Mark Scolforo and Jeffrey Collins, My Way, August 2, 2015
Many Americans assumed the Confederate flag was retired for good after governors in South Carolina and Alabama removed it from their statehouses this summer and presidential candidates from both parties declared it too divisive for official display.
But people still fly it, and not just in the South, despite announcements by leading flag-makers and retailers that they will no longer sell products showing the secessionist battle flag.
Some who display it are motivated by pride in their ancestry or enthusiasm for Southern history. Others see it as a symbol of their right to challenge to authority in general, and the federal government in particular. And some have hoisted Confederate flags in recent weeks precisely because it’s generating controversy again.
“You can’t take it out on the flag–the flag had nothing to do with it,” said Ralph Chronister, who felt inspired to dig out his old Confederate flag, which is decorated with a bald eagle, and hang it from his weather-beaten front porch on a heavily traveled street in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
“I’ve got nothing against black people; I’ve got nothing against anyone else,” said Chronister, 46, who was raised in Maryland. “I’m just very proud of my Southern heritage. That’s why I fly it.”
Hundreds of Confederate flag wavers gathered this weekend in Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, home to the huge “Confederate Memorial Carving” featuring Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
But the flags aren’t hard to find in places like Hanover, a factory and farm community about six miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line that saw action during the Civil War’s Gettysburg campaign.
One flies from a pole on the main road into town, by a National Rifle Association banner. Another was hung from a second-floor apartment, directly above a day-care downstairs.
The symbol still raises ire: A flag on the back of a pickup truck parked in a convenience store lot in the middle of Hanover was set on fire. And in Elk Grove, California, a Confederate flag was displayed at a gun shop until the owners removed it in late June after getting death threats.
In eastern Michigan, flag supporters staged a rolling rally, with more than 50 vehicles participating. And in Florida, an estimated 2,000 vehicles adorned with the Confederate battle flag rallied outside a government complex in Ocala, with many demonstrators sporting shirts with phrases like “heritage not hate.”
The condemnations have been good for the business of Robert Hayes, who runs the Southern Patriot Shop in Abbeville, South Carolina.
A sign outside his shop warned customers he’d sold out of Confederate flags and may be out for a month or more. Hayes figures he sold about 400 after the Charleston shooting, instead of the two dozen or so he typically sells. And the purchasers seem different to him now.
Teens are buying it as a rebellious counter-culture statement against political correctness, Hayes said, and others talk of taking a stand against big government and holding fast to what they hold dear.