One of my first crushes was Bo Duke. At 4 and 5 years old, my little heart throbbed over Elvis Presley, Superman (the Christopher Reeve version) and John Schneider. For seven seasons, Schneider's portrayal of Bo Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard sent me into an apoplectic arrhythmia every week. Yes, looking back on it now, I can see that the show was just plain goofy. Boss Hogg barely kept his questionably legal shit together, and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane was dumber than Barney Fife in a physics class. Flash, his ironic canine partner, did more actual policing that the entire Hazzard County Sheriff's Department ever managed on their best day.
But I also learned a thing or two from the Duke boys. Much like those long lost afterschool specials that only a child of the '80s can cop to recognizing, the Dukes of Hazzard always attempted to teach its viewers a life lesson at the end of every hour. What did I take away collectively from seven seasons of redneck hijinx and hillbilly pratfalls? NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
Uncle Jesse may have been an old redneck in overalls, but he was twice as shrewd as anyone running the county. Daisy Duke may have looked like "a ho'" in her — well... Daisy Dukes, but she had a heart of gold and the tightness of her clothes had no bearing on the fact that she was still "a good girl". And Bo and Luke Duke would give you the shirts off their very broad, well-toned backs.
When I was 5 years old, all I knew was that the General Lee was the coolest car on the planet — mostly because it was piloted by the one or the other of the Duke boys, but still... the fact that it was covered in a giant Confederate flag didn't teach me to be a bigot. It taught me that the Dukes were from the Deep South, and – somehow – the Confederacy was a part of that history.
Okay. Fine. Yes, I can hear you all screaming in my general direction that I am a good-for-nothing racist. Seriously. Dial down the shrill. There are bats hitting my house.
I am not advocating racism, discrimination or slavery. I am not saying that anything the Confederate flag represents is intrinsically "good". I am saying that this newly rabid mission that we are on to "ban" the image of the Confederate flag is pointless, and – ultimately – harmful.
If some really nasty shit goes down – like slavery – and time passes and slavery is outlawed and eventually any symbol or sign that it ever happened is erased from history... how is that gaping black hole in time going to continue to remind us of the mistakes that man is capable of making?
What if we eventually banned any record or historical remnant of the Holocaust? Not only is there an enormous lesson to be learned by every new generation who discovers that these kinds of atrocities can be committed man against man, but it's also terrifying in its disrespect. The dead should be remembered.
Absolutely, take that damn flag off of the South Carolina statehouse. Allowing it to remain in the air as a political symbol is definitely offensive. No one should have to live in a state – or a country – in which any kind of discrimination is still held as acceptable. But erasing the flag from history – or making pointless gestures like banning a cheesy '80s sitcom or a film epic like Gone with the Wind – is an obvious fart in the wind.
Besides, I identify with Scarlett O'Hara way too much. Fiddle-dee-dee, bring me an iced tea.
Stephanie Dolan is an award-winning freelance writer, blogger and novelist.