A misplaced fondness for Dixie and the Hazzard boys

By JAMES LILEKS, Star Tribune
June 5, 2008

Three kids in Bloomington, as you may have heard, didn’t get to graduate with their high school class because they waved a Confederate flag in the parking lot. They said it was a "prank," which puts it in the long-standing innocent tradition of senior mischief, like releasing white mice in the cafeteria, or burning a cross.

Fun-lovin’ stuff only a real PC pinch-face would take seriously.

Said one classmate who supported the students:

"The Confederate flag was in Confederate battles, and it had nothing to do with slavery."

Yes, and the Union Jack was in Revolutionary War battles, and it had nothing to do with enforcing British colonialism.

Personally, I don’t get why anyone would want to fly it; as a Northerner — i.e., the winning side, the good guys — it’s always struck me as an emblem of unwarranted romantic attachment to secessionism, a misty Tara-and-juleps image of a pre-industrial agricultural economy based on the miseries of human bondage.

It’s like a bumper sticker that displays a preference for a candidate who lost in 2000: Get over it.

I understand that there’s a rich tapestry of emotions and history that reside in the issue in the South, but around here "the South" is Rochester. If Sherman had burned the Mayo Clinic to the ground, I might understand, but Minnesota sent guys to Gettysburg to die for the Union.

My great-grandfather was a volunteer in the GAR, and if my kid came home waving a symbol of Dixie we’d have a serious chat. Hear that horrible grinding, rattling sound? That’s your ancestors spinning in their graves.

But these nuances were apparently not the issue for the Bloomington Three. According to a friend quoted in Thursday’s Strib, the kids aren’t racists, but they merely admire the "Southern lifestyle" as seen on "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV show.

Good Lord. The Dukes of Hazzard. The good ol’ days of good ol’ boys running good ol’ moonshine, goading bad ol’ Boss Hogg into having a stroke, and driving fast cars over the county line to escape the law, because the police would never dare have a case tossed out of court because of jurisdictional irregularities.

You can see the appeal.

This ought to work both ways. There should be kids kicked out of school in Alabama for waving a Union flag, insisting they’re just fascinated with the Northern culture they saw on the Mary Tyler Moore show. The whole deal with hot dishes and chains on the tires and playing football in the snow — it’s hard core, man. But, of course, it doesn’t work like that. Teen males pick up the Southern thing because it’s rebellious and it goes along with driving around listening to Skynnrd tunes and complaining about Lincoln.

Maybe not that last part so much, but I’d lay money on the Skynnrd angle.

Just because they lack sympathy for the historical overtones isn’t an excuse. You can wave a Nazi flag and insist you’re just expressing admiration for the Volkswagen, but people might not believe that’s the whole story. You can wave a Confederate flag in Bloomington and claim you’re just demonstrating affinity for an old TV show, but it does not suggest you were wide awake and taking notes in American history class. One cannot fault the administrators for consulting subsection B3, paragraph A of the conduct code, to find out how to deal with inappropriate flag-related pranks. That’s what the laws are for.

But maybe it’s better to have some conversation and thrash it out in the principal’s office instead of banning all troublesome things, hoping that will prevent hurt feelings.

Banning is easy; getting along is hard. Banning doesn’t solve the issues that caused the problem.

Unless you’re talking about banning reruns of "Hazzard." Sign me up for that.

© 2008 Star Tribune

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