Jac Wilder VerSteeg: This Christmas, we could be walkin’ in a Rebel wonderland

Expect to see the Confederate flag back in the Florida Capitol as an unwanted Christmas present.

How? Consider this item from the Broward/Palm Beach New Times. Writer Chris Joseph details plans by Chaz Stevens, described as “a Deerfield Beach activist and blogger,” to erect an elaborate Festivus pole this Christmas in the Capitol Rotunda.

Stevens has showcased a Festivus pole previously, taking advantage of the rule that allows all religious groups to put up displays in the rotunda during the holidays.

So, in addition to Christian displays like the traditional nativity scene, we’ve had the Festivus pole of Seinfeld fame, the spaghetti monster and an offering from a satanic temple.

If we can have all that displayed in the Capitol, it is hard to see how we will avoid a display from The Church of the Holy Confederacy.

And in some ways, that group – if it came into existence – would be a more genuine religion than the satanic group or the Festivus folks. Those latter two are just poking their finger in the eye of evangelical Christians who constantly seem to be seeking ways to inject church into state.

The obsession with the Confederacy and its battle flag, in contrast, has some of the earmarks of a genuine cult. They have their saints and martyrs. One of the cult’s most famous slogans reeks of a belief in resurrection: “The South shall rise again.”

And, of course, they have their revered iconography. And they’re not giving it up, no matter how many times the South Carolina Legislature and other political bodies renounce it. Witness the Confederate flags waved defiantly at NASCAR’s Daytona Beach event on the Fourth of July.

Granted, you’d have to be incredibly callous to try to sneak the Confederate flag back onto the Florida Capitol grounds under cover of a “religious” claim. After all, the flag finally became a political pariah after a massacre at a legitimate church.

But fans of the Confederate battle flag never have been noted for their sensitivity. Quite the opposite. They enjoy waving that flag to get a rise out of people. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with the flag and the challenge, “If my shirt offends you, ask me for a history lesson.”

Ask, and they’ll claim the shirt is about heritage, etc. It’s clear who needs the history lesson and who doesn’t know a damn thing about history.

But given attitudes like that, it is easy to predict that someone somewhere already is planning to declare The Church of the Holy Confederacy.

What could the group’s display look like? The battle flag constructed of colored, blinking lights, perhaps. Or a model of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest making up a kind of Trinity and wrapped in the Confederate flag while ascending to heaven.

Whatever, it would return a Confederate flag to the Capitol, from which Jeb Bush banished such symbols in 2001.

And what would be the reason for their season? Not a reverence for history: It would be a celebration of racist stupidity.

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Jac VerSteeg


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