Saturday, September 02, 2006

Questions Bumper Stickers Raise...

So, in my cross (two-thirds of) the country jaunt this week (more on that in another post), I saw many a baffling and amusing thing.

However, one of the most puzzling happened when I first crossed from Missouri into Illinois. About 60 miles in, I see a pickup truck with Illinois plates. For those of you who can't remember the plate offhand, it has Lincoln on it - plain and simple.

And what's on the rear window??? TWO confederate flag stickers.

I repeat - Lincoln and two confederate flag stickers on the back of the same vehicle.

As I hope most have figured out by now, I'm from Ohio, and this is something I simply don't get. People in rural Ohio and Illinois LOVE their confederate flags as part of their Southern pride, and what I saw today just reinforced what I always ask - "um...hello? Lincoln's from Illinois? Kind of led the U.S. AGAINST the confederacy? Illinois (or Ohio) was kind of in the North?" (or, in the case of Ohio, I ask if they've heard of a few gentlemen of the last names of Grant and Sherman; the former spent a lot of his formative years in Ohio, and the latter was from Ohio). I never understand this - they act like they have some strong Southern heritage. I've even inquired about this, and usually hear the reply, "well, my family has some noble roots in the south," and believe me, if you've ever dealt with these people, you know that if they're not full of shit, their family's "noble" tradition isn't that noblesse oblige shit they think it is, but the "nobility" of dirt farming. Lee's, Longstreet's and Jackson's progeny know who they are, and these people aren't in it.

However, as it was Illinois, and there was nothing happening, it also got me wondering about broader issues. Since when, and how, did the confederate flag come to be adopted as a symbol of rural living, regardless of what historical region (i.e., North or South) you live in? Somehow, in places like Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, people from rural areas have adopted this flag as part of THEIR heritage. How and why did this happen? This is definitely something worth studying. Perhaps more dangerous, too, is the fact that the confederate flag hasn't lost it's racial connotations - if it had, the battles in South Carolina and Georgia over state flags wouldn't have happened. So do these "Northerners" who adopt the confederate flag do so strictly on rural grounds, do they also adopt the racial hatred inherently tied to it, or, perhaps most sinister, do they subconsciously "forget" the racism while never letting it go?

I'm not going to pretend to have answers to this. It would take a lot more money than any historian gets paid to get me to do Civil War-related issues. Nonetheless, it just reveals how complicated, and (in my less-than-humble opinion) fucked up it is that, instead of dying over time, the Confederate flag, and all it represents, has only gained in popularity.

Lincoln and the Confederate flag on the same car....