Saturday, May 10, 2008


[ May 10: Confederate Memorial Day ]

This is Hwy 217 in Colleton County, South Carolina, somewhere between Williams and Ruffin, SC. We were rolling up that road and suddenly encountered the Stars and Bars planted firmly on a very straight staff in the limb of good sized pine tree. This wasn't just a lucky toss or some drive by gesture, but a scheduled installation. It probably took someone with a cherry picker working from, say, a utilities truck to get this display in place. It is, as urban lizards would say, in the middle of nowhere. By design it is to be within the sight of all, but within the reach of none. We believe that this gesture is both art and science in a site specific application.

Most people call this THE Confederate Flag, but it's not. It's not even the real Stars and Bars. The Confederate States of America had several national flags, many battle flags, navy jacks and ensigns of different designs. This is the flag of the Army of Tennessee, the Western Army, adopted in very late 1863. It has, unfortunately, become an image upon beach towels, bumper stickers, whisky jiggers, and a host other low purposes. The majority of Americans absorbed this misconception in the same way they have bought into many distortions of history: from the movies.

Only a person kidnapped to Mongolia before 1860 would not be aware of the great conflagration which was the American Civil War or of the matrix of sectional, political conflict which settled upon the land through the present. If, by some miracle of macrobiotic diet replete with ancient Chinese secret herbal potions administered by an Asian Mystic Master of Vegan VooDoo, that person made their way back to American soil, it would take hours not years for them to take a side. Perhaps King Tut was dug up expressly to get his take on this. Everyone gets a turn at the microphone.

In the 140 odd years since Lee's surrender we have still not fully resolved the differences which the divergent parties seem unwilling to release. These mutually vexing factions insist upon gathering under this, the alleged flag of the Confederacy, to continue their fretting and fussing. The man or woman who installed this flag upon the straight staff in the pine tree has given those combatants plenty of room to mix it up below. All parties can see it, but none can reach it. It's a kind of reverse mistletoe.


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