I picked the wrong week to get the heck out of Dodge.
As I was bobbing around in five-foot swells off the Florida Keys last week, all manner of insanity was breaking loose in the “City of An As-Yet-Undetermined Amount of Flags.” People were chaining themselves to oak trees and losing their minds over Confederate flags. In many ways I feel I may have missed one of the more important weeks in the history of this once-historic city.
Driving back into town, there was a palpable feeling of calm in the air, as if there had been a really big argument and everyone was back in his or her room brooding. I will admit, from 800 miles away it all seemed like a rather ridiculous expenditure of energy more fitting for the hicks in Mayberry, but now that I’m back I’m reminded this is just the way we do things.
The flag fight was treated like a life-or-death decision. Racism in Mobile must certainly be gone after that much energy was spent on both sides. There is no telling how many unspeakable atrocities must have been committed by some redneck or another driven into a racist tizzy after staring at the city seal for hours as they love to do. Hopefully with no Confederate States of America flag on the seal, that’s finally over.
Of course those who wanted the seal to remain exactly the same whined the city’s entire history has been destroyed by the banishment of most flags from the seal, as if most citizens look to the city seal for educational purposes. The Civil War now has been wiped out as a historical event, as have the memories of those other countries that once ruled here. I’m having trouble recalling their names. Was Poland one of them?
I can see how people would be upset to have history erased so quickly and finally. On the positive side though, this may offer local historians an opportunity to come up with a better storyline for what happened in Mobile from 1861-1865. Let’s go with something having to do with a golden age of soccer fields, airplane manufacturing and maritime tourism so we’ll look like we’re just getting back to our roots after a 150-year break.
Perhaps the most cleansing part of the “flag flap” is it gave both sides of the issue an opportunity to stand up and show how absolutely little they care about the other’s point of view, or even about actual history itself. This town has needed a relatively meaningless issue like this to further divide us racially for some time.
Driving that point home, those who wanted to keep the Third National Flag — even though it features the “battle flag” in one corner — stood up publicly and proffered the ridiculous notion the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery and was all about states’ rights and eradication of the boll weevil, or something like that. That probably went over well with those whose ancestors actually were slaves, not to mention it did a pretty good job of insulting anyone who ever opened a history book.
On the flip side, some who wanted any mention of the CSA expunged from the seal took the opportunity to try wringing more white guilt out of the situation while also trampling the heritage of those who honor their Civil War ancestors for a multitude of reasons other than slavery. Councilman Fred Richardson reminded a room full of people who had absolutely nothing to do with any of it how his ancestors were treated like hogs, and assigned evil intentions to those who created the city seal. As usual, though, he seems to have been getting that information from somewhere in the deepest creases of his own brain or from deep in outer space.
It definitely will serve the city well that there was no compromise and a complete lack of consideration of feelings on either side. After all, these BIG issues really affect our lives.
Sherman’s army still couldn’t get across Ann Street’s potholed surface, the city can’t make the Press-Register stop bombarding our streets and waterways with tons of trash each week and someone seems to be getting shot in a skirmish every other day right now, but at least our leaders and citizens have taken the time to wrangle thoroughly over the city seal. Almost makes me long for the days of “Squirrelgate.”
Perhaps someone — maybe even Councilman Richardson — will now lead the charge to spend lots of money repainting police cars and otherwise burning tax dollars removing the old city seal from view.
Sometimes I wonder how anything ever gets done in this town at all. We have our priorities all wrong. People are ready to relive the Civil War over the damn city seal, but couldn’t care less about having a license commissioner who lies to the media, misleads the county commission and misuses their personal information. As long as we have 10-minute tags and the Rebel Flag, we’re fat and happy.
Some of our leaders spend so much time looking for racism they do nothing else, unless it involves getting on a big ol’ jet airliner to go hang out in Paris.
We are professionals at majoring in the minor. I love Mobile’s oak trees as much as anyone, but the backlash that came from cutting a few non-“heritage” oaks so a dirty old eyesore parking lot downtown can be turned into a hotel that will bring jobs and visitors was overkill. Plant some new trees and watch them grow.
Even just trying to get Uber in this town has become a fight because the politician who owns the cab company that dominates Mobile with service that is run-of-the-mill at best seems to be using her clout to try to kill it.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t have opinions about things happening around us, but it would be nice to see the real energy put into making sure we put decent people in office, demanding better schools or doing more to clean up our city rather than getting so wound up about the city seal, feeding squirrels or cutting a few trees.
Maybe we ought to just put a magnifying glass on Mobile’s city seal in honor of our love of blowing the little things so far out of proportion.
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