Calls to boycott Confederate 'Mount Rushmore' fall on deaf ears

Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, known as the "Confederate Rushmore" for its towering statue of three  rebel leaders had its biggest day of the year yesterday despite calls by some Georgia politicians for a boycott of the park because it displays the Confederate battle flag.

Reuters:

Hundreds of people had staked out spots at the 3,200-acre (1,295-hectare) privately run park by noon on Saturday for nighttime laser and fireworks shows. They shrugged off heavy rain on the park's busiest day of the year as well as the boycott call.

Democratic state Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones this week urged people to stay away from the park 10 miles (16 km) east of Atlanta because it flies three flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy alongside the U.S. and Georgia state flags.

Bobbie Smith of Fitzgerald, Georgia, who was camping at Stone Mountain with her family, called the boycott call "just stupid."

“This whole park is a Confederate memorial. If you don’t have the flag here, where on Earth would you put it?” she said.

The Confederate flag from the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War has become a lightning rod for outrage after the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. The white suspect, Dylann Roof, had posed for photos with the Confederate battle flag.

Politicians in several Southern states have called for removal of the flag and other Confederate memorials from public spaces. A raft of major retailers have said they would pull items with the Confederate flag on them.

Ray Simpkins, of Kennesaw, Georgia, who brought his children to see the laser show, said the flag remains a reminder of the Confederacy's advocacy of slavery.

"Although I don’t love it, I think there’s a place for it here,” said Simpkins, who is black. “But it shouldn’t fly next to the U.S. flag."

The park is on state land and run by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Spokesman John Bankhead said, “People on both sides of the issue say it (the flag) belongs in a museum. Here in Georgia, the Stone Mountain Park serves as that.”

As with any symbol, people see what they want to see. Telling Americans that their notion of the Confederate battle flag being a symbol of southern heritage and not one necessarily of racism is not getting very far. Also, Americans are not placing a high priority on debating the issue of what to do with the battle flag. Most people just want the hysterics and screamers to leave them alone.

Not that this will happen anytime soon. Even some Republicans are latching on to the battle flag controversy, apparently to assure the New York Times they are thinking "correctly" about the issue. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has vowed to get rid of the battle flag, but is running into opposition. There is also speculation that she is positioning herself for selection as a running mate for whoever emerges as the GOP nominee. There is an argument for removing the battle flag from government property, but Haley's efforts are tinged with self interest, not compassion.

Eventually, the screamers will lose their voice and the controversy will fade - at least until the next opportunity arises for battle flag opponents to smear ordinary Americans as racists because they hold their heritage in high regard.

Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, known as the "Confederate Rushmore" for its towering statue of three  rebel leaders had its biggest day of the year yesterday despite calls by some Georgia politicians for a boycott of the park because it displays the Confederate battle flag.

Reuters:

Hundreds of people had staked out spots at the 3,200-acre (1,295-hectare) privately run park by noon on Saturday for nighttime laser and fireworks shows. They shrugged off heavy rain on the park's busiest day of the year as well as the boycott call.

Democratic state Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones this week urged people to stay away from the park 10 miles (16 km) east of Atlanta because it flies three flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy alongside the U.S. and Georgia state flags.

Bobbie Smith of Fitzgerald, Georgia, who was camping at Stone Mountain with her family, called the boycott call "just stupid."

“This whole park is a Confederate memorial. If you don’t have the flag here, where on Earth would you put it?” she said.

The Confederate flag from the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War has become a lightning rod for outrage after the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. The white suspect, Dylann Roof, had posed for photos with the Confederate battle flag.

Politicians in several Southern states have called for removal of the flag and other Confederate memorials from public spaces. A raft of major retailers have said they would pull items with the Confederate flag on them.

Ray Simpkins, of Kennesaw, Georgia, who brought his children to see the laser show, said the flag remains a reminder of the Confederacy's advocacy of slavery.

"Although I don’t love it, I think there’s a place for it here,” said Simpkins, who is black. “But it shouldn’t fly next to the U.S. flag."

The park is on state land and run by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Spokesman John Bankhead said, “People on both sides of the issue say it (the flag) belongs in a museum. Here in Georgia, the Stone Mountain Park serves as that.”

As with any symbol, people see what they want to see. Telling Americans that their notion of the Confederate battle flag being a symbol of southern heritage and not one necessarily of racism is not getting very far. Also, Americans are not placing a high priority on debating the issue of what to do with the battle flag. Most people just want the hysterics and screamers to leave them alone.

Not that this will happen anytime soon. Even some Republicans are latching on to the battle flag controversy, apparently to assure the New York Times they are thinking "correctly" about the issue. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has vowed to get rid of the battle flag, but is running into opposition. There is also speculation that she is positioning herself for selection as a running mate for whoever emerges as the GOP nominee. There is an argument for removing the battle flag from government property, but Haley's efforts are tinged with self interest, not compassion.

Eventually, the screamers will lose their voice and the controversy will fade - at least until the next opportunity arises for battle flag opponents to smear ordinary Americans as racists because they hold their heritage in high regard.