The colors of freedom

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By John Pawlak

“I have profound respect for the one sentence of the Declaration of Independence that I’ve actually read.”  (Author unknown)
 This quote does call to question, “Exactly which sentence do people remember?”  My favorite happens to be “They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”  It’s not often that you get to use a cool word like consanguinity.  Verisimilitude is another favorite of mine (truly it is).
 Anyway, with Independence Day just around the corner, what better way to commemorate the virtues of freedom than sitting back and enjoying the artful lyrics of “Born to Be a Hick,” “Wax the Booty,” and “Killing Brain Cells?”
 Yes, who better to underscore the true meaning of freedom than Kid Rock?
 For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kid Rock, he’s your typical country rock artist that graces civilization with musical creations such as “Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast,” “Devil Without a Cause,” and “Drunk in the Morning.”
 Ah yes, I do love art.  Sometimes you just have to immerse yourself in it to appreciate the subtle flavors.
 Kid’s flavor ranges from standard rap doodoo to the equally vacant Midwest hip-hop, but his core style centers about good ol’ fashioned chitlin’ dribbling country rock.  
 OK, so here’s the freedom part.
 Last year while hosting a concert down in grit-land, he adorned the stage background with a huge Confederate flag (40 by 30 feet), strutted around wearing the confederate flag on his leather jacket.
 And so it was with some surprise to African American leaders when the Detroit NAACP branch decided to honor Kid Rock with their “Great Expectations” award at their annual Fight For Freedom dinner.  This did not come without some serious debate.
 Protesters argued, “The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and bigotry.  You might as well sing ‘Dixie’ at the NAACP dinner!  Would a Jewish organization present an award to an entertainer who flew the Nazi flag at his concerts?”
 Kid Rock argued back, “Hey, I love black people!  I’ve never flown that flag with hate in my heart.  It just represents pride in southern rock and roll music.  And besides, it just looks cool!”
 I do cherish intellectual disputes.  Badmouthing ‘Dixie’ is a great way to win southern support for one’s side.  But let’s face it, the “it just looks cool” argument is a definite winner every time.
 But this debate really wasn’t about the Confederate flag.  It’s about symbolism.  What does a flag really represent?
 This 4th of July, consider those American flags proudly being waved in tribute to freedom.  Old Glory was equally guilty of standing for slavery.  Our Constitution accepted it and even defined the value of a slave (three fifths of a person).  As patriots waved those stars and stripes against British soldiers, shouting slogans of freedom and liberty, many enjoyed life at the expense of their slaves.  It was common for those freedom lovers to send their slaves into battle in place of themselves.
 So should we feel anger when we see those colors displayed at a concert?  The list of atrocities committed over the years under our flag is long and sordid.  How does one balance the realities of historic shame with the veneer of national pride? Should we just ban those colors because of past stupidity?  (Don’t worry,  we’ll use those same colors for future stupidity too).
Well, I’m not really a history buff (I rarely do much of anything in the buff), but I do believe we need to know our history and understand where we came from.  Our past defines the context of our present, but it certainly shouldn’t limit it.
If you want to fly a Confederate flag, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
 If you want to fly the red, white and blue to celebrate our independence, that’s fine too.  It’s Independence Day and that means you have the freedom to wave whatever pattern of colors you want to.
That’s what liberty is all about about.  Well, that’s what liberty is supposed to be about anyway!
 So have a wonderful 4th of July and enjoy the many colors of freedom.
 John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist