Columns » John Brummett

South rises again at Faubus Motel



It's a rich story on many levels, filled with irony and striking coincidence. That would be the one from Huntsville in the North Arkansas hills.

The owners of the downtown Faubus Motel raised the Confederate flag on their property to protest Barack Obama's election as president.

In an article last week in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, these mountain moteliers got quoted as saying their display had nothing to do with race. Nothing ever does, does it? They said they merely were expressing their patriotic despair that a socialist was becoming president.

But the country had already done that — elected a socialist president, I mean.

George W. Bush has been busy lately redistributing our wealth. His administration has directed that a giant chunk of our involuntary contributions to the central government get delivered to thieving, irresponsible money men. These good-suited financiers had pretty much destroyed themselves and our economy by taking advantage of the fact that Bush didn't regulate them.

Taxpayers are buying stock — public equity — in private banks. Otherwise private banks had no money at all or any they were willing to lend.

Bush's spiel is that this isn't socialism because banks, once back on their free-market feet, will repurchase the stock. In other words, we deplore socialistic solutions unless we really get in a bind, such as when unregulated capitalism fails by greedy incompetence and brings us to the brink.

Apparently we will soon do much the same thing for our automobile manufacturers, who don't really compete anymore. Instead they plead jointly and co-dependently to the central government for their share of our redistributed wealth. A guy from Ford was saying the other day that he needed GM and Chrysler bailed out by the government so that all their shared suppliers would stay in business and set prices reasonably. Is that supposed to be free-market competition?

Now along comes Obama, a centrist (hide and watch), to suggest that the central government play a greater role in making privately issued medical insurance more affordably accessible to every-day Americans. He wants to help regular people.

He doesn't want to take over private health insurance or buy public equity in it or artificially sustain so-called competitors. He merely wants to use government policy to bring competing private enterprises more customers. He wants to make the market universal.

Only now, though, as they behold this President-elect Obama, do these Huntsvillians get so bent out of shape about supposed socialism that they redeclare the Civil War.

In asserting a patriotic act, they raise a flag of secession. There's some powerful irony for you.

And get a load of this: The Confederate flag has been flying at the Faubus Hotel. How rich is that?

You remember Orval Faubus, most infamous son of Huntsville. He came “down from the hills” in 1954 to get elected governor after surviving a smear that he himself, a rugged rural populist, was a socialist.

But then, desperately obsessed with his own re-election, Faubus assessed the rampant racism of his segregationist electorate. So Faubus re-declared the Civil War himself. He called out his state militia in 1957 to defy federal law and keep nine innocent and brave black children from being allowed to enter the white folks' high school in Little Rock. President Eisenhower had to come in with federal troops to straighten Faubus and us out.

So now, a little more than a half-century later, they've raised the Rebel flag at a motel once owned by Faubus' family and still bearing the name. They've done it after an African-American man got official permission to integrate not a school this time, but our White House.

Maybe race has nothing to do with it. Maybe water has nothing to do with getting wet.

These people in Huntsville are fully free to express themselves. So, blessedly, are all of us. Let's patriotically raise a flag to that. Our flag. The American one.

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