There are many things in this world that irk me, but one of my biggest pet peeves to date is the ubiquitous use of the Confederate flag by people who have no idea where it comes from or what it means. It’s a part of our country’s history, but today it has been reduced to a synonym for “redneck rebel.”
In the past weeks some vagabond chalkers hit several places on campus writing obscenities and in one place drawing a Confederate flag. I’m not mad about that. I’m all for harmless chalking. It makes me laugh.
What vexed me was the story my boss told me. She was walking by the chalked flag and noticed a student taking a picture of the flag. A short conversation ensued, which entailed my boss noting that she didn’t mind or find the flag offensive since it was part of our nation’s history, but said it was odd to see it so far north of the Mason Dixon Line. What my boss told me next floored me. The student’s response was “What’s the Mason Dixon Line?”
The heritage versus hate argument I see no quarrel with, considering the version of the stars and bars popular today wasn’t the only flag used in the civil war. The Confederacy was so disorganized flag-wise that there were at one point 10 official flags used. To me, the Confederate flag we see now is a bastardization of a memory that is slowly being forgotten by the many ignorant fools wishing to seem like a rebel. The Confederates weren’t rebels. They were soldiers fighting for their country. The descendants of Confederate soldiers have every right to celebrate their history.
However, the memory of these soldiers is forgotten and lost when we take a symbol of suffering and war and turn it into a pop-culture icon used by people who drive enormous trucks and listen to country music. I’ve found in my travels and relations that more people north of the Mason Dixon Line use and display the Confederate flag than those of true southern heritage and habitude. Most of my southern relatives fly an American flag. Why? Because we are one country united. The conflict of the North and South has been put to rest for well over a century. The South will not rise again.
Persons who choose to display the Confederate flag with little to no regard of its significance only tarnish our country’s history and the memory of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who died during the war. The Civil War alone caused more deaths than all other wars America has entered combined. It turned families against one another. It freed slaves in the South, but killed thousands of Irish immigrants from the North in the process. In the long run, it left both the North, the South and the subsequent reunified nation in dire straits.
The sheer obtuseness of not knowing where the Mason Dixon Line is located only underlines the stereotype of those who fly the stars and bars. Not all people who fly the Confederate flag are ignorant, but I’ve found it very hard to find someone North of the Mason Dixon Line who actually has a claim to flying this flag or respects what it stands for, both the good and the bad.