In other states, overzealous news organizations scour old college yearbooks in search of evidence of Confederacy-approving behavior by contemporary politicians.
In Arkansas, all you had to do Wednesday was walk into the great white citadel known as the state Capitol.
In a first-floor room during a meeting of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, the South was winning the Civil War.
In a vote of 8-to-5 with six members in the bathroom or otherwise unable or unwilling or afraid to vote, the committee endorsed the state's honoring of the enslavement of black people.
It did so by voting down Rep. Charles Blake's simple bill to change the law declaring what is honored by the one star above the word "Arkansas" on the state flag.
By a 1924 law, thus of a time in Arkansas known for Jim Crow laws and massacre of black people, that star honors the Confederacy.
Blake's bill would have left the flag alone but changed that law. He would have provided that the aforementioned star no longer honored the Confederate secession and war, thus the cause of preserving human bondage.
He proposed to honor instead the native tribes living in Arkansas long before the Europeans came through to claim Caucasian domain.
The eight votes, all cast by white Republicans, which is to say white Confederates, were against this bill. The five votes, cast by four Democrats and a lone Confederate defector, were for it.
The six non-voters, AWOL Confederates, apparently were challenged by bladder or nerve. Perhaps they were scared by a couple of tough-looking Confederate sons seated with disapproving visages directly behind Blake, the sponsor.
It was a day for symbols like that.
"What's next?" asked state Rep. Bruce Cozart of Hot Springs, meaning after we stopped saying officially by law that our state flag honored slavery.
I don't know. Maybe a black woman on the committee, Democratic Rep. Jamie Scott, wouldn't be crying.
Can you imagine? You're sitting there, a lone black female surrounded by gray-suited Johnny Rebs who are insisting they still be allowed to celebrate the enslavement of people because their pigmentation was yours.
I applaud Scott for merely shedding a tear. I might have screamed. I'd have wanted to dump water on somebody's bald Rebel head.
But that would have been unbecoming of a legislative body, even this 19th century one.
Blake, by the way, is African American and a close friend and ally of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott. He is of that "unity" message of advancement that prevailed in Scott's recent campaign. As such, Blake explained that he was seeking only to move the state forward together.
He even went so far as to say that redefining a star added by a 1924 law wasn't so much dishonoring the Confederacy--as if there's anything wrong with that--but dishonoring the KKK-raging era during which the star's meaning was defined.
Never mind his restraint. A neo-Confederate witness prevailed by arguing to the committee that the bill was part of a conspiracy to remove all historic mention of what he called the war for Southern independence.
Some other guy testified to grumble that we only separated Robert E. Lee's birthday from Dr. Martin Luther King's so that Gov. Asa Hutchinson could make a play for black votes.
State Rep. Nicole Clowney of Fayetteville, a freshman Democrat inflicted with post-graduate indoctrination by a revisionist Yankee college, and who has taught foreign stuff like Latin at the University of Arkansas, sought at once to comfort the emotional Scott and explain that you don't erase history by declining to honor it.
She explained that we must ever remember and study the Civil War, even as we try to move past treating it as a current event.
In his closing argument for his bill, Blake said the point was that Arkansas could be better.
But it couldn't.
These were the eight Confederates voting to continue the state's symbolic honoring of a war that sought to preserve enslavement of black people: Cozart and Reps. Douglas House of North Little Rock, Josh Miller of Heber Springs, Justin Gonzales of Okolona, John Payton of Wilburn, Jack Ladyman and Brandt Smith of Jonesboro, and Gayla McKenzie of Gravette.
The six AWOL Johnny Rebs whose failure to vote was as good as a "no" were Jim Dotson of Bentonville, Richard Womack of Arkadelphia, Andy Davis of Little Rock, Les Warren of Hot Springs, Jon Eubanks of Paris and Chris Penzo of Springdale.
Those voting to disassociate the star from slavery were the tearful Scott and the uppity Clowney along with Reps. Megan Godfrey of Springdale and Andrew Collins of Little Rock, and--imagine this--one Republican providing the exception to prove the rule. That was Jimmy Gazaway of Paragould.
No information was available at press time on whether Gazaway will face court-martial proceedings in the Confederate Caucus.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 03/03/2019
Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: The South rose again