Divisive flag mars fair visit
By Brian Stanley
August 25, 2012
I enjoyed 99 percent of the Will County Fair.
But I left slightly conflicted. Wondering if I should respect someone’s right to free expression or criticize their apparent insensitivity to others.
The Peotone fairgrounds seemed bigger when I was last there 20 years ago, but everything looked safe and sanitary Wednesday night. It was a good reminder to someone who spends a lot of time in downtown Joliet how the many rural parts of this community deserve a spotlight.
Though cattle were being kept a few hundred yards from where steaks were being prepared, and the swine and poultry could observe similar fates, it was fun for a suburbanite to guess what sheep looks like a prize-winner.
My 3-year-old son enjoyed jumping in the bounce house only slightly more than climbing on the farm equipment. As a carny strictly timed two minutes of bouncing for each ticket, I looked through the available brochures and considered renting a tractor. Compared to the bounce house tickets, getting something we wouldn’t even need to turn on at his next birthday seemed just as economical at the eight-hour rate.
But just beyond the farm equipment is merchants row, where a Confederate flag was flying on top of one of the booths.
It turned out to be a vendor that sells flags and stickers, so I’m guessing that’s one of the items typically available for sale. There was another flag with a skull and crossbones wearing a Confederate bandana with “Rebel ‘Til I Die” written underneath.
(A Texas state flag flew on the next pole, but as banners and shirts have warned me, I won’t mess with that one.)
I didn’t go in to the booth or talk to the vendor, but it didn’t seem to be an emporium of racist paraphernalia. I didn’t see any minorities protesting in front of the booth, nor any customers arguing against them being there.
But flying a Confederate flag at a public event seems insensitive to me. While some feel it represents Southern heritage, the civil rights movement gave a racial charge to a symbol of resistance against desegregation.
At a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, I can understand why a group of men in gray kepi hats and wool jackets would be carrying “the stars and bars” and claim it’s not a racial issue.
The fabric itself is not attacking anyone. Everyone has the right to their opinion and interests that do not physically harm others. I assume since at least one vendor is displaying Confederate flags, there is a market for them.
But it’s pretty insensitive.
The Confederate flag didn’t bother me when I saw it painted on the top of an orange ‘69 Dodge Charger on television years ago. But I understand now how that symbol would bother some people seeing it in person.
I worried I was disappointed by something that wasn’t a big deal and didn’t affect me. Skittish in my own perception that others would care, I asked columnist Jean Edwards for her opinion.
She told me “of course” going to a public place and seeing Confederate flags was “disrespectful.”
I can’t think we’re alone and I think that should be considered while holding an event that’s supposed to welcome everyone for a fun time.