Friday, August 31, 2012

What's in a Flag?

As a six year old kid, I absolutely loved the TV show "Dukes of Hazard".  Of course, as a six year old kid, I was a complete idiot who if left to myself would have subsisted on Fruit Roll-ups and sugary soda and died within a month of sugar-coma. 

But that show did represent something about its era--an era where the First Brother-in-Law hawked "Billy Beer", an affront to suds that I believe led to the microbrew revolution that followed; an era of economic malaise and stagflation; an era where disco actually managed to get worse following its mid-'70s heyday.  This era celebrated the "countryhickification" of American culture.  Trucker films, songs about CB radios, and of course Burt Reynolds were all the rage, and Dukes of Hazard cashed in.

(Full disclosure--John Schneider, the actor who played Bo Duke, is actually a native of my old hometown, Mt. Kisco New York, and for a time was married to the daughter of some friends of my parents.  Am I proud of this connection to the show?  You bet I am!)

The show, for those of you who spent the turn of the '80s watching Masterpiece Theater and tossing Faberge eggs at poor people who did your gardening, was about two moonshine runners named Bo and Luke Duke, who lived at their Uncle Jesse's farm in some hick southern county called Hazard, constantly getting in trouble with the local political boss, Jefferson Davis Hogg, and his lackey sherriff, Roscoe Coltrane.  They also had a scantily clad cousin Daisy and there was something weird going on with her that as a six year old I couldn't quite figure.  Were they really all cousins, or was that just what they told people so they wouldn't suspect the orgies at Uncle Jesse's farm?  Who knows?

Anyway, more important than leggy Miss Daisy for a six year old was the bright red/orange Dodge Charger that them Duke boys drove called the General Lee.  This car basically outran anything the local fuzz could throw at them, leaving Roscoe and his deputies to crash into trees and creeks and bridge abutments, miraculously coming out unharmed (even Roscoe's dog never gets killed in the impact!) but probably costing the impoverished taxpayers of Hazard millions in car repairs.  Because they were southern hicks, it was not abnormal for them to name their car after the general who led a rebellion that caused more deaths to U.S. servicemen than Hitler and Tojo combined.  And the car had a painted-on Confederate battle flag.

So that brings us to today--a rumor that the confederate flag may or may not be removed from toys of the General Lee car!  I have to say that while southerners really need to come to grips with what the Confederacy represents--secession, racial superiority, and rebellion against the U.S., regardless of the actual motivations behind each individual who fought for the South in the Civil War--and drop these symbols.  However, I'm all for keeping the flag on the toy cars, because then little kids playing with them can ask their parents awkward questions about what that flag is and their parents can explain that some people in this country still revere a group of rebels who very nearly destroyed it a hundred and fifty years ago and hilariously these same Americans today consider themselves American patriots. 

Then they can go back to hucking Faberge eggs at poor people.

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