JAMES W. LOEWEN
Although the Confederate States of America lasted only four years, its impact has continued for almost a century and a half. Today its romance, ideology, and symbolism still sway millions of men and women—and boys and girls—across the nation and around the world.
If its appeal were just a harmless atavism, then no one would mind that the ratio of Confederate to Union Civil War reenactors is two to one. No one would care when high schools, even in Northern states, name their athletic teams "Rebels" and "Colonels" and wave Confederate fags at football games.
But there's a darker side to the neo-Confederate revival. In 1995 I chatted with a fag vendor at a flea market near Brattleboro, Vermont. He displayed more Confederate fags than any other single item, but not the usual battle fag of the Army of Northern Virginia. Embroidered across them were the words "If the South had won, we'd have no trouble now." Consider that phrase for a moment. Who is "we"? Exactly what "trouble" would we not have? Te implications are chilling. "What does this mean?" I asked him. "If the South had won, we'd have no trouble now," he answered. "I can read it," I replied, "but what does it mean?" "I don't know," he parried. "It's my best seller." In 1999, at North High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, conflicts between Mexican Americans and whites were a frequent occurrence. On the day after whites had defaced a Mexican fag at North, white students came to school "wearing Confederate Battle Flag symbols hanging from pockets on shirts and on car antennas," according to reporter Kathy Nufer. For decades Appleton had been a sundown town, requiring African Americans to be outside its city limits after dark, and residents of such towns frequently own and display Confederate fags. Although it no longer enforced this rule in the 1990s, the fact that students already owned these symbols and saw this conflict as their chance to use them probably derived from Appleton's sundown past.1