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Victimizing others by displaying something offensive doesn't make you a patriot

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

History is littered with human atrocities and American history certainly doesn’t defy the same classification. The land we call home is stolen land. The cities we reside in were built on the backs of slaves and the food we eat is grown and harvested by migrant workers. That is, the food that isn’t concocted in a laboratory. Ignoring the facts of history and current events doesn’t make you more American. It makes you part of the problem.
Slavery in America was brutal. Slaves were starved, forced to live in deplorable conditions and worked literally to death. Families were often broken up with each individual being sold to the highest bidder often never to be reunited with their loved ones again. Slaves were beaten and lashed with whips. The girls and women were often raped and then forced to give birth to children fathered by their rapist – sometimes only to be killed by the slave owner in an effort to protect their reputation.
If you’re not of African American descent, you haven’t the right to tell someone how he or she should feel about slavery or modern day treatment of black people in America. Of course, as an American, you have the legal right. But as a member of the human race you haven’t the moral right. I’d even venture to say that if you consider yourself a religious person, you have even less moral right considering nearly every religion in existence preaches love for your fellow man. We are unable to change the color of our skin and therefore can never know what it’s like to be a member of a different race.
I’ll never understand people that put something out there in an effort to hurt innocent people, which is why I was repulsed by the rebel flag hanging in front of the main stage at the Sunflower Festival in downtown Mountain City. Previously I had considered the Sunflower Festival to be a quaint small town festival eager to welcome everyone to enjoy a day of blooming onions and bluegrass. However, amidst “Impeach Obama” stickers, a display with the gestational phases of a fetus and the rebel flag, I began to wonder when it became a political rally.
Each year, our neighbors in Damascus host the Trail Days festival in an effort to welcome Appalachian Trail hikers from throughout the world. The festival has grown so much over the years it’s nearly outgrown its venue. I’ve attended Trail Days every year for several years and I have yet to see any politically motivated displays. Instead I see a community joining together to celebrate the beauty of their small town and its people. Perhaps it is Damascus that should be referred to as a “Friendly Hometown” because many certainly didn’t feel the love at this years Sunflower Festival.
As an American, I am thankful for my freedoms, such as the freedom to write this column. I also respect the freedoms of others even if I don’t agree with them. However, when someone chooses to use their hard won freedoms as a means of victimizing others, I have to question who the true patriot is. Is it those out there working to make this country a better place by fighting for equality? Or it is those who use their freedoms to mock the efforts of their fellow man?