HERITAGE AND HISTORY: THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate FlagScott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 2Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 3Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 4Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 5Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 6Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 7Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 8Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 9Scott Mayo, with 1st Confederate Flag 10That’s right–heritage and history.  To most of us Southerners, the Confederate Flag represents heritage and history.  It does not represent hatred–and it never did.  White supremacist groups, like the Ku Klux Klan, use the Confederate Flag–almost exclusively the Confederate Battle Flag–to represent themselves.  But White supremacist groups do not represent the majority of White Southerners.  And the Confederate Battle Flag was used by segregationists in the mid Twentieth Century to represent their agenda.  But segregationists did not represent all of us Southerners then–and they do not represent most of us Southerners now.

The militant opponents of the Confederate Flag–who shamelessly used the murder of nine people in a Charleston church for their totally irrelevant agenda–did nothing to heal the Black community or the Christian community (Black and White) in the American South.  They only inflicted a new wound–a divisive and hurtful wound in the collective heart of White Southerners–as if their ultimate goal were to destroy the Southern community itself.  And the Southern politicians–most of them White Republicans–who so easily gave in to the demands of these anti-Southerners–most of them White Democrats–opened this newly-inflicted wound into the bleeding gash it is today.

In the wake of the mass murder in Charleston, the only relevant political issue is gun ownership–not the Confederate Flag.  The only relevant question is this:  How did the murderer so easily obtain the gun he used to kill those nine people?  Yet the only question being asked is why the Confederate Flag is still being flown in Charleston, South Carolina, or anywhere else.  And the irrelevancy of this question cannot be emphasized enough.  As a result of this dodging of the real issue, it is now more difficult to obtain a Confederate flag than to obtain a handgun.  And this is insane–not to mention extremely dangerous to our freedom of speech, which is guaranteed in the First Amendment.

Still, I managed to purchase a Confederate flag at the last moment–not the Confederate Battle Flag (I already had it–purchased in the still-sane 1980s from Spencer Gifts), but the First Flag of the Confederate States of America (a.k.a. the Stars and Bars).  And this is the Confederate Flag I am holding in the pictures above.

Since I mention the 1980s, let me step back a moment.  I was born in 1966, after the Civil Rights Act had been passed.  I was born and raised in the late 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s.  There were problems in America then–but they were nothing compared to the problems in America now.  It really was a better time for most Americans–especially because this digital-age technology didn’t exist.  Yet it was also a better time because people weren’t so hysterical about political correctness.  The court of public opinion–specifically the mass media in the United States–was not so shallow, sensationalistic, closed-minded, condescending, irresponsible, divisive, and ever-present as it is today.  When I was a kid in the 1970s, I even had a Confederate Battle Flag T-shirt.  And I got no flack about it from anyone–Black or White.  I even saw a Black man wearing a Confederate Battle Flag cap once in the 1980s–and it was obvious that his friends weren’t bothered by it at all.  And, as aforementioned, I bought a Confederate Battle Flag in the 1980s at Spencer Gifts–hung it on the ceiling of my apartment in the 1990s and even here at my late grandparents’ house into the Twenty-First Century.  In fact, the only reason I took it down was that Hurricane Ivan did so much damage to my ceiling in 2004, and it needed repairs.  So I stashed the flag away, giving it no more thought than when I first hung it on my ceiling.  And it had nothing to do with racial hatred–I was just proud of my Southern heritage.  There really was a time when people of all races and ethnicities–and both sexes–could speak freely and openly without being instantly labeled as racist, sexist, or anti-whatever by others.  But that time is gone–it was replaced by this walking-on-eggshells society, beginning in the 1990s.  And this is a shame.  Because when people cannot talk openly about their conflicts with people who are different from themselves, these conflicts can never be resolved.

This is a godless time, an evil time, truly the beginning of the end of the world–not the planet, just the world.  And I wish to God I could simply escape this time altogether.  But you know that, if you’ve read my previous posts.

Since I already had a Confederate Battle Flag when this mass hysteria over the flag began–why did I feel the need to purchase the First Confederate Flag?  Because this madness was still far away from Pensacola, Florida–and then it spread here overnight.  And here, in what used to be the City of Five Flags, the First Flag of the Confederate States of America–which replaced the Confederate Battle Flag many years ago–was suddenly removed.  This hysteria had gone too far–and it had finally hit me where I lived.

I digress here again, in order to give some background on the Confederate Flag.  There’s alot of confusion about the Confederate Flag because there were different designs, during the short history of the Confederate States of America.  The First Confederate Flag (a.k.a. the Stars and Bars) was just that–the first.  As the United States’s capitol was first Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (before Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) was established as its capitol), the Confederate States’s capitol was first Montgomery, Alabama (before Richmond, Virginia was selected as its capitol).  And the First Confederate Flag was flown over the capitol building in Montgomery.  As you can see in the pictures above, the First Confederate Flag looked very similar to the United States Flag.  And this was why the Confederate Battle Flag (a.k.a. the Southern Cross) was created.  In the early days of the war between the United States and the Confederate States, the Confederate Flag looked so similar to the U.S. Flag on the battlefield, that there was friendly fire on both sides.  Because of this, the Confederate States agreed to change its flag design radically–but only for the battlefield.  Thus was the Confederate Battle Flag (a.k.a. the Southern Cross) created.  The Confederate Battle Flag was never the official flag of the Confederate States of America–it was only used in battle, never flown over the Confederate capitol.

The Second Confederate Flag (a.k.a. the Stainless Banner) was designed to replace the Stars and Bars over the capital.  It was a solid white flag with the Southern Cross in the upper left-hand corner.  It was created to resemble the U.S. flag much less than the first (i.e. to show more of a distinction between the Confederate States and the United States).  And finally, the Third Confederate Flag was designed in 1865.  It was basically of the same design as the Stainless Banner–except that it had a red, vertical stripe on the right edge.  This was designed because it was decided that the Second Confederate Flag, when furled, could be mistaken for a flag of truce (because of the plain white banner that covered most of the flag).

I could include images of the Second Confederate Flag and the Third Confederate Flag–but they are not displayed today as much as the first (and you can look these up yourself).  And I could include an image of the Confederate Battle Flag–but surely you’ve seen this one already.

At the time I wrote GIVING THE MASS MURDERER WHAT HE WANTS, I thought Pensacola would be spared this madness (as well as my hometown of Mobile, Alabama).  The reason was this: Just as the Confederate Battle Flag was replaced with the Third Confederate Flag in the display of Mobile’s six flags (those of France, Spain, Britain, the Republic of Alabama, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America) many years before, the Confederate Battle Flag was replaced with the First Confederate Flag in the display of Pensacola’s five flags (those of Spain (specifically the Flag of Castile and Leon), France (specifically the France Modern Banner of Charles V), Britain, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America), not long after I moved here in 1998.

The very reason the Confederate Battle Flag was replaced with the First Confederate Flag in the display of Pensacola’s five flags (the flags of the five nations under which Pensacola, Florida had existed) was the negative association (albeit arguably misplaced) with the Confederate Battle Flag. When the Confederate Battle Flag (the Southern Cross) was replaced with the First Confederate Flag (the Stars and Bars) among the five flags of Pensacola, I had misgivings.  But when I came to understand that the First Confederate Flag more accurately represented the Confederate States of America than the Confederate Battle Flag, I came to accept this change.

Although the Confederate Battle Flag was just that–the flag used to represent the Confederacy on the battlefield only–it was later used by White supremacists and segregationists.  And this is unfortunate.  Because this flag could not help being associated with White supremacists and segregationists in the minds of Black Americans who had been relentlessly persecuted by such bigots.

And I felt that replacing the Confederate Battle Flag with the First Confederate Flag was a reasonable way to show consideration for Black residents of Pensacola, while still acknowledging the Confederate States of America’s place in the heritage and history of Pensacola.

And I rested assured, last month, that Pensacola would be spared this Confederate Flag hysteria–but my assurance was soon shattered, along with my faith in the character and judgement of the local political leaders here.

Thursday, June 25–just two days after I’d written the aforementioned post–I played back the local news I’d recorded to see the weather forecast, and was very unpleasantly surprised by the top news story:  Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward had ordered that all Confederate Flags–including the First Confederate Flag–be removed from all Five Flags displays in Pensacola.  I was disgusted by this–but knew I had no say in it, since I lived just outside the City of Pensacola.  Yet when it was announced that this included the Five Flags display at Osceola Municipal Golf Course, I realized that didn’t seem legitimate–because Osceola Golf Course was outside the City of Pensacola too.

So I called Mayor Hayward’s office, and left an after-hours message.  I said I didn’t think he had the authority to order the flag removed at Osceola Golf Course because that was outside the city limits of Pensacola. Then I called the office of Doug Underhill, the County Commissioner for my district of Escambia County–which includes the Osceola Golf Course. And I left an after-hours message stating the same thing–that I didn’t think Mayor Hayward had the authority to order the First Confederate Flag removed at Osceola Golf Course–and asking Commissioner Underhill to check on this.  I also added that, if the flag of the Confederate States of America was removed from the display, the flags of Spain, France, Britain, and even the United States of America should also be removed–because all four of these other nations had also practiced slavery of Africans in the Americas.

And the next morning, when I drove by the Osceola Golf Course–I noticed that all five flags had been removed from the display there.  I was delighted!  I figured that Commissioner Underhill had listened to my message himself, and agreed that all five flags needed to be removed.  I thought perhaps even others in my neighborhood had called or emailed his office, and made the same point.

Yet on my way back home, only two hours later, I saw that all five flags in the display at Osceola Golf Course had been raised again–except the First Flag of the Confederate States of America.  It had been replaced with the flag of the State of Florida.  This was ridiculous!  The State of Florida had also practiced slavery of Africans!

And that afternoon, I read what had actually happened, glancing at the headlines of the local newspaper–the Escambia County Commission had ordered the removal of the First Confederate Flag from all city and county buildings and grounds, and ordered it to be replaced with the State Flag of Florida.  Looking at the photograph, I could see that outside activists had petitioned the County Commission.  And I could see something else–all of these activists were White.  They surrounded one Black man–congratulating him in the most patronizing manner.  The photograph on the front page told the whole story.  These were White activists whose goal was totally self-serving.  And they were condescending to this Black man, as if using him as a pawn for their anti-Southern agenda.  It was disgusting!

And that’s how the Five-Flags display in front of the Osceola Municipal Golf Course remains today.  That’s how all such displays in Greater Pensacola remain today.  The flags of every nation under which Pensacola has existed remain as before–except that of the Confederate States of America.  A part of Pensacola’s heritage has been removed–a part of Pensacola’s history has been removed.  And because of this, the City of Pensacola, Florida, is no longer truly recognized as the City of Five Flags. Would it be the same if the Flag of Spain, the Flag of France, the Flag of Britain, or the Flag of the United States had been removed?  I think it would.

Since the Escambia County Commission has chosen to remove the First Confederate Flag from the historic display, the least it can do is remove all of the other flags except that of the United States of America–because that is the current nation under which the city of Pensacola exists.  And I wouldn’t mind that.  I made it clear, in the phone message I left for Commissioner Doug Underhill, that I loved the United States of America deeply, and that I was proud of my heritage as a Southern American.

Either raise the First Confederate Flag back to its rightful place among the Five Flags of Pensacola’s heritage and history–or remove all five flags, with the possible exception of the Flag of the United States.  This is what I expect of the Commission of Escambia County, Florida.

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