Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Most wavers of That Flag are just having fun, but it’s time for it to go


Jim Welch, a Kingsport resident, works in advancing biosafety and biosecurity. E-mail him at

That Flag. To read some responses about That Flag, one would think Creation and/or the existence of America itself depended upon some local high school being able or not being able to use it.
I weighed in years ago about That Flag. I’m proud of my Southern heritage even though mine is mixed. I had relatives from the same state fight on opposite sides. I like to think the Confederate ones weren’t fighting over slavery and the Union ones were. Being a history guy, I can even make a pretty good argument either way. Being a human being, I would more than likely choose the facts that support my beliefs and ignore the others.
I harbor neither ill feelings nor great devotion toward That Flag, but as I wrote in another column several years ago, That Flag was stolen. It was stolen by people who used it to express their hates and prejudices. We let them have it. We let them wave it without a whisper of objection. We didn’t fight them over it, and we certainly failed to publicly scold them. They flew it when they wore their white robes, and they flew it when they wished they had white robes to wear. As a result, many people associate one with the other, and perception is 90 percent of reality.
I think a Rebel is a good thing. That said, I must ask if That Flag is what is so very important about being a Rebel. The Sons of Liberty, America’s original Rebels, had a flag that had nine vertical stripes, alternating red and white ones. The stripes represented the nine colonies that attended the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. Later versions would hold the nine stripes for different reasons, but it’s a cool looking flag.
And what could be cooler than the “Don’t Tread On Me” rattlesnake flag or the Texas independence flag that had a cannon and a lone star on a white background with the taunting words “Come And Take It”?
If we’re Hades-bent on Rebels being the War Between the States kind, then why not fly either the Stars and Bars or the Bonnie Blue? Both are indicative of the same movement without the overtones associated with That Flag. Many — and I dare even say most — of those who sing the “Southern heritage” song in their arguments probably wouldn’t know either the Stars and Bars or the Bonnie Blue if either were flying in front of their face.
What’s more, That Flag was widely regarded as a “battle flag” in that it was troop-carried and very often square in shape. The star-studded St. Andrews cross was often relegated to corners of state flags or unit flags. That said, its use in rallying athletic teams becomes somewhat demeaning to those who fought for it. With the exception of national teams, we don’t go running across fields snapping the flag of the United States because a football team is coming on the field or a volleyball team is coming on the court. The American flag gets its deserved reverence, so those who wish to protect the heritage of That Flag should consider doing likewise if they love it as they say they do.
The real problem is that the use or non-use of That Flag strikes as an argument of political correctness or as another example of the overreaching power of the government. That situation continues to give That Flag new life — especially among those who despise either. They reach for any straw to fly it that much higher and that much more often. The more others lecture them about what they see as the evil the flag represents, the more inclined they are to fly it.
I now look at That Flag in the same way I see those horns people are blowing at the World Cup games. Each is irritating in its own way, but most people are just having a good time. Eventually, the students at the school who fly That Flag will grow tired of it and realize that the time has come to give That Flag the proper burial it deserves.