Despite years of boycotts, schoolyard bans, and banishment from capitol domes, the Southern battle colors are flying, higher than ever.
Indeed, the Tampa Confederate Veterans Memorial and its 139-foot flagpole features one of at least four giant "soldier's flags" flying over bumper-to-bumper interstates in Florida and Alabama. With more planned in Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, and possibly South Carolina, the interstate show of force, experts say, highlights the potential backlash from banning nostalgic symbols from the public square. ...
... [T]here's some evidence that flag proponents have the wind at their back. An attempt last week to reenergize the flag boycott in South Carolina faltered at the NAACP, with one member concluding the effort had lost its steam. Moreover, the NCAA recently got flak from some newspapers for banning championship games in South Carolina and Mississippi, but not in Alabama, which also has Confederate regalia as part of its official symbols.
"A flag may be a simple piece of cloth, but it's much more powerful than that," says John Clark, a political science professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. "[And] if you start turning people away, you're talking about a substantial investment in the local economy that's going to disappear."
Still, it's not clear whether the flag is actually that sensitive a topic. The economic effect of NAACP and NCAA boycotts in South Carolina has been minimal, according to state officials.
More recently, a Florida newspaper poll revealed that few drivers found the Tampa flag offensive, which surprised many officials.