Virginia Flaggers have done the ‘impossible’
A Belle's Eye View
Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” Certainly, it is always enjoyable to do what someone said couldn’t be done.
The Virginia Flaggers should currently be bathed in the warm glow of the feeling of success in direct opposition to the naysayers who predicted doom and gloom, ultimate failure and the inevitable dissolution of the group.
It was less than a year ago when the Virginia Flaggers hit the headlines. The group was originally formed to protest the removal of Confederate flags from the Confederate War Memorial Chapel (Pelham Chapel) on the land of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
The VMFA became the owners of the chapel after the closing of the Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1, also known as the “Old Soldiers’ Home.” Funded by donations from veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies, the camp housed needy Confederate veterans from its formation in 1884 until it closed in 1941. It was then given to the Commonwealth of Virginia, who then used it for the VMFA and the Virginia Historical Society.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans leased the chapel in 1993 and flew Confederate flags at the chapel. In 2010, the lease was renewed, but the VMFA board of trustees made the SCV remove the flag from the chapel. The Virginia Flaggers began weekly protests at the VMFA, asking for the return of a Confederate flag to the memorial.
Not content to merely seek one remembrance of their ancestors, the group announced plans in 2013 to raise a large Confederate flag on I-95 outside Richmond. This was protested by many, resulting in an online petition in an ironic bid to deny the group the very constitutional rights their ancestors fought to preserve.
Not to worry, some of the detractors said. They’ll never actually do it, and if they do, there will be riots, “human sacrifices, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!” (A cookie for you if you got the “Ghostbusters” reference).
As always, Confederate heritage groups were characterized as the horrible, awful racists who luckily are a dying breed. So while devoting massive amounts of time and energy to trying to denigrate them, it was conversely maintained that they didn’t warrant any attention at all.
Undaunted, the group did indeed raise the flag, and there was surprisingly little (actually, none) in the way of demonstrations or mass hysteria. A piece of heavy machinery was stolen, but other than that, nothing else untoward. The naysayers then weighed in with nitpicking criticisms — it was the “wrong” flag, it wasn’t really visible, it was a one-off. Really?
Last week, the group raised its second large flag, this time outside Fredericksburg. The flag commemorates nearly 246,000 Confederate soldiers who fought in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and the Wilderness.
It is larger and flies higher than the original flag, due in no small part to the outpouring of support which followed the publicity of the first flag project. Virginia Flagger Barry Isenhour reported, “A lot of donations flew in throughout the country and actually from overseas.”
The group has announced it has plans for more flags,which mirrors a trend of Confederate flags being placed on private land throughout the country.
Despite the personal attacks on its members, the characterization of the group as racists in the face of the stunning lack of any racist actions or rhetoric from the group, and the constant drumbeat of those who keep forecasting the imminent dissolution of the organization, they continue soldiering on, doing what needs to be done without regard to those who delight in the negative and seemingly have an almost obsessive need to try to foil the honest efforts of a people seeking to have their ancestors’ sacrifice remembered.
Those who decry the flags of the Confederacy continue to ignore the fact that slavery continued to be legal in the slave states of the Union after it was no longer legal in the Confederacy, and that the fortunes of many a Yankee building a beautiful “cottage” in Newport or Back Bay mansion were from the slave trade.
If the flag of the Confederacy is intrinsically racist, by their own logic, the detractors of it must admit that so is Old Glory. Ah, but it is far easier to lay the flattering unction of smug self-satisfaction on their own racist past then for critics to face it; far better to use the South as a convenient scapegoat and whipping boy then to stop demonizing Americans who made the fatal error of believing that the unconstitutional rise of federalism was something which demanded to be stopped.
If a group tells you their intent, it would seem to be obvious that you can judge them by whether or not their actions support the truth of their statements.
Oh, there will always be those who wish to try and push their interpretation on a group’s actions, seeking to promote their own agendas and personal glorification.
But ultimately, there is nothing better than to simply succeed in doing the “impossible.” Congratulations, Virginia Flaggers, on another success. Deo vindice.
CHRISTINE BARR is a school teacher, mother of four and descendent of Watauga settlers who now resides in Katy, Texas. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.