Confederacy of Dunces

I was taken aback today to see several people carrying giant Confederate flags on Stone Mountain. As much as I prefer to focus on all of the progress and diversity witnessed by this mountain within the last, generously speaking, fifty years, I’d be foolish not to acknowledge that still many people here hold vastly different beliefs from mine. I yelled out from afar to one such man perched on an Effigy Boulder and told him in no uncertain terms (I believe the word “disgusting” was used) that I found his larger-than-life flag rather offensive and that I was sure many others did, too. A few minutes later I decided to walk over to him and interview him and his compatriots about their beliefs. After all, I talk to everybody else, and in all fairness should hear from all people. He informed me it was Confederate Memorial Day at the mountain, which hosts festivities on its lawn every year, replete with Civil War reenactors and cannons firing and booming. About nine Southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day as a paid state holiday, which came about as a concession for the recognition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a paid state holiday. I was always under the impression that this anachronistic holiday was observed on April 26 in Georgia, so why April 11 (last year it was April 12)? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that on April 11, 1962, James Venable and Wally Butterworth founded the Defensive Legion of Registered Americans. I also find it hard to ignore the uncanny significance of my talking to these Confederate flagbearers 150 years to the very day that Abraham Lincoln gave his last public speech in 1865, the speech many say got him killed three days later. According to Stone Mountain Park's own website, April 11, 1956 was when the Venable family "signs a quit claim deed for the area encompassing Stone Mountain, giving it to Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Inc." It would later become the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in 1958 when the State of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain and the surrounding area that makes up the park. And perhaps it’s also just a coincidence that former Civil War soldiers supposedly started the First Era Ku Klux Klan as a Christmas Eve prank in Pulaski, TN (100 years ago, in 1915, the second era Ku Klux Klan was ushered in at Stone Mountain over Thanksgiving weekend). With all due respect to veterans that died fighting and their ancestors, there is no denying that the Rebel flag is often wielded or flown as a racist symbol. Robert E. Lee himself didn’t even want this flag flown after the war. I honestly wish the State of Georgia would move the flags currently flying at the base of Stone Mountain to Confederate Hall, the museum at the park, as they do not reflect or honor the multicultural mountain there today. All I see are red flags.