When Canton Alderman Dr. Ralph Hamlett recently proposed a parade entry policy that would limit inappropriate speech during the town’s two annual parades — and in effect limit the display of the Confederate Flag — it understandably generated a substantial amount of negative comments.
When a policy that would prohibit the display of the Confederate flag in a tiny mountain mill town’s municipal parades was first proposed, it was immediately identified as both a sensitive cultural issue and a thorny Constitutional question that cast the Western North Carolina municipality as a microcosm of the complex national debate over the role of Confederate imagery in society today.
By Gibbs Knotts & Chris Cooper
A longstanding social science finding holds that collective public opinion is fairly sticky on most issues. In other words, the public’s views do not change very much — and when opinions do shift, the movement tends to be fairly slow. Public opinion does not change over the course of a day, week or month, but rather occurs over years or decades, if it moves at all.
The recent debate over the Confederate flag might seem to challenge this narrative. A little more than two weeks ago, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s press secretary, Josh Ellis, said that the governor supported a ban on specialty license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag. According to Ellis, this change was “due to the recent Supreme Court ruling and the tragedy in Charleston.”
Jackson County is no longer a banner-less government. County commissioners selected an official county flag this week from a pool of a dozen designs submitted by high school, community college and university students. The chosen design is by Southwestern Community College graphic design student Jessica Waldron.
Even though there’s little room for compromise, I’m going to step into the fray.
Haywood County commissioners are trying to come up with a policy about Confederate flags and whether they should be allowed at the Confederate memorial that adorns the courthouse lawn. The flags — tiny, hand-held ones at that — were offensive to at least one person who raised the issue to the county, but I suspect there are many others who find the symbol just as offensive but are keeping their mouths shut.
When it comes to Southerners, there are a few topics that get their blood pressure elevated — and one of those topics is flags.
They represent everything from historical ties, bloodshed, peace, pride and Nascar. They’re flown everywhere from government buildings to front porches to Wal-Mart.