|Confederate Battle Flag on the side of the Interstate|
The alleged infamous words of General Robert E. Lee, “Furl the Flag Boys,” have long been forgotten by some groups promoting southern heritage. There are two incidents recently that have brought the issue of the display of the “stars and bars,” to light once more. Lexington, Virginia recently saw a rise in public awareness on the controversial issue of displaying the flag, and now the state of Georgia is seeing flag advocates moving to put the battle flag up along the interstate system. With this new awareness, also comes another look at the memory of the Civil War, and its connected symbols.
Kevin Levin over at Civil War Memory recently did a tremendous job of covering the events on the Lexington, VA issue. There is not anything to add to his commentary on the event but to take note of the irrational action and irrational reaction that seems to have taken place there. Read with objective eyes.
|Blog at Civil War Memory|
The issue of the flag’s display in the “Peach State,” is a different matter. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote on September 3rd, about a new effort to unfurl the Confederate flag, in gigantic proportions along Georgia’s interstates. So far, only three of these flags have gone up on display. Anyone living in the Tifton area can see one of these mammoth symbols measuring 30 by 50 feet waving in the southern breeze. There also appears to be two more in North Georgia that do not have listed locations in the article. I can vouch that there is a massive flag along the side of I-75 around the Ringgold, Georgia exit. This flag is not the battle flag, but the old Georgia state flag. The recent influx of flag raisings comes as the result of certain advocate groups political ambitions.
Jack Bridwell, who is the division commander of the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans stated that, “We [the SCV] want to remind people of who they are and where they came from,” going on to say “being Southern is nothing to be ashamed of.” The SCV is the advocacy group paying for the flags in the recent unfurling.
There is no doubt that these new flag raisings have revived the old debate in Georgia over the display of the flag. In this new debate is also the realization of what the flag is, and what it means. This of course is another insight to how Southerners remember the Civil War. Jack Bridwell, who the AJC recognizes as a retired educator states that opposition to the flag is misguided. Bridwell believes that the Civil War, “or war of Northern aggression….was about economics and an unprovoked attack on Fort Sumter.” Bridwell seems to be forgetting the reason that secession took place as far as economics is concerned, has to do with the back bone or work force of that agriculturally based economy. Gordon Jones, the senior military historian at the Atlanta History Center had this to say; “The battle flag was aligned with a Confederacy that argued for states’ rights and economic freedom necessary to protect slaves as property.” The SCV has remained consistent in its attempts to deflect that type of insight that Jones provides as “Yankee Propaganda,” or revisionist history. Bridwell’s version aligns with the “Lost Cause” ideology. This is a concept that is constantly being battled, but who is winning the fight?
According to the recent The Georgia Confederate, along with the completion of a new Confederate Soldier Monument in Jefferson, GA, is the “Commander’s Report” from Division Commander Jack Bridwell. In his statement Bridwell mentions the needs for membership drives and for those already members to recruit their relatives into the SCV. This might be an indication of small numbers, but that seems unlikely given that the SCV’s narrative throughout the article is from the position of a victim, warding off revisionist history affecting the nation. Bridell also makes mention of new camps being established and a Division Headquarters Camp. These are referencing new SCV membership units and also physical camps, much like religious camps. They will host summer camps to bring children to. What can be deduced is that the efforts of the SCV in GA are highly motivated.
In light to this recent display of the Confederate Flag is the response of the DeKalb NAACP president John Evans who had this to say; “We don’t like it, but they have every right to put it up if they can find someone who wants that mess on their property……as long as it’s just a symbol and not an action, it’s just a distraction from how much the world has changed from when that flag represented a real threat.” Though it can be assumed, the threat Evans is talking about is the Confederate ideology of slavery or perhaps the Ku Klux Klan of the early and mid-1900’s. It is apparent that Evans position is very rational.
The flag in itself is a symbol. What that symbol is seems to be very complex and diverse. Bridwell and other SCV members view it as a symbol of pride to use to glorify an ancestry. That at least appears to be the argument on the surface. People such as John Evans view it as a symbol with different meanings to different people, but hope that leads to inaction. Ultimately it remains a symbol as many things are. In keeping with their version of the truth, it is apparent that the Georgia SCV will continue its mission to buy or lease land along the interstate system in order to display their symbol of Southern heritage.