A rural correspondent reports driving several miles on a Faulkner County highway today behind a pickup flying a big Confederate battle flag.
The driver, I'm sure, intended no commentary on race or today's events in Washington. Probably just a student of the state-federal powers debate at the core of the War Between the States. Or maybe he was just heading back from a visit to David O. Dodd's grave.
UPDATE: A reader wonders how anyone could think flying a Confederate flag has racial overtones. Really. I'm sure the pickup driver was merely a proud son of the South, an expert on the cotton tariff and a generally fine fellow with love in his heart for people of all hues.
Still, the question gives me an occasion to print a letter Guy Lancaster of the Encylcopedia of Arkansas wrote to the editor of the Democrat-Gazette in response to a similar complaint about those who misunderstand the simple love of history that lies in exhibition of Confederate flags. It was edited from its original form, but it's informative.
GUY LANCASTER'S LETTER
Letter writer Freddie C. Slight makes two historically inaccurate assertions regarding the Civil War and use of the Confederate Battle Flag, namely that the war was not fought over slavery and that the flag is not associated with racism.
First, the March 11, 1861, Arkansas secession convention spelled out six reasons for secession: 1. that the Republican Party was solely a Northern party hostile to slavery; 2. that Northerners refused to offer protection to the slave property of Southerners; 3. that Republicans declared that Congress had the power to limit slavery; 4. that Northerners disregarded fugitive slave laws; 5. that they denied Southerners the right to move through non-slave states with their slaves; and 6. that “They have degraded American citizens by placing them upon an equality with [N]egroes at the ballot box.”
Delegates at the second secession convention in May 1861 adopted these points when they finally approved secession.
Second, there were three official flags of the Confederate nation, the first commonly called the Stars and Bars featuring three horizontal stripes and a blue field with a circle of stars. What we often think of as the Confederate flag, with the St. Andrew’s Cross, was actually the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and was not popularly used until 1948 when segregationist Strom Thurmond made it a centerpiece for his run for president on the racist Dixiecrat ticket. Other supporters of segregation adopted it and have used it ever since.