What do you see, what does it mean?

Posted: December 21, 2010 in History, Humans, Personal

Okay y’all, had this idea for a post rolling around in my lack of sleep having brain for a while now, and yeah, I’ve almost agonized over this fucker…in as much as I agonize over shit anyway.  I’ve started and scrapped several drafts, asked other people’s opinions, gone back and forth on whether or not I was going to write it at all…all that shit.  But yep, here I am, writing about it.

“About what, you freakin’ lunatic?”  you are probably asking by now, but shit y’all, I said I was ahem, a little leery of going there,  but well, I guess I am.

I’m writing about a thing, an image, a symbol- a something that means a hundred different things and invokes a whole slew of different emotions from different people who see it, and you know what?  The floor is open for discussion and debate here, unlike oh, it was in a certain classroom in MI.  And since I’m not in the business of judging people or telling them how wrong they are for whatever, sure enough, engage at will…and hell, I will go first…

“WTF is she talking about?”

Okay then.  This.

There it is, right there.  That is what I am talking about.  A thing which people could debate about all damn day long, and have.  Hate or Heritage, Pride or Prejudice, Pure out Offensive or often Misunderstood…well, I guess that depends, yeah?

And I will go ahead and fess up.  I have that there symbol on some things I own and wear.  Do I wear it around people who I know or even think it will offend?  Not intentionally, in fact, I am kinda considerate to the point of paranoid about it…then again I live in VA, its more common here in some places than the actual state flag.  And while personally not born in the South, I have lived in the South for more than half of my life, the people I know are mostly Southern, and well…I like the South, and you know, I like Southerners-shoot, I am a “Southerner” by choice, not by birth.  But my actual draw to that flag?  It’s…a rebel thing.  It’s even a pride in being the losers thing.  It’s an almost devil may care lack of respect for rules and laws but a strange reverence for tradition.  It’s a you can beat us down and we’ll still get up, dust off, and keep going kinda thing.  It’s a sometimes you make too many demands and conditions kinda thing.   It’s like how I laugh every time I think about the time a spiffy upper crust New Yorker dude I met looked at probably the biggest, scariest North FL redneck I’ve ever met who was bedecked all to hell in that flag and made mention of how the North won that war and the North FL redneck gave him a big old grin, handed him a beer and said “Well, yeah, but now all yer good lookin’ women come here for Spring Break!”  I don’t look at that flag and think woo, racism.  I see all kinds of different things and connotations that go with it, some good, some bad…but I can only see through my eyes, you know? 

So, you know, before I even sat down to write this, while I am pretty dang versed in History, I wanted to if not see through other people’s eyes, hear what they had to say…so I turned to that bastion of culture: YouTube…and well, found a few things that are worth watching, for anyone and everyone interested I guess…. and yep, I watched them and thought about it and all those good critical things people should do and…did not change my mind.  How typical of me, no?  And I do get rather bent out that it seems like every freakin’ asshat skinhead or KKK dude or actual, oh, racist who wears that flag makes folk think everyone who might ever wear it is that way, not to mention the irkage I gain when they have the US flag up there too…I mean, the Nazi’s completely ruined something that was never intended to be seen in the manner in which it is now…but alas now most of the world will only ever see it “the Nazi way”.  Only takes various asshats to ruin something for everyone….sheesh…

So yeah, there it is, my not so deep and well thought out opinions on the matter  (I tried, then kept scrapping and starting over)…and yep, feel free to share yours.

  1. I see it so often, I often forget how some people are offended by it.

    I have seen punk rockers and everyone else wearing it, including (very young) black people (believe it or not), so I think for many people it doesn’t mean *anything* about the confederacy, but about being in-your-face and as you say, being a rebel. It’s on BBQ-rib sauce jars and everything.
    The symbol is one of the first things the European transplants (working for BMW and Michelin) want to buy when they move here! (shirts, stickers, bandannas, etc) I think that’s interesting, since for them it is Americana, something unique to the USA.

    It’s even a pride in being the losers thing

    This is definitely the punk rocker angle! Bikers also. The cop I wrote an obituary for on my blog last week or so? Tony (Snake) Dellaventura, ex- New York cop, had the flag tattooed on his leg. He showed it to me once while we were talking about something… I was so surprised, since nobody was more New York than he was! He said for him, it meant “going your own way”…

    Patsy Cline’s cigarette lighter, which was one of the few things that survived the plane crash, is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, and guess what symbol is on it?

  2. rootietoot says:

    Part of me wants to shout “I DON’T CARE ABOUT EVERYONE ELSES DEWICATE FEEFEES” and allow it to mean what it means to me, that is, not much really. Heritage? not so much, my people are all from Texas,and the Lone Star means more. Pride and rebellion? I’m as rebellious as a golden retriever. The context of how it’s presented means more. If I see someone with a big one right next to a S&W sticker on their Z-71 truck w/gun rack, that means something different than if it’s a little pin on a tweed jacket lapel. My husband, Proud Son Of The South, has one, but doesn’t show it much, because of his position at work (employer of mill workers) and to his employees it could be something of a powder keg. So then my opinion? I don’t know…being a nonconfrontational sort, I try not to have one.I can see how it would piss some folks off, tho. Oh and the thing about young black folks wearing it…yeah, my 19yr old son has a friend who has one on his Z-71 truck w/gun rack..,and he’s black.

    • Ren says:


      I sometimes wonder when I see it on a tie tack or lapel pin if at home said person has one also on their truck next to the gun rack….

      Mr. E’s dad is from Texas, and is rarely seen without his coffee mug with the lone star on it which also bears the phrase “American by birth, Texan by the grace of God”.

  3. Gaina says:

    Funny that Daisy is the first person to comment on this because when I see it I think of the car in ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’! (1979 to 1985, not the modern film).

    Because I’m a Pagan I often wear my pentacle out and about. Whichever way people want to take it is fine by me because if someone is THAT hard of thinking then it’s good to know before wasting possibly months on them to find out just how ignorant they are. Personally my paganism does lean towards Satanism (the common assumption made by the uneducated when they see a pentacle) but hey, Satanists are not inherently bad people, so if people what to start out with that assumption but open their minds and come away thinking that Satanists aren’t bad people then that’s a good thing IMHO.

    Like you I employ some sensitivity and I wouldn’t go wearing it in a Catholic Country. Whenever I go to Spain the pentacle stays at home and I wore my silver Yin/Yang pendant which allows me to be myself and not deliberately offend anyone at the same time. My fellow Pagans still seem to seek me out perfectly well! Haha.

  4. Lord Sodit says:

    Been discussing this with a Northern Irish Catholic friend who served in the Royal Marines – the rest of the family more often served with the IRA and they could have ended up shooting each other. A friend full of nationalism has it over his window. The irony is that it was mainly Protestant Loyalists that supplied Dixie with uniforms and it rings a little odd to see it in connection with people who fought against them for their own freedom in a war that some haven’t finished yet – like the Union Jack in an American home I suppose.

    It has that romantic ‘Gone with the Wind’ air about it I suppose, whatever the realities that it was more of a Little Britain stuck in an 18th century world of great landowners walking all over peasant scum as well as slaves when the North was industrializing. The slaves probably kept the peasantry happy that there was somebody even worse off (sometimes materially better off) than them.

    It’s interesting that it’s always the battle flag, not one of the civil flags (none of them very memorable anyway) that’s used. On its home territory, it is certain to be used by fascistic elements. The same thing has happened to the English flag, so that any other is acceptable but St. George is automatically associated with skinheads and middle-aged racist thugs who used to be skinheads – and genuine soccer fans don’t like being assumed they are using it only as an excuse to cause a riot.

    There should be ‘philosophical’ similarities to the Swastika but few people have ever used the Nazi Hakenkreuz except neo-=Nazis. Probably if Dixie had been sensible and decided that OK no more slaves, so everybody on exactly the same footing (hell, they didn’t do that in the North or anywhere else either) it wouldn’t be as offensive to some people as it is – or as attractive to some offensive people.

    It might look strange to be still offended by something 150 years old that might well have ended better for all concerned if Dixie had won. At the same time, it must be just as hard for outsiders to understand why marching to commemorate a battle in 1689 is so offensive to the losing side.

    It’s mythology – Dixie stood for a lot more than slavery and Nazism stood for a lot more than German racism, and in both cases what became the Great Moral Issue afterwards was one of the less important ones that only distrusted liberal radicals made much fuss about at the time. Unfortunately, mythology weighs heavier than reality. If you follow liberal politics, it is more likely to become more misleadingly associated with the new reactionary right. Still, it can be seen along with the Hakenkreuz incongruously worn by liberal Punks and Hell’s Angels at anti-fascist and anti-Capitalist rallies as their symbol for everything opposing conservative tradition.

  5. rootietoot says:

    Based on the opinions of non-Southern friends, it seems like sporting a Confederate Battle Flag entitles them to comment on the number of teeth someone has (or doesn’t have), or how closely related someone is to their spouse. That annoys me, because I have nearly a full set of teeth and I know for a fact my husband and I are only related through one side of the family, and you have to go clear back to the mid-19th century to find the common ancestor.

    • Ren says:

      my grill is bad, and there is this town in nebraska where relatives live and we wonder, but Nebraska isn’t the south! and fuck it, I have a college education and guns 🙂

      • rootietoot says:

        Me too! and a TRUCK! and 3 hounddawgs…ok they’re dachshunds but technically they’re hounds. OhOh oh! *AND* There is a truck on blocks in my FRONT YARD! I WIN!

        • Ren says:

          lol, yep, my cat does not compete with that lol

          • rootietoot says:

            There is no longer a truck on blocks in my front yard. We sold it for $500 to a 14 yr old kid who’s going to fix it up. Bless him, he was beaming when he bought it, no doubt fantasizing about mudbogging in it (its a 4×4 with a 400 big block v-8, will be awesome for boggin, esp if he puts a snorkle on it like he was talking about)

  6. Like Gaina, the first thing I think of is the Dukes of Hazzard car (which was also named after the South’s military leader, General Lee).

    To me the symbol itself doesn’t mean anything in particular about a person’s politics. Displaying it seems to be more of a tribal marking saying “this is my clan, the group to which I feel I belong by blood and association”. That makes it much like my attachment to the White Rose of Yorkshire (itself with some dodgy associations by historical origins, and Lord knows there are still plenty of racist arseholes in Yorkshire nowadays).

    And the fact is, the Confederate battle flag is a really, REALLY, cool-looking symbol, which is why it looks so great on the General Lee car in Dukes of Hazzard. If it had no historical significance, then I think it would be visible anywhere and everywhere that teens hang out!

  7. Xena says:

    I disagree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. I forget which famous person said that, but it’s the best my Canuck sensibilities will allow on this particular issue.

    Just like Niqab or nipple clamps, you’d have to hold my family at gunpoint to make me wear that awful thing. But I will always defend an informed individual’s uncoerced and noncoercive decision to redefine the symbolism surrounding those religious/lifestyle badges, as well as the symbolism on the Confederate flag. Ironically, the swastika was originally a Hindu symbol. Symbols and their meanings are constantly changing.

    I LOVE hound dogs, biscuits and gravy, and the way Santa Claus hangs his beard up on those weird Southern trees because it’s so warm down there. I don’t mind trucks, and don’t really care about cousins procreating. And Southern hospitality is the best I’ve experienced yet. LOVED the folks at the Smokey Mountain Jubilee (Pigeon Forge, TN) LOVED their Xmas dinner party. LOVED their fiddle player (er, not in the same way I love hound dogs and biscuits). I can take the good with the bad, I guess. I saw more good when I was down south. I was SHOCKED by the racist attitudes I saw in the north. They’re way creepier about it in the blue states.

    So, for that reason, I have to bite my tongue and be polite while I ask Lord Sodit, exactly what did you mean when you said that things “might well have ended better for all concerned if Dixie had won”?

    • Beste says:

      “Dixie stood for a lot more than slavery and Nazism stood for a lot more than German racism”

      Beliefs in aryan supremacy and extreme antisemitism were fundatmental to Nazi ideology.

  8. foobar says:

    No, your desire to “own” the flag doesn’t erase it’s history. You, white woman, don’t get to reclaim shit. Jesus fucking christ.

    • Ren says:

      i’m not attempting to erase history, in fact, I think most people should pay more attention to it fully study it actually. And by that I mean fully. Hence my interest in open and civilized discussion on the matter.

      Also amazing what some folk figure they can and cannot tell other folk to do.

  9. OK…sorry to respond so late on this, but I’ve had PC (that’s personal computer, NOT political correctness) issues.

    I guess that being the Radical Leftist Black guy in this group, I should be storming off this blog in protest of such an offensive symbol representing the enslavement of “my people” and all but outing Ren as a vicious racist. At least, that’s what all the PC folk think I should be doing.

    But guess what?? That flag doesn’t offend me nearly as much at all. At least, not as much as the context of those who use it for their own purposes of promoting their unique brand of hate and bigotry.

    Sure, I wouldn’t go around town wearing the Stars and Bars….but I’m not going to prejudge a person as a racist merely because his Dodge Charger is tricked up like the General Lee.

    A flag is only a symbol…the real meaning is in those who use it, and the context of what they are using it for.

    Plus…not everyone who flies the Stars and Bars happens to be a flaming White supremacist. Just as there are anti-racist skinheads, there also happens to be people like Ren, who is about as racist as I am a Tea Party advocate. Yes, it has been used to defend some pretty evil shit, and the taint will probably last a century of two, but let’s not let the symbol get in the way of condemning the actions of hate and bigotry.

    Maybe it’s old age or my more social libertarian streak, but I just can’t get too upset about that flag. At least…not too much.


  10. DebSens says:

    I have mixed feelings on this symbol….on one hand yes it is incredibly racist! On the other maybe it is just another rebellus symbal1 I too grew up with Dukes of Hazard

  11. BroadSnark says:

    I came across this post recently and it made me think of your post. So, in case you might find it interesting…


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