More On the Stars and Bars

At last, some specifics. A traditional Irish band named Potatohead submitted a letter to the editor in this evening’s Daily News that helps us identify the source of at least one of the Confederate battle flag stories. But before getting into this, let us just say that this band (every time I heard them) played first rate music for us, and I would rather not be debating with them. But alas, some confusions have entered the picture, and the record needs to be straightened out. But I do want to thank them for the specifics so that we can talk about things that actually did or did not happen, and not have to rely on Nick Gier’s telepathic powers, which appear to be on the wane recently. Quotations from their letter below are in italics, and my comments are interspersed.

We are members of a local traditional Irish music band, Potatohead. Though it was never entirely clear whether we were hired by Christ Church or New Saint Andrews College, we performed for dances held by some combination of these organizations for several years in the late 1990s.

All right so far! But at these events there were no displays of the Confederate battle flag.

Twice we were hired to provide music for Fourth of July picnic/dances held in public parks, and these events included people from Christ Church, New Saint Andrews College, and Logos School.

The Fourth of July picnic/dances were private parties, organized by a private individual. This individual invited people from various sectors of our community, it is true, but the events were not in any way sponsored by our church, the college, or the school. I attended (I think) at least two of them. For those unfamiliar with the occasion, the Fourth of July is a quaint holiday we have that celebrates the right of secession, that is, the right of the people, whenever any form of government over them becomes destructive of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, to “alter or to abolish” said government and “to institute new government.” These sentiments are currently illegal, but highly praised for all that, and we think of the people who used to believe them with fondness.

In every respect, these events were precisely the sort of ‘social event’ discussed by the recent letters to the editor by Nick Gier (Opinion, Oct. 20) and Superintendent Tom Garfield of Logos School (Opinion, Nov. 9). In light of this debate, we felt that we must make public our experience at the Fourth of July picnic held in 2000 at Glormley Park in Moscow.

No, these events were precisely not the sort of “social event” that Gier and Garfield were debating. Christ Church, NSA, and Logos School all have social events that they sponsor directly. With all such events, they are fully responsible for the proceedings, not to mention the decorations. But CC, NSA, and Logos are not responsible for social events that they did not organize or sponsor. How could they be?

When we arrived at the park, the stage on which we were to play had a huge Confederate battle flag as its backdrop. We insisted that the Confederate flag be removed and received passionate arguments why this flag belonged in this event, from both adults and students. It was not until we gave them the ultimatum they could have either their Confederate flag or live music, but not both, that they agreed to remove the Confederate flag from the stage.

Many issues here. This particular, um, decoration has a fine legacy as a backdrop for bands. Just off the top of my head I can think of The Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Lynard Skynard, and Charlie Daniels wouldn’t surprise me at all. But at the same time, this remains an issue between the band and the private individual who sponsored the event. This is not an issue that involves Christ Church, NSA, or Logos at all.

“But ah,” I can hear somebody saying, “your people, people who in other parts of their lives were attached to Christ Church, NSA, and Logos, were there in the presence of this flag and were not mortally offended.” Well, that’s true, but it is also beside the point. The Confederate battle flag does not offend me at all. Some of the most honorable men this country has ever produced fought under it. We do them a disservice if we abandon that flag (along with the stars and stripes) to the Ku Kluxers. And at “reenactment dances,” which is the kind of thing these events were, hoop skirts and all, it would be just plain weird to have the UN flag.

And another thing. We have also had a number of our balls (actually sponsored by NSA or Christ Church) in the SUB ballroom. That ballroom is decorated by flags from all around the globe, many of which are run by bloodthirsty maniacs, currently murdering and enslaving their people. If we asked for the UI to take those flags down, I am sure the answer would be no, and we would be thought a little bit persnickety. So, if I understand Potatohead’s logic, they don’t mind playing in a ballroom that has flags from murderous regimes, that kill and imprison innocent people right this very minute, but they would mind playing in a room where the state flag of Mississippi was displayed, because of some bad things that happened there one hundred and fifty years ago.

We resolved never to play for these organizations again, nor have they asked us. Contrary to Garfield’s assertion in his letter that the Confederate flag is not displayed in any social occasions by these organizations, this is at least one occasion when this disturbing symbol was prominently displayed and defended.

Five people signed the letter. In this last paragraph, they call the Confederate battle flag a “disturbing symbol.” I dare say. But some people are disturbed when they should not be. Christ Church would not fly the flag of any nation, that of the United States included. We are are Christian church, and the Christian church is not under any national jurisdictions, including the former CSA. NSA would not do so, and Logos School would not do so, because they each have a particular educational mission, and this sort of thing simply doesn’t fit within the scope of what they are called to do. Put bluntly, they have other fish to fry. But are there any individuals in our community who think of the War of Attempted Secession as a tragic affair led by men of honor? Sure, I’m one. In the words of a song I sing (that I first heard Joan Baez sing, but The Band sang it too, flag and all), the “night they drove old Dixie down” was certainly a sad one. But in the inscrutable judgments of God, this was a just judgment on the South, as I have written elsewhere. But receiving His judgments does not require us to throw our legacy and history down Orwell’s memory hole. Just the reverse.

To recap, although Potatohead does not really know who hired them for the Fourth of July events, it remains the case that this was done by a private individual for private parties. The phrase they use in their last paragraph, the phrase “displayed in any social occasions by these organizations,” is a phrase that they ought to revisit for the sake of accuracy. Potatohead has not given us testimony of any social occasions flying this flag, which were sponsored by Christ Church, NSA or Logos.

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