Since 1978, when filming started for " The Dukes of Hazzard" television series, Warner Bros. Television and its licensees have earned hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars from the ongoing success and enduring popularity of this old fashioned family show. The show's timeless look and charm continues to find a new audience as youngsters discover the show's good clean fun and their parents appreciate the wholesome values the show espouses. The good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance, nobody gets hurt, and a good time is had by all. And by "all," I mean "all," regardless of race, color, religion, or ethnicity. Hazzard County is a "hate-free" zone.
Now, more than 33 years since the show premiered on CBS-TV on Friday nights, Warner Bros. has issued a new and terribly insulting attack on the South, a region and a culture which Hollywood has trashed for decades.
"With stupidity," said Friedrich Schiller, "the Gods themselves struggle in vain." He must have been talking about the decision makers at WB. In a fit of political correctness, the company has dictated that no longer will the "General Lee" have a Confederate Flag on its roof. (For the culturally deprived, the "General Lee" is a 1969 Dodge Charger, perhaps the most popular car in the history of entertainment.) Some unnamed genius at the company feels that the flag is "offensive to some" and therefore it has no business on a classic t.v. comedy about a bunch of good ol' boys and girls in the Southern mountains. This is a new level of "P.C." idiocy. I don't know about you, but I am tired of being insulted by morons.
Now, here is "the flaw in that slaw", as Rosco P. Coltrane used to say. First of all, because of seven seasons on prime-time and through countless reruns, syndication, hit cable runs, VHS sets, video games, reunion movies, a feature film, tivo, international viewings, youtube, websites, and a very popular DVD series, the General is always going to have a flag on its top. Tens of millions of earthlings have seen it repeatedly for decades. And when it isn't there, the obvious question will be "where is it?," followed by, "that's not the General!"
Secondly, the presumption that the show's millions of minority viewers are put off by the flag belies the fact that African Americans, especially in the South, watched (and still watch) the show faithfully. As a producer of Dukes fan events, I can assure you that this is so.
Thirdly, the timing of this announcement is mind boggling. We are now in the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the American Civil War. It is a time for reflection and reassessment, and I have seen descendants of both sides of that struggle reverently honor the effort and sacrifice of both armies. To insult the lasting symbol of the Southern soldier is itself a divisive and, well, bigoted act. This is not "offensive to some." It is "offensive to many," myself included.
I made a decision when I was a kid that I "would live and die in Dixie" and do what I could to end segregation, discrimination, and "white supremacy." In that effort, I was shot at, sucker punched, threatened repeatedly, and jailed several times. But, just like in " The Dukes of Hazzard," the good guys won. Dr. King was a proud Southerner, and he believed that the most important bridge to be built was between working black folks and the working white folks who opposed them. That South is slowly evolving, but it won't fully become reality as long as corporate types, caving to political pressure, gratuitously insult the descendants of the Confederacy, who are as patriotic as Americans can be.
Symbols have different meanings for different people at different times. Whenever a group of organized bigots get together, mostly up North, they always seem to desecrate the Confederate St. Andrews Cross, the Christian Cross, and Old Glory. They are a pitiful handful of life's losers, who seem, however, to attract every network camera within miles. Those creeps even give bed sheets a bad name. And as a proud Member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I am not going to let their actions destroy the reputation of my ancestors. And for the record, I am also an Honorary Life Member of the N.A.A.C.P.
Ben Jones is a former two term Democratic Congressman from Georgia. An actor, singer, and writer, he played the garage mechanic "Cooter" on the "The Dukes of Hazzard." He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his wife Alma.
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