You know, as a kid who grew up without electricity, a telephone or indoor plumbing, it continues to amaze me that I posted a picture of a sign in front of a gas station/store down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, added some thoughts of my own, and several hundred thousand people saw it and shared it and debated it and cared about it one way or the other. And those remarks of mine also created a response from some quarters that was downright vile, the sort of mean-spirited mindlessness that internet trolls thrive on. There are those people who generate a lot of heat, but zero amount of light.
But occasionally, I find some who have a different take on this issue who are sincere, thoughtful and articulate, and whom I believe deserve a response in kind. One such writer is William Flax-Leight. Mr. Flax-Leight seems to be someone who is a little green and a lot passionate in his opinions, but someone who really cares about our country. However, he does seem to struggle with a bad case of presumptionitis, a word I just then made up. He presumes that I haven’t been dealing with these dynamic issues in the South for every day of my now 78 years of living. I have been soaked in Dixie since 1941, and I’ve been an eye witness to the remarkable changes and progress of my homeland.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt that racial integration would work best in the South because of the shared culture that had existed here for generation after generation over centuries. And he was right. Dr. King didn’t have a problem with the Confederate flag. His problem, and still the problem of most good-hearted Southerners, was with those who try to use it as a symbol of racial division. (I have a photograph of John Lewis from the early 1960’s, where he and a white student are proudly holding that old Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of Southern unity.) If I had Mr. Flax-Leight’s address, I’d send him a copy of my memoir, “Redneck Boy in the Promised Land”, which goes into more detail about my adventures as an unrepentant rebel.
A couple of years back, I was an invited panelist at a conference hosted by Andrew Young, who was Dr. King’s right hand man and is one of the most respected and courageous people on the planet. The event was at Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater down in Atlanta. The issue under debate was the Confederate Flag. Andy said that during the civil rights movement no one even mentioned the flag, that it was “irrelevant”. The issues then were basic and real: equal access to public accommodations, voting rights, and educational equality. Those issues are still basic and real.
Don’t you think it is condescending that a lot of liberal white folks seem to believe that African-Americans can’t understand the use of symbols in different contexts? They apparently think that blacks can’t discern the difference between a flag being used in a heritage museum, an historical film, in a Confederate cemetery or on the Dukes of Hazzard; and by its being waved by a bunch of Ku Klux Klowns running around in bedsheets burning Crosses. What a condescending insult to common sense!
Beyond the mostly uninformed discussion of the War Between the States and its legacies, there is a larger and very dangerous issue in all of this. The most basic freedom we have, the one that is guaranteed by the First Amendment in our Constitution is the freedom of speech, the freedom of opinion, that freedom we have to come to different conclusions. Put simply, it is the freedom to think. And that is the freedom that is at risk.
Mr. Flax-Leight must understand that there is an ongoing campaign, vicious and hysterical. against anything that shows any respect to the Southern past. Street names are being changed, statues are being vandalized, and monuments are being torn down. Anything that remotely offends the “Thought Police” of the radical left, must be put into Trotsky’s “ashbin of history” and be forever denigrated.
That is what is happening. And it is real. And I thank God that there are those of us who are unafraid to speak up, to speak out, and to stand against this fashionable new brand of old fashioned tyranny.