…Does it Really Matter?
Earlier today the Virginia Flaggers held a dedication ceremony for their new Confederate battle flag that flies atop a 50 foot pole along I-95 in Chesterfield County. My biggest concern was that the flag would constitute a major eye sore for motorists along this stretch of highway, but based on the few photographs that I’ve seen, unless you know exactly where to look for it, you are very likely going to miss it entirely. So ends this latest round of Flagger follies.
The Flaggers had every right to express themselves in this way and I suspect that the ceremony was meaningful for everyone who attended. However, there is something very sad about what took place today. Susan Hathaway and the rest of the Flaggers meant for this to be a friendly welcome to visitors to Richmond – a signal that Confederate heritage is very much alive in the region. But what I will likely never understand is why it was necessary to begin with. Richmond is a city that proudly promotes its Confederate history and heritage for the world to see. No one is trying to hide anything.
You can spend days in Richmond touring sites related to the Confederacy and the Confederate soldier and there are plenty of flags to be seen. There are the small Confederate flags that adorn the graves of soldiers in beautiful Hollywood Cemetery. You can tour The Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia Historical Society, and American Civil War Center and National Park Service headquarters all of which include real Confederate flags and much more. They haven’t been whitewashed from Charles Hoffbauer’s beautiful murals at the Virginia Historical Society. You can sometimes find them along Monument Avenue and on the numerous battlefields in the Richmond area. And that just scratches the surface.
The point being that no one is preventing anyone from remembering the Confederate soldier. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
In my opinion, what is sad is that the Virginia Flaggers don’t view this rich landscape of monuments, grave sites, museums, and battlefields as worthy of their full attention. I can’t help but think of the various ways in which the money raised for this project could have been used to maintain or improve any number of these sites. Perhaps the Flaggers themselves don’t feel welcome at these sites or care enough to see them preserved. Instead, the Flaggers would have the public believe that something is missing. Yes, another Confederate flag without any context or meaning.
Let me try to put this in perspective for you. The Virginia Flaggers first appeared over two years ago in protest over the removal of Confederate flags in front of the chapel at the Soldiers’ Home in Richmond. Earlier today and only after raising sufficient funds they raised a flag off of a major highway that no one will see. Meanwhile, back at the chapel you can walk inside and see Confederate flags on beautiful stained-glass windows and hanging throughout the hall. Those flags tell an important story involving real Confederate veterans that ought to be preserved and shared with the community.
I can’t help but think that the time and energy that went into this ridiculous highway project tells us a great deal about the Flaggers’ commitment to promoting Richmond’s Confederate past. I’ve seen enough.