I hear in my mind a child’s question: “But, Daddy, why do they call it Six Flags? There’s only one.”
Although it originally had a pseudo-historical theme with distinct theme areas focusing on the architecture and successive eras and “flavors” of Texas history, today Six Flags Over Texas is all about the thrills.
I can’t shake the feeling that we are all players in a theater of the absurd.
Early Friday morning, reversing a commitment issued just one day earlier to “make no changes,” Six Flags Over Texas removed the Confederate flag from its marquee and from its flag poles. No, actually, the amusement parks removed all but one flag from the display at its two Texas locations and at Six Flags Over Georgia.
Henceforth six identical flags will fly – all the Stars and Stripes. Gone are the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the Confederate States of America, all of which flew over the land of Texas during its history, becoming the inspiration for the name.
The reason given? “We always choose to focus on celebrating the things that unite us versus those that divide us,” according to Six Flags spokeswoman Sharon Parker.
But What About the History?
Six Flags had long flown the lesser known “Stars and Bars,” the first official flag of the Confederacy, rather than the more incendiary and more familiar battle flag that features star-studded crossed blue ribbons on a red ground.
Also, to be fair, Six Flags operates 20 parks in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and only three actually flew the various flags, the original park in Arlington, Texas, one in San Antonio, and the park near Atlanta. Six Flags Over Georgia followed Texas’s lead several years ago, and renamed “The Confederacy” section of the park “Peachtree Square,” while in the Lone Star State it became “The Old South.” No matter that they forgot the history behind the flag.
Apparently, the events in Charlottesville a week ago were just too worrisome for park management to continue the old ways. There is no kind way to express current actions.
From Amusements to Reality
It is with dismay and an ever-growing sense of disbelief that I watch the news continue to unfold. Recommendations have been made in many communities to remove, warehouse or destroy Confederate monuments. There are calls to rename schools and public buildings, streets and parks. In Dallas, a “peaceful demonstration” held Saturday evening turned “heated,” according to news reports, but thanks heavens it did not turn violent; a prolonged study period has begun to decide the fate of the city’s statues and buildings that bear the names of Southern leaders.
Last week’s middle-of-the-night removal of statues from their pedestals in Baltimore, while the city’s mayor stood and watched, was a bit bizarre, don’t you think? The directive so quickly passed to “remove and destroy” the monuments is reminiscent of another time, when the Vichy government sacrificed French monuments to appease Nazi occupiers. That decision ultimately did not work out so well for France. And other cities, apparently, are considering “off hours” alterations to the public landscape.
Yes, These Are Unusual Times
At this point, few, if any, Americans have a good sense of where it will all lead.
Actually, there are times when I think that no one – on either side – has much good sense! But, it’s hard to believe that removing some statues is going to end the discord.
It’s sad to think that the best course of action is simply to take a seat and watch to see how the drama unfolds. This time it’s Confederate monuments and flags. What monuments next? What other flags and symbols will disappear? How long before there is no history to remember, no longer any history to teach, and certainly no way to learn the lessons that history can teach us all – about how to talk to one another, and about what’s really important as we interact with one another.
Just how should we answer that imaginary child’s question? I’ll leave that to wiser minds than mine. I don’t find it amusing, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun!
Maybe we can just call it “Flags Over Texas.” Or, The Great Texas Fun Park!
Photo by Ann W./Flickr/ April 2010