I recently watched the Lynyrd Skynyrd documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow, a history of the band before and after Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama and that horrible plane crash in a Mississippi swamp. It's very moving, but I was rather taken aback by the frequent display of the Confederate flag in archival concert footage. The Confederate flag, for all those who claim it's about "States Rights", essentially represents slavery, the subjugation of one people by another. I didn't even know if I wanted to be watching this.
Partway through the film, the band members addressed the issue directly. There wasn't much awareness of Southern Rock outside of the Deep South, so being from the South became their gimmick, with the Confederate Flag a big part of the marketing, enthusiastically pushed by the record company. Drummer Artimus Pyle said "it didn't bother me, it didn't represent slavery to me, I didn't think about it that deeply at the time...but I have in the years since." Guitarist Gary Rossington said "for us it wasn't about hate, we never meant for it to hurt people...but it's not for us to say that, because for many people it does hurt, it does represent war and hate". Thet discussed how in recent years the flag has been taken up by the KKK as a symbol of racial supremacy and hatred, and they want nothing to do with it.
I was relieved. (Me! What right do I have to be relieved, sitting here in Australia; not the People of Colour in the South who have to face this every day?). I was glad they'd shown a way forward. We've all of us I'm sure at one time or another held views on subjects that maybe we hadn't fully fleshed out, didn't know the full implications of, or that were just plain wrong. That's normal. The trouble arises when, if you're presented with new information, more context, you close your ears and mind, double down and dig in, refuse to believe. "Well, I never meant any harm, so I'm just going to keep doing this thing and ignore the hurt I may cause". The surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd haven't done that. Even though the sight of the Confederate flag, for them, is tied to memories of an intense time in their lives, touring musicians at the top of their game and the friends with them who have been lost, they can still see the Confederate flag for what it represents now, hurt and hatred, and they reject it.
I may never say this again, but we should all try to be like Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I've been keeping this blog for over 17 years. My posting schedule has been erratic to be sure, but there are over 800 archived posts here. I've always posted on political and social issues. But in those 17 years, I've changed - I'm at least a few years older now than I was in 2004 - and my views have changed. I've educated myself, or been educated, on many issues. And when I occasionally look at old posts, I see things I posted years ago that don't align with the way I feel now; views that, if I had a chance to talk to my old self, I'd repudiate. I try to be like Lynyrd Skynyrd, for example by recognising all the ways I used to be racist (and I know I've still got work to do on that).
But I'm not going to go through all my old posts editing views I no longer hold. For one thing, who has the time. But also, I think admitting who we used to be shows us all how people can change. So if you ever happen to be browsing old posts of mine, and come across something I wrote in 2008 that makes you say "whoa, I can't believe she would say that", chances are I wouldn't say that now. If you're not sure if I still think the same about a contentious issue as you see on an old post of mine, just ask; chances are, I don't. We should all be learninig and growing, and I do try.
But there's one view I'm sure I won't change; that typing "Lynyrd Skynyrd" multiple times is really, really annoying.