On more than one occasion I’ve recommended John Coski’s wonderful book, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem. There is nothing else like it. Coski offers a very readable and balanced view of the history of the flag. Toward the end, Coski offers his own interpretation of how to move forward with the debate over the public display of the Confederate flag. It involves compromises from all parties with a stake in this ongoing drama over history and heritage. Continue reading
Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers are Richmond’s self-described defenders of Confederate heritage. At the center of their advocacy is the belief that the Confederate flag has been hijacked by individuals and groups who have used it for purposes other than to honor their Confederate ancestors. This belief is at the center of their ongoing protest at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and recently in front of the Museum of the Confederacy – Appomattox, owing to the latter’s failure to fly a Confederate battle flag on the walkway leading to the entrance. They would have their fellow Richmonders believe that the meaning behind the planned placement of a large Confederate flag along I-95 in late September is solely about honoring the soldier. Not so fast.
The Virginia Flaggers believe they have established for themselves a high standard for the proper use of the Confederate flag. But when it comes time to defending choices about their own use of the Confederate flag they are silent. The photograph above shows Matthew Heimbach “flagging” the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. As yesterday’s post showed, Heimbach has marched front and center with the Virginia Flaggers on at least one occasion and, last night Flagger spokesman, Tripp Lewis, claimed him as a member. Continue reading
Update: Well, you heard it here first. Tripp Lewis of the Virginia Flaggers declares that Matthew Heimbach is a “good guy.”
The Virginia Flaggers are still intent on placing a large Confederate flag off of Interstate 95 near Richmond, Virginia by the end of September. The Richmond media has interviewed Susan Hathaway and others about their goals in placing the flag in such a prominent place and their preferred interpretation of the Confederate flag. What the major news channels have not done, however, is look into the membership of the Flaggers and whether their talk of Confederate heritage reflects the broader values of the Richmond community.
Thanks to Brooks Simpson (and here) and Andy Hall we are learning more about individual members (or individuals who are claimed as members by the Flaggers) such as Matthew Heimbach. Susan Hathaway and the rest of the Flaggers have gone on record attacking prominent members of Richmond’s history and museum community for their supposed Confederate heritage betrayals. The Virginia Flaggers should be held accountable to the very same standard. Richmonders should ask themselves whether Matthew Heimbach’s view of Confederate heritage represents their own. Continue reading
Update: Andy Hall is now weighing in on the Virginia Flaggers desperate bid for attention.
The I-95 project isn’t over-reach, but quite the opposite — it’s grabbing the low-hanging fruit. It’s confirmation that, for all their efforts to promote themselves as being in the vanguard of “restoring the honor” of Confederate veterans, the Virginia Flaggers are no more innovative or successful than a half-dozen SCV camps that have completed (or are working on) similar highway flag projects, from Florida to Texas. The I-95 project doesn’t challenge any institutional or powerful interests. It doesn’t require a successful challenge to authority or overturning any rule or regulation or city ordinance, and doesn’t require winning widespread public support. There are no great legal, administrative or public opinion obstacles to be overcome if your goal is limited to putting up a big-ass flag on private property — even in Lexington. The I-95 project just requires a relatively small amount of money and some willing supporters, both of which are easily obtained. It’s an easy and highly-visible accomplishment that, among the Flaggers’ supporters, will divert attention away from the resources invested in two high-profile disputes that have consumed thousands of volunteer hours and dollars, and have precious little to show for it – nor are ever likely to.
Yep. That pretty much says it all.
Brooks Simpson is spot on with his analysis of the decision on the part of the Virginia Flaggers to raise a large Confederate flag on I-95 and its likely consequences. This point, however, deserves a bit more attention.
Moreover, for all of the Flaggers’ talk about heritage, their choice of symbol and location leaves much to be desired, precisely because the flag is presented without context. Sure, Confederate heritage folks will see it as honoring the heritage they say so much about (although at times they are painfully vague about defining that heritage). However, other people will see it in different terms, and it will not help when some Flaggers make comments that define heritage in ways that others may find offensive.
This protest began over the removal by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts of the Confederate flag from the Soldiers’ Home chapel in Richmond roughly three years ago. Let’s ignore for now whether the museum was justified in changing the terms of the lease that allowed a local SCV chapter to continue to utilize the building, but without the display of the Confederate flag. From the beginning I’ve stated that a good case can be made for some kind of display of the Confederate flag. After all, the ground and building were utilized by Confederate veterans and the flag remained an important symbol of the Lost Cause. Any flag display could easily be historically contextualized. Of course, that might involve working with museum officials to come up with some kind of compromise, but from the beginning the Flaggers have chosen to parade in front of the VMFA, stage conflicts with security and cry that their heritage is being attacked. Continue reading
Many of you will remember this little incident involving Virginia Flagger, Tripp Lewis, back in January. It was a nice little piece of Flagger theatrics that garnered a good deal of attention and left his own child fearing for his father’s safety. Nice work dad. The Flaggers were able to organize a defense fund and, according to Lewis himself, all charges have been dropped. As far as I can tell after close to three years of “flagging” the VMFA this is there first major victory.
I for one could not be more pleased by this development. The Virginia Flaggers are much more entertaining with Lewis, Susan Hathaway and the rest of the gang all working together to remind all of us of just how much they love the Confederacy. We eagerly await Tripp Lewis’s planned “counter strike.”