the David School’s athletic director and boys basketball coach said that when the black player was taking a foul shot the fans made it a point "waving the Confederate flag at him."

Allen Central Principal Lorena Hall and her students have defended their
Confederate emblems, saying they symbolize strength, independence and pride.

"It has nothing to do with racism," Hall said in a recent interview with The
Associated Press. "It’s a part of us." She declined to comment Thursday.

Principal Hall is probably right, but should it matter to her that another team finds the waving of the flag to be offensive?  Where are the Souther heritage folks on this one?  Check out the photo of the two kids holding the school flag.  Exactly which Confederate unit carried this particular flag into battle and isn’t this image offensive to people who believe the flag to be sacred?

Check out the shoulder sleeve and shoulder loop insignias that are available for the school’s JROTC.  I’m going to have to order me a pair for Christmas.


A Loss For Gettysburg

All of you have no doubt heard that the Pennsylvania Gaming Board turned down a request to build a casino a short distance from the battlefield.  Resistance against the plan was well organized and included a wide range of interest groups.  They have every reason to rejoice.  Let me say up front that I am pleased with the decision.  Like many of you I worry about the continued development that threatens many of our Civil War battlefields.  At the same time I like to think that I am sensitive to the fact that most people could care less about history and therefore have different priorities. 

While I never supported the idea of a casino during the debate I tried to maintain a perspective that acknowledged the historical balance between preserving public places and commercial interests.  In connection to Gettysburg these choices have never been mutually exclusive.  The battle was used to attract tourists and their dollars from the beginning.  [The history of this is analyzed by the late Jim Weeks in Gettysburg: Memory, Market, And An American Shrine (Princeton University Press, 2003)]  From the PUP website:

Gettysburg entered the market not with recent interest in the Civil War nor
even with twentieth-century tourism but immediately after the battle. Founded by
a modern industrial society with the capacity to deliver uniform images to
millions, Gettysburg, from the very beginning, reflected the nation’s marketing
trends as much as its patriotism. Gettysburg’s pilgrims–be they veterans,
families on vacation, or Civil War reenactors–have always been modern consumers
escaping from the world of work and responsibility even as they commemorate. And
it is precisely this commodification of sacred ground, this tension between
commerce and commemoration, that animates Gettysburg’s popularity.

Gettysburg continues to be a current rather than a past event, a site that
reveals more about ourselves as Americans than the battle it remembers.
Gettysburg is, as it has been since its famous battle, both a cash cow and a
revered symbol of our most deeply held values.

As a result of my research on the Crater I now have a better appreciation of how the Petersburg battlefields were used as a marketing tool by real estate firms and other interest groups  to attract people and businesses to the area.  Their efforts were widely supported by local residents and city officials.  We need to remember this as we celebrate this victory.  From around the blogosphere:

Yes!!! Thanks for posting this . . . we hadn’t heard. I’ll tell my teenaged sons
now. We’d visited Gettysburg earlier this year and they were both adamant that
we would not shop anywhere that had a pro-gambling issue sign posted.

While I’m being blunt, may I suggest that David LeVan and folks of his ilk find
some other place to attempt to soil.  LeVan, the owner of the “Gettysburg
Battlefield Harley-Davidson” was the power and money behind the casino attempt. 
Perhaps it would be better if LeVan sells his businesses and just gets out of
Gettysburg altogether.  Maybe he can go north and get a casino built on Plymouth

My point is that not everyone in Gettysburg should be expected to support preservation efforts.  And we don’t need to point the finger at them as if they violated some sacred trust.  If you understand the history of the Gettysburg battlefield you would see that there never was one.     Again, let’s celebrate this decision, but let’s not forget that this latest challenge is part of a rich history of consumerism and preservation.  They are both tied together. 

1 comment

An Embarassment From My Congressional District

Look like  Congressman Virgil Goode – who unfortunately happens to be my representative – has decided to make a complete ass out of himself.  Earlier this month he issued a statement to his constituents in reaction to the decision of Congressman-Elect Keith Ellison to take his oath of office on the Koran.  Here is just part of his statement:

The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that
district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode
position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office
and demanding the use of the Koran.

I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United
States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are
necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of
America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

It actually gets much worse, but unfortunately I can’t find the full text.  Given that we’ve been living with the politics of fear for the last six years I guess we should not be surprised by someone taking it to the next level.  The problem is that this guy is one of our highest elected public officials.  I can’t think of a more irresponsible thing to say.  What the hell does immigration have to do with Islam?  As someone from Goode’s district I am absolutely embarassed and I call on him to apologize.  He does not speak for the thousands of decent people that live in central Virginia.  This guy is a real national security risk.

This is one of those moments where it is essential for good people to stand up


One Step Back

In response to my recent post which asked whether slaveholders were "trapped" by slavery an anonymous reader offered an emotional, but important observation about the way Americans view themselves in relationship to the rest of the world.  I assume that this reader was not born in the United States:

Lee was not bad. NO, having slaves and coming up with the idea that the
bible sanctions that is WRONG and BAD, especially in 1865. Maybe Lee
did not know that all slavery mentioned in the bible was based mostly
on the ancient idea of servitude which so MODERNLY allowed slaves to
earn their freedom over time. We are way into the Industrial Revolution
in Europe in the 1860s, 76 years past the French Revolution, Bismarck
is about to install social laws that provide health care for the public
and free education in Germany and he is preparingn to restrict child
Americans see themselves so isolated.
I am willing to give
Jefferson a small break, but we are past the Enlightement and way into
the Romantic notion of individualism and individual rights? Beethoven
died in 1827 mourning the fact that not ALL PEOPLE can yet elect their
government in Europe. MAYBE just MAYBE Lee might have even heard of
Marx (1818-1883) and Engels. How can anybody argue that they were just
thinking it is right and were therefore good men nonetheless.
Is that
what happens today: we don’t listen to what the world thinks because we
are right and are good men?

Yeah, of course compared to child
labor in Great Britain slave holders look swell even in 1865, but for
some brain activity’s sake how can somebody argue that there is still
any justification for slavery in 1865????   

This writer reminds us that every so often it is useful and necessary to pull our heads out of the sand.  When Americans do talk about slavery we tend to think about its eventual abolition internally.  Some suggest that if the Civil War had not occurred slavery would have died a natural death, and the evangelicals somehow manage to justify slaveholding by arguing that the individuals in question believed that God would have ended it on her schedule.  In other words, who were the slaveholders to question?  There is a kind of bunker mentality in all of this and I suspect that it has much to do with an inability or unwillingness to place American history within a comparative context. 

As a teacher I plead guilty to contributing to this mindset.  My survey courses do not really touch on world affairs until the United States enters the world stage.  Most textbooks are rather narrow in this respect.  One of the questions often asked by students is whether Europeans followed the Civil War.  They want to know what others thought of events in the states and in this regard there is a great deal to tell.  [This gives me an opportunity to recommend a fabulous collection of letters written by German-Americans to relatives back in Europe during the Civil War.  Walter D. Kamphoeffner and Wolfgang Helbick, Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home (University of North Carolina Press, 2006)].  What we don’t hear nearly enough about is whether Americans followed events elsewhere.  Think about what this broader perspective does to our self-congratulatory or apologist dialog  about emancipation and the "march of freedom" throughout our history.  The United States is nowhere close to the top of the list of nations that abolished slavery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  I am of course ignoring gradual abolition in the North for the sake of argument here.  Here is a partial list: Sweden and Finland (1335), Portugal (1761), England and Wales (1772), Haiti, (1791), Upper Canada (1793), France and its colonies (1794-1802), Chile (1823), Argentina (1813), Mexico (1829), British Empire (1833), Denmark (1848), Peru (1851), Romania (1858), Netherlands (1863), and finally the United States of America (1865). 

I guess the evangelical has to conclude that those involved in the abolition of slavery elsewhere did not listen closely enough to God.  My point for now is that while Americans want to know that others cared about what was happening here we are not that interested in knowing to what extent the favor was returned.  It’s easier to see Americans as isolated rather than part of a broader story of freedom where the United States was not always in the lead – and in the case of abolition not even close.  One final thought: I don’t think the reader is criticizing Lee per se, rather the reader  is struck by the lengths we will go to to preserve an image of certain historical figures which involves excusing a certain belief or action. 

Thanks reader.


A Reason To Be Thankful

Looks like there are no plans from director Ron Maxwell to bring Jeff Shaara’s The Last Full Measure to the big screen.  From Shaara’s website:


Many of you have written, asking if the film version of this book is being produced, to complete the Civil War trilogy. Unfortunately, because of the poor box office results for “Gods and Generals”, Ted Turner has dropped all plans to finance a film version of “Last Full Measure”. Someone else may yet step forward, but so far, no one in Hollywood has shown interest. Despite the many rumors to the contrary, I’m sorry to say that no film is now in the works.

Is anyone really surprised that no one has stepped forward to fund these ridiculous scripts?  I would like to think that the failure of Gods and Generals is a reflection of the sophistication of the average moviegoer.