The awesome 1969 Dodge Charger that the Duke boys drove wildly on “The Dukes of Hazzard” as they evaded Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and sent aloft when nemesis Boss Hogg was hot on their trail was as famous as any character on that memorable television series that ran from 1979-1985.
Today, though, instead of continuing to careen around corners and kick up dust as its makers intended, the legendary American muscle car nicknamed “General Lee” is stalled within a debate over whether there is, at anytime, anywhere in this country, an appropriate place for the Confederate flag.
Following last month’s massacre at a church in Charleston, S.C., which targeted black worshippers and left an esteemed state senator dead, an increasingly loud chorus of opponents to the outdated, retrograde and offensively racist symbol began to demand it be removed from public life. The Confederate battle symbol previously flew proudly over the state until Monday when lawmakers voted that it be removed.
(It is important to note that five U.S. states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi — continue to use Confederate symbols in their official state flags.)
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Dylann Roof, the murderer at that Charleston church, was revealed in photographs holding the Confederate battle flag, and it is believed this allegiance may have motivated the shooting.
Golfer Bubba Watson, who owns a replica General Lee Charger, has said he will remove the image from its roof and paint an American flag in its place. It’s his choice to do whatever he likes with the car, but the fact that social pressures made him succumb is troubling. In similar moves, discount giant Wal-Mart and online marketplace eBay announced they would no longer sell Confederate flag-emblazoned merchandise in stores and online.
But it doesn’t end there: Nostalgia network TV Land has dropped “The Dukes of Hazzard” from its lineup of loved reruns.
In public life, there is absolutely no place for the clear symbol of slavery and oppression. Yes, take down the flag from within the grounds of any city, state or federal government building, but why curtail the camp-fest that is the show or disallow people to proclaim their utter ignorance?
When contacted by TheBlot Magazine regarding these developments, representatives for the Duke Boys, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, respectively, replied that they had no comment. But days earlier, when the cable network dropped the show, Schneider was seeing red.
“Come on, TV Land, can’t we all just watch TV?,” he rhetorically asked during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ was and is no more a show seated in racism than ‘Breaking Bad’ was a show seated in reality.”
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Removing the symbols of slavery and oppression from public life is imperative: however, erasing all memory of their existence in a knee-jerk reaction meant to cover corporate butts is entirely something else. In America, as long as nobody is being hurt or having their freedoms limited, aren’t we entitled to proclaim our political or social views to the world regardless of how unpopular they might be?
Every few weeks when I walk from the subway to work, the crazies who paint a toothbrush mustache on President Barack Obama’s face in an obvious and foolish attempt to compare him to demagogue and maniac Adolf Hitler confront me. The comparison is ludicrous and insane, and the people who would waste their time on Photoshop and then willingly stand by a table all day are really stupid. They are clearly trying to get a reaction, either positive or negative, but never have I said to them that they do not have a right to be there or display their poor taste posters.
In this country, we have the personal freedoms to dress bizarrely, put all kinds of metal in our faces and cover ourselves with indelible ink. The flag has no place anywhere on public land, but what private citizens do with their own property is their own choice. Making sure we have the ability to express political or social views, however unpopular, does part of ensuring that our freedoms continue uninterrupted. The freedom to be a moron, for lack of a better description, is one that we must uphold.
Symbols have power, and not many are as controversial as the ole’ Stars and Bars. But part of the power of symbol is also in remembering, even if horrific, what the symbols mean so that future generations can learn valuable lessons from them.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.