enlightenment. The flag’s partisans,rnmeanwhile, rehise to accept their adversaries’rndefinition of what it is they arerndefending. And, God knows, everybodyrnis earnest.rnCan we sort this out? Is there anythingrnhelpful to be said, or must this allrnjust come down to a political contest ofrnwills?rnFirst of all, let’s stipulate that it’s nobody’srnbusiness but Georgians’ whatrngoes on their flag. USA Today may notrnhave the sense to stay out of this affair,rnbut Southerners, at least, should recognizernthat states’ rights is one thing thernSouthern Gross stands for, and if a staterncan’t even choose its own flag . . . well,rnmaybe it’s time to rethink secession.rnBut on the larger question of what anrnappropriate symbol of Southern unityrnmight be, I do feel entitled to somernopinions, and in fact I have two: thatrnthe South needs and deserves some sortrnof symbols and that the Gonfederaternflag won’t do anymore.rnLet me tell a story. Some time back arnfriend sent me an issue of the ]aguarrnJournal, a student publication of thernFalls Ghurch, Virginia, high school. Itrncontains a rather lame attack on thernConfederate flag as a symbol of slaveryrnand oppression, paired with an eloquentrndefense by a young woman named WendirnCrouch, who quotes the country-musicrngroup Alabama: “And we were leaning,rnleaning on / The everlasting armsrnof love, / Livin’ all the simple joys / ThisrnDixie boy is made of.” A survey revealedrnthat nearly half of the school’srnmultiracial, multicultural student bodyrnfelt that things are just fine as they are;rnas one student put it, the flag is a “symbolrnof everything the South stands for:rnunity and pride.” Another third felt thatrnit shouldn’t be flown officially (for instance,rnover state capitals). Only onernstudent in six felt that display of the flagrnshould be banned altogether.rnNow, I’ve said many snide thingsrn(some of them in this magazine) aboutrnnorthern, or “Occupied,” Virginia:rnmaybe I’ve been too harsh. But noticernthat the students’ defense of the flag wasrnnot on the grounds of its associationrnwith the Confederacy. Those whornspoke for the record valued it simply asrnan emblem of Southern pride in the present.rnBut that pride is considerable. At thernWilliam and Mary commencement arncouple of years ago a student speakerrnshared with the audience what his fatherrnhad told him as he began his freshmanrnyear: “Remember what you comernfrom,” his daddy had said. “You’re a Virginianrnand a Southerner.” (My informantrnwas reminded of his own father’srnparting words, 30 years ago: “Well, son,rnyou’ll meet all kinds up here.”) Southernersrnfeel themselves to be citizens ofrnno mean city, and if the Gonfederaternflag is the only symbol of our communityrnavailable, we’ll use it—one reasonrnmany who don’t care much about thernConfederacy one way or the other arernattached to its flag.rnRegret it or not, however, it’s simply arnfact that fewer self-identified Southernersrneach year feel any attachment to thernConfederate heritage. In the first place,rnan increasing proportion of native whitesrneither don’t know or don’t care whatrntheir ancestors’ sympathies were. Thirty-rnseven percent of the white respondentsrnto a 1992 Southern Focus Pollrndidn’t know whether they had familyrnwho fought in the Late Unpleasantness,rnand another 30 percent said they knewrnthey didn’t. Of the remaining third, onernin six had only Union ancestors and arnquarter had kinfolk on both sides. (Bothrnignorance and mixed ancestry are morerncommon among younger Southernersrnthan among older ones.) In other words,rnsomething under 20 percent of today’srnwhite Southerners have an exclusivelyrnConfederate heritage, and know it.rnIn addition, fewer and fewer self-identifiedrnSoutherners are native whites tornbegin with. Both Asian- and Hispanic-rnSoutherners are more common eachrnyear: I know some of each. A goodrnmany migrants from Yankeedom arernquite ready to sign up, if we’ll let them.rnAnd surveys show that most Southernrnblacks now identify themselves as Southernersrn—a welcome development, in myrnview. But you can’t expect most ofrnthese folks to be fond of the Confederaternflag. In particular, the flag dividesrnSoutherners on racial lines. Asked byrnthe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionrnwhether the flag is more a symbol ofrnracial conflict or of Southern pride.rnSouthern whites picked regional pridern76 to 17 percent, while blacks saw racialrnconflict 58 to 31 percent. (Blacks werernfar more tolerant of the song Dixie, seeingrnit as a symbol of Southern pride by arnmargin of 48 percent to 40 percent.)rnGiven all this, it seems to me thatrnmaking all “true Southerners” salute thernConfederate flag excludes altogether toornmany people who have a right to the label,rnand who could be valuable recruitsrnto the cause. On grounds of both prudencernand doing the right thing, there’srnmuch to be said for finding or devisingrnother symbols of regional identity, morerninclusive ones that can be saluted byrnanyone of good will. Here we can learnrnfrom the Catalans. In their view anyonernwho moves to their region andrnadopts their ways (in particular, theirrnlanguage) is Catalan, period. Thisrnmeans they don’t face the problem thatrnSoutherners now face, that of being arnminority in much of their own land.rnMigration to Catalonia contributes tornthe nation’s economic and politicalrnstrength, offsetting its relatively lowrnbirthrate without undermining its unity.rnIf we give up pretending that thernConfederate flag has a claim on the loyaltyrnof all Southerners—well, then, ofrncourse state governments ought to takernit off their flags. (I’m not wild aboutrnsome of the company that conclusionrnputs me in, but it seems inescapable.)rnLet those who honor the Gonfederaternheritage do so privately.rnBut let’s not go overboard. The symbolsrnof the Confederacy shouldn’t berndenied to those who are entitled tornthem and moved by them. Sixty-oddrnyears ago, Allen Tate complained aboutrn”well-meaning orators” who told whiternSoutherners “they need not be ashamedrnof a grandfather who fought with Lee,rnthat the grandfather could not havernknown how God had to use four years ofrnwar to show them the righteousness ofrnBig Business and the iniquity of thernfarm.” But more has changed sincern1930 than the New Republic (in whichrnTate wrote): I can’t recall the last time Irnheard someone telling white Southernersrnthat. Indeed, those whose grandfathersrnfought with Lee must often feel theserndays that they are being asked to apologizernfor their heritage, if not to renouncernit altogether. As the Marxist historianrnEugene Genovese, characteristically gallant,rnobserved during an exchange onrnthis subject at a recent meeting of thernAmerican Studies Association, no onernshould be required to spit on his ancestors’rngraves. We should all wish the latter-rnday Confederates luck in rescuingrntheir symbols from the racist trash whornhave lately sought to appropriate them.rnMore on these matters next month.rnJohn Shelton Reed writes from ChapelrnHill, North Carolina, and hates to berncalled a “moderate.”rn40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn