Grab a snack or perhaps a refreshing drink. Because I’m about to have some things to say here…
Anderson is tiny. We’re talking Paint Rock tiny. It’s possible that Anderson is tinier than Paint Rock, but only one of these has become synonymous with the very concept of a tiny town in my mind (a blacksmith, indeed). There were a few monuments, mostly devoted to the Grimes County namesakes, but (quite unexpectedly) nothing relating to the Confederacy. I thought that was actually quite refreshing, especially in this small town in East Texas. I took my photos and then headed off to get a cache. Someone was nice enough to place one quite near the courthouse called Thirteen Stars. So I walked over to the end of the square to get it.
Are you kidding me? REALLY?!?! This is what we’re doing today? So when I read “Thirteen Stars,” my first thought was about the Revolution. It never occurred to me (because I never read the description of the cache) that they were talking about an actual Confederate Battle Flag. So here’s the thing… I think one of the reasons a lot of black people don’t geocache is because, if you take out urban caching and leave rural ones or add a substantial travel component, leaving the safety of cities is not the most ideal thing. In cities you have the social connection of the black community or the shelter of the law to come to your aid if something goes wrong. But out in the middle of nowhere? Anything can happen, and even though most of it isn’t bad, when it does go bad, it’s really, really bad. Places like this make us think it’s more likely that that really, really bad thing could happen. Stuff like this doesn’t help Geocaching’s cause. It’s not even Groundspeak’s fault. But caches like this sure make people who look like me seriously consider whether or not we want to get involved with it. I, however, will be darned to heck (excuse my language. There might be children reading) if I let someone tell me what I can’t do and where I can’t go. So I hurl myself into the night to go to far off counties. And for the same reason, I went up the steps and into this park.
The obvious place was the mailbox sitting right there in the middle. It wasn’t there. That was just a place for people to drop off applications to join the Sons of the Confederacy, who (as you can see from the background of the photo) maintain this place. And yes, there was an application in there waiting to be picked up. I walked around the entire “park” in case there was an obvious box or similar there. Nope. Finally I went back to where the GZ was near the mailbox and realized immediately where it was. The flagpole skirt…under the Stars and Bars…
If I was to say that it’s a symbol of hate so powerful and well known that German skinheads and fascists, being unable to use the swastika because it’s outlawed in Germany, use it to substitute for the flag they can’t use, or that there is a marked and well known and documented connection between American hate groups and southern and confederate symbology, especially the Battle Flag, a lot of people who are probably unaffiliated with hate or hate groups would turn to me and say “It’s not about hate, it’s about heritage.” I’d end up with two groups of people yelling at me: the heritage people and the hate people. Well, guess what? I know it’s about heritage. It’s my heritage, too. The difference is that my background with it resulted in a completely different meaning and outcome. It’s my heritage, too. And it’s a really, crappy heritage. So when somebody starts flashing it around and saying “It’s heritage,” I assume that they really don’t care about my history with it. Maybe they’re not racist. Maybe they don’t hate black people or want to return us to a legally second class position (I don’t say “citizens” because I get the feeling anybody who would make us second class anything would surely, retroactively undo the 14th Amendment if they could). But they sure are talking like and backing up the people who do. Somebody raises and lowers that flag. They’re not extreme and acid spitting. They’re moderate, thoughtful people. The problem is that, as has been pointed out far more expressively, the “moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice” is just as much of the problem. It makes me think that maybe some of my fellow cachers, ones who log about how this cache “helps everyone UNDERSTAND HISTORY” or “give thanks for [their] history” might be part of the problem. As if I don’t understand or should give thanks, just like everyone”[g]lad [they] found this before the PC crowd obliterates all history.”
I don’t think a lot of people are racist. I do, however, think a lot of people are selfish and would rather defend themselves than fight for “others.” If you really want me and people like me to believe the “heritage” argument, next time it all comes up, don’t turn to me and say “It’s not about hate, it’s about heritage.” As I said before, I know all about that heritage. Instead, turn to the extremist, the skinhead, the racist, and say “It’s about heritage, not about hate.” And be prepared for the possibility that you might have to say it to someone who you may know very, very well.
All these things went through my mind in the blink of an eye as I lifted that skirt. I grabbed it, signed it, and returned it under the Stars and Bars. This isn’t a great cache if you want more people like me in this. If this had been one of my first, I don’t know that I would have kept going. I also realize that I’m starting to get into East Texas over here and things like this are going to become more and more common. Not just general “Hey the Confederacy was a thing” type monuments, but places where the Sons and Daughters of Dixie take it far more seriously. Thanks a lot for making me grab a cache under the Stars and Bars. And replace “Thanks” with the expletive combination of your choice.
Never intending to ever return to Grimes County, I got in the car and thought. I was running well ahead on time. If I hit my next planned stop, I would be done and still have quite a bit of daylight left. I weighed my options and decided to call an audible. I headed on to a county I had neither planned nor prepared for. I started rolling and I arrived unprepared in…