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Daniel Ruth

Banner of shame flaps over Tampa

This felt just a bit like Martha Stewart getting a ringing endorsement from the Donner party.

Over at its answer to Pickett's Charge meets Gomer Pyle, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have erected an enormous Rebel battle flag along with a placard both blaming and thanking this humble scribbler for its presence.

"We would like to acknowledge Mr. Daniel Ruth, columnist … who through his arrogance, intellectual and moral dishonesty, and insensitivity, was the real catalyst for the creation and development of this project," the sign reads at the site near the intersection of I-4 and I-75.

Tut-tut, don't you just hate it when obsequious people try to lather you up?

The wording of the sign refers to some hen-scratchings I formerly produced for a local mimeograph sheet, which attempted to suggest the Sons of Confederate Veterans are the kinds of folks who make the Village Idiot look like Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

It would seem they were not — amused.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans would like you to think the Civil War was a spat over the gross national product, the balance of payments deficit and the earned income tax credit. As for that little slavery detail thing, well, picky, picky, picky.

Why they weren't really slaves at all, merely happy, gospel-singing day laborers on a long, very long, term lease.

As revisionist history goes, this would be akin to arguing the United States went to war with Japan in 1941 over a sake trade dispute and that Pearl Harbor was merely a water balloon fight, which got tragically out of hand.

Laurel and Hardy's Sons of the Desert had more intellectual standing.

But every whip of the massive Confederate Flag in the air over the entrance to Tampa tears at the emotional skin of thousands of black residents of this community who are reminded again and again that unreason, myopia and bigotry remain all too sadly alive and well in this still very Southern city.

The flag and its dubious patrons of historical illiteracy are really, in the end, extending a ham-handed thumb in the eye of Tampa, its citizens and those of color who might be thinking of spending time here only to be treated to a vivid blackball of divisiveness and, yes, fear.

Who would want to invest here knowing their black employees would be moving to a community populated by insidious half-wits grandly adhering to a manifesto of Dixie mendaciousness?

Why would black tourists want to spend money here, especially if they were anxious about having their car break down at the junction of I-4 and I-75? Uh-oh.

And what must all those folks arriving here for the Super Bowl think about the values of this place when they are greeted upon arrival by a Confederate Flag on steroids. To be sure the Chamber of Commerce is right. You can't buy a public image like that.

Just a few short days ago this nation witnessed its first black president sworn into office in the same week that saw the 80th birthday commemoration of the civil rights movement's most beloved figure, Martin Luther King.

Barack Obama took his oath by laying his hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible, while standing on the steps of a Capitol built by slaves — standing on the shoulders of giants. This week, of all weeks, should be a profound and poignant tribute not to where this country has been, but how far it has come.

And yet, at the gateway to Tampa flaccidly hangs the symbol of our collective national original sin.

This tarp of intolerance has absolutely nothing to do with "heritage" as the Sons of the Raccoon Lodge of a Parallel Universe so often like to shill.

This region of the United States of America, the same nation Barack Obama was elected to lead, does indeed have a grand and glorious heritage of literature, music, architecture, food and many other unique characteristics that can and should be celebrated and honored without the presence of a piece of cloth signifying the terror of human bondage, the ominous heritage of oppression.

Aren't we better than — this? Aren't we better than to become known as the home to a confederacy of dunces?

If the Sons of Shallowness want to credit this space for their insistence on making complete silly people of themselves, well then okay, fine. Thanks a bunch. It was my pleasure.

In the meantime, their flag could be five times as large as it is now and it would only demonstrate how small its disciples of delusion really are.

Oh so very small.

Banner of shame flaps over Tampa 01/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 7:31pm]

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