There are two sides to every story, and the recent criticism of the Confederate flag that has followed the racially motivated shooting deaths at a church in South Carolina are no different. Representing that other side is a man known to most as "Cooter," actor Ben Jones from the Dukes of Hazzard.
Ben's opinions illuminate the contentious argument against the Southern Cross, which many -- quite understandably -- see as a symbol of hate, racism, and slavery. However, Jones pointed out that as a Civil War battle flag, it was meant to symbolize independence and non-racist southern spirit.
Unfortunately, it has been adopted and its meaning mutated by racists, Jones -- also a former U.S. Congressman for Georgia -- noted, according to People.
"That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement that the values of the rural South were the values of courage and family and good times. Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression. Activists and politicians are vilifying Southern culture and our heritage as being bigoted and racist. We know that this is not the case. And we know that in Hazzard County there was never any racism."Jones' defense has followed widespread outrage directed at the South Carolina capitol grounds, where the controversial symbol still flies amid criticism that followed the atrocity committed by Dylann Roof, 21. He is one of many who have appropriated the flag to represent offensive and violent beliefs.
Calls to remove it were swift and extremely vocal, and many governments and companies have responded. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for it to be removed, the Alabama governor has ordered the same from a Confederate Memorial in his capitol, and Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target won't sell merchandise featuring the controversial Southern Cross. Politicians have also united on the issue -- Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, and Jeb Bush, included.
But Ben Jones, in an op-ed in Friday's New York Times, made a critical point worth recognizing -- that slavery wasn't "the Southern sin, but the national sin." Further, the flag honors the deaths of thousands who died in the Civil War for "what they thought was right in their time," and whose "valor became legendary in military history," Ben wrote.
"This is not nostalgia. It is our legacy. The current attacks on that legacy, 150 years after the event, are to us an insult."And as a symbol, Ben Jones wrote, the Confederate flag takes on many meanings depending on where it's seen: a historical symbol at a national cemetery or battlefield, a theater piece in a film like Gettysburg, and in the Dukes of Hazzard -- "a symbol of non-racist Southern spirit."
According to the New York Daily News, Ben Jones, owner of Hazzard-themed stores in Tennessee and Virginia, will keep flying and selling it
Ben promises to "fight these people until hell freezes over, and then I will fight them on the ice."
"We are all the same good people today that we were last week and last year and we are not going to be shamed into turning our backs on our heritage and our convictions. We are not racists. We despise racism and bigotry. And we think the people who are creating this 'cultural cleansing' are the real bigots in this story."Do you agree with Ben Jones? What does the Confederate flag symbolize to you? Let us know what you think in the comments.
[Photos Courtesy Joe Raedle/Getty Images, YouTube Screengrab]