By Loka Pitcher
It is a little comical the first time you hear a horn play the tune of ‘The Land of Dixie’ — it’s kind of a upbeat tune. It is curious, where it came from and what it means to some. Is it rude to have a horn like that, offensive even? Or is it just harmless, maybe the owner just likes the song and doesn’t mean much by it. When you talk about things like that you may ask yourself, when does it stop being harmless and fun or for a decent reason and start getting serious?
It starts getting serious when local schools are banning the display of the Confederate battle flag on clothing because it provokes fights. Why does it start fights? Because it is associated with hate and racism and has become a symbol used to represent a hateful agenda. Some people say that it’s irrelevant what the flag is associated with in the public eye; the historical significance of the flag should allow people to proudly display their heritage in whatever way they want. We live in an area that has deep roots stretching into the civil war era so I figured that people around Hagerstown would definitely have something to say about it.
I interviewed the executive director of the Hagerstown Historical Society, Linda Irvin-Craig, to help get an idea of where members of the community might stand on the issue. Linda stated that racism is an issue all over and that the flag is definitely associated with racism in the public eye. When referencing its historical significance, Linda said, “It wasn’t the actual flag of the Confederate Nation; it was primarily used in battle and after the war it went away for a while until integration in the south started happening and integration was an issue. What’s troubling is that at one point the flag was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan as their symbol.” This is where we get into the controversial issues.
From that it is clear that at one point the flag was a definite symbol of racial hate, but does that mean that historically the flag has always been racist? I browsed local news publishings and found scattered opinions on the matter. One person wrote, “the flag isn’t a racist symbol and doesn’t have any relevance to racism. Issues today that involve racism are collateral damage from Barack Obama’s PC (politically correct) war. Because of him cracking down on people for rather minor misdemeanors he has brought attention and tension to the issue. Things like the South Carolina shooting wouldn’t have happened if people weren’t so focused on matters irrelevant to today.”
By bringing awareness to an issue you have the potential to increase the activity of it. On the other hand if you let it go ignored the issue is never resolved. So what do we do when were forced into a position where we must make a choice? Do we ban the offensive use of the confederate flag in Hagerstown? In response, Linda had this to say, “No, we have freedom of speech in this country I wouldn’t deny any one the right to display that — that’s what they choose. But for me, it would not leave a good first impression.” It’s essential that we recognize that freedom of speech is a huge factor in this. In our country it’s unconstitutional to say no you can’t say that to someone when they are sending a message.
Things aren’t going to change any time soon, and this issue will come up again and again until something is done about it. In the meantime, it is nice to know where Hagerstown stands. The influence of your opinions may help shape the result of this country’s debate and have a more ideal future. There isn’t anything wrong with encouraging opinions every now and then, and in this interview I learned a lot about what that can mean for the real world. Maybe when opinions are confused with facts things become a little too serious.
William Pitcher is a Freshman at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts