Burning the Confederate Flag at Dodger Stadium

June 24, 2020

Our prevaricator-in-residence at the Oval Office recently revived an old right-wing talking point about making the burning of the American flag a criminal act. But what about the flag that is most commonly associated with the Confederacy? Would he propose to make that a crime, too?

The battle flag of the Confederacy, after all, is associated with one of the heinous crimes committed at the very outset of his quest to be elected President, during the aftermath of which he referred to supporters of the symbolic insinuations of all that homicidal regalia as “very fine people.” As utterly dismaying as the impulsive police executions of African-Americans since 2008 has been (and the date is fixed there as a reminder that these executions in my opinion reflected a displaced desire on the part of these officers), the murders at a Bible-study meeting in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, still cry out for a full measure of repentance.

In looking back at the various shock tactics used by my generation in the 1960s and 1970s to drive home their objections to the racist war machine that did the biding of American foreign policy, I never supported the burning of the American flag. Among other objections, I saw such a gesture as an admission that the protest being made was simply a self-cancelling zero-sum game of rhetorical futility.

In retrospect, of course, I would support the burning of a flag: the Stars and Bars. My friends, we were burning the wrong flag. Far better that we had shown some real courage and burned Dixie’s battle flag as the inauguration of an anti-racist movement at the start of our country’s bicentennial.

Think about it. If on the first day of American Bicentennial, we had burned the Confederate Flag at each of the following College Bowl events, it would have sent a message that it was not enough to have elected a Democrat as president in the aftermath of Nixon’s betrayal of the Constitution. Fundamental change was needed in the entire system, including a total rejection of the South’s continuing belief in the legitimacy of the “Lost Cause.”

Date: December 20, 1975. Location: Orlando, Florida
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: December 22, 1975. Location: Memphis, Tennessee
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: December 26, 1975. Location: El Paso, Texas
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

The Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl
Date: December 27, 1975. Location: Houston, Texas
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: December 29, 1975. Location: Jacksonville, Florida
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: December 31, 1975. Location: Atlanta, Georgia
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: December 31, 1975. Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: January 1, 1976. Location: Dallas, Texas
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

Date: January 1, 1976 Location: Miami, Florida
EVENT: Burning of the Confederate Flag

The Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona could have been tossed in for good measure, but it’s the above places and dates that would served notice that an anti-racism movement would not settle for anything less than a complete repudiation of the Confederacy’s patrimony.

It’s never too late.

With a shortened baseball season finally beginning to take shape, I have been thinking about the places that I would most enjoy seeing such a spectacle, and Dodger Stadium seems the most appropriate venue. Unfortunately, no spectators will be allowed to see the games this season, and so my fantasy of seeing someone burn the Confederate flag at Dodger Stadium will have to wait until 2021. This gives us plenty of time to consider the possible answers to the following scenarios.

Would any player attempt to reprise Rick Monday’s rescue of the United States’ flag in April, 1976, at Dodger Stadium, and grab the Confederate flag away from the protestors in 2021?

Would the supporters of BLM who burn the Confederate flag in 2021 be given the same vigorous standing ovation from the crowd at the ball game that Rick Monday received for his rescue of the American flag in 1976?

Most likely the players would simply wait for security guards to escort the protestors off the field. How long the chant — BLACK LIVES MATTER — would echo in the stadium is one gauge of how many centuries in this millennium it will take to bring about an enduring reconciliation. The shorter the chant, the deeper into this millennium the task of racial justice will remain an unfinished aspiration.