Something really unusual happened this afternoon. I was headed back to my apartment when I met a pickup truck going the other direction with two ginormous banners fluttering from its back: Old Glory and a Confederate battle flag. I’ve been running around Knoxville for a few decades now, but that was a first.
Come to think of it, I’ve basically spent my entire life in the South, and that was probably only the second or third pickup truck flying a ginormous Confederate flag I’ve ever seen, period. People whose knowledge of the South is limited to pop culture and what they get from the news probably assume that pickup trucks flying big Confederate flags are ubiquitous down here, but my experience has been otherwise. Pickups decked out with Confederate flag bumper stickers, novelty plates, decals, and the the like aren’t that uncommon, I guess, but huge, in-your-face flags on poles mounted in the bed are another matter entirely, especially in an urban setting like Knoxville. Yet today somebody was driving around town with a pretty big Confederate flag flapping in the wind, in the midst of a national debate over that flag’s display.
Of course, one such sighting doesn’t amount to much, but there are other indications that the Confederate flag is becoming really popular all of a sudden. I’ve always said that most southerners I know are neither strongly in favor of nor strongly opposed to the flag. It’s just not the sort of thing that comes up in the day-to-day lives of most people. It would therefore be really ironic if the recent groundswell of support for taking the flag down only ended up prompting a backlash, reversing what would have otherwise been the continuation of a long, slow, gradual decline in regional attachment to Confederate iconography.
Or maybe the uptick in sales noted in the article linked above is just so much statistical noise against a general backdrop of indifference or hostility to the flag on a regional or national scale. Your guess is as good as mine.
In any case, my question for people who are suddenly rushing to defend southern heritage by buying Confederate flag merch is the same as it was a few days ago. Wouldn’t southern heritage be better served if you devoted that energy and money to preserving historic sites and objects?