Georgia on my Mind

by Jonah Begone

Did you catch the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics? The publicists threatened something with a "Southern theme," and they did come up with something. However, Southern it was not. Ridiculous it was.

I will ignore Bill Clinton, the embarrassing drummers, circling pickup trucks ("...of special meaning to those in the South" - can you imagine dancing watermelons at an NAACP celebration?) and the poor children dressed like albino Michelin Men at the very beginning (sure looked like group child abuse to me), and proceed to that which concerns us: the Southern pageant.

"The Spirit of the South" was characterized by something that looked like an anthropomorphic magnolia blossom wafting around. A dramatic change in the music and lighting indicated something big, which could only be what was described as "a period of struggle." It was apparent the guy doing the voice over didn't really want to talk about it, but he finally admitted to it being emblematic of the Civil War (a.k.a. "The War Between the States"). Whatever you prefer to call it, the war was represented by that Southern icon, a Thunderbird. Educated people will associate this bird with the American Southwest, but never mind. Since when is symbolism important when the primary goal is to not insult anyone's sensitive feelings?

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but in the musical depiction of the South, "Dixie" was side-stepped entirely. Oh, sure, there was a river boat (conspicuously not marked "Robert E. Lee"), and huge female figures in hoop skirts, but no "Dixie."

I understand much has been made of the fact that the Olympic committee has banned the display of Confederate battle flags at the event. I wouldn't be too insulted about this if I were you. What was on display Friday night had more to do with entertaining visiting foreigners with Southern Lite and the almighty greenback than Southern heritage. Under those circumstances it's probably better that the Reb battle flags were spared this and flown where people know and respect them: at reenactments by reenactors.

Obviously, Jonah Begone is no Southern partisan. (After all, I've reenacted a Union private for 13 years and, what's more, my forebears were natives of the frozen North.) While my ancestors might roll in their graves, I have to write it: Remember that "Olympic moment" when a black athlete raised his fist in the Afro salute and shocked a nation? I would be delighted to see an American gold medalist pull out a little Reb battle flag and waft it about during the playing of the National Anthem in defiance of the Olympic committee and the politically correct. Now that would be an "Olympic moment!"