National flags are by definition national identifiers. Confederate flags are those flags adopted by the Confederacy in its quest to be a nation and were intended to serve as a symbol of the Confederate nation. The conservation of flags, like the conservation of any historical artifact, is a legitimate activity for a museum. However, flags are powerful instruments of national identity and act as such – it is the purpose for which they designed. The MOC uses Confederate flags as symbols that both assert and reinforce Confederate national identity.
Sebesta seems to think that the financial support for this project by the Sons of Confederate Veterans implies that the flag’s restoration is for their benefit only and that its purpose is to keep alive the Confederate cause. This is absurd. First, there is nothing necessarily wrong with the SCV offering financial support to the museum nor is there any conflict of interest for the MOC in accepting and publicizing it. The flags belong to all of us.
Since Edward Sebesta recently came up in a previous post I decided to check out his blog earlier today. Some of you may remember that not too long ago Sebesta publicly declared that he would not accept an award from the Museum of the Confederacy for his co-edited book with James Loewen, titled The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”, which had been submitted by their publisher for the Jefferson Davis Award. Why? According to Sebesta, the MOC’s mission is to further the”Neo-Confederate” agenda. By accepting their award Sebesta believes that he would be legitimizing the museum as a legitimate historical institution. Yes, this is quite bizarre, but it gets even better. At the time Sebesta promised that he would explain his stance in a more detailed essay, which is exactly what I came across at his blog today. The post includes a link to a 4-part essay that was published at the Black Commentator. I am going to leave it to you to read through as I simply do not have the patience to do it. It is an incredibly incoherent rant and as far as I can tell there is no indication that Sebesta has ever visited the MOC or talked with its museum staff.
As he promised in January Ed Sebesta has petitioned President Obama to discontinue the practice of sending a wreath to the Confederate statue at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. Actually, this petition goes much further than last year’s in requesting that the federal government “revoke the Sons of Confederate Veterans participation as a recognized charity in the Combined Federal Campaign, deny the SCV permission to host events for the United States Army, and prevent the SCV’s future involvement Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs in America’s high schools.” In doing so Sebesta has moved away from focusing the nation’s attention on a specific public site in favor of a broader look at the neo-Confederate movement. Unfortunately, any focus on the monument that Sebesta hoped to maintain is lost and I suspect that most people will not pay much attention to the SCV’s political activities and involvement in JROTC. Before commenting further, I want to share what I wrote last year:
First, let me say that there is much in this new petition that I agree with. The SCV promotes a Lost Cause inspired narrative of the Civil War that at times borders on racist. You can indeed see this on the many chapter websites as well as their bookstore on the national site. As far as I am concerned the fundamental problem for Sebesta is that President Obama made the right decision last year. Rather than fuel the debate, which only worked to move interested parties further away from one another, the president sent an additional wreath to the African American Soldiers Monument in Washington, D.C.