The last few embers of Fourth of July fireworks had yet to cool before patriots across the nation, as far north as Oregon and Ohio, took to Walmarts to salute a symbol of insurrection that sought to protect slavery and led to the deaths of 620,000 Americans. The retail giant was the chosen rallying point because it recently removed Confederate flags from its shelves.
The rallies were organized by a social media group called Stand By the Flag. Here’s a typical invite, this one from Sunday’s event in Arlington:
Sunday July 5th we are asking everyone who holds our heritage and our institutions dear, to please bring a Confederate flag, an American flag, an ice chest, grill, off-road vehicles, diesel trucks, motorcycles, show cars and all your friends to the Arlington Walmart in support of the confederate flag. No American flag should ever be illegal. Our heritage is under attack. Now is the time to stand up for the blood-bought liberty we hold sacred, Sunday July 5th.
What could be more American than celebrating the attempted dissolution of the federal Union? And, by the way, no action is being taken to outlaw the rebel flag, which was about as American as William Travis was Mexican.
Though the organization touts the Sons of Confederate Veterans–endorsed “Heritage Not Hate” angle, that message is belied by commenters touting Racist America Radio broadcasts (Slogan: White Pride World Wide), which were on the Stand By the Flag Facebook page as of this writing.
At any rate, the Arlington rally seems to have been a disappointment to its organizers. “Where is everyone, did everyone get too messed up last night to stand up for our rights and support the flag?” a disappointed partisan posted from the frontlines of the struggle.
Even if that one was a dud, Texas was home to more than a few of these events: Katy, Silsbee, Amarillo, Irving, Kaufman, Gainesville, and a rolling event that traveled from Houston to Galveston. Justin L., who said he’s with the Texas Coal Rollers Society, told the Houston Chronicle:
They’re trying to take our history away. We’re trying to make a movement, trying to encourage people to keep flying what they do because it’s the history of this country.
It’s not hate, man, it’s just heritage. It’s what our country was founded on so we want to keep it going . . . don’t give in to them.
There was another flag rally in Denton, where supporter Rachel Jones offered up this historical analysis to the Denton Record-Chronicle:
It became a symbol of states’ rights, then it became a symbol of the heritage of the South. Slavery was just a check on someone else’s agenda during the war.
No, I would say that in actuality slavery was a check on 3,950,528 agendas.
And given its history, hosting a Stand By the Flag event in Gainesville seems more than a little problematic. Back in 1862, 42 suspected Unionists and/or abolitionists were hung or shot after being tried by a kangaroo court assembled by the town’s wealthiest slaveowners. To his credit, the quasi-legal massacre embarrassed and was thought unseemly by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, despite the fact that the Southern media generally praised the mass execution.
But, I digress . . .
Meanwhile in Odessa, songwriter Creed Fisher, leader of the Redneck Nation Band, released his NSFW musical take on recent events: “If You Have a Right to Burn My Flag (Then I Have a Right to Kick Your Ass)”
It received more than 1.6 million views in two days.
And the exact scenario Fisher framed in song came half-true when Michael Peek discovered somebody had torched the rebel flag he hung over his front door in suburban southeast Houston. (Only half-true because no ass was kicked.)
He told Fox 26:
It was part of the war. My grandfather had a rebel flag. My great-grandfather had a rebel flag. My daddy had a rebel flag. Why can’t I have a rebel flag?
Me and my mother are both from Alabama. That’s what the flag represents. It’s our heritage. It has nothing to do with racial or anything to do with that—no kind of hate, nothing like that.
Yes, brave and good men died in defense of that banner. Yes, I get that some of its supporters really do believe it represents the chivalry of Lee, the derring-do of Dick Dowling, and the steadfast bravery of Stonewall Jackson.
They sincerely think the flag represents good manners and hospitality, moonlight and magnolias, crisp mint juleps and sultry Sazeracs, gracious Charleston and laissez-les-bons-temps-roulez New Orleans, three-chords-and-the-truth country music and natural-born rock and roll, the lyricism of William Faulkner and the unsettling stories of Flannery O’Connor.
It’s about Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, the most competitive college football with the most passionate fans, gumbo seasoned just right and heaping bowls of Brunswick stew, pigmeat smoking in the crisp fall air and shrimp and grits that’ll make you cry.
I know all this from birth. It’s embedded in my DNA. I am a native Texan and almost every root of my family tree extends deep into the soil of the Carolinas and Virginia. I get that there is heritage along with the hate, for real. But I think that in the case of that flag, hate has won. And it happened this century.
For far too many Americans, that banner is about men stripped nude, castrated, set on fire, and dangled from trees in front of howling, leering mobs. It’s about seeing your grandfather called “boy” and forced to cringe, hat in hand, at the passing of every white. It’s about the back of the bus and being told you aren’t good enough to attend school, swim, play, eat, or attend a movie with white people. It’s about not being able to vote, buy the house you want, or get the best education you can. It’s the banner of someone else’s American Dream, one purchased on your labor and from which you got little return, and one you knew your children would have to endure the same way you did.
Fly it all you want to on your own property, but get that banner off taxpayer land. And Walmart doesn’t have to sell you those flags if they don’t want to. Make your own if you have to; after all, our ancestors did. Why get one from a factory overseas?