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article imageOp-Ed: Know your ash from a boll in the ground? The evils of symbols

By John David Powell     Jul 20, 2015 in Politics
All of this talk about the Confederate flag and the evils attached to it has well-meaning folks, and otherwise, running around with their hair on fire. It also provides a chance to marvel at the sideshows attached to this three-ring political circus.
Over the weekend, I dusted off some files and found a couple of items going back several years that could have happened recently.
One of them was from January of 2007 and the inauguration of Texas governor Rick Perry. Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman, upset some folks when he wore a Confederate battle flag shirt during his performance at the inaugural ball. Nugent said he often wears the shirt during concerts because it’s a rebel flag and he’s a rebel.
His shirt may, or may not, have been a replica of the actual “battle flag.” Confusion between the “Battle Flag” and the “Confederate Navy Jack” exists in the minds of some people. An easy thing, since both have stars and bars.
Perry’s spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle the governor would have invited Nugent to play even if he had known of Nugent’s getup ahead of time.
“If you're going to defend freedom of expression, then you're going to have to defend all freedom of expression,” the paper quotes Perry as saying.
Nowadays, presidential candidate Perry has a different view.
"Removing the flag is an act of healing and unity, that allows us to find a shared purpose based on the values that unify us,” Perry said in a prepared statement about a month ago..
I'm not getting involved in the Confederate flag debate for one very good reason: My wife is from Arkansas, and her brother-in-law has a Confederate flag burned into his arm. OK. Make that two reasons.
I will quietly suggest, instead, that Southerners switch to the Bonnie Blue flag that bears the single star. This is the flag first used in 1810 by Americans trying to split from Spanish Florida to set up the Republic of West Florida. Texans used it in their fight with Mexico. It showed up next when Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861.
The sight of the flag paraded through the streets of Jackson inspired Harry McCarthy, an Irishman, to write the second most popular song of the South during the War of Northern Aggression.
Bonnie Blue is a great choice. It does not carry any real or implied racial baggage. It does not fly over southern state capitols, nor does it adorn or beautify the graves of the glorious dead. It does not appear on the bumpers of pickup trucks (or on any part of my brother-in-law, that I know of, or care to know of). It does not accompany parading or marauding Klansmen.
Southern universities do not wave it during football games. License plates and public monuments do not display it.
It's safe. It's politically correct. It's blue. And it has a song that anyone can sing.
Adoption of Bonnie Blue also would still the shrill rhetoric of those who demand tolerance and harmony on their terms. Or, at least until they discover the heretofore unknown evil symbolism of a single white star on a field of deep blue.
Which brings me to the second item: the evil symbolism of the cotton tree.
The cotton tree is the historic symbol of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. It was to that African nation in 1792 that a group of former slaves migrated after gaining their freedom by fighting the British in the U.S. War of Independence.
It is ironic, therefore, that some folks used the cotton tree as a symbol of hatred and racism, and the catalyst for a bizarre event in Tallahassee, Fla., back at the turn of the century.
Here’s what happened. A local radio guy and about thirty devoted listeners interrupted about two hundred members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) holding their 105th Annual Florida Division State Convention in October of 2000.
Reports at the time said the radio guy burst in like the Spanish Inquisition and demanded the removal of the cotton tree displayed in the hotel's lobby. The offending tree turned out to be a bouquet with a cotton stalk, the symbol of the UDC, which describes itself as the oldest patriotic organization in the country.
Anyway, this whole thing began with a hotel employee offended by the UDC display. She threatened to quit if the hotel did not remove the “tree.” The hotel didn’t remove it, so she quit. She then called the radio station to complain about a hate group and its evil cotton tree down at the hotel.
Quick as a flash, the radio guy and his feckless followers forced themselves into the UDC meeting. Someone called the cops. When Tallahassee police arrived, they asked the hotel management whom to boot: Older ladies minding their own business, or a group of goofy protesters. The protesters left. The radio station issued an apology the next day.
The moral of this tale? Don't mess with Southern ladies if you don't know your ash from a boll in the ground.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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