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February 20, 2001


What's In A Flag?

History, to paraphrase Katharine Hepburn's character in the movie African Queen, is what we are put in this world to rise above. It is dangerous for any group of people to forget their history, but perhaps even more dangerous to try continually to re-live it. George Santayana's often-quoted comment on history warns that any group that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it, and we are seeing a glimpse of that curse being played out across the south, including in Mobile. Santayana also described history as "a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there." He could have said that history is a lie we tell one another now to make us more comfortable about things that happened in the past. This is the type of history that the self-styled defenders of Southern History and Heritage proclaim is their motivation in their fanatical obsession with resisting any changes to the various state and city flags that include the Confederate "battle flag" in their designs. The recurrent furor over use and misuse of the U.S. flag in the last forty years has shown that flags are not just symbols, but talismanic objects in their own right, and like all powerful talismans, they must be handled with care. But even though they are more than symbols, their primary function is still to symbolize the shared experience and ideals of a group. It is telling that the groups who are so zealous in their adoration of the symbols of the Confederate States of America choose the battle flag, rather than one of the national flags of the sovereign Confederacy, as their preferred symbol. The battle flag represents only defiance and belligerence toward authority, not any ideal of southern culture or heritage. Alabamians are justly proud of many aspects of our culture and heritage, and justly ashamed of some other aspects, as any people are. Let us rise above the worst parts of our collective past and, without forgetting the lessons of history, cast aside the symbols of hate and divisiveness and cling to the symbols of our better nature. Let us grow up.

Life Forms by Dan Silver - Revisited

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Read more comics in the Life Forms Archive!

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

In the Mobile Beacon, a local Mobile, Alabama newspaper, dated 02/03/2001 there is a notice of Foreclosure Sale for a 60 Unit apartment Complex located in Saraland, Alabama. This property is the Saraland Apartments, 527 U.S. Hwy. 43 South (a Superfunded - yet to be cleaned up) site. The notice states that the apartments are to be sold on March 1, 2001 at 12:00 p.m. on the Mobile County Courthouse steps. Additionally, the sale information states: "Placed on the National Priorities List by the EPA. Although the contaminated material was cleaned up, all residents were relocated and the property closed".

The advertisement is that of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Other information states to contact Travis Parker Atlanta HUD MFPD Center at 404-33-5001 x2311 or

NEVER has such flagrant LIES been put before the citizens of this county! The USEPA Record of Decision, amended under citizen protest last year, addresses the issue of clean-up of that site and treatment of groundwater contamination. HUD is very aware of this "on-going process by the USEPA in its attempts to clean-up this site." HUD is also very aware of the existence of the contamination on the site. To publicly advertise this site otherwise is a mis-carriage of justice not to mention in all probabilities - illegal!

Since 1997 the apartment complex has been shut 4 years the USEPA has not been able to come up with a plan for cleanup undoubtedly, nor has ADEM monitored nor done their job to see to it that ground water is treated and the site as well as adjacent properties affected with the contamination from the site cleaned-up.

The Saraland Tenants for Relocation and NORTH GROUP, an environmental organization located in the county, will pursue any and all legal options available to them to stop the "government's" sale of this contaminated property under fall pretenses. ANY SALE is opposed until final cleanup is done on/off site by the responsible governmental agencies.

Coll'ette King
Saraland Tenants for Relocation/NORTH GROUP

Dear Editor,

Carla Binion's article in the 23 Jan 2001 issue began with this statement: "Protests were effective in the 1960s because the news media covered them." By the same reasoning, the Vietnam War was also effective, as was the Johnstown flood, the sinking of the Titanic, and one imagines, the Second Crusade. Perhaps the lady does not remember that what attracted the "news media" to the 60's protests was the distinctive smell of smoke.

But perhaps I am being unfair. It could be that the whole point of her article was that the meaning of the word "effective," when applied to civil protest, is satisfied if and only if the protest is widely reported in the media. But reading further, one gets the impression that her point is something altogether different. She appears to be castigating the media, not for reporting certain protests, but for not reporting them correctly or as fully as she thinks they should have. Of course, that's a matter of opinion and I respect hers (NOT). But in making her case, she brings to the argument a counter-productive example, that is, the failure of the pre-WW II media to adequately publicize German persecution of its Jewish population.

William Shirer and Arthur Koestler were both highly respected members of the Fourth Estate, one a reporter, the other an author of extremely popular books. These two men, and others, who made their views known, should, in the context of this discussion, be regarded, however, not as media persons, but as protestors. The problem for Ms. Binion's argument is that they were not protesting the Holocaust. Rather they were protesting Hitler's anti-Semitism and the pogrom-like violence it spawned. The Holocaust was not your standard pogrom. It was a crime of such outrageous proportion that, even when incontrovertible evidence was made known, it still seemed unbelievable. Kristallnacht, on the other hand, was a government sponsored pogrom pure and simple, and as Ms. Binion reported, was widely covered by newspapers both in this country and abroad. The fact that the newspapers were mistaken about the identity of the forces behind Kristallnacht is really not the point unless Ms. Binion's point is exactly that the media purposefully published misleading information. But if that is her point, then the meaning of the first sentence of her article is completely lost. What difference would it make that this or that protest received widespread media attention if the media is nothing but a bunch of liars to begin with? And what difference would it make that they had not fully reported facts if their intent was exactly NOT to report facts? The answers are obvious: no difference at all. But if Ms. Binion is doing nothing other than belching another paranoiac broadside at the media, she joins the illustrious ranks Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, and other crazies whose entire world view will collapse unless everyone else in the world is either a loony or a liar.

Ah, well, and then I get to the bottom of the article and see that this is a reprint. So obviously, you folks felt highly enough of the lady's logic to give it space. Okay. I just hope this article is not the one that drove "Mobile, Then and Now" out of this issue.

Have a nice day.
Frank Dixon


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