Monday, December 03, 2012

More Sensitivities : The Confederate Flag ~ Country Music

After last week's flurry of complaints and sensitivities over the Native American War Bonnet used in a fashion show by Victoria's Secret, another episode in the sensitivity wars has appeared, this one over images of the Confederate Flag.
A country singer, Trace Adkins, sported an ear piece decorated with a representation of the Confederate Flag when he took part in the nationally televised lighting ceremony of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. He apparently hit a raw nerve for some viewers. I can't find any close-up of the offending earpiece, or evidence that these are for sale (perhaps Adkins' earpiece was custom-made). Countless other items of jewellery and apparel decorated with the Confederate Flag are easily available - type the correct words into Google Image Search to see a selection.

As for Trace Adkins, I've written about him and his natal chart once before: here's a link to my 2008 post: Trace Adkins - Capricorn/Aquarius Mash-up.

The singer has responded to current complaints, via his own website :
As a proud American I object to oppression of any kind.
To me, the battle flag represents remembrance of my Southern lineage — I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers who followed that flag into battle.
I advocate for the preservation of America’s battlefields and honest conversation about our Country’s history.
To those who view the flag as a symbol of racism, that was not my message and I did not intend offense.

I think the large majority of members are people who don’t want history to forget the brave and gallant men who fought for the Confederacy,” he writes. “They’re our ancestors. Yet we as Americans have tried to erase them from our history books.
Adkins, in his 2007 autobiography A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck wrote that he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and states that his interest has always been historical, as opposed to some desire for the south to rise again.

From a string of comments under the relevant HuffPo article I note that to many the Confederate Flag is a representation of racism, the days of slavery and segregation. The South fought, and lost, a civil war in an attempt to preserve the right to own other humans. Among the overwhelming majority of objections to its use in a broadcast performance, even as decoration on an earpiece, the most common comment involved comparing it with a Nazi swastika. Both symbols have shameful histories, when seen in context of wars in which they were involved; but the swastika did have better symbolism centuries before Germany became involved in its use. That fact in no way diminishes the 20th century horror to which the symbol will forever remain connected. As to the flag: from infoplease
The Confederate battle flag, called the "Southern Cross" or the cross of St. Andrew, has been described variously as a proud emblem of Southern heritage and as a shameful reminder of slavery and segregation. In the past, several Southern states flew the Confederate battle flag along with the U.S. and state flags over their statehouses. Others incorporated the controversial symbol into the design of their state flags. The Confederate battle flag has also been appropriated by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 extremist groups use the Southern Cross as one of their symbols.

Flags. Strange things, flags, through the centuries, revered objects, symbols of patriotism. Flags, from their beginnings, have always had association with battle, the military, war, empire. As such, for me they fall into a category along with the Native American War Bonnet: not something to be celebrated. The Union Jack, or Union flag as I believe it's now called, carries echoes of many wrongs in its past, as well as a few good things. Likewise the Stars and Stripes, and most other national flags. All in all it'd be a very good thing if the use of national flags as symbols on clothing and other adornments were avoided completely, I'd best not say "outlawed" - first amendment stuff would be against that, I guess. Still, use of national flags would be far better limited to serious and historic ceremonial occasions....if used even then.

As for country music, my own love affair with the genre lasted for more than ten years and was, oddly enough, conducted from the UK, and in ignorance of certain nuances and connections I've since come to understand. I do still love some of the old artists and songs, those of Merle, Waylon, Willie, Kris. My interest in the genre ended soon after the time of Garth Brooks; a gaggle of new male country artists who came hard on his heels: Kenny Chesney,Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Tracy Lawrence and Trace Adkins among them, are little more than vaguely familiar names to me. We attended one country concert here in town, several years ago when Oklahoma-born Joe Diffie, performed. The only thing I recall from that is a song he sang praising and thanking "the troops". He ordered the audience to stand. I was the sole body in that theater to remained seated; "the troops" in question were not fighting in World War II, and those are the only troops for whom I personally feel gratitude.


mike said...

I would prefer one flag...the peace flag...for all countries of the world, but I don't think that would suffice for most mentallities.

Patriotism is a strange beast. I've lived in many states in the USA and many national companies pan their commercials to each particular state, playing-up the uniqueness of that particular state, usually with some patriotic slogan designed only for that state, like all other states are inferior. Automobile companies and fast food chains are the usual perpetraters.

We citizens of the USA are extremely patriotic, as are most other countries around the globe. It's interesting that with the internet, Free Trade Agreements, outsourcing to other countries, and the mix of nationalities in most countries, that each nation continues the love-my-nation chant. I suppose it's necessary to appease the deviant X gene that is present to deflect invading tribes and infer self-preservation.

I enjoyed the hubris regarding Ralph Lauren's olympic outfits for the USA teams having the "made in China" label affixed. Then there was the flap regarding the fact that most USA stars-and-stripes flags have "made in China" labels. Plus, the gift shops at most national monuments offer only souviniers manufactured in some foreign land and none had been manufactured in the USA.

I can only say this for Americans, since that's what I am, but I'm always perplexed that most Americans don't really walk-the-talk of patriotism when it comes right down to it. We don't support the concept of "America" in our every day actions. A few, small examples: the iPhone...made cheaply in China...Apple pays minimum taxes to the US...American consumers can't get enough of each new updated model (the same can be said for virtually all electronics, though!). Romney's off-shore accounts. Obama's and Romney's investments in foreign companies with questionable activities. American dependency on China's loans to the USA, but crying foul over the yuan as undervalued, but fearful of imposing sanctions.

Patriotism has been historically used to manipulate the citizens. Remember Bush's battle cry over Iraq? Remember The Dixie Chicks boycott? Remember all of the American flags that were seen EVERYWHERE at that time? Postage stamps, clothing, tattered flags adorned cars and trucks, homes had at least one prominently displayed, homeowners associations were taken to court for not allowing flag displays, etc. Pledge of allegiance questions regarding Obama not properly putting his hand on his heart and his (not) wearing the flag pin on his lapel.

I would think that if Trace Adkins thinks America is so great, that he would defer the use of the confederate flag. Is Trace being unpatriotic? Is his name on the list of secessionists petioning the White House?

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Peace flag would be good for me too! When we moved into the house we live in now, I bought a flagpole so's to fly the Earth Flag - which we did for several years - a some expense because the flags didn't last long in OK's wind, rain, sun, ice, storm etc.
Several people asked about the flag - including a judge who lives nearby. Our explanations didn't seem to make much impression on anyone at all! Eventually I tired of buying new flags and we now use the pole to fly the national flag on July 4th only.

The patriotism here in the US came as quite a shock when I first arrived - flags all over the place, "bless the troops" ribbons, etc. That along with the number of churches per capita in our town had me well and truly perplexed. I guess I've boiled into it now - sort of.

I remember most of those things you mention though I arrived here only in late Oct. 2004, so the Iraq thing had died down a bit, but I read and heard about it from the UK.

Agree on all your points, and especially that nobody who is the least bit patriotic could possibly want secession from the Union.
There can be no logic in expounding on one's patriotism then displaying images of the Confederate flag. It's rickety thinking, at best - hypocrisy at worst.

R J Adams said...

Well said. personally, I'd condemn all flags to the bonfire. And, along with them, all ribbons whether yellow, pink, black, or green with purple spots (not sure what the last one represents!). All they do is segregate people into opposing forces. The only reason I refuse American citizenship is pledging allegiance to the bloody flag. Fifty-four years in Britain without pledging allegiance, and I refuse to do it here.
As for C & W music, my experiences follow yours. I saw one video of Garth Brooks smashing up a guitar and swore never to watch him again. Some broke kid would have loved to have that guitar.
Sadly, the country music we loved has been hijacked by pseudo-politicos and turned into anthems. Give me the old love songs - there's very few new ones.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ Can't disagree with anything you've written, RJ.
I did take the plunge into citizenship, as you know, though. I rationalised the pledge to my own satisfaction by considering "the flag" as "the land" - because I do truly love this land - the land itself - so vast, diverse and beautiful. :-)

Anonymous said...

This was took through blood sweat and tears.Just what are u proud of?

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ If you are directing your comment to me - I'm not "proud" of anything, certainly not of being born in any particular country, entirely randomly. I wasn't born here, and cannot say how I'd feel had I been. Most countries you could name were "took", taken or defended in blood sweat and tears. That's life, unfortunately, for that's the way human DNA has evolved, sadly for those whose blood is routinely spilled.