by Dale Wisely
I've been putting off writing this The Note because we've been assembling this issue during the week of the Charleston church massacre and the week after. Every time I have opened up my computer to try to write The Note, it has been this terrible crime and our reactions to it in his country that has come to my mind. I wanted to write about it, but i knew that by the time this issue was to come out, there probably wouldn't be anything else new or useful to write.
And, I don't know what to say about it. I could write about guns, about how I hate the damn things, how my personal history contributed to that and so on. But, Americans have opinions about guns that are fixed, even more resistant to change than our other opinions, which are also pretty stubbornly fixed. Who cares that I hate the damn things?
I could write about race. I'm an old white guy who lives in the South. (I've been white and a guy pretty much all my iife, but the old thing is kind of new to me.) So what does an old white guy have to say about race and racism, other than I've had a bellyfull of it and so I can only imagine how much of a bellyfull non-whites have.
Then there's flags. Stupid, stupid flags. To hear people talk about flags you'd think they were all used, at one time another, to shroud the body of Jesus.
So, a guy down here gets pissed at me and tells me that people, by God, have died for flags and I'm like, really? I hope not. Flags are made in factories over in Mississippi and China and are fairly cheap, depending on their geometric area and the proportions of cotton and polyester.
Alabama's state flag is dumb. It's a big, plain red X on a solid white background. It's the laziest flag I've ever seen. Here's a picture of it.
You can buy a big one of these big red Xs from the good people over at AmericanFlags.com. 3'x5' in the Econo-Poly line. The "econo-" part is the $10 price and polyester, I'm thinking, is the "-poly" part. (If so, in the 70s, I bought some econo-poly pants.) And, at $10 (see the ad, above), there's no tax on that either but you'll have to pony up $5 for the shipping. Still, flags are cheap to buy.
You're thinking, hey, Dale, you're being unfair in thinking that the Alabama flag is just a big red X. You're right, it's more than that. According to Wikipedia, the official description of the Alabama flag is "the Crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white." It's not a red X, it's a crimson cross. Not a white background but a "field of white." And apparently it belongs to St. Andrew. I think he's Episcopalian because I see his name on a lot of Episcopal churches. I don't know what any of this has to do with Alabama and no one else seems to be sure either. There are some accounts that might link the design of the flag back to something resembling the Confederate flag. Sort of the overall x-iness of it. I like to imagine maybe during the Civil War someone walked by with a Confederate flag and a confused 3-year old drew a picture of it with the wrong crayola. And that little boy invented the Alabama flag. (But what was he wearing? What grade was he in? What was his name? Historians and I don't know.)
Anyway, flags shouldn't be such a big deal so I'm going to give you some advice. If you have a flag you don't like, get rid of it. If someone tries to burn your flag, let them. It's not worth the headache. Don't get killed over it, epecially when you can just go online and order another one. In fact, if this happens to you and someone burns your flag, I'll buy you another one. Seriously, I promise I will. (Except after I retire because then Marilyn and I will be on a fixed income. We will, however, give you one of those little flags you hold in your hand.)
Also, if you put up a flag that really hurts the feelings of a lot of people, remember it's not that important. Heritage is overrated, especially if you're an American. Some of our heritage sucks really bad. And the flag isn't heritage anyway. (If it were, our heritage in Alabama would be a big dumb X.) Just remember it's hurting people's feelings. Your neighbors, your countrymen. Take the stupid thing down and go get a prettier flag. Maybe with a picture of a shrubbery, or a pretty lady in a robe holding a ribbon or something. Or a squirrel or a bluebird. Or a mountain. A prairie. An ocean. White with foam and no big dumb X.
Thank you reading Right Hand Pointing. My thanks, as always, to co-editors Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp, copy editor F. J. Bergmann.