• Riding With Forrest.

    It's not everyday you see a person of color willing to pal around with a confederacy of Confederates, let alone pose for a photo shoot that proved to be a bit too much for the NAACP to take. Apparently, the city of Lake City, Florida has a rich and storied history of capturing and reverberating the echos of the long-since-lost Confederate States of America under the guise of "heritage." If the National Socialist German Workers' Party had been better students of history, you'd probably see the swastika aloft in Germany as much quantity as one sees the Confederate battle flag in portions of the United States:

    The controversy surrounding the Stars and Bars, or the Confederate Flag, is a controversy that has hounded Lake City for decades. The Stars and Bars, emblazoned as part of Lake City's logo, rides on every City vehicle and is part of Lake City stationery. The recent controversies surrounding the City Police Chief and the City Manager have culminated in the Local Branch of the NAACP asking for the Chief and City Manager's resignations. The straw that broke the camel's back, a photo of Lake City's African American Police Chief posing with the Confederate Mechanized Cavalry during the Olustee Festival. The Lake City Branch of the NAACP is being supported in its efforts by the State chapter of the NAACP.

    A letter obtained by the Observer and dated July 2, 2012, purports to be from the NAACP and is addressed to the City Council. It asks for the resignations or termination of both Police Chief Gilmore and City Manager Wendell Johnson. The letter claims that the community has lost "all confidence in Chief Gilmore and the Police Department." The letter also claims that black and white Lake City police officers are treated differently.

    The letter concludes: "We supported Chief Gilmore when she became the new police chief but after several incidents of poor decision making and judgments, we believe that continuing to turn our heads, is not going to solve the problem, and City Manager Johnson has done nothing to address any of these problems. We wish Chief Gilmore and City Manager Johnson much success in their endeavors but we believe that Chief Gilmore has not managed the Lake City Police Department well during her tenure here, and neither has City Manager Johnson."
    It's interesting to me how the Confederate mystique is so embedded in this community that the police chief has to take a glamour shot with people who like to "ride with Forrest."

    For those who don't know who Nathan Bedford Forrest is, he was, to put it lightly, an interesting figure in the annals of history. Born in poverty, he eventually grew up to become a wealthy businessman and slave trader. When the Civil War started, he joined the Confederate Army, where he was swiftly kicked upstairs* to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and with time, Lieutenant General. After the war, he became the first "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that would have defined the words "domestic terrorists" if their targets weren't so...colored. People with a starry-eyed affection towards the defeated Confederacy won't waste any time hailing him as a great man. Everyone else will most likely wonder why the Union neglected to hang him and other Confederate commanders for treason.

    By not putting Forrest, Jefferson Davis and other important figures who created and contributed to the Confederacy to the gallows and by not "deconfederatizing" the southeast when it had the chance, the U.S. not only allowed a sick and otherwise deficient mindset to develop for generations, it also cultivated a spirit of rebellion that caused the "solid south" to remain at political and ideological odds with the rest of the nation till this very day. It's one that caused the state of Georgia to incorporate the Confederate battle flag within its own state flag in protest of Brown v. Board of Education.

    That spirit recently manifested itself as the Tea Party/GOP goal of open rebellion against the "liberal" federal government, with the president featured as the centerpiece at which Teabaggers and other conservatives hurl hateful invective and death threats. It's a spirit that encourages discriminatory laws and behavior against minorities for the good of the nation and one that suggests national safety nets like Medicare and Social Security to be "socialist" devices hardworking people would do without. People kept saying "The South Shall Rise Again," but no one figured it would be the spirit of the South that would be risen.

    It's sad that the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference have to fight battles that should have been long won. Then again, I suppose the price of freedom and progress is constant vigilance.

    *His superior officers didn't think wealthy planters should have to suffer the indignity of being low-ranked cannon fodder.