Man has trouble keeping his favorite flag flying

Persistent thieves target Confederate banner at Carmel house
By Tania E. Lopez

It’s one of the most divisive emblems in American history, yet Carmel resident John Buckner is proud to hang it outside of his house — even if it means buying a new one every other month.

The emblem? A Confederate battle flag.

Buckner, a 73-year-old Greensboro, N.C., native who moved to Indiana 30 years ago, said he’s had the flag stolen from his house eight times since February 2006 and that Carmel police aren’t doing enough to catch the culprits. He lives north of 106th Street, between Keystone Avenue and Gray Road.

The flag — a starred blue diagonal cross of St. Andrew on a red background that was once the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia — has different meanings to different people.

To Buckner, it represents Southern pride.

To others, it represents evil.

"It represents hatred, slavery, the destruction of the Afro-American family, lynching," said Cornell Burris, president of the Indianapolis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I would be very resentful if my neighbor displayed it."

To catch the flag thief, Buckner said, he’s requested a sniper, but police said no. He asked whether he could strategically place a bear trap under the flag outside his living room window. Again, police said, that was against the law.

Instead, Carmel police agreed to set up a camera surveillance system for more than a month inside Buckner’s living room. The flag was stolen once while the camera was there, but no suspect was identified.

Lt. Jeff Horner confirmed that police had been called to Buckner’s house at least four times.

"He was very upset about the situation," said Horner. "It (the surveillance camera) was (done) more to appease him."

Buckner said he has proudly displayed the flag in front of his house for about 10 years.

His Zippo lighter is emblazoned with the "Stars and Bars,’" and his computer mouse pad has a Confederate symbol — a gift from his daughter.

"It represents Southerners," said Buckner. "Now if I had a swastika up there, that would be a different story."

Buckner continues to purchase the flags for about $30 each — even after he received a threatening card in his mailbox.

Neighbor George Harrington, 61, offered no opinion about the flag but said it’s hard to miss it.

"He always has a new Confederate flag over there. He must keep a stockpile. I could see how that would offend some people. But look on the bright side — he has an American flag next to it."

Museum of the Confederacy historian and librarian John M. Coski is author of "The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem."

Coski explained that, historically, the flag was not the official flag of the Confederate states but rather a battle flag. After Appomattox, it was a piece of history relevant to the Civil War. It later was adopted by white supremacist groups opposing integration during the civil rights era.

With 142 years since the Confederate Army’s surrender, it’s not surprising the meaning of the flag has evolved.

"It has acquired different meanings to different people," said Coski. "Your putting that flag on your front yard gives that flag a meaning. It’s naive to think it’s going to mean the same thing to everyone else."

Copyright 2007

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