Rob Neukirch, owner of Oddfellas Cantina in Floyd, is in the midst of a public pissing contest with a delusional, opportunistic rabble-rouser who still holds on to the archaic belief that the confederacy is something to be proud of and promoting that sordid period of our history is, somehow, beneficial.
Rob wrote a letter to the editor of The Floyd Press wondering what a cheesy booth dedicated to selling self-published confederate books, cheap trinkets, confederate flags and garish signs with “Forget Hell” and “The South Shall Rise Again” slogans was doing in the fall arts and crafts fair at Floyd County High School. He correctly pointed out that the booth’s operator, a shameless self-promoter from Roanoke who publishes vanity books about the non-existent glories of the old South and sells trinkets that glorify racism and bigotry, had little to do with arts or crafts.
The booth’s operator, who gets no free publicity here, fired back with a tirade claiming his booth is a star attraction that “headlines” many shows.It may be a star attraction at Franklin County klan rallies but not here. We have real artists and craftsmen and women in this county and tourist trap salesmen don’t headline arts and crafts fairs. The booth is a sad commentary on a way of life that should have faded into well-deserved oblivion long ago. Most of the people who attend the annual arts and crafts fair want nothing to do with the bigotry and hate that such memorabilia represents. It’s too bad that organizers of the event seem to care more about collecting rentals from another vendor than they do about the image that the presence of such a booth promotes.
I’m a Southerner, born and raised in the South, and appreciate many parts of my heritage. I do not, however, honor or cherish the sad legacy of slavery. Despite all the self-righteous claims of those who say the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights, the South fought for the right to continue the despicable practice of owning another human being and no amount of sugar-coating can obscure that fact. Talk to those who stick a confederate battle flag or the stars and bars into the back of their pickup trucks and you will too often hear a barrage of racial slurs and outright bigotry.
It is possible to honor those who died in that war without glorifying the sad reasons behind the conflict. In Franklin, Tennessee, author Robert Hicks organized an effort to reclaim the battlefield where more than 9,000 confederate and union soldiers were killed or wounded in the bloodiest single-day battle of the war. Hicks recruited the local Afro-American league to help in his effort. They agreed because it was more important to preserve history than to continue arguing over the reasons that created that history.
But at Carnton Plantation an American flag flies over the cemetery where 1481 Confederate soldiers lay buried. A reporter asked the cemeteryâ€™s curator why neither the stars and bars nor the confederate battle flag flies at the site.
â€œBecause this is an American cemetery where Americans are buried,â€ he answered.
The war ended in 1865. The South lost. Time for those who continue to embrace the bigotry and hate that led to that dark period in our nation’s history to accept reality and move on.