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    Posted June 24, 2015 by
    Mahariffic
    Location
    Eutaw Springs, South Carolina

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    This Ain't the First Time

     
    I could see it coming. Cynics and critics of most things Southern mock and dismiss a long-burning debate amongst us here on the placement of the Rebel Flag on the state house grounds. It's uncomfortable for most of us, because it has become a third rail of politics and a sure-fire way to draw righteous indignation and ire from our friends, family and neighbors. Most of those I know would assume the same as I would when spotting a battle flag flapping in the yard of a house, trailer or emblazoned on a truck bumper or back window. Neanderthal, narrow-minded hick that makes all Southerners look like bigots. That's not necessarily fair, nor would it be fair to accuse anyone backing the placement of the flag in a place of prominence as a hate-filled bigot.
    Segue to 1975, Lancaster, South Carolina. It was a bright Saturday in early April, and I and more than a dozen of my classmates from Lancaster High School rode our bikes uptown to march on the courthouse in protest of the Lancaster County Council decision to cut school funding to boost funding for garbage collection. We were outraged, and my classmates and friends, black and white, assembled to make our opinions known.
    Daddy was a classic "old country lawyer" work worked every day but Sunday. Ordinarily I'd go with him to his office at 313-1/2 S. Main St., to run errands, listen to his stories and advice, flip through his library of case law, or eat Lance crackers. This day, I told Daddy what we wanted to do, but I was concerned about something. It turns out that this Saturday marked a commemoration by the Daughters of the Confederacy under their presumed duel designation as Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs. Gardner was the local chapter president and she had dutifully placed about 30 little rebel battle flags at the base of a statue of a Confederate soldier that stands in front of the old Lancaster County Courthouse designed by Robert Mills. (Incidentally, that old historic courthouse and reams of precious relics and documents were destroyed in a fire in 2009 set by a troubled young black man. A portrait of my late father, the very many who likely would have defended that young black man for free, also was destroyed in that fire. Relevance. There is relevance.)
    Because my co-protesters were black and also transplants from up North, I thought that it might be appropriate to temporarily remove the little battle flags until after our march. Daddy told me to ask the police chief for permission, and then joked, "If the American colonials had as many soldiers as we have members of the DAR, the battle would have been won on the first day."
    The police chief approved the removal of the flags as long as we put them back after the march. (I recall feeling horrified that I accidentally snapped the little wooden posts on a few, and had to jamb some flags back rather close to the ground.)
    Buck Moore was a reporter for the local newspaper. Not shy of controversy, or digging under the covers of this company town, Buck easily could have blossomed at the Washington Post.
    Word got to the paper that a bunch of 11th graders planned to march on the courthouse to protest the County Council's school budget cuts.
    The front page photo and story, however, was lead with a photo of me getting chewed out by Mrs. Gardner over my having removed the rebel flags. The footnote about our concerns and protest was mentioned, which actually forced the county council to rethink their budgetary priorities.
    I'm from a remarkable town in South Carolina, and I recall the delicacy with which our leaders treated implementing measure of the desegregation orders. My mother served on the school board, and my father served as legal counsel for the board, and most everybody else. I know that Lancaster's success in transitioning to merge the black and white schools was marked as an example for other communities in the nation to follow. Mama and Daddy worked with leaders and educators in the black schools with utmost dignity, respect and common good. Nobody burned, protested or insulted anyone over it. Sure, black students and white students resented surrendering their mascots and colors for new ones representing both. I missed the Barr Street Marching Band, but the Lancaster Marching Band was uncommonly robust and talented with its 250 members. The combination of the black musicians and athletes with the white ones made for quite a chorus.
    Well, that's how I lived and witnessed it. You can see why this evolution of the battle flag furling and everyone seeming to come together is so beautiful to me. If we could just ignore the rabble-rousers and cynical, and maybe we can.


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