Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On a Southern Icon

A few years ago we at Sears were encouraged to wear something from our ethnic heritage to work one day. At least the idea was floated. I spoke up (of course) and asked, "Does this mean I wear a Confederate flag and Brenda (a co-worker who is black) wears a dashiki?

What can we use for a symbol, an icon if you will, for the South? We share a history of being in rebellion against the United States, of being exploited afterward, and of still having our labor force exploited. Generally, it's the Confederate Battle Flag that is shown--specifically the Naval Jack. Occasionally you see a bumper sticker with the Bonnie Blue Flag on it, and more rarely the Stars and Bars. The Stars and Bars are a flag with a blue field with thirteen stars and three stripes, two red ones sandwiching a white one. That was too close to the Stars and Stripes on the battlefield, so they came up with a tribute the St. Andrew's Cross pattern on the British Union Jack. The one the Army carried into battle was square, and the one the Navy vessels flew was rectangular. The Naval Jack is the symbol of the South, it would seem. Yet it is controversial because of the slavery-based society it represents.

So what could symbolize this distinctive region? Food? Well, it can't be barbecue, because you can't get eastern and western North Carolina to agree on what it is, much less convince Texans that it's pork and not beef. Maybe a bowl of grits? How about a gravy biscuit? No, I grew up 50-some miles from here in the same state and never had (or heard of) gravy biscuits till I moved here.

What about dialect? Anyone who believes that "y'all" is singular is definitely marked as an outsider (a.k.a. "not from around here"). Well, the Cajuns of Louisiana don't talk the same way that Virginians do, Tennesseans don't talk the way South Georgians do, and no one can understand people from Charleston.

It isn't clothes, either. The cowboy hats and boots of Texas and the black socks with sandals of Florida don't mix.

So, is there an identifiable symbol of this region that does not have the racial overtones of the battle flag that has been hijacked by the KKK and other Neanderthal groups?

I'm open to suggestion.


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