We probably should have seen this coming. In the last year, thanks to open rules about what can and can not be displayed in the area, the rotunda at the Florida Capitol has become contested ground for a grab bag of worldviews and opinions. Besides your regular nativity scene, this year there was a Festivus pole gracing the space for the holidays. Once the atheists got theirs, the satanists weren't far behind. But after atheists and satanists, what slice of the American pie is just as pushy about getting out its own hotly contested free speech? Confederate
apologists fanboys sympathizers history buffs.
On Friday, a whole display of Confederate flags went up in the rotunda. The occasion was Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, which is an actual thing, sorry to say, America. In keeping with the back-assed nature of all things Confederate, it's not officially recognized on a single day. Each former member of the Confederacy has chosen a different day for the holiday (STATES' RIGHTS!). Florida holds its antebellum throwback party when a Stars and Bars general finally handed his sword over to the Union in 1864.
Anyway, the flags were displayed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. This is the first time the group has displayed the flags. It was clued in thanks to Festivusgate over the holiday season. As these groups always do, they trucked out the usual canned speech about how they're not trying to celebrate racism but honor the fallen dead sons of the South...
Which is crap.
We're getting to the point in this country's history where we should probably stuff all the nostalgia in the bottom drawer and acknowledge that not only is the Confederate flag a totem of a racist historical period but that it's hauled out now only to piss folks off, stick a finger in people's eye, a dying-fratboy chest bump of racial superiority. Argue all you want that it's a symbol of those who fell for a cause -- you can't clip it free from the content of that cause, right?
The Confederate flag is taking the air in Tallahassee at a bit of an awkward time. Today, in 2014, we're watching as one of the most powerful men in American, a sports owner who makes billions off the back of his minority workforce, has been confirmed (again) as a vicious racist. The white-over-black attitudes celebrated in the Confederate South are still alive and kicking, no matter how much you'd like to write them off as historical dinosaurs.
With the legislative session coming to a close, there was little time for right-minded representatives to waste time bashing the flags. On Twitter, however, people got upset.
Others, well, seemed positive (hashtag CSA?):
By far the best response to the flags came from none other than Jeff Clemens, the state senator from Lake Worth and a true showman of the Twitter reaction.