CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Floridarnby ]oe PnissingrnDriving Dixie Downrnl^id I make a wrong turn? Did I go toornfar north? No, I was still in beantiful PortrnPierce, Morida. Wliat shocked me intornthinking I had accidentally wound up inrnSouth Carolina was a flag: tvvo red barsrndiagonally crossing a solid white background,rnsuspiciously resembling therndreaded Confederate Cross. There itrnwas, fixing defiantly in the dawn’s earlyrnlight, high oyer the St. Lucie CountyrnCiic Center, on Martin Luther KingrnBonlcxard, no less! The shame of thernSouth, African-America’s worst nightmarc,rnthe Klan’s sacred shroud, therncracker banner: the Florida state flag. C^.ornlook tor ourselycs.rnNaturalK’, it had to be disguised, slightlyrnaltered, and inconspicuously cloaked,rnso as not to attract reprisal from those whornbeliee the Ciyil War was actually foughtrno’er sla’er, and fliat the Soufli started it.rnCTOUC are tire stars, along with states’rnrights. But the colors are the same asrnfliose that flew oyer the cotton fields of Alabama,rnjust as they flew from the masts ofrnNew England slave ships a hundred yearsrnbefore. Botii are tainted, but only one isrndespised. It’s a conspiracy! The crossrnmust be clandeshncly displayed in lightrnof the Confederate flag controyersy stillrnburning in other slaye states, like Arkansasrnand Tennessee (where those goodrnol’ bos Bill and Al are from), where flieyrnsHIl proudK display the battle flag fromrnthe statchouse domes, albeit camouflagedrnin similar fashion: Jim Crow . . . inrndrag. 1 just had to look away.rnHumming a few bars of “Yankee DoodlernDand’,” I droye north (where else?)rnuntil I came to Fort Pierce City Hall.rnGlancing up at the towering ark, I noheed,rnmuch to my chagrin, flic same inscrutablernsymbol of heritage and haternvvaying in the balmy brec/e. Where arernJesse Jackson and Al Sharpton when yournneed them? Probably out collectingrnmore tax-free donaHons from the otherrnslaves of the Democratic Party, or protectingrngang-bangers in the ‘hood.rnSeeking the justice I so feverishlyrncraved, I headed straight for the count)’rncourthouse. But I should haye knownrnbetter. There they were again! ‘Lhosernhideous bars, red and white; the samernSouthern-fried swastika Fd observed previously,rnchallenging the courts as well asrnthe heavens. Apparently, the Old Southrnwasn’t about to let this blond-haired,rnblue-eyed, transplanted Yankee taste thernvictory of Appomattox. Lee’s swordrnwould not be surrendered. Not yet. Notrnhere in Fort Pierce, anyway. MavbernLynyrd Skynyrd was right, after all, andrnSouthern man really don’t need mern’round . . . anyhow, I moved on.rnCircling the newly constructed roundabout,rnI turned in toward the power plantrnto be with my brother victims of Southernrnhostility, and man’s inhumanit- tornmammals, at the Manatee ObservationrnCenter. Perhaps the propeller-scarredrntorsos of the gentle sea cows would somehowrnremind me of Neil Young’s realrnSouthern man. But there, I was accostedrnonce again by the same offensive sight:rnthe Southern Cross. But it gets evenrnworse, folks. This time fliat rebel rag wasrnflying above Old Clory herself. I wasrncrushed.rnFeeling downright suicidal, I madernmy way to the Indian River lagoon torndrown my Yankee pride and join broflrersrnAbraham, Martin, and John in hitegratedrnParadise — to be free at last of thosernbaneful bars. I would not be so lucky.rnPerhaps I just ain’t ready for heaven, orrnwhatever it is they call that place wherernall flags arc the same color, or they havernnone at all. For there on the same banksrnwhere Johnny Reb probably fished as arnboy stood the new Fort Pierce Library.rnFinally! A place where oppression isrnfound only in dusty history books, or otherrngreat literary devices, even if fliey werernwritten b’ a bunch of old dead whiternguys. Sanetuarv’ at last.rnAnd there, in front of that modernrnmonument of truth, on a lonely pole flewrnmy beloved Stars and Stripes, on Souflicrnrnsoil, in public domain, with none ofrnthe Dixie dressings attached: no cidture;rnno heritage; no honor; no tradihon; nornreminder of the way flrings used to be; nornsense of belonging to something biggerrnthan ourselves; and most of all—no bars!rnBut suddenly she looked weak and transparent,rnas if half her colors had beenrnwashed away by politically correct nrindsrnso pathologically obsessed wifli insultingrnno one that they offend everyone andrneventually destroy everything worth livingrnand dying for. She had changedrnsomehow. She appeared dead in herrnown diversity.rnWas tiris the same Star-Spangled Bannerrnbrother Francis wrote about? Thisrnflag which we now see flying in gay-pridernparades; at fenrinized military installationsrnall over the world; tattooed on thernemasculated bodies of World WrestlingrnF’ederation hybrids grazing on steroidsrn(let’s pray they don’t hang around asrnlong as their paleo cousins, who at leastrnhad enough testosterone in their groinsrnto grow hair on their knuckles); andrnpledged to by ghetto thugs in publicrnschool who think Jefferson Davis is thernlatest BF’/F rap artist, and y’all is a newrnebonies buzzword? This banner, whichrnis made in China, soaked in Serbianrnblood, and sold to the highest bidder everyrnfour years in Washington, D.C.? Thisrnflag, which condemns the peddling ofrnhuman flesh while condoning its destructionrnmoments before birth? I thinkrnnot. Something was missing. ‘I’his wasrnnot the banner that draped the bodies atrnGettysburg.rnIt was a melancholy moment, whichrnmade me think more of those old soldiersrnof the South, the same ones my own ancestorsrnmay have fought against. It wasn’trnreally about slaves —Mr. Lincoln himselfrnacknowledged that much. And who’s tornsay Southern man woidd not have eventuallyrnacquiesced to his better senses andrnfreed his slaves on his own? (Unlikernsome Northern proponents of the war,rnand some of our own Founding Fathers.)rnIt was about the right to separate, constitutionallyrn—and peacefully, if possible —rnwhich disqualifies it from being a CivilrnWar in the first place. But I couldn’t stoprnfliinking about the flag, the colors; and Irnespecially couldn’t stop thinking aboutrnthe bars. So, finding the nearest one, I orderedrnme a nrint julep, whisfled a fewrnbars of “Dixie,” and drank a toast to dearrnold Jeb Stuart . . . in the twilight’s lastrngleaming.rn]oe Pnissing writes from Fort Pierce,rnFlorida.rnMAY 2000/35rnrnrn