Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Pottery" and "Pride"

Duck's Market, the place to buy
statues, fireworks, and "pottery."

I apologize for my absence. I took a vacation to visit family and friends in the Volunteer State (a vacation extended by the arrival of a certain storm that reared its ugly head in south Louisiana this past week... not that I am complaining about the extra days off). I was deliberately trying to keep my brain operating at its lowest possible energy levels while on vacation. Of course, the people I know and hang out with have a way of provoking my thoughts (even when they don't realize it). The trip proved a refreshing break from life.

Fiestaware is so fun!
I am still working out a few ideas stirred up by some experiences and conversations, but thought I would stretch my writing muscles with my stop at Duck's Market. I love to stop at Duck's Market. Mostly because I love Fiesta pottery pieces and Duck's Market sells seconds of the pieces. Colorful dishware at a discount price!? Yes, please! I like to add to my collection a piece at a time, so I try to stop in every time I pass through the area. [Note: you cannot buy anything from Duck's Market except for fireworks the three days before Independence Day, so if you want to buy Fiestaware early July, you are out of luck... lesson learned].  

Prowling cats complete the
Duck's Market Experience.

If Fiestaware is not your thing, no worries! The shop sells fireworks, garden statues, and assorted knick-knacks. Included among the knick-knacks: an assortment of Southern-pride/Confederate flag memorabilia. As soon as your eyes adjust to the dim interior after being blinded by the larger-than-life silver dragon statue towering in the parking lot, the first thing you see is the wall with the flags.  Maybe I am just sensitive, but every time I see the wall, I feel like I am smacked in the face. 

[Insert pithy Southern Pride comment here]
What I find most interesting of the display is the fact that it is just there. Not just that it is there, but that it is just there. Among fireworks. Among dusty dishes. Among cats (the prowling cats in that store easily rival tigers in size... no joke). Among statues of saints and garden gnomes. A variety of slogans accompany the iconic symbols. "Heritage Not Hate." "Rebel by Choice." "American by birth, Southern by the Grace of God." "Completely Unaware of the Complexities Assigned to this Flag by Varying Groups." 

Oh, wait. I just made that last one up.  It'd fit right in there, I think.

I met somebody at a training a while back who asked me "you guys don't still deal with that, do you?" She was from Connecticut. She knew I worked at a Civil War park (at the time) and we were talking about visitor perceptions. Her question referred to the "Southern Pride/Confederate Pride" concepts that still ebb and flow through the culture. I wrinkled my face and responded with an absolute "yes, let's not be ridiculous, of course we still deal with that." I can't even buy moderately-priced dishware without running into it. It still stirs up debate and people want to yell about what it means (and want to argue that the "heritage" associated with it has nothing to do with "hate," obviously unaware of that "heritage"). But what are we supposed to do with it? Ignore it? Fuss? Yell? Ask questions? Engage? And I am asking as "we" the general public, not necessarily as historians/interpreters/historic site managers (I was on vacation, remember? I was the general public). Will enough dust gather on those icons in a way that we ignore what that symbol has meant over its existence? Will the general public be willing to have meaningful conversations about what the symbol means today? Will that symbol ever stop selling on its own? 

I am considering this post my "getting-back-into-the-writing-groove" after taking nearly a two-week break. I don't have answers, just thoughts. And now some new, colorful salad plates and bowls. 

*Now-standard disclaimer: These thoughts are my own and only my own.  

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