For birders and lovers of Victoriana and its gingerbread architecture, Cape May, New Jersey is a throwback to a more genteel time. To the north, Wildwood is also a throwback, but not to gentility; property values along the precious Atlantic coast have not knocked away this last great Jersey Shore honky-tonk outside the gutters of Atlantic City and its failed experiment with organized crime. Strangely enough for a town in a pure blue state, Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon line and seemingly carries a whiff of southern charm and manners; Wildwood sits squat upon it and has neither. Indeed, lately it as become somehow a center for Confederate regalia, according to Rich Juzwiak's blog, fourfour. Rich offers a colorful and shocking photo tour of T-shirt shops and other inspiring sights on the beach and boardwalk of Wildwood, New Jersey [hat tip: Lindsay].
The Confederate flag - known as the Battle Flag to CSA buffs and the Stars and Bars to many others - is all over Wildwood's shops and swimmers, it seems. It's simple really - tons of people don't realize that the flag represents two things above all else: black slavery and treason.
They're content to wear it on their chests, tattoo it on their arms, stick it in their labels, fly it from their flagpoles, wiggle it from their asses, and emblazon it on all manner of vehicles - as if it were really a mere symbol of cultural pride, a lasting badge of honor.
History is simple: a murderous gang of treasonous southern leaders turned their back on the United States of America to defend the enslavement of blacks, for economic, cultural, and racial reasons. It was a catastrophic last stand for a horrid, immoral way of life that may have died out in another short generation because of growing distates for shackles and whip throughout the western world. The flag was the symbol of the armed rebellion against the very idea of America. It is an icon of the greatest act of treason in our history - an icon made worse by the constant attempts at its resurrection as a legitimate cultural symbol after Reconstruction.
But some people are literally unreconstructed; listen to this guy on Rich's blog:
I live in Virginia. I have always had friends from various ethnic backgrounds, grew up listening to hip-hop, and attended a predominately/historically black college. I'm not at all religious and believe in the equitable treatment of people from all races, belief systems, and sexual lifestyles. I also hold the Confederacy dear to my heart. The basic idea of freedom has been altered since the Union won the Civil War, to the point where there is basically no real choice left in America. When people bemoan the two-party system and the choice between two evils that they're forced to make every four years, they ought to understand that it began when the C.S.A. was defeated. It's unfortunate that the source of the conflict was slavery, because it clouds the issues of personal freedom and of the rights of the States. Slavery is indefensible, but this country was founded with an allowance for the freedom of each individual State, and that war destroyed this freedom and led to the death of many others.
So the Confederacy was about some basic idea of American personal freedom? Slavery "clouded the issue." Do they actually teach this stuff? Then there's this:
maybe it is time for a history lesson, the civil war wasn't about slavery and lincon didn't abolish it out of the goodness of his heart. the civil war was about states rights and economy, slavery was abolished as a way to further weaken the south, not to up hold the libreal ideals of abolitionists
And ok, one more:
I am black and the proudest of southerners. The Confederate flag is not patently offensive. What is more, perhaps many northerners should get off their high horse about blacks, slavery, the flag, and the south. The north has it own problems, including racism. I have friends that have the so-called Confederate flag, and they are not racist. As to this topic, it seems northerners lack the ability to comprehend the naunces of love for the South, it culture, long dead family members that fought in the lost cause, while not necessarily hating blacks or loving slavery. It is more than just bumpersticker logic to say that one can be proud of the south, as I am, without being a racist. I am proud of Martin Luther King, but I am also proud of Robert E. Lee, as he was an honorable gentleman, solider, Christian, and educator. We all make mistakes.
We all do indeed make mistakes, but symbols of those mistakes can be very powerful and incredibly offensive. In a land where we attempt to amend the Constitution to prevent the burning of our national symbol, and where mainstream commentators accuse newspapers of treason for reporting accurately on secret government programs, symbols do matter in daily life. And while arguing over the causes of the Civil War in the context of boardwalk T-shirt shacks seems silly, arguing over the symbol adopted by Klansmen to terrorize Southern blacks within many of our lifetimes does not.
Besides, the flag-burning amendment folks have one thing right - if you're an American, there's only one flag.