Ah yes, good old American summertime fun. The National Anthem, monster trucks, pink and blue snow cones, Confederate flags, hot dogs and soda…
Anything on that list seem out of place? We know, not all of you are into life-sized Tonka toys, but what about that flag flown by break-away states fighting for, among other things, the right to hold African-Americans as slaves? Not quite the first thing that comes to mind when you think of wholesome small-town Americana?
Still, all made appearances as such in an article in last Sunday’s Daily Inter Lake on a monster truck rally held at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. The front-page story featured a photo of a 4-year-old girl holding a Confederate flag. Isn’t that cute? The caption identified the banner as a “souvenir.”
Well, that’s one way to look at it. A souvenir of the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict, to date, that’s ever rocked this country. Is this really the time for that, with Independence Day just around the corner and a divisive war killing Americans half a world away\? Is this really the place, at a family-friendly fairgrounds spitting distance from the Canadian border?
According to Ted Ownby, a professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi, in the eyes of “a whole lot of white people in the South,” the confederate flag is a way of thumbing their nose at people who tell them what to do, of honoring white Southern ancestors, and of supporting their defense—long lost, by the way—against what some unreconstructed white southerners still call the war of Northern aggression.
To pretty much anyone else, the Confederate flag symbolizes support, whether the waver knows it or not, for slavery and white supremacy.
So what’s the Confederate flag doing in the hands of a 4-year-old Montanan at a monster truck rally? Is this, along with monster truck rallies, part of a new war—or perhaps a war that never went away—of southern cultural aggression? Or is it just a marketing tie-in for the forthcoming Dukes of Hazzard flick, coming soon to a dollar-theater near you. And come to think of it, is there really any difference between the two?
The Inter Lake never asks, so who knows…It’s just a souvenir. This is America, after all, where you can wave whatever flag you want, especially if there’s no one around—black people, for instance, or prying journalists—to challenge your pride. Now eat your cotton candy and celebrate your independence, kids. And for God’s sake, don’t let anyone tread on your precious freedoms.