Did I make a wrong turn? Did I go too far north? No, I was still in beautiful Port Pierce, Florida. What shocked me into thinking I had accidentally wound up in South Carolina was a flag: two red bars diagonally crossing a solid white background, suspiciously resembling the dreaded Confederate Cross. There it was, fixing defiantly in the dawn’s early light, high over the St. Lucie County Civic Center, on Martin Luther King Boulevard, no less! The shame of the South, African-America’s worst nightmare, the Klan’s sacred shroud, the cracker banner: the Florida state flag. Go look for yourselves.

Naturally, it had to be disguised, slightly altered, and inconspicuously cloaked, so as not to attract reprisal from those who believe the Civil War was actually fought over slavery, and that the South started it. Gone are the stars, along with states’ rights. But the colors are the same as those that flew over the cotton fields of Alabama, just as they flew from the masts of New England slave ships a hundred years before. Both are tainted, but only one is despised. It’s a conspiracy! The cross must be clandestinely displayed in light of the Confederate flag controversy still burning in other slave states, like Arkansas and Tennessee (where those good ol’ boys Bill and Al are from), where they still proudly display the battle flag from the statehouse domes, albeit camouflaged in similar fashion: Jim Crow . . . in drag. I just had to look away.

Humming a few bars of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” I drove north (where else?) until I came to Fort Pierce City Hall. Glancing up at the towering ark, I noticed, much to my chagrin, the same inscrutable symbol of heritage and hate waving in the balmy breeze. Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton when you need them? Probably out collecting more tax-free donations from the other slaves of the Democratic Party, or protecting gang-bangers in the ‘hood.

Seeking the justice I so feverishly craved, I headed straight for the county courthouse. But I should have known better. There they were again! Those hideous bars, red and white; the same Southern-fried swastika I’d observed previously, challenging the courts as well as the heavens. Apparently, the Old South wasn’t about to let this blond-haired, blue-eyed, transplanted Yankee taste the victory of Appomattox. Lee’s sword would not be surrendered. Not yet. Not here in Fort Pierce, anyway. Maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd was right, after all, and Southern man really don’t need me ’round . . . anyhow, I moved on.

Circling the newly constructed roundabout, I turned in toward the power plant to be with my brother victims of Southern hostility, and man’s inhumanity to mammals, at the Manatee Observation Center. Perhaps the propeller-scarred torsos of the gentle sea cows would somehow remind me of Neil Young’s real Southern man. But there, I was accosted once again by the same offensive sight: the Southern Cross. But it gets even worse, folks. This time that rebel rag was flying above Old Glory herself. I was crushed.

Feeling downright suicidal, I made my way to the Indian River lagoon to drown my Yankee pride and join brothers Abraham, Martin, and John in Integrated Paradise—to be free at last of those baneful bars. I would not be so lucky. Perhaps I just ain’t ready for heaven, or whatever it is they call that place where all flags are the same color, or they have none at all. For there on the same banks where Johnny Reb probably fished as a boy stood the new Fort Pierce Library. Finally! A place where oppression is found only in dusty history books, or other great literary devices, even if they were written by a bunch of old dead white guys. Sanctuary at last.

And there, in front of that modern monument of truth, on a lonely pole flew my beloved Stars and Stripes, on Southern soil, in public domain, with none of the Dixie dressings attached: no culture; no heritage; no honor; no tradition; no reminder of the way things used to be; no sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves; and most of all—no bars! But suddenly she looked weak and transparent, as if half her colors had been washed away by politically correct minds so pathologically obsessed with insulting no one that they offend everyone and eventually destroy everything worth living and dying for. She had changed somehow. She appeared dead in her own diversity.

Was this the same Star-Spangled Banner brother Francis wrote about? This flag which we now see flying in gay-pride parades; at feminized military installations all over the world; tattooed on the emasculated bodies of World Wrestling Federation hybrids grazing on steroids (let’s pray they don’t hang around as long as their paleo cousins, who at least had enough testosterone in their groins to grow hair on their knuckles); and pledged to by ghetto thugs in public school who think Jefferson Davis is the latest BET rap artist, and y’all is a new ebonies buzzword? This banner, which is made in China, soaked in Serbian blood, and sold to the highest bidder every four years in Washington, D.C.? This flag, which condemns the peddling of human flesh while condoning its destruction moments before birth? I think not. Something was missing. This was not the banner that draped the bodies at Gettysburg.

It was a melancholy moment, which made me think more of those old soldiers of the South, the same ones my own ancestors may have fought against. It wasn’t really about slaves—Mr. Lincoln himself acknowledged that much. And who’s to say Southern man would not have eventually acquiesced to his better senses and freed his slaves on his own? (Unlike some Northern proponents of the war, and some of our own Founding Fathers.) It was about the right to separate, constitutionally—and peacefully, if possible — which disqualifies it from being a Civil War in the first place. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the flag, the colors; and I especially couldn’t stop thinking about the bars. So, finding the nearest one, I ordered me a mint julep, whistled a few bars of “Dixie,” and drank a toast to dear old Jeb Stuart . . . in the twilight’s last gleaming.