This heritage isn’t worth preserving

Protesters in Washington, D.C. last week attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

NASCAR banned the Battle Flag. Quaker Oats fired Aunt Jemima.

Jeff Davis has been run off Monument Avenue.

There was a time America would have defended her heritage, from the racing that got its start in running loads of untaxed ‘shine down the mountain to the pancake mix that changed the world (or breakfast, anyway) forever.

Not any more. We’ve turned our backs on the glories of our culture. Talladega and Daytona were good, clean, family fun. Tire crews would hold prayer circles. Sunburnt kids would hang off the backs of F-150s, waving the Southern Cross like they were Braxton Bragg’s troops cresting the hill at Chickamauga.

And Old Boys shoving a plug of Red Man into their cheeks would grin at the stands where sat the Flower of Southern Womanhood and holler, “Show us them t—ies!”

Now NASCAR says the flag your great-great-grandpappy died for is a symbol of hate and racism, plus, they don’t want to hurt Bubba Wallace’s feelings.

Bubba’s “diverse.”

Somebody found a rope door-pull in Bubba’s garage and everybody said “Noose!” till the FBI decided it wasn’t a noose-type noose, a lynching-type noose, and since it had been in that garage since October and Bubba just got assigned that garage, it probably wasn’t aimed at him.

Maybe somebody just needed a place to store a noose. The way this country’s going to hell, you never know when you might need one, too, say, for whatever azzwipe (pardon my French) canned Aunt Jemima.

I mean, who could be mad at Aunt Jemima? She’s so friendly and cuddly, so happy to help generations of hassled white housewives dish up a breakfast as good as the one on the Old Plantation.

At President Donald J. Trump’s rally in Phoenix the other night, Miss Reagan Escudé spoke for many of us on the shocking “cancellation” of Aunt Jemima, who should be lauded  as “a picture of the American Dream.”

“She was a freed slave,” said Miss Escudé, “who went on to be the face of the pancake syrup that we love and have in our pantries today.”

Can I get a rebel yell?

Think of it: Nancy Green, born a slave, and later given the chance to play a slave, traveling the country dressed in a variety of attractive aprons and head rags, feeding white folks delicious breakfast foods, just like mammy used to make.

Eventually, she went back to cleaning houses and was buried in an unmarked grave but hey, what an inspiration to us all.

And while we’re on the subject, what’s this country coming to when a man can’t even celebrate his white heritage with a huge in-your-face piece of statuary in front of the statehouse; or the courthouse; or by the main road into town where nobody can miss it?

Just because Jeff Davis tried to destroy the United States of America, and Lee and Bragg and Forrest and Hood took up arms against it, well, renaming army posts and trashing their images seems perhaps a little harsh.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz gets it. Any mention of taking down Pensacola’s Confederate memorial makes him turn pink with rage.

Gaetz is so hardcore on history and the necessary brutalization of Africans, he got majorly upset when a bunch of Belgians toppled a statue of Leopold II in Antwerp, likening the removal of the king — responsible for 10 million deaths in the Congo — to disarming the populace and  “whitewashing history.”

Trump gets it, too. Deeply distressed over that bunch of hoodlums and thugs trying to bring down the statue of Andrew Jackson, right across from the White House, he vows to sign an executive order throwing the book — a heavy book! The best book! — at those louts and ruffians who also want to ban plastic straws, burn American flags, and refuse to say, “Merry Christmas.”

Jackson was our 7th president! Okay, he was a slaveholder, a racist, a genocidal monster responsible for the Trail of Tears, and the guy who blithely gave the order to murder hundreds of women and children at Florida’s “Negro Fort” in 1816, but if he goes, who’s next?

The Current Occupant is right to worry, as he said last week: “Now they’re looking at Jesus Christ.”

We may yet save Jesus, but it’s too late for Lakeland.

This Confederate monument formerly stood in Lakeland’s Munn Park. The city removed it in 2018. Credit: Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons

Lakeland’s Confederate soldier stands on a marble shaft, holding a rifle. He has done since 1910, when the local Daughters of the Confederacy erected him.

In 2018, the city moved ol’ Johnny Reb to a park less in the public view. Various Daughters and Sons of the Confederacy sued on the grounds that their right to express the “Southern perspective” was being infringed, and the monument should be restored to a place of prominence.

They lost, thanks to some carpetbagger (or possibly scalawag) judge who agreed with  some other jumped-up Yankees that 1. Polk County was not exactly a Civil War hotbed, unless you count the Battle of Bowlegs Creek in 1864 (and nobody does); 2. The area was infamous for lynchings; and 3. Jesus, it’s the 21st century.

Well, I don’t care. Yes, the Civil War was bad. There was mud. There was blood. There were stacks of dead folks, lousy food, and no laundry.

But there was also valor, glamor, elegant Confederate officers in lace cuffs and belles in crinolines fanning out like azalea petals as they stood on verandas drinking margaritas and dodging stray minié balls.

It was a civilization gone with the wind.

And I am delighted to tell you that Walton County is Keeping the Faith, which is to say, the county commission voted, 3-2, to retain the First National flag of the Confederacy at the courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.

They used to fly the battle flag, but that really cheesed some people off, so in 2015 they replaced it with the “Stars and Bars.”

Nobody recognizes it, though some guess it’s the flag of Paraguay.

Republican Commissioner Melanie Nipper, asked to explain her vote in favor of a flag that flew over the illicit government of people who wished to overthrow the United States, said, “I’m military through and through.”

Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.