A Response to Our Neighbors Who Fly the Confederate Flag

When we first moved into our house, one of the first things we noticed was that our neighbors proudly displayed a rather large Confederate flag in their garage.
As my wife and I both grew up in this area of rural Minnesota, we’d seen Confederate paraphernalia before, but that was primarily from yokel high-schoolers, kids who would skip class to go hunting or come to school via snowmobile. And while I detest the Confederate flag, you know what—that’s forgivable. Sophomores in high school rarely (never?) consider the implications of their actions.*

But my neighbors are adults—and if you’re an adult and fly the Confederate flag, that means something else entirely. This is especially true in the North. Minnesota was a Union state. It was the first state to respond to Lincoln’s call for volunteers in 1861. The 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry played an especially important role in helping the Union win the Battle of Gettysburg, which helped win the war. So, if you’re flying a Confederate flag in Minnesota, you’re literally flying the flag of an enemy nation.**

Oddly enough, my neighbor’s Confederate flag is flanked immediately by a large American flag. It’s like dueling banjos. Even though we’ve lived here for three years, despite my misgivings, I haven’t reacted publicly to my neighbor’s flag.

Then, this week, as I was heading to work, I noticed that a Confederate flag was displayed in a different neighbor’s garage.

That makes two houses on our block—in Minnesota!—that had Confederate flags. I decided I had to act.

I figured the best way was to fight fire with fire: Since so many of my neighbors (about 17 percent) have decided to fly the flag of a country that was once our enemy, I’m going to do the same.

The problem is, I can’t decide which flag to fly. As I see it, there are several distinct options of snarkiness, but some are more obvious than others. Help me decide.

Option #1: The Union Jack

As the British were our country’s first enemy, the Union Jack would be hilarious to fly next to the Stars and Stripes. Plus, there are so many other benefits. While flying the Union Flag, everyone in the house—even the dogs—could wear a variety of a red coats, those fun tri-corner hats, and we’d all only drink tea. When we saw the Confederate neighbors across the way, we’d waive, and say things like “’ello Governor!” and “God Save King George III!”

Option #2: The French!

Part of me really, really wants to fly a French flag. I suppose some of that comes from the bizarre Franco-hate that seems common on the right—and which may be shared by my Confederacy-admiring neighbors. The problem is, we haven’t really fought the French much. Other than fighting Vichy France, they’ve usually been our pals. Except, of course, during the “Undeclared War with France.” (Thanks Wikpedia!)

Long story short, the French supported us during the Revolutionary War, but we came to a too-speedy resolution with the Brits, France’s enemy. They got miffed and decided to harass our shipping. In the process, they captured a couple thousand vessels.

Major war or not, I’d say it’s enough to merit flying a French Flag. Plus, I could offer my neighbors French wine and cheese at every opportunity, laugh only au Francais, and make incessant references to the national motto of France, with special emphasis on égalité.

Option #3: The Nuclear Option—Deutschland über Alles

I’m only including this option for its shock value, but it somehow seems the most fitting. Let me explain:  My grandfather served in World War II, and while he served in the Pacific Theatre (in the Philippines), when he got back, he traded a few souvenirs for a trophy from Germany—a big goddamn Nazi banner.***

It’s terrifying: It’s eight feet long, and even though it’s over seventy years old, the red is as vibrant as blood from a fresh wound.

When I asked a few friends on Facebook how to respond to this whole matter, a number of folks said that I should hang that flag up for a day. And it’s true, I could make the most of that—I speak German, and I could go buy a few brown shirts for the occasion.

But no, I think if I hung a Nazi flag up—even in jest—my neighbors would glare, maybe even openly jeer or cuss me out. After all, the Nazis worked their prisoners to death or killed them outright.

But the same goes for the Confederate flag. A Confederate slaveholder and a Kommandant don’t differ all that much in terms of worldview. Both hold similar views about race, about blood, about what an idealized world would look like.

In either case, repulsion is the right reaction, I think.

* Proof: I once believed all sorts of things as a sophomore that I disagree with now; hell, on one occasion in high school, I tried to get a book banned from our school library because of its “insensitive language.” It dropped the N-bomb nearly constantly; immature-Me thought that this was a sign it was racist. No, it was simply quoting material directly. Nothing’s easier than being self-righteous at 18.

**Now I know some readers may immediately object: they’d argue that the Confederate flag is a historical object. I might buy that in the South, and if one’s forebears served in the Civil War that would be one thing, but almost always, people fly the Confederate flag because they agree with the repugnant worldview behind it, not because they have a historical/family connection with the military battles of the Civil War. It’s no coincidence that the Confederate flag is a favorite symbol of white separatists and neo-Nazis.

*** One time after the war, my grandfather was cleaning out his basement and found the flag. It was musty, so he hung it up in his back yard to air it out. He apparently scared the hell out of the neighbors.

9 Comments

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    I think the French might be the most offensive to the neighbors. That or a rainbow flag.

  • Ann says:

    Union Jack! Especially now that WIll and Kate are pregnant! :) haha

  • Vero says:

    My neighbors had a conferate flag only to replace it with a white pride flag. I’m Mexican American and my husband is an atheist, and I’ve always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, but how the heck do you deal with racist neighbors like this. I can see their flag every time I am in my backyard.

  • Jeff says:

    Did you ask if maybe they attended Ole Miss?

  • Ken Oxenrider says:

    @Brett ‘bizarre Franco-hate that seems common on the right—and which may be shared by my Confederacy-admiring neighbors?’ Yes, it has to be the right in your eyes since you obviously are ‘biased’ all to hell. Don’t see it, do you?

    ‘A Confederate slaveholder and a Kommandant don’t differ all that much in terms of worldview. Both hold similar views about race, about blood, about what an idealized world would look like.’ Sure, all slave holders were tyrants and sadists… of course they are in your biased narrow, view. The fact is most southerners did not own slaves and it’s also a fact that many northerners also owned slaves. I think the problem is people like you have small minds and insist on rewriting history to suit yourselves, even though you only have a superficial knowledge of the subject. Hey, it’s fashionable and you want to be in the ‘in’ crowd. I understand. I am surprised you did not actually directly compare the Confederate flag to the Nazi flag. Incidentally, did you know that not all Germans were Nazi’s? It was a political party, not a nation or an army.

  • Ken Oxenrider says:

    What do I think about the Confederate flag flap? By K. Steven Monk I think that very few people today even know what that flag stood for. No,

    it did not stand as a racist symbol for the KKK as that group did not even exist when countless thousands of Southern men laid down their lives

    for it. Nor did it stand for Nazi-inspired white supremacy, as the man who brought that German political group to power had not even been born

    at the time that countless thousands of young, Southern boys spilled their blood on the fields of Gettysburg. And no! They did not spill their

    blood on that field of battle and innumerable other fields for the right to own slaves, as 95% of them couldn’t even afford the common necessities

    of life, let alone slaves. It was only the other 5% of the Southern population, the rich Southern planters, that could afford that as well as the

    luxuries they enjoyed. At the time of this great conflict, slavery, as an institution, was on its way out in the South. So why did so many poor,

    common, white (and even black) working boys lay down their lives for a tattered red, white and blue cross of stars? The answer to that becomes

    rather obvious when you consider what the war they fought and died in was all about. And no! It was not a Civil War. There was nothing civil

    about the carnage of hundreds of thousands of American men blowing the guts out of each other. It was a war of aggression: the aggression of a

    omnipotent, Washington-based political power who had as its agenda the subversion of a group of states who had decided to rescind their

    ratification of that power’s right to rule, an act which, under the constitution that they ratified, they had the right to do. In other words,

    Southern Americans, in this most Uncivil War, were fighting for the same thing that Americans fought for at Valley Forge: they were fighting for

    their freedom. That’s what the stars and bars meant to them. That’s why so many of them went to their graves defending it. That’s why

    If you seek an offensive flag, look no farther than the thirteen-stripe United States flag. Under that flag, hundreds of thousands of Africans were

    transported to slavery in the New World in the 1700s and 1800s. (No Confederate-flagged ship ever made a slaving-run.)Under that flag, an Army

    Order (General Order No. 11) was issued 17 December 1862 forcibly removing all Jewish people from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. (No

    Confederate authority ever practiced anti-Semitism.)Under that flag, thousands of men, women, and children were systematically hunted down

    and killed, and other thousands forcibly removed from their homelands and relocated to less-hospitable environs in the 1800s for the shocking

    offense of being Native Americans/Indians. (No such actions ever occurred under a Confederate flag.)Under that flag, thousands of American

    citizens were placed in concentration camps in the 1940s for the heinous crime of being of Japanese ancestry. (No concentration camps were ever

    built or operated under Confederate authority.)Moreover, that flag is the favored flag of the Ku Kluxers — anti-blacks, anti-Semitics, and anti-

    Catholics. See http://pointsouth.com/csanet/kkk.htm for pictures. So: The thirteen-stripe United States flag has been used against blacks, Jews,

    Native Americans, Japanese, and Catholics. I wonder when will someone call for its removal? (Clifton Palmer McLendon) “The sole object of this

    war,” said Grant, “is to restore the Union. Should I become convinced it has any other object, or that the Government designs using its soldiers to

    execute the wishes of the Abolitionists, I pledge you my honor as a man and a soldier I would resign my commission and carry my sword to the

    other side.” -Democratic Speaker’s Handbook, p. 33 The War for Southern Independence was fought for the same reasons as the Revolutionary

    War. True history is not taught in school.

    This is a repost of a comment by cwipaulk – 4/28/2012 1:59 PM
    The problem here is that Yankee propaganda has been taught to everyone, starting during Reconstruction. No CSA flag ever flew on the slave-

    trading ships; it was Old Glory. The South did not secede in order to perpetuate slavery; it was on the way out, and only a small percentage of

    Southerners owned slaves. Lincoln waged his treasonous and unconstitutional war to force the seceded states back into the union for the

    collection of revenues. The South was furnishing about 85% of the revenue, and getting very little in return. Most Northerners were in favor of

    letting the South go, but Lincoln said, “Let the South go? Let the South go! Where then shall we get our revenues?!” Lincoln shut down numerous

    newspapers and imprisoned the owners who disagreed with his waging of an illegal war. To refute the oft-repeated lie that the War for Southern

    Independence (commonly but erroneously called “The Civil War”) was fought over slavery, I need only mention the Corwin Amendment —

    proposed by Congressman Thomas Corwin of Ohio, passed by Congress 2 March 1861, and endorsed by Abraham Lincoln. That amendment

    read: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any

    State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” If the seceded States had

    wished to perpetuate slavery, they had only to re-join the Union and ratify that amendment. They did not because they seceded to escape an

    overweening, all-intrusive big government, the same reason that thirteen States seceded from Britain in 1776, Mexico from Spain in 1818, and

    Texas from Mexico in 1836. The Confederate Battle Flag represents a brave and proud people (black and white) who were defending their homes

    from an invading army. Those who think anything else have swallowed the Yankee Kool-Aid. Do your own research. Learn the truth.

  • Chris says:

    Ken,
    I just wanted to thank you for writing your comment as everything you said was right on the money. You saved me a lot of time. Brett is obviously a nincompoop who does not know history and probably does not care. As a native North Carolinian who had 77 plus Confederate Soldiers in my family as well as family in every war this country has fought, it does my heart good to know that there are others out there who actually took the time to study true unrevisioned history. We are a dying breed sir. I have wrote several articles about the things that you just talked about. I hope you are a fellow Compatriot in the SCV. We need people like you to help get the truth out and defend the heroes of the South. Thank you.
    May you and your family be blessed,
    Chris
    Commander SCV Camp#458

  • Cyrus says:

    Now if you really want to go tit for tat, but I think it would be lost on them. Fly our countries flag from 1861 with far fewer than 50 stars and relive the conflict.

    Over the last 40 years the battle flag of the army of Virginia had become to show a culture of the simple oppressed as in the Dukes of Hazzard TV show, sorta of an icon of country music, and kids that wanted to show their click. In a way I find someone dressed in Goth more disturbing then a “redneck girl”. Never have I observed these folks behavior as racist, but unfortunately their are people will hate and wrongly use symbols.

    Having been raised in PA and lived in Florida for 30 years now; I find the Confederate flag is a symbol down here of “I have rights” chip on ones shoulder. I suggest another flag of liberty such as “Don’t tread on me”. In the culture of the north vs the south- each of these flags mean the same. The shame is that reconstruction was such a hard thing in the south and from resentment they really never let go and have held on to the confederate flag.

    I see both sides; the south needs to let go and we all need to be a patriot and fly a colonial flag with pride.

  • American not blue or gray says:

    You REALLY like to revise history, don’t you, you southern grits! The Confederate flag is nothing more than treason’s rag … a flag of anti-American liars. This whole inbred notion that the Rebel Flag stands for freedom, southern pride and Christian values is simply cloaking prejudice in false patriotism and bad religion. Union forces weren’t fighting for the subjugation of a race like the Confederates were. We should NEVER celebrate valor in the cause of evil.
    If you’re not afraid of the TRUTH … here are excerpts from your own Confederate state’s constitutions as reasons for secession. The Rebel flag most certainly represented these reasons which were based on their right to own slaves.
    Mississippi: ” … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”
    Texas: “The servitude of the African race is the revealed will of The Almighty Creator as recognized by all Christian nations.”
    South Carolina: “The Union States have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery.”
    Georgia: “The North’s fixed purpose is to limit, restrain and finally abolish slavery in the states where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity.”
    Mississippi: “Advocating negro equality promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst and equates to the whole popular mind of the North to become inflamed with prejudice against those states wishing to keep slaves.”
    Texas: Non-slave holding states have an unnatural feeling of hostility of Southern states and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, claiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color – a doctrine at war with nature and in violation of the plainest revelations of Devine law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us so long as a negro slave remains in these states.”
    So, you can profess the war was not about slavery, but facts don’t lie. And your Christian values can’t cover up the fact that you are about as UN-CHRISTIAN as your rebel rag is. You can wrap your southern christianity and patriotism up in your worthless toilet paper of a flag, but your crap is still crap even after 157 years of whining. So shut the hell up and be an American instead of a pissy little southerner who’s still making excuses for your ancestor’s bad decision to become traitors to the greatest nation this world has ever known.

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