Driving up Interstate 95 on the evening of May 19, a few miles north of Fayetteville, North Carolina I spotted this billboard, which I had not seen before. It seemed worth documenting, so I made a U-turn at the next exit and was soon aiming the phone camera at it.
But before I got there I stopped a few miles farther south on 95, where the nearest example of this campaign stands.
Where did that flag come from?
The Durham NC Herald Sun reported:
“The North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has begun an initiative, titled “Flags Across the Carolinas.” It says the move is intended to encourage education about the banner.
The initiative calls for the raising of Confederate battle flags or “mega-sized” such flags in all 100 counties in state, said Kevin Stone, the commander of the N.C. Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. [SCV]
‘My goal is to have a mega flag, or a flag, in a high profile location everywhere — in every county across the state,’ Stone said.
North Carolina is composed of 100 counties.”
This flag, highly visible along Interstate 95 in Cumberland County NC, was the first of the SCV series to be erected. The pole is over 60 feet high, and the flag is indeed “mega”: SCV says it is 20 feet by 30 feet.
I have seen another of the “mega flags” in Alamance County NC, where I do considerable volunteer work. I passed a third a few days ago in Burke County, along Interstate 40, about 170 miles west of Durham, where I live.
Are there plans to erect a “mega flag” in Durham (which is both a county and a city, and the most politically liberal county in the state)?
“William O’Quinn is the acting brigade commander for the N.C. Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Capitol Brigade, charged with overseeing all Sons of Confederate Veterans activity within Durham, Orange, Granville, Person and Wake counties [the Triangle area]. . . .
Would his brigade support a Confederate battle flag within the Triangle?
‘Oh, yeah. We would support it,’ O’Quinn said. ‘But we don’t support any kind of racist organizations or white extremists or anything like that. We’re genealogists.'”
In fact, earlier this month a fourth “mega flag” went up on the edge of the Triangle, in Hillsborough, which is near Chapel Hill, in mostly liberal Orange County (the county between Durham and Alamance). It was raised by a separate group, the “southern heritage” or Neo-Confederate “ACTBAC,” or Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County.
ACTBAC, a self-described Southern heritage group, wants to raise flags across Orange County because of what its members see as the censorship of Southern history there, including the banning of Confederate symbols from the Orange County Schools and the removal of the words “Confederate Memorial” from the Orange County Historical Museum building.
The new rules are all about the Confederate flag, resident James Ward said Tuesday, and wouldn’t be needed if not for “actions and efforts in the last few years by some people to ban everything Confederate in Orange County.”
“All these efforts were made because some people termed these years-old symbols as offensive and made the baseless charge that they were threatening,” Ward said. “These anti-Confederate heritage moves engendered a lot of resentment and downright anger among many people in this community. The reaction was predictable.”
Multiple people spoke at an April 30 community conversation hosted by the Orange County Human Relations Commission and at the commissioners meeting Tuesday about the fear that they and others have experienced at seeing the huge Confederate flag.
On May 15, the Orange County Commissioners adopted new rules limiting the size and height of such flags on private property. ACTBAC has threatened court action, insisting that the new restrictions unconstitutionally curtail their freedom of expression.
The feelings associated with this argument can run high. On August 14, 2017, a Confederate memorial statue at the courthouse in Durham was pulled down by protesters. Some of the same protesters moved on to Alamance County, and on the night of August 19, 2017 approached the Confederate statue in front of its “historic” courthouse.
They had no luck there. The Alamance statue is much taller, much larger, and looms much higher over the courthouse square. It was also “guarded” by many ACTBAC sympathizers, not to mention police and sheriff’s deputies. After a several hour standoff, the protesters and anti-protesters dissipated in the dark.
Not long thereafter, yard signs began appearing on a scattering of Alamance lawns, calling for protection of such monuments.
So far, NC hasn’t seen a repeat of the August 12, 2017 Charlottesville VA violence over racial symbols. But as the “mega flags” proliferate, the waters are still stirring. Anti-Confederate activists continue to insist that the flags, the states and other such symbols are racist and have mo legitimate place in public view.
Here is how an SCV group in next-door South Carolina responds:
Similar sentiments appear on occasional bumpers in Alamance County:
“God’s Own Country?”
Is this really only a matter genealogy?
How do we sort all this out? Loud self-righteous protests in the generally safe liberal enclaves don’t really impress me much. “Virtue signaling” is a phrase that comes to mind. I’m still working at finding some more concrete, on-the-ground responses.
But give me a chance; I’ve only been at this for fifty three years.
And maybe I do have a few ideas. We’ll hear about those in a future post. . . .