Here I am, once again, pondering. I’ve been down this road many times before, with regard to the Confederate Flag. Last time, it had to do with a lake trip, and my ex-girlfriend’s dad’s “lake friends.” They refer to themselves as “Buoy 13.” Among their ilk were many a redneck, and one in particular flew a Confederate Flag from his fifth wheel. The first time I saw it, the damned thing bothered me. I told my girlfriend, and her mother. I got VERY agitated, but girlfriend’s mom (a Native American from South Dakota of all places) told me to keep quiet, that I would upset my girlfriend’s dad if I made any sort of a fuss.
The damned thing pissed me off. I said something about cutting the flag down later that night, and slammed a twelve-inch buck knife down on the camping table. I then decided to make a silent statement; I went inside the tent, grabbed my Brown Beret, went outside the tent and sat in a chair. Everyone saw me wearing my Beret, and tensions rose. I said nothing.
My girlfriend then decided we leave the lake early, and we began packing up. Later, in town my girlfriend’s thirteen year old nephew told me …”those guys at the lake said you’re like a Nazi, and that I should stay away from you…” I was taken aback. First of all, the self-proclaimed rednecks never once confronted me, or told me anything about my Beret. Secondly, I was surprised they would know anything about why I was wearing a Brown Beret. They were obviously filling her nephew’s head with lies.
The next time we went to the lake, I premptively asked my girlfriend if those Confederate Flag guys would be there. She said she didn’t know. We ventured off to the lake that weekend. The Confederate Flag guys showed up that night at our camp. They were nice, jovial, etc. They shared a big bottle of Crown. The next morning, a bunch of us left the camp on our boats to check out a cave. Again, this was fun and lighthearted. But when we returned to the camp, someone who had stayed behind was once again flying that fucking flag. Again, I was furious, and again we left early.
The issue caused a lot of fights with my girlfriend, who was half Chicana and half Native. She was raised in the heights, around mostly white people – who were mostly self-proclaimed rednecks.
The issue of the flag later came to a head at another party, in the East Mountains (East of Albuquerque). That night was a full October moon, and I was nervous. The moon always does things to me. I again asked my girlfriend if the Confederate Flag brothers who had the fifth-wheel were going to show up. And yet again my girlfriend told me she didn’t know. We went to the kegger. Later that night, the Confederate Flag brothers DID show up in their fifth-wheel. They didn’t put the flag up, likely because it was dark and late.
I still approached one of them calmly, and told him, “I just wanted to tell you, I saw you flying that Confederate Flag at the lake, and I wanted to let you know I took offense to it.”
His eyes got big. He said, “That wasn’t me, that was my brother, Ian. I’m not racist, I’m a quarter Spanish…” blah, blah, blah. We had a frank, civil, amicable conversation, but others at the party overheard and started butting in. I blurted something out about the Irish being wetbacks too, since they crossed a whole ocean to get here when a young lady said, “Hey! My boyfriend is Irish and I take offense to that!” Then my girlfriend called her a bitch and told her to shut her mouth. Apparently there was an underlying beef between my girlfriend and some other girls at the party. One of the girls took a swing at my girlfriend, and she swung back, landing every punch.
Soon after a brawl broke out, and spread like fire. People were swinging at each other left-and-right. I pushed the crowd away from us, and got us out of the crowd, somehow managing to duck every stray and deliberate punch.
Some months later, we went to a shit kicker bar in Albuquerque called the Dirty Bourbon. It’s actually not any real cowboy bar by my standards. I grew up in the country. This was more like an urban cowboy bar. I hated the place. Some people from the kegger crowd were in good with the bouncers, and told them I hit a girl with brass knuckles at the kegger in Moriarty, and that I was a dangerous person. I was 86’d from the bar, though I had done nothing. My girlfriend and I got in an argument because she wanted to stay. The argument escalated, to the point she yelled, “Where the fuck are your Brown Berets now?!!!”
This sort of thing led to the eventual breakup with my then girlfriend, and it was very sad because her two sons regarded me as a father figure to them. But I could no longer take her and her family’s apologetic attitudes about racism, bigotry and American Exceptionalism. I could no longer stand her dad’s incessant NASCAR watching, NFL, Reality TV, and all the bullshit they used to pull the wool over their eyes. I eventually ejected myself from the situation – harshly, and permanently.
So today I write this because it seems I have yet again confronted the Confederate Flag. A good friend of mine recently got a new boyfriend, and was over the moon with him. He seemed to treat her nicer than some of her passed boyfriends. My friend is a half Navajo, half Chicana, single mother, who lives at home with her parents and daughter. She doesn’t work, but goes to school, and up until recently has been a very good person to me. The whole time she’s known me, she’s known that I’m a Brown Beret. She has met my friends who are Brown Berets. She always thought it was cool that I was a Brown Beret.
I met her new boyfriend this passed weekend, at her birthday dinner. The dude was a creep – twelve years older than her, and kept sitting like he was trying to invoke James Dean, but he just came across as a creepy douche bag. Being what I am, and what I know I am pretty adept about identifying tattoos. I know gang affiliations and what jailhouse tattoos mean. My friend’s boyfriend had a scraggly jailhouse looking tattoo of a Confederate Flag on his forearm. He wasn’t trying to hide it, but I saw it immediately. I had some crude inscription above it. For the sake of my friend’s Birthday, I decided to say nothing that night.
The next night another friend and I met Birthday girl and her boyfriend at a house party. They had been drinking quite a bit, and so had the friend I accompanied, who started making conversation, and then asked the boyfriend about his tattoo. He got really uneasy, agitated and uncomfortable – almost defensive. I then blurted out, “That’s some racist-assed shit right there.” By this point I got a better look at his tattoo inscription. It had his name, and a number. Had to be KKK or some shit. He got even more defensive and began yelling. I began yelling back. I told him, “lets settle this outside! All tell you what, I’m gonna go take a leak, and when I get back, we’re gonna settle this!” I wasn’t gonna throw down with this huge urge to piss the whole time. How good could one feel about cleaning someone’s clock while wetting one’s own pants?
I got up and took the fastest leak I’d ever taken. When I got back, he and my friend were gone. Worse yet, they left her car behind, along with her cellphone. The rest of us were worried sick about her. He was a creep, and from his reaction we worried he’d pull some sick stuff on my friend. We waited all night, and she never returned. I was fixing to call her dad the next morning when I got a scathing, nasty text message from her accusing me of ruining her Birthday weekend. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I was worried about her.
Sadly, her and I are no longer friends. Nor should we be. I DON’T associate myself with “Confederate Apologists,” or people who downplay what the “Stars and Bars” mean. My former friend is a very dark complected, plump little girl with kinky hair, and there ain’t no chance in hell she’d be treated in the South with the same acceptance she gets in New Mexico.
As a Brown Beret I would be neglectful of my duties if I didn’t confront racism toe-to-toe. So many minorities (Chicanos in particular) in New Mexico have adopted this belief that they can get along fine with their bigoted, tongue-in-cheek racist counterparts if they simply turn a blind eye to the realities of racism. That is a sad and cowardly stance. And though I know that if I choose to “ignore” these little symbols of racism I too could be accepted among these types of people. But I would NEVER do that. I am forever congruent and in alignment with this cause to combat and confront racism, and to stomp it out wherever it exists around me.