This is Trump Country

This post is not historical as such, but it does constitute a record of a particular time and place, that being Georgia’s Bartow and Cherokee counties on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. If campaign signs are anything to go by, it looks like the president will take these counties in landslide. All of the photographs below were snapped on my commute between my residence and Reinhardt, with a short loop once I got to Waleska. I am not lying when I say that, as of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, there are no signs for Biden/Harris, or any other Democratic candidate for office, anywhere on this route. By contrast, it seems that about every fifth house has a Trump sign, often more than one, and with many Trump flags as well. I have never before seen this level of support for a political candidate in any election. 

This is the basic sign: “Trump Pence Keep America Great! 2020” in a white sans serif font on a blue background. The small type reads “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” so I assume this one is official. “Keep America Great” is the obvious (and somewhat lame) followup slogan to 2016’s “Make America Great Again!”, often shortened to “MAGA!”* 

Here is a version of the sign rendered as a flag. Back in 2016 Scott Adams was praising Trump’s genius for marketing, and I think Trump’s use of flags is part of this (the red “MAGA” hat was also part of this, although there don’t seem to be any “KAG” hats this time around). Some people in my subdivision have flown Trump flags ever since he was elected the first time – people might display signs during election campaigns, but flags can be flown all year round! (Again, I don’t remember Bush ever getting this treatment.) And now that a campaign is upon us again, many more flags have appeared. 

You can get a large sign if you wish (note that this one recycles the old slogan)…

…and there are a variety of other sign designs to choose from, although I’m not sure whether all of these are official. (But if they aren’t official, it suggests that enthusiasm for Trump runs quite deep – see below.) 

Here’s a reused MAGA sign, with a handwritten “20” replacing “16”! 

Here’s a sign, mounted to a tall tripod, with a light to illuminate it at nighttime. Who does this!?

A couple of affinity signs. The women’s sign seems official. The gun owners’ sign is from an outfit called Trump Store America – i.e. not official, and thus the product of either cynics or True Believers.

The great thing about flags is that they can function as signs too, if you attach them to a fence. Note that the last one also has a solar light for nighttime illumination.

Different types of flags are also available. The last one also appears to be from Trump Store America. Note that it’s accompanied by the former flag of Georgia, two-thirds of which consists of the now verboten battle flag of the CSA – I assume exposing the motives of your average Trump supporter. 

Although here is one with the current Georgia flag…

…and here is one accompanied by the flag of everyone’s favorite local college football team. Go Dawgs! (Note another tripod-sign-and-night-light combination in front.) 

These five flags illustrate something rather strange. All of them feature the expression “No More Bullshit” as the tagline. Are these official? I certainly hope not. To my mind they’re about as classy as Truck Nuts, and I wonder whether the campaign actually approves of it (although it would not surprise me at all if it does, surreptitiously, as a way of appealing to Trump’s proletarian base). Furthermore, what is this “bullshit” to which the flags refer? A lot of people would ascribe that word to everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth! 

I suppose it’s a reference to accusations of Russian collusion, impeachment, media bias, and all other alleged efforts of the “Deep State” to undo the results of the 2016 election. 

I see on Trump’s official website that he is claiming “Promises Made, Promises Kept!” This is a much better slogan for a reelection campaign. Why it doesn’t appear on any signs I have no idea. 

Another novelty: the Trump garden banner. More discreet than a flag, and classier than a sign!

Most telling of all, I think, are all the houses with multiple signs and flags on display (although my camera cannot do justice to some of them). You can’t buy that sort of enthusiasm.

Some of the photos above are from the same residences, but I am not trying to exaggerate Trump’s support. There are many more flags and signs to be seen on my route from home to work that were not included in this post. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, on Saturday I encountered a couple of Trump souvenir vendors selling their wares at a disused gas station in Cartersville. Available for purchase were flags, signs, hats, t-shirts, pins, patches, can holders, COVID masks, and much else besides, all bearing graphics in favor of Trump or of other things that Trump supporters tend to be in favor of, such as the USA, the military, the police, gun rights, and Christianity (there was nothing Confederate, however).

One of the vendors’ vehicles was a coach owned by Star Coaches, Inc. of Atlanta, with a bus wrap by Andormous Graphics. Note that the operation is not connected to the official Trump campaign. On the bottom right we read this disclaimer:

So who is sponsoring it? At the rear of the vehicle we read:

This appears to be an Internet radio station. From the website:

COWBOY LOGIC was created in 2008 as Don Neuen’s diatribes on social media. Throughout the next few years, Neuen’s rants and raves became popular, especially on Facebook, with debates continuing for days, sometimes weeks on particular subjects such as Obama and his failed policies, the GOP Establishment, RINOs, Socialists, Maxists [sic], and Corrupt Politicians.

Damn those Maxists!

To the right of the back wheel we see another affinity:

From its website:

The #WalkAway Campaign is a true grassroots movement, founded by former liberal, Brandon Straka on May 26th, 2018. The #WalkAway Campaign encourages and supports those on the Left to walk away from the divisive tenets endorsed and mandated by the Democratic Party of today. We are walking away from the lies, the false narratives, the fake news, the race-baiting, the victim narrative, the violence, the vandalism, the vitriol. We are walking away from a party driven by hate. We are walking toward patriotism and a new, unified America! We are the future of this great nation!

Note though that Wikipedia claims:

News sources have debated the extent to which WalkAway is an example of astroturfing rather than a genuine grassroots movement. David A. Love of CNN condemned the campaign as “pure propaganda [and] a psychological operation.” The website Hamilton 68, which tracks Russia’s interference on U.S. elections, reported that WalkAway was “connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots to manipulate voters into thinking the movement was more popular and active that it actually was.”

Be that as it may, it is clear that there is a market for all the Trump stuff. Lots of people had stopped and were browsing the wares, and lots of passing drivers honked their horns in support. So even if the people behind it were just trying to make a quick buck, the fact that they can do so indicates that in some parts of this country, people loooove the president. 

So the question is: where does all this come from? What is Trump’s appeal? This is especially baffling given that so many other people hate his guts, with a viciousness I have never previously witnessed. (I thought that Bush was polarizing, but he’s got nothing on Trump.) Perhaps a better question is: why is the countryside so seemingly full of Trump supporters? You would think that there would be some Bidenites mixed in. (Or are they simply quiet about it, intimidated into keeping their opinions to themselves?) The answer that a lot of my colleagues would give is that rural America is full of ignorant, racist rednecks, bitterly clinging to their guns and religion in the face of inevitable social and cultural change. The countryside tends to be white and “backward,” whereas cities are ethnically diverse, economically dynamic, and more receptive to the latest ideas. That would be the “city mouse” interpretation of what I see on my way to work. 

Of course, there is a “country mouse” interpretation too. According to this way of knowing, the countryside represents the religious and patriotic American “heartland,” and Trump appeals to that. Cities, by contrast, are cesspits of corruption, decadence, and social unrest (as graphically illustrated this past summer) – thus might other candidates do better there. Furthermore, one could also say that flyover America has some genuine grievances, given that its jobs have been exported to China, its wages depressed by undocumented labor, and its communities ripped apart by meth and opioids. In 2016 Trump successfully cast himself as the champion of these people, who are so often condescended to (when not completely ignored) by the elites of both parties and urban dwellers on the coasts.** Whether or not Trump actually believes what he says, or is actually willing to do much about it, is an open question, but the relentless attacks on his presidency by Democrats and Never-Trumpers (and academia, the media, the judiciary, the federal bureaucracy, etc.) over the past four years have apparently allowed him to maintain the outsider cred that brought him to power in the first place (“No More Bullshit”). 

I guess it needs to be said that nothing in this post should be construed as an endorsement of Trump. It is simply an attempt at examining a situation I find myself in. In the interest of fairness I will include one Biden sign I happened to see. It’s on GA-20, but not on my way to work. The owner has taken the liberty of adding two small American flags, and given the fading it has clearly been out for a while, indicating a certain enthusiasm on his part. But it’s a very rare sight around here. Whoever put it up, I admire his courage.

* I was curious to discover that Trump actually swiped this slogan from Ronald Reagan (with the laconic elimination of “Let’s”). This poster was on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas when we visited in 2016:

Of course, the slogan probably meant more in 1980, when “great” referenced a time before the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, stagflation, and Jimmy Carter daring to use the word “malaise.” What was it supposed to mean in 2016? Was Barack Obama that bad? One suspects that, to the narcissist Trump, “great again” simply means “benefit me.” Thus we must keep America “great” by keeping Trump in power. 

** This is not the typical Republican script of riling up the base with cultural issues like abortion and gay marriage, which they have no intention of delivering on (see Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? [2004] for more on this strategy) – Trump tried to address their economic concerns as well. That he pissed off the right people with his abrasive boorishness was gravy. 

Liberté! Liberté!

My friend Jerry Hales shared a YouTube video of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Montreal. Check out the flags on display!

A horizontal tricolour of green, white, and red, in a Canadian context, represents the Patriote movement of the 1830s.* The movement did not succeed in winning republican independence for Lower Canada but its flag remains in occasional use as a nationalist and “rebellious” statement.

A variant on the Patriote flag features a gold star in the top left and a superimposed figure of “Le Vieux de ’37,” from a painting done in 1880 illustrating an archetypical participant in the rebellion of 1837. This is designated the flag of the Mouvement de libération nationale du Québec, a separatist group founded in the wake of the 1995 referendum on independence. You’ll notice more than one of them if you watch the video. 

A friend comments:

Anti-mask demonstrations around the world seem to attract various members of the lunatic fringe and so the MLNQ would definitely fit the bill. Note though that the MLNQ doesn’t really seem to exist these days as a single, organised entity at least overtly as their website and affiliated sites went down some years ago. I suspect many people using the Patriotes flag, defaced or not, in this particular demonstration are using it as an anti-governmental or anti-conformist symbol more than anything.

I assume that the inverted Quebec flag is “anti-governmental”!

The current Quebec flag started life in 1902 as the Carillon-Sacré-Coeur flag, when Catholicism meant a lot more to French Canadians than it does now. My friend comments:

I would assume the bearer might be part of one of the local fringe Catholic group such the Pilgrims of Saint Michael (AKA “the White Berets”) who tend to mix integrist religious belief with various conspiracy theories.

It is rare to see expressions of pro-American sentiment in Canada. It is astounding to see pro-Trump sentiment. Craziness!

* The Patriote Movement broke out into armed rebellion in 1837. Both it and William Lyon Mackenzie’s simultaneous Upper Canada Rebellion are seminal events in Canadian history. The flag for Mackenzie’s “Republic of Canada” deserves to be better known. 

Wikipedia.

Murdoch Mysteries

I was pleased to note a historically accurate Canadian red ensign flag in Season 11, Episode 16 of the Canadian television series Murdoch Mysteries, in contrast to an earlier appearance. The plot of this episode (“Game of Kings”) revolves around an international chess tournament taking place in Toronto in 1905. The players’ nationalities are represented by little tabletop flags. 

Constable George Crabtree has gone undercover as a Canadian entrant. His flag shows the original four-provinces shield devised for the Dominion of Canada in 1868, featuring the arms of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. It is true that Canada had nine provinces by 1905 (Alberta and Saskatchewan had been admitted on September 1 of that year, and Crabtree makes a reference to this in Episode 13 when, thinking he’s dying, exclaims “I’ll never see Egypt or any of those new provinces we have now!”). A nine-quartered shield for Canada was devised in the wake of this, but the original shield was still in widespread use until 1921. 

An American competitor is represented by a US flag with 45 stars on the canton (count them!), for the number of states in the union at the time – Utah having been admitted in 1896. Oklahoma (1908), Arizona (1912) and New Mexico (1912) would soon raise the total to 48.

Poland did not exist as an independent country in 1905, but a Polish player has entered the tournament and is represented by the flag of the Polish National Government 1863-64, which had been proclaimed following the January Uprising (although the bottom stripe, according to Wikipedia, should be blue).

Wikipedia.

The coat of arms is for “a proposed Polish–Lithuanian–Ruthenian Commonwealth which never came into being. It consists of the Polish White Eagle, the Lithuanian Pahonia and the Ruthenian Archangel Michael.”

Wikipedia.

Other Polish references in this episode include the Szczerbiec (the traditional Polish coronation sword) and the Husaria (Polish knights who wore decorative wings while mounted). 

UPDATES

News of the times:

1. The Great River Flag is apparently a strong contender in the race to determine Mississippi’s new flag, which is sad. This one is not quite a Seal on a Bedsheet flag but pretty close. And it looks like “IN GOD WE TRUST” really is here to stay – all the other potential flags seem to include it. 

2. As of this week, the Confederate plot in Cassville Cemetery has a chainlink fence around it. I stopped and asked the two men putting it up whether there had been any vandalism? No, came the reply, it’s just the that Georgia Building Authority wanted it done – presumably as a protective measure. The GBA is in charge of maintaining and operating state government buildings like the Capitol or the Governor’s Mansion, but it turns out it’s responsible for six Confederate cemeteries as well, including those in Kingston, Resaca, and Marietta. I can understand the desire to ward off vandals, but I wonder how much deterrence such a fence actually offers? It’s rather unsightly in any event. Too bad there isn’t enough money for a nice wrought iron fence.

Confederate Flag News

1. From Facebook, a graphic illustrating some proposals for a new flag for the state of Mississippi, in order to replace the recently-defunct Confederate-themed one. I like wavy with no wreath myself, but they’re all good designs, and historically meaningful to boot. 

Then there’s the Mighty Magnolia flag, which has even more designated meaning (click the link and scroll down).

The graphic, shared on the Facebook group Flags and Vexillology, includes the motto “In God We Trust,” because the state legislature made it a requirement of the new flag. But writing doesn’t make for a good flag and I hope that the new flag does not include it (quite apart from any questions about the separation of church and state that always attend the appearance of IGWT). 

2. From the Washington Post (hat tip: Tom Martin), news of a Confederate exile community in Brazil of all places:

RIO DE JANEIRO — To Marina Lee Colbachini, it was a family tradition. Each spring, she would join the throngs who descended on a nondescript city in southern Brazil, don a 19th-century hoop skirt and square dance to country music.

The theme of the annual festival: the Confederate States of America.

It’s one of history’s lesser-known episodes. After the Civil War, thousands of defeated Southerners came to Brazil to self-exile in a country that still practiced slavery. For decades, their descendants have thrown a massive party that now attracts thousands of people to the twin cities of Americana and Santa Bárbara d’Oeste to celebrate all things Dixie. The Confederate flag? Everywhere.

On flagpoles and knickknacks. Emblazoned on the dance floor. Clutched by men clad in Confederate battle gray. Decorating the grounds of the cemetery that holds the remains of veterans of the rebel army — the immigrants known here as the confederados.

In a country that has long been more preoccupied with class divisions than racism, the Confederate symbols, stripped of their American context, never registered much notice. But now, as the racial reckoning in the United States following the killing of George Floyd inspires a similar reexamination of values in Brazil, that has begun to change.

More at the link

3. Apparently some supporters of Ireland’s Cork County GAA like to wave Confederate flags at football and hurling matches, on the principle that Cork is in the “south,” and that red is the main Cork county color. I recall seeing a video playing at the GAA museum at Croke Park and being puzzled about the appearance of some Confederate flags in the stands. I guess Cork was playing! The county GAA board condemned the practice in 2017, and recently announced that it will confiscate any Confederate flags that supporters try to bring in. 

Silverdale Confederate Cemetery

Stopped by the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery yesterday afternoon. You can find the entrance between White Lightning Harley-Davidson and WoodSpring Suites on Lee Highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

A nearby Tennessee Historical Commission marker explains:

Here are buried 155 soldiers of the Army of Tennessee who died in hospitals during the mobilization for Bragg’s Kentucky campaign of Sept. – Oct. 1862. Their graves, formerly distinguished by wooden markers giving name, rank and organization, are now unidentified.

Plaques on the interior of the arch elaborate (in slightly odd English):

General Braxton Bragg mobilizing his army during summer of 1862 for his Kentucky Campaign, culminating the Battle of Perryville Oct. 8, 1862 camped a part of his army in this vicinity. Hospitals were located near by. Great number of his soldiers were sick and many died. About 155 were buried here, their names and commands marked on wooden boards that decayed. No records was kept and this grave yard neglected.

It’s a shame that this should have happened, although I suppose people had higher priorities at the time (i.e. survival). Subsequently:

During the late [eighteen-]nineties this cemetery was discovered by Capt. J.F. Shipp and it’s history disclosed. It’s condition reported to the N.B. Forrest Camp U.C.V., the ground purchased and substantial wire fence enclosure was erected by camp comrade J.W. Willingham, chairman during 1926-27. The following committee was appointed by the camp. Solicited and received contributions from generous citizens of Chattanooga, and a permanent rock wall was erected around the premises. 

A view of said wall as you approach.

The main gate…

…which is adorned with the seal of the Confederate States of America, featuring George Washington, that Southern planter, slaveholder, and leader of a previously successful secessionist revolt. 

The main memorial.

Some soldiers have been identified and listed.

A few others have their own gravestones. Note that while Confederate veterans were not declared U.S. veterans (contrary to a popular belief), Confederate veterans are entitled to a grave marker courtesy of the U.S. government, thus does this one match the standard font and layout, but is decorated with a CSA emblem

The flag flying in the cemetery is one that you don’t see much. Usually when the stars and bars is flown, it’s the original seven-star variant. This one, however, shows thirteen stars, for the number of states claimed by the Confederacy by 1862. (Plus, Tennessee wasn’t one of the original seven states of the CSA, so it makes sense that this one should fly here.)

Otherwise, the cemetery is largely devoid of monuments…

…except for this one, for something I had never heard of before. The text reads:

The Order of the Southern Cross was founded at Gray’s Mill on August 28, 1863, following initial meetings at Tyner’s Station, to foster Brotherhood and Patriotic Sentiment within the Confederate Army of Tennessee. As part of this aim, a charity fund to aid soldiers’ widows and orphans was established. The principal founders included Maj. General Patrick Cleburn, Lt. General Leonidas Polk and Chaplain Charles Quintard. Today the OSC continues to preserve Southern Heritage through financial grants for historical and educational projects. This monument was dedicated in 2014 in honor of the 150th anniversary of its founding.

Note the appearance of Polk’s flag on the OSC emblem. The cemetery is not maintained by the OSC, though, but by the Chattanooga Area Relic and Historical Association, and kudos to them for doing so. (I should think that Confederate cemeteries ought to remain uncontroversial.) 

The references to Braxton Bragg bring to mind the controversy over renaming Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division. According to Wikipedia, Bragg:

is generally considered among the worst generals of the Civil War. Most of the battles in which he engaged ended in defeat. Bragg was extremely unpopular with both the men and the officers of his command, who criticized him for numerous perceived faults, including poor battlefield strategy, a quick temper, and overzealous discipline. 

It sounds to me as if support for renaming Fort Bragg should be very widespread indeed, even among those who are inclined to think well of the Confederacy!

Flag of Mississippi

News of the Times: Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann says: 

I, like the majority of Mississippians, am open to changing our current flag.

In my mind, our flag should bear the Seal of the Great State of Mississippi and state “In God We Trust.”  I am open to bringing all citizens together to determine a banner for our future.

An illustration accompanying the article shows what such a flag might look like:

Mississippi Business Journal.

But we feel compelled to state that this is not a good design! A seal does not make for a good flag. This isn’t quite a SOAB (“seal on a bedsheet”), as so many state flags are – Mr. Hosemann has retained the tricolor background of the current Mississippi flag (although note that Missouri also has such a flag). But a seal is detailed and intricate and belongs on official documents or on the wall behind the governor as he takes questions from reporters, not on a flag, which should be “so simple that a child can draw it from memory.” On that front, the Stennis flag has this flag beaten hands down.

UPDATE (7/22): This is in fact Mississippi’s Bicentennial Flag, used in the celebrations in 2017 and in some instances as a de facto placeholder with the retirement of the most recent Mississippi flag on June 30. 

Wikipedia.

Apparently the Stennis Flag now has an official status as Mississippi’s “hospitality flag,” and you can get it on a license plate. I reckon that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes Mississippi’s official state flag.

Wikipedia.

I still prefer the Magnolia flag as a design, although it’s probably too Confederate for current taste. It is a version of Mississippi’s secession flag, and was used by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the nineteenth century. (Georgia might have been able to adopt a version of the first national flag of the CSA in 2003, but I doubt that such a thing could happen today.) 

Wikipedia.

It’s a shame that this flag lost a referendum in 2001. It retains the horizontal tricolor of the current flag, but eliminates the Confederate battle flag on the canton for an array of twenty stars (the large central one for Mississippi, the other nineteen for previously admitted states to the Union, as in the Stennis flag). 

Rainbow

One thing I like about the Pride flag is that it shows a properly stylized rainbow – the three primary colors red, yellow, and blue, and the three secondary colors orange, green, and purple, producing a flag with six horizontal stripes (preferable to vertical stripes since that’s the way a flag flies). 

Of course, the spectrum contains an infinitude of colors, but showing six of them is a logical and visually appealing abstraction. But didn’t we learn in school that there were seven? Doesn’t the mnemonic “Roy G. Biv” stand for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet? Where does this “Indigo” come from? Wikipedia informs us that:

Indigo was defined as a spectral color by Sir Isaac Newton when he divided up the optical spectrum, which has a continuum of wavelengths. He specifically named seven colors primarily to match the seven notes of a western major scale, because he believed sound and light were physically similar, and also to link colors with the (known) planets, the days of the week, and other lists that had seven items. It is accordingly counted as one of the traditional colors of the rainbow.

Ah, Newton. One of the great geniuses of the previous millennium, but still not entirely a man of science as we now understand that term. The designation of “indigo” as a color of the rainbow simply to get to the number seven seems similar to a hypothetical situation in which we decided that five is a special number, and so imagined five cardinal directions – North, East, South-East, South, and West. 

But I wonder whether this seven-color Newtonian version – the product of a man who believed that the “Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect… and from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being,” as he says in the Principia – might not be a way to distinguish the rainbow for those who wish to “take it back” from the Gay Pride movement. It would certainly fit with the Christian idea that six is the number of “man” or “imperfection,” and seven the “totality of perfection” or “completeness.” So a seven-striped rainbow could be “Christian,” and a six-striped rainbow could be “gay.” 

In the meantime we do wish everyone a happy Pride Month!