Bigotry at Odum, Georgia
Below is the e-mail exchange between Mr. Titus and myself. I thought you might find it of interest.
From: Valerie Protopapas firstname.lastname@example.org
To: "Sonja Titus" email@example.com
Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Re: In response to bigotry in Odum
Thank you for sending me your response to Mr. Dixon. It is interesting to note how things can go very wrong even when everyone involved acts with the best of intentions.
However, I will say this, you ask Mr. Dixon why the City Council was not “informed” of the intention to place the flags along the funeral route (I assume that we are speaking of the Battle Flag). You stated, “If you would have made the simplest effort to inform the city of what you wanted to do before you went ahead and did it…” Well, I can tell you as the result of some few years fighting the battle against censorship of Southern heritage and Confederate symbols that often such “requests” are met with an outright and absolute refusal on the part of city government. Yes, this even happens in cities located in the “deep South”. In that the flags were going to be a temporary fixture to be removed after Mr. Jones’ final journey home, I daresay it may be that those involved simply wanted to “put ‘em up and then take ‘em down.” There might not even have been concern about “public opinion” given that the whole affair would be well over before anyone so inclined could “become offended”. But if that was the idea of those making the arrangements, alas, it didn’t happen that way.
But now I must ask you something. Tell me honestly sir, if something else – say, American flags or some other less controversial symbols had been place even in the DOT right of way, is it not probable that they would have remained there until they were removed by those placing them or until they simply disintegrated with the passage of time? Or is your local government so swift in its responses (especially to something that was obviously not an egregious trespass upon the public right of way) that between the time the flags were placed and the time the funeral cortege began the flags had been removed?!
I assure you sir, if that is the case, then Odum, Georgia is unique! Even here in Yankeeland, trying to get the local government to do anything unless it is a disaster in the making is like pulling teeth! I simply cannot understand why even if the town did not know why the flags were there, that the governing body would send out folks to remove them without waiting a few hours to see if the matter could be explained. Surely, they caused no harm neither did they constitute a danger to the public. What, then, was the rush to remove them? You said yourself that between the time you saw one flag drooping to the ground and the time you went out to straighten it up it was gone! As noted, unless Odum, Georgia is unique, I cannot imagine such swift action taking place unless it was a matter of considerable concern to the city government. And, of course, if that was in fact the case, then at least some of Mr. Dixon’s conclusions are credible.
Now that doesn’t mean that the members of the city government – including yourself – are bigots and hate the South but let’s face it, this would certainly not be the first time that local politicians have been “spooked” by thought of the NAACP descending upon their town howling “racism”! Most folks in that situation just take the easy way out and remove the flags or, if a request is made to display them, deny that request.
Now, I cannot say what would have happened if things had gone otherwise. Certainly it would have been better had the matter been approached as you suggest. I am sure that you would have backed the SCV Camp in its request. Still, I wonder if the request would have been refused despite your vote. As I noted above, there is a “track record” here – and it does not favor such requests or the SCV. Folks who cherish the symbols of the Confederacy and Southern heritage have learned from past unpleasant experiences that nine times out of ten they are on the losing side of these petitions to their local representatives. Perhaps Mr. Dixon was wrong in his conclusions, but frankly, given the record of such matters, I do not believe that he was being altogether unrealistic when he made them.
Let us hope that people of good will consign past mistakes and differences to oblivion and work together for a better future in Odum – and elsewhere.
Valerie Protopapas – Long Island, New York
On 10/1/09 9:03 PM, "Sonja Titus" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Jeeez, I like your spunk! Lord knows we need more folks like you down here! Let me see if I can answer your questions in order.
Again, if someone, anyone, would have known what the flags were for, they would have been left alone or possibly slightly repositioned.
I know all about the assault on Southern heritage, especially when it comes to the Battle Flag. I was the most stringent antagonist regarding our beloved (Governor) Sonny Perdue’s lie about keeping the stars & bars on the Georgia flag and then breaking that promise seven years ago. I hammered him incessantly in editorials, and am still angry over it.
As far as your "put em’ up and then take em’ down" comment… I’m sorry, but that is just too conspiratorial. Nothing even resembling that would happen with our current administration.
As far as what might have happened if the flags were US or something else? I need to state unequivocally that the flags were removed not because of WHAT they were, but WHERE they were. If you aren’t aware, they were placed in an area between railroads tracks and a highway intersection where people stop before crossing the highway. I suppose if someone were to "push the envelope" they could say that the flags obstructed traffic view, but I’m not going there. As far as Odum being unique… it is. We only have 425 registered residents and are only a square mile, so when something happens, EVERYBODY knows it. The intersection where the flags were are a place where almost everyone who lives here crosses or drives by multiple times a day. Yes, things happen fast because there is little ground to cover. The Mayor is semi-retired and "makes the rounds" several times a day. We don’t have a police dept. We police ourselves and do quite well thank you.
I need to repeat what I said to Mr. Dixon… this all could have been prevented if he would have simply informed someone. I would think that a funeral like this would have deserved that. Am I wrong?
Indeed, the flags were removed within an hour of my seeing them. I cannot dispute that, not would I as it would be a lie. And again, I am in full awareness that there is a hostility towards southern heritage, especially now that so many believe that they have been validated by the election of Obama. I hate it.
If something like this would have required a vote (and I assure you it wouldn’t have), and the vote would have been against the Battle Flag, then mam, we WOULD have had a battle here, and the anti’s would have lost handily.
For the last time, conclusions have been drawn in this "episode" which don’t reflect reality in the least. I am sorry for that. I don’t know what more I can say to prove that the premeditated hatred that Mr. Dixon claims fostered this event simply does not exist.
God bless you, and keep up the fight.
Pray for Peace… Prepare for War.
From: Valerie Protopapas – 10/1/2009
Dave (if I may),
The “put ‘em up and take ‘em down” sentiment referred to those who planned the funeral, not the town. Sometimes, men who plan things think, “Oh, well, before the cortege we’ll just put ‘em up and then take ‘em down afterwards!” I’m sure you know that kind of reasoning done by folks who don’t see anything problematic in just goin’ along and doin’ stuff. Nobody thinks about the consequences of actions that might well have consequences (women on the other hand, are apt to plan things into infinity!). In years past, that sort of thing was done all the time and nobody thought twice. I cannot say our endless regulations and restrictions have enriched the quality of life; indeed, I believe just the opposite!
Thanks for your reply. As noted, those doing the planning should have taken more care. Perhaps they were worried about being refused the right to place the flags, I cannot say. I don’t know the people or the area. But, alas, I do know the ongoing onslaught against the South, her heritage, her people and her symbols – and it enrages me. When I was 9 (1950), the “Civil War” was becoming quite popular, replacing the usual “cowboys and Indians” that tomboys like myself played with the rest of the boys. I read two stories printed God knows where about two Virginia women whose homes were “used” by Union officers against their will. There was no violence or even rudeness, but I remember how angry I was at the helplessness of these women in the face of the overbearing, self-righteous and downright puffed-up Yankees. One woman was asked by a Colonel to play her beautiful piano for him as he was lonely and homesick. She refused coldly. When he sat down to play it himself, she took a small axe from the hearth used to cut kindling and smashed the piano keyboard so that he could not play. He was both astonished and shaken, declaring that it was going to be a long and hard war if this was the reaction of even the women of Virginia and the South.
From that moment, I knew which side I championed – so I was the ONLY one on my block (76th Street, Woodhaven, Queens, New York) to wear the grey kepi. I’m still fighting so forgive me if I was perhaps over-dramatic in my reaction. Keep up the good fight. Perhaps if the folks in the local SCV knew that they could count on the Odum government, the whole problem might have been avoided.