So, we went to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games this past weekend. It was a thrill to be around so many characters–of similar mind and different, at the same time. The nature of a highland games is one of old flags. Scotland, in fighting for its independence from the English, had the excellent rampant lion, and of course the seven Celtic nations all had their own. The highlanders had tartans to represent their clans, all unique. (I am among them–I officially joined Clan Hamilton, being the son of Donna Hamilton, grandson of Albert Hamilton). So, naturally, the national discourse on the stars & bars continued in the camps there.
A couple things of note. Everyone had flags of all sorts strewn around, and you could see buried amongst them sometimes a Confederate rebel battle flag. My goal isn’t to talk about its history–that’s settled fact, as a racist banner adopted in promotion of the cause of continuing the practice of slavery–but about freedom of expression. We camped in Linville Falls and shuttled in, but my wife’s sister and her husband camped with some friends on the site, sharing a space with a well-known group, located off the beaten path. Hanging amidst their flags, as we strolled into the site to cook dinner, was a rebel flag, and I simply said to myself, “Are you kidding me?” They were great hosts, and the presence of a flag doesn’t give me cause to shit where I’m trying to eat. Besides, the space was somewhat separated; I could sit where I didn’t even need to look at it. I warned my friends who I brought in to join us that it was there, and no big deal was made.
By report, however, it was still an object of drama. Apparently it had initially been hung near the tent of the folks with whom my wife’s sister was staying, and they asked if it could be moved so that it didn’t seem like they were associated with it. No big deal, still; their hosts were cool with that. But the juicy bit (ah, rumor volat) is that another friend of the group came into camp and took it down of her own volition, and when confrontation ensued, she declared that they would have to choose between her friendship and the flag.
Well, I can’t make choices for other people, but that’s not the hill I would die on.
There was also a more public camp, along the main road coming into the games, and just as many other camps, it was festooned with flags. I noticed a dingy off-white towel, glaringly different from the rest of the banners, and on it had been Sharpie’d “Confederate Flag removed by request”. On the one hand, this wasn’t a government facility; on the other, I’m not sorry at all that the organizers chose to exercise their rights as hosts to shut down a bullshit flag. And the tears of frustration at the poor folks whose free speech was being stepped on, manifest in their little protest banner–well, I couldn’t help but chuckle.