The Southern thing

The news that Lynyrd Skynyrd, the onetime standard-bearer for Southern rock, will no longer use the Confederate flag as the backdrop for its shows has sparked a very interesting discussion on the band’s website.

Though I can only laugh at Rossington’s statement that the Civil War was about “state’s rights,” I can also sympathize with people who try to make symbols mean what they want them to mean. But when the commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans calls the NAACP  a hate group along with the Ku Klux Klan, that suggests something quite a bit nastier (or, at the very least, howlingly ignorant of history) is going on with the complainers.

It’s a fact that many Southern states only resurrected the Confederate flag in response to the civil rights movement. For a long time I had problems listening to Skynyrd’s signature song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” because the reference to George Wallace was so ambiguous. It took the Drive-by Truckers and their album Southern Rock Opera to get me to listen with fresh ears. Along with “The Three Great Alabama Icons,” posted above, the album has a song called “The Southern Thing” with these great lines:  

“You think I’m dumb, maybe not too bright/ You wonder how I sleep at night/ Proud of the glory, stare down the shame/ The duality of the Southern Thing.”

Since I’ve spent my years living comfortably above the Mason-Dixon Line, there are probably lots of people who’ll say I have no busy chiming in on this argument. But since the flag represents a foreign nation that tried to rip our country apart, all to preserve a decadent society built on the sale and exploitation of human beings, I think we Northerners have the right to make our voices heard as well.

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