Saturday, August 8, 2009

Battleflag Flies In Brooklyn

Rebel yell! Ridge man proudly displays the Confederate flag!

By Ben Muessig

The Brooklyn Paper

Will the south of Brooklyn rise again?

Judging by the looks of the Confederate flag hanging from a terrace on the southern side of the Bay Ridge Towers, it’s certainly a possibility.

The incongruous banner ­ considered a symbol of hatred and oppression by some but merely a sign of Southern pride by others ­ waves from 16th floor of the 30-story co-op tower at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 65th Street, roughly 100 miles north of the old Mason-Dixon line.

But the man behind the controversial flag told The Brooklyn Paper that his civil war isn’t against the Union Army ­ it’s against the liberals on Union Street.

“I do it is because I’m against political correctness,” the Bay Ridge Reb, who would only give the name Mike, told The Brooklyn Paper. “People who are politically correct don’t agree with that flag ­ it’s my one-man protest.

“The left likes to say they celebrate diversity,” he added. “I guess that’s what I’m doing.”

Mike insists that when he hung the Confederate flag more than a year ago, he wasn’t trying to promote racist views, but merely to show support for Southern heritage and values in a hotbed of Yankee liberalism (Bay Ridge?).

“Anything having to do with the South or white people is smeared by sophisticated snotnoses in the north,” said Mike, who repeatedly stated that he is not racist and has friends of multiple races who are not offended by the banner. “They make Southerners into bumpkins ­ and that’s not the case.

“Any other flag for any other nationality or country isn’t a big deal, but this flag creates controversy,” he stated, referring to his version of the Confederate banner, the third such flag he has hung (the past two succumbed to “dry rot”).

His version of the Confederate flag, long a logo for hate groups, includes the statement “Rebel Pride” and a small cartoon image depicting “Colonel Reb,” a former University of Mississippi mascot who was officially retired in 2003 amidst much controversy.

“I see other flags flying, so if they fly their flags, I’m going to fly my flag,” said Mike, who has also mounted two much smaller American flags on his terrace.

That’s his right ­ but that doesn’t mean that Brooklynites are happy about it.

“This is America, but personally, I think it’s really sad,” said a Bay Ridge resident who gave his name as Malik. “I thought that we got past the whole slavery thing when it was abolished. Apparently, certain people still believe in it.”

Mike insists the flag isn’t a sign of racism and claims he actually has confederates within the Bay Ridge Towers who support the banner ­ but other residents of the co-op complex said the Dixie flag doesn’t belong in Brooklyn.

“I want to stay far away from those people [who have Confederate flags],” said one resident of the Towers who requested anonymity. “We’re free to fly any flag we want, but I’m not crazy about it. We won the war. You should fly the American flag.

“It makes me feel angry and extremely uncomfortable,” she added.

This isn’t the first time the so-called “Stars and Bars” has caused uproar.

Politicians and pundits battled in 2000 over the display of a Rebel flag atop the South Carolina Capitol. The banner was removed from the roof and placed in a memorial to Confederate soldiers on Statehouse grounds.

And as recently as April, controversy erupted in an Alabama cemetery regarding the placement and subsequent removal of Confederate flags.

But controversy about the Dixie banner has hardly reached Brooklyn.

In fact, the last time a Confederate flag riled up so many Brooklynites was when a Union Navy captain unfurled a captured Dixie banner in a South Williamsburg school in 1894, a gesture that “was greeted not with a rebel yell, but with a vigorous Northern hiss from nearly 2,000 public school children,” according to the New York Times, a Manhattan newspaper.

Considering that the Bay Ridge Rebel flag is on private property, even those who don’t agree with the symbol told The Brooklyn Paper they were left in the same position as former President James Buchanan, who did little to stop the rise of the Confederacy.

“It’s their home. People are going to make their own decisions, said Danielle Ayala, of Sunset Park. “At the end of the day, what can you do?”