As art or as political statement, I have no beef with the installation shown here. It is an artwork produced by John Sims entitled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”
Neo-Confederates disagree. The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science refused a request to remove the artwork:
The request was made by Bob Hurst, commander of the Tallahassee camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Hurst said the exhibit violated a Florida law that makes it illegal to “mutilate, deface, defile or contemptuously abuse” the Confederate flag. The law includes an exemption for decorative or patriotic purposes, but Mr. Hurst said Mr. Sims’s work was not art.
The Confederate flag represents the history of racism and slavery that continue to haunt American society. Never mind the free speech issue, setting a symbol of a failed rebellion outside the realm of public debate and display serves only to defend and aggrandize the horrific harm done to this nation by people who used that flag as a rallying point for racism and brutal slaughter of their fellow women and men in battle and in cotton fields.
I don’t know why it is, but I often feel like, regardless of who won on the battlefield, the Confederacy somehow managed to win the war of ideas. The concept of antebellum nobility, the genteel Southern lifestyle defended in sovereign states is a myth, and a harmful one. States certainly are entitled to wide latitude regarding internal affairs, and can serve as useful testbeds while a national consensus forms.
There was never a testbed on slavery. The South would never permit a state to freely reject slavery, and that refusal bred Bloody Kansas and ultimately the Civil War. Our concept of antebellum Southern gentility is equally fictional, concocted by novelists and movies. For a century after slavery’s official abolishment, slavery’s legacy persisted with just enough changes to avoid federal interference. It nearly took another bloody war to finish that job.
The scars of two centuries of institutional racism still fester, however hard we try to mask the stench with sugar magnolias and mint juleps. The Confederacy and the idea of the Confederacy richly deserve to be buried. As Tacitus wrote: “Traitors and deserters they hang upon trees.”