James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater Chronicles

The Simmering Topicality of the Confederate Flag Flap and the DIXIANA Series

Regular readers of the blog know of my status not only as a novelist, but that I present myself specifically as a South Carolina novelist, one writing about his time and place. Hell, my original author headshot includes a glimpse of the State House building, a shot taken only steps away from the Confederate monument now attracting so much attention.

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From this, I suppose it’s no great leap that my Southern, seriocomic literary series called DIXIANA sits not only complete, but replete with plot threads that resonate with the horrifying, and now horrifyingly political, South Carolina media explosion that’s still underway, and possibly escalating. Until now I’ve been reluctant to note this for fear of seeming opportunistic.

But you know, eh, why not. Maybe there’s a reason, etc.

Such as: maybe prior to this tragedy and subsequent hubub there weren’t that many people writing books about such issues as removing flag imagery or monuments to Confederate icons, and now there’ll be some heat. Or, maybe there were, but my material directly utilizes these conflicts as fodder to fuel dramatic narrative in a unique and (I hope) interesting manner, so here goes.

Take note of the topicality inherent in these elements:

—iconic downtown Tillman Falls honkytonk The Dixiana features a large mural on its side depicting the long-retired, original team mascot of the (fictional) Southeastern Redtails college sports program, a rooster named ‘General Reb’ who wears a gray uniform and marches waving a Confederate battle flag. Supporters of keeping the mural as is, including The Dixiana’s owner, square off with others who want it gone or at least altered, including Roy Earl Pettus, the grandson who will inherit the bar and deal with the controversy

—political forces gather to push for a referendum on changing the name of the town from ‘Tillman Falls,’ changed a hundred years ago from Breeleyville to honor old Pitchfork Ben Tillman

—at two different points in book two, the action culminates in inappropriate and over-the-top police responses to public threat situations (relevant to the Walter Scott incident in North Charleston, as well as Ferguson and Baltimore).

—in general, the overall story of the three novels often finds itself dealing with iconic symbols (like the Confederate flag) and their various meanings and uses: sometimes banal, sometimes powerful, even magical. The General Reb mural, for instance, has less to do with a racial or class statement than the great superstitious meaning it holds for the adherents of the sports teams.

Needless to say, watching all the current strife unfold has been compelling. I find it fascinating that this huge project of mine that culminated only a couple of months ago has presaged the world attention focused on that flag monument sitting only three miles from where I’m typing this post.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIE350uM8E8&w=560&h=315]

 

I often drive by that flag, and have protested its placement on the grounds, both recently and when the naval jack still flew from the dome alongside the state and national flags. Unfortunately, heritage-not-hate crowd, but the rebel flag has transcended any semblance of value as either history or kitsch to instead occupy a position as a hurtful symbol to more people now than who ever revered it. As my protagonist says of his grandfather’s mural, which others argue belongs to the whole town and should stay, sorry, but it’s time to go.

In any case, with all this attention, readers following my authorial saga may rest assured that I’ll spend July preparing a round of submissions for DIXIANA highlighting these famously hot plot elements. Can anyone blame me?

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest novel Let the Glory Pass Away releases in January 2017.

5 Replies

  1. Ric Matney

    Back around the year 2000, I wrote a letter to the editor of The State newspaper explaining how to best resolve the confederate flag dilemma. The solution ~ add a star to our South Carolina state flag. Adding a star would accomplish two things:
    First, It would allow us to continue to honor the soldiers who fought with their lives in the Confederate War.
    Second, it would allow the Confederate flag to be honorably removed from the State House grounds.
    The history of our state flag is a reminder of a previous war. The state flags blue color comes the Revolutionary War uniform. The flags crescent comes from the uniforms cap. And the silver palmetto tree was added in honor of the victory over the Battle of Fort Moultrie. By adding a star to our SC state flag, neither side has to lose.

    Thank you for your time,

    Ric Matney

    1. Ric Matney

      C:UsersR_MatneyPicturesstate-flag-south-carolina.jpg

  2. thorshammer12

    Ol’ Pitchfork Ben was anything if not subtle. Being my favorite novelist I commend you for the foresight of addressing this Confederate flag controversy but it still begs the question, WTF does this venerable symbol of our past have to do with some nutbag from Eastover engaging in acts of terrorism. Face it people he was WEARING flags representing pre-apartheid SA and, now defunct, Rhodesia.

    Keep on swinging for the fences!
    Mjilnor

  3. thorshammer12

    Sorry for the error in line 1 of my previous comment: substitute “but” for “if not”.

    Mjilnir

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