Question: What do telephone booths, video rental stores, film cameras, smoking in restaurants and the casual public display of the Confederate battle flag have in common?
Answer: All will have to be explained to future generations.
For 150 years, the rebel flag was a common sight in the north and south, its symbolism rarely considered. Was it merely regional pride? A symbol of the rural underdog, outgunned but never outfought? White supremacy? All of the above?
The general ambivalence and tolerance with which the Confederacy and its symbols were viewed came to end only recently, as grassroots movements sought to have the flags and statues of Confederate generals removed from public display.
In the north, county fairs, with their rural theme and broad appeal, have been a common battleground for fights over the flag’s display. Ulster County banned the sale of Confederate-themed merchandise at its fair four years ago, and the time many other fairs were making the same decision.
Still, fair management says it didn’t occur to anyone that there would be a problem booking a group called Confederate Railroad that uses the flag in its logo.
Within the last week, the news of the booking spread on social media and a boycott was suggested. County Executive Pat Ryan urged the county Agricultural Society to cancel the performance, calling the flag a “symbol of division and racism.” That cancellation was announced earlier today.
Reached by the Associated Press, Confederate Railroad frontman Danny Shirley said the band’s name came from a train that was commandeered by the Union Army, and speculated that people were just looking for issues to be upset about.