Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dear Vergennes Neighbor,

I drove past your house today and saw your flags, the Gadsden Flag, and the Mississippi Naval Flag or the Flag of Northern Virginia (known incorrectly as the Confederate Battle Flag or the Rebel Flag.)  I do not know you, nor why you have chosen these two flag, and omitted the Flag of the USA.  In kindness, I choose to believe that you do not intentionally wish to offend any of your neighbors, but I am sure that I am not the only one who is offended.

Theprovinence of these two flags is relatively boring.  The Gadsden Flag was created before the Revolutionary War, designed by South Carolina Congressman Christopher Gadsden and used by Esek Hopkins on his flagship the USS Alfred.  It was also the first flag of the United States Marines. 

The “Confederate Flag” was never that at all - it was flown by the Mississippi Navy and by Robert E. Lee’s regiment in Northern Virginia.  The symbols on it did appear on other flags, but it was rejected by many because it’s coloring made it too similar to the American Flag and the English Union Jack.  The actual (2nd) flag of the Confederacy had this image in the top left corner, on a field of pure white.  That choice was not accidental.

To those who fly it, the Gadsden Flag represents resistance against tyranny.  It comes from a time when this collection of colonies (of which, by the way, Vermont was not one) was pushing back against the control of England.  It speaks to an unwillingness to be tightly controlled by a powerful central government.  Fair enough.  It has been taken up again in recent times by Libertarians who believe that less government is good government.  Not exactly the original intention, but close enough.

The “Confederate Flag” however, does not fly so easily.  The South seceded from the United States of America under this flag (again, not really, but let’s go with the myth.)  The ‘official’ cause was State’s Rights.  The Confederacy resented the nation as a whole (not just the North) telling them what they could and could not do.  The real cause was slavery and everybody knows it.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation coming in the middle of the Civil War was not a coincidence.  This flag represent the insistence by one group of people that they were legally, morally, ethically, financially within their right to OWN ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.   The flag retained some popularity as a representation of Southern Pride (but not American Pride?) and a tribute to Southern heritage, but I ask, specifically what heritage is that?  The heritage of oppression and bigotry?  Of white superiority?  If this flag represents the secessionist South, and the South seceded over the right to OWN OTHER PEOPLE, is this really a heritage to be proud of?  Before the existence of this flag, there was a South.  There was Southern hospitality, and grit, and honesty, and iced tea on verandas, and crickets at dusk.  And that all existed under the American Flag.  This flag does not represent freedom for all, it represents freedom for some, and oppression for others.  In recent times it has flown over Klan meetings, it has flown over anti-civil rights rallies, and it has been carried by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  It is hurtful, and divisive and I ask, dear Vergennes neighbor, that you consider that when you choose to display to on the front of your home.

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