We were driving around the other day during a period of bad radio. You know, no ball game, a “Carpenters” marathon on the oldies station and rap or head banger elsewhere on the dial. So we fished a CD out of the door pocket, “Best of The Band,” and popped it into the dashboard. Four tunes in we got “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and suddenly it occurred to us, this song might be, like, unconstitutional or something. After all, it’s told from the point of view of a Confederate soldier named Virgil Caine from Tennessee and gives his plight sympathetic treatment. Here’s a fictional person who fought under the confederate flag, the same one that’s got everybody in an uproar. Add to that the fact that we enjoyed listening to it and it made us wonder if maybe we should be turning ourselves in to the authorities.
Which we might have except our interactions with authorities don’t always turn out so well. Nevertheless, if “The Dukes of Hazzard” is now offensive, we figured The Band should immediately be removed from our – and everyone’s – CD collection and all their MP3 files should be cleansed from our devices. Martin Scorcese did a film about The Band, The Last Waltz, in which the offending song is performed. Sorry, Marty, but if “The Dukes of Hazzard” has to go . . .Hey, wait a minute, Joan Baez also recorded the song to wide acclaim in 1971. I hate to admit it, but calling out Joan Baez as politically incorrect is actually the slightest bit enjoyable. What else? Do they still make Dixie Cups, and is anybody offended by them? We can probably give author Terry Southern a pass since he died in 1995; likewise Ann Sothern who is also deceased and because of the spelling.
The more we thought about it the more confusing it all seemed, so we got the idea that we ought to do some serious reading about the Civil War and the Confederate flag. Then, after a lengthy nap, this idea passed, but as fate would have it, there was a documentary on the war right there on the TV when we woke up. Turns out the Civil War ended 150 years ago – seriously – and the Union won. So what does the Confederate flag signify? Losing. If you wave the confederate flag, you’re saying “I identify with the losers in a war that ended 150 years ago.” It’s a little weird, but why should it be controversial?
Right before the Civil War there was a war with Mexico over who would own some land that included Texas and parts of California. (It was a pretty long documentary) All the major military figures from Union and Confederacy fought side by side in the Mexican American war, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Ambrose Burnside from the South; Ulysses S. Grant, George McClelland and William Tecumseh Sherman from the North. Even Jefferson Davis, later the Confederate pres, fought as a junior officer. It was a short war and in the end we kept the territory but had to pay them some money. But now, 160 some years later, immigrants from Mexico still fly the Mexican flag, and there doesn’t seem to be a big deal made about it. Maybe if they painted it on the roof of a low-rider, named it the general Santa Anna then made a sitcom about it, somebody would get outraged. The Dukes of Juarez.
In his second inaugural address Lincoln said it was time to “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We bet if he were alive today, once he got over the miracle of television, he might also urge us to “lighten up on the nation’s sitcoms.” If he liked whistling “Dixie” he’d probably like “The Dukes of Hazzard,” especially the scenes with Daisy Duke. Mary Todd not so much. If old Abe was outraged about anything it would be that we put Grant on the fifty and he only got the five.
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