Recently, the Chair of the Historical Commission followed up on questions and comments of concerns he received about flags in the Old Burial Ground. In the process, he apparently ruffled some feathers (again). Selectmen are scheduled to discuss the issues tomorrow night.
In the meantime, the Commission has issued a letter to selectmen asking them to consider replacing – and moving placements of – some flags. (It’s one of two letters the Commission issued to selectmen related to items on this Tuesday’s agenda. The second is on the South Union building.)*
Back in the 1990s, flags were added to the Old Burial Ground to honor veterans buried there. Each spring, veterans refresh them. (Looking at their condition prior to this weekend’s high winds, they definitely need replacing.)
The Historical Commission is asking the Town to replace two of the flags with ones more historically appropriate for our town that aren’t “politically charged”. In addition, they are asking the board to move poles that are “piercing” old grave sites.
According to Historical’s Chair Michael Weishan, the first issue stems from concerns over Revolutionary War era flags reported to have become associated with white supremacy and militia groups over time. Weishan noted that the residents who reached out to him asked not to be named. They didn’t want to be at the center of public controversy. He told fellow members, that he now understands why.
At their meeting on Thursday, Weishan recapped his investigation and communications around the issue.
Two of the flags flying in the historic cemetery are Virginia and South Carolina versions of the Gadsden Flags. (See image right.) His research found that they don’t represent flags that are historically associated with veterans buried in the historic cemetery. (In an interesting aside, he also shared that one resident commented that half the residents buried in the grounds were loyalists to Britain.)
Weishan told fellow Commissioners last week that the South Carolina flag’s problematic associations date back even further than the 60’s. Purportedly, before the Civil War it was became associated with the state’s call for secession from the Union. Weishan has since written in a post on the Southborough Historical Society’s website:
If this were South Carolina and these flags were actually part of Southborough history, it would be a different story. But we aren’t in South Carolina and these aren’t our banners (and thankfully not our history), and given that these symbols have taken on a very ominous meaning for some of our residents, there his no historically justifiable reason to provoke residents who feel strongly on this matter.
(You can read more about the flags’ history and associations in Weishan’s post.)
Further research by Weishan identified flags he asserted were more reflective of those that veterans from Southborough and the area would have served under. They included “the Continental Colors” first raised by General Washington in Cambridge. (See image left.)
Weishan said that following up on resident’s comments, he “very innocently” reached out to town veterans to get their feedback on the issue.
According to Weishan’s recap he asked Steve Whynot (Southborough’s VFW Commander) to pass on to veterans his email about the flag issues. He also used the opportunity to raise his concerns about the placement of the posts for the semi-circle of the smaller flags which he describes as “piercing” some unmarked grave sites.
In Historical’s meeting, Weishan explained that a number of gravestones were broken and lost in the 1930s. A ground-radar survey conducted prior to the Main Street reconstruction located their placements, some of which are under flag poles in the semi-circle. He also acknowledged that the poles don’t really go deep into the ground.
Apparently, Weishan’s message raised red flags with some veterans who contacted the Board of Selectmen. In turn, BOS Chair Marty Healey contacted to Weishan.
Weishan indicated to Commission members that he and Healey had a “very heated” exchange. Healey was purportedly upset that Weishan had contacted veterans rather than selectmen, and admonished him to “stay in his lane”. (Town properties, including the Old Burial Ground, are under selectmen’s purview.) Weishan recapped that he defended the Commission’s responsibility to investigate the issues raised to them. He said that he had intended to bring the issue to selectmen once the Commission had looked into the matter.
Commission members agreed with Weishan’s proposed recommendation, since the flags of concern also seem to be less historically accurate for those buried in the grounds than other options. They voted to ask selectmen to consider replacing them.
A message issued by Weishan on Friday included:
As we have already alerted you, the Historical Commission has received complaints about the choice of flags flying the Old Burial Ground. Particularly egregious to many are the two variants of the Gadsden flag, which was designed by a slave owning South Carolinian and has become linked to white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan. These associations are not new; many date back to the 1960s. . .
Last night, the SHC voted 6-0 to urge the BOS to undertake an immediate review of these flags, with an aim to:
1) moving the current semi-circle of flags out of the actual burial area to preserve the integrity of those buried beneath the poles. The current poles are actually piercing the unmarked graves below.
2) removing flags of the South Carolina and Virginia regiments that carry such negative associations to people of color, and replacing them with flags that actually represent the veterans buried there.
The Historical Commission has done considerable research as to which flags would be appropriate for the period and to the individual buried veterans involved, and would be happy to share that guidance with you if requested.
In Historical’s meeting last week, Weishan stated:
I think it’s very hard for us group of white faces to understand what it is to be a person of color in this country. And when people say there is a problem with an image, I’m inclined to listen, because images have power. I don’t always agree but I’m inclined to listen.
He followed that he hoped selectmen and town veterans would also listen.
On tomorrow night’s Board of Selectmen agenda, under the Chair’s report, Healey is scheduled to raise the issue “Cemetery/Old Burial Ground Issues: Veterans and Historical Commission Communications”.
If the discussion puts Weishan in selectmen’s crosshairs over his communication style, it won’t be the first time. In 2018, the Board chose not to reappoint Weishan to the Commission based their objections to some emails he sent community members related to issues around an historic home he was trying to prevent being demolished. After a two year absence that Weishan referred to on Thursday as his time “in the box”, he was reappointed last September.
*The Historical Commission also issued a second letter to the Board of Selectmen on Friday that may displease them. Following up on the board’s decision to issue an RFP for disposal of the South Union building, the Commission objected to their decision to include seeking bids that would not require historical preservation. You can read that letter here.
Updated (3/16/21 11:17 am): I learned of an online petition asking selectmen to replace the Gadsden Flags. As of this morning it had 50 signers.
Anyone told to “stay in his lane” by the BOS Chairman is likely raising difficult issues and not caving to the pressure of elected town officials. Michael, keep up the great work! Someone with your passion and knowledge should be MORE involved not less.
Cancel culture and virtue seekers (VS’ers) visit Southborough again. Maybe the Historical Commission could share the presentation on this board – the one that shows the men buried in the OBG did not serve under the Gadsden designed flag? From the little Web search it can found that Mr. Gadsden is from SC, he presented the flag to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and it was used beyond the SC and VA regiments. Of course this is from the Web; most certainly the Historical Commission has done more complete research.
I hope the Veterans put up a big stink on this. The VS’ers need to get a win somewhere in town……I guess. Struck out on re-naming the high school. Fairly sure no one found systemic racism in town. Changing a flag that has flown for years over the OBG should be strike three…….for now.
So, you have no research of your own that you point to for why the flag should remain. You have made no argument as to why you are invested in the flags’ inclusion in the Old Burial Ground.
Instead, you are encouraging veterans to put up a fuss simply for the purpose of offending people who are you are offended by because they are offended by symbols they see as racist?
If selectmen decide to keep the Gadsden Flags, I would hope it is based on a less offensive argument than yours.
Here you go Beth.
What is the point of your link? The Historical Commission already shared that the flags were used by the VA and SC regiments, but don’t appear to have been used in this area. I didn’t find anything in your linked article that showed any differently. Is there a section on that page that I missed?
“It became the first flag used by the sea-going soldiers who eventually would become the United States Marines.”
Beth I know you own the newspaper or a blog but reading through this you can see your slant in your comments. Cancel culture is a very real thing. You brought up Algonquin‘s name. Many many American Indians are sick and tired of the cancel culture is well. Yes there are radicals on both sides and there are some things that need to be canceled (kkk, BLM, ANTIFA, anti-white bias growing daily ) and the rebel flag. That flag should be offensive to everyone on the face of the earth. But the name of the high school or flag that was used in the war and is a real historical flag, your overstepping I think. You spoke to me once of this and now you’re acting out on your same premise for banning me. Be careful of overstepping and appearing to be a dictator ship. That’s the power structure we have in Washington this very day.
I don’t understand your comment, especially since I didn’t bring up Algonquin’s name – another commenter did. (As for cancel culture – conservatives love to call everything that liberals oppose as cancel culture. However, long before anyone starting using the word “cancel” conservatives had their own history of looking to cancel people, organizations, and things that upset them.)
I didn’t take a position on this flag issue. I only took issue with a commenter appearing to state that the flags at the center of the controversy should be kept simply to upset people who were upset. As I said in my comment, I hope that if selectmen choose to keep the flag it is for a better reason than that.
Actually “Frank”, I think racism has been found.
Frank, we actually have done the research and so far not a single Revolutionary War veteran from Southborough fought in the Southern theaters where this flag was used. Our veterans are limited to Lexington/Concord, Boston/Dorchester and New York. So regardless of whatever associations you ascribe or don’t to these flags today, they are simply inappropriate for Southborough. I will also remind you that a large portion of the people buried in the OBG were loyal subjects of the Crown their entire lives. Who speaks for these people? History needs to tell the whole story, not just the facile part. And BTW: the veterans are not a monolithic block and no small number have spoken up to say they support the move.
Mr Weishan – please post the research.
Oh I forgot, our veterans were in Vermont as well.
This flag was on the first ship of the US Navy (ok – Continental Navy at the time) on it’s first mission. This is not just an SC flag.
From the US Navy history page;
In early 1776 Commodore Esek Hopkins, the first and only commander in chief of the Continental Navy fleet, used a personal standard designed by Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina. This flag consisted of a yellow field with a coiled snake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” There is no doubt as to the authenticity of Hopkins’s personal standard, usually referred to as “the Gadsden flag.”
In response to the outrageous comments of the BOS chair at this evenings 3/16 meeting, I am releasing our follow-up email to Mr. Whynot. There was not threat, or conspiracy. The only thing wounded here was Mr. Healey’s pride for calling him out. For the record, I have detailed notes from my conversation with Mr. Whynot, as well as my “conversation” with Marty Healey. What Mr. Healey forgets is that I am a long time member of the press myself, and to quote an old movie “I shall continue to shout ‘tripe’ whenever tripe is served.” Obviously, my comments hit home. And as an aside, I was so dismayed by this evening’s hijacking of the truth by Mr. Healey that I am announcing my candidacy for the board of selectmen, and will pull papers tomorrow. For anyone who would like to see less of the old boy network in our politics, I am your man.
From: Michael Weishan
Date: March 10, 2021 at 1:00:51 PM EST
To: Steve Whynot
Thanks so much for taking my call, and agreeing to speak to the other Veterans about potentially moving and swapping out some of the flags. As I mentioned to you on the phone, the Historical Commission is in the process of working with the town to renovate and restore the Old Burial Ground, and recently several issues have come up.
The first, and most important in our minds, is that the current six small flags impale unmarked graves. The flags were installed before we had the site researched with ground radar, and we now know that this is an active burial site. We are looking at ways to mark some of these individual graves so that they are no longer in the public way, and it would be great to consider removing the six smaller flags to another area.
Secondly, as we discussed, several of the flags currently flying have been seized by white supremacists as their banners, and we have had a number of complaints that these flags should not be displayed on public land, as they have become offensive to people of color. Equally relevant, too, I think is that these flags don’t pertain to any burials associated with the graves in the Old Burial Ground, as they represent regiments of Southern colonies, namely South Carolina and Virginia. I might be worthwhile to do a little more research on the veterans buried in the OBD and represent instead the actual flags under which they served. One suggestion, in particular, is for the Continental Colors flag, detailed below. Another might be the personal flag of George Washington. Both would be great on the large flagpole, which, just to be clear, would be maintained where it is and given a fresh coat of paint.
As I mentioned I would love to work out a compromise here that would keep all parties, if not totally happy, at least satisfied that their voices were being heard—and in the process, make the banners better reflect the men who fought beneath them.
Get back to me when you can, and feel free to share this email with the other Veterans.
Michael Weishan, Chair
Southborough Historical Commission
Screen Shot 2021-03-10 at 12.59.36 PM.png
The Continental Colors Flag
Although unofficial, the is considered to be the first American flag. It was used from 1775-1777, preceding the Betsy Ross flag Betsy Ross flag and aiding in its design. The Continental Colors includes a field of 13 alternating red and white stripes with a British Union Jack in the canton.
Records show that Philadelphia seamstress Margaret Manny sewed the first Continental Colors for the Alfred, and in December of 1775, the flag was raised for the first time on any fighting vessel. A year later, the flag was considered the official flag of the American naval forces by the Maritime Committee of the Continental Congress.
On New Year’s Day in 1776, George Washington ordered the Continental Colors to be raised on Prospect Hill in Somerville, Massachusetts in celebration of the birth of the Continental Army. Although many flags protesting British rule were in existence at that time, including those with icons of snakes, pine trees and the word “liberty”, Washington choose to use the Continental Colors. It was hoisted on a 76 foot flagpole and could be seen all the way in Boston. Washington referred to the flag as the “Union Flag in Compliment to the United Colonies.” It was also known as the Grand Union flag, the Union flag, the Continental flag, the Somerville flag and the Great Union.
The flag’s designer is unknown, but it is speculated that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Lynch and Benjamin Harrison were responsible. They were appointed by Continental Congress to advise George Washington in creating the Continental Army in 1775. It is also possible that Washington himself or one of his staff members designed the flag.
On the other side of the world the East India Company had used a strikingly similar flag since 1701. The flag contained between nine and 13 red and white stripes with a red Cross of St. George on a white field in the canton. Most flag experts dismiss the similarity, calling it coincidence since there is no record that the East India Company flag flew in American waters and few colonists were familiar with it.
While the Continental Colors is symbolic, the exact meaning of its design is uncertain. It is generally believed that the stripes, like those of the Betsy Ross flag, represent the 13 colonies, while the Union Jack in the canton was meant to show colonial loyalty to the crown or to traditional British values and laws. Since the flag was supposed to express the colonies’ desire for independence from Britain, the use of the Union Jack seems slightly contradictory and would prove to be a mistake. When British troops noticed the Continental Colors in Boston, they interpreted the use of the Union Jack as a sign of surrender.
By June 14 1777, the Continental Colors was replaced by the first Stars and Stripes. The canton was changed from the British Union Jack to a blue field with thirteen white stars, representing a “new constellation” and America’s new found independence.
One thing to remember in conversations like these, is that symbols and languages are not static. They can change over time. A symbol of divinity and spirituality can over the years morph into a symbol representing evil. A word in common daily usage can gradually change into a horrible insult.
In this case, the flags have started to take on some unpleasant connotations. Combined with the fact that they really have no particular special meaning to our area, it seems fairly straightforward to replace them. We have plenty of great options of flags to fly, why not pick one that still fits our intent without any of the baggage that can alienate some of our neighbors?
Reading through this very interesting back-and-forth article I’m thinking why not just place the American flag leave all the other bull crap flags out that everybody has. The problem is there is so much divisiveness and so many silos in this country we can no longer unite under a single flag. That is the issue in America and now in Southboro. A divided nation (house) cannot stand and I fear the same in every town in America.
I would also like to see the research that Mr Weishan has spoken of. Please post that so that we have access.
I did share in the post a link to Weishan’s writing on the Southborough Historical Society’s website about the flags. You can read that here. That post includes some links to other sources of information.
Thanks, but I was referring to the research done about the flags history that Mr Weishan mentioned in his first post that he offered to share if anyone wanted to see.
When I listened in to the Historical Commission meeting, he described the flag as a civil war flag designed by a slave trader. This statement is both misleading and purposely worded to boost his opinion. While I understand that he’s trying to make a point, I’d hope that the committee chair of the Historical Commission would at least accurately describe the origin of the flag if he’s looking for honest conversation.
This flag was designed by a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, who resigned from congress to become a Colonel in the Continental Army.
This flag flew on the first naval mission of our country – this mission also had the first US Marines included.
I feel that this flag is indeed historically significant, and as Southborough has a multitude of Navy and Marine vets, it’s very much relevant.
A mistake was made in the 1990’s allowing any flags besides the American Flag to be flown there. It is time to correct that mistake.
This is not a military burial ground.
I am not Anti-Veteran, I have many veterans in my family, going back to Revolutionary and Civil Wars and on through World Wars I and II, up to more recent conflicts. I honor and respect veterans.
But this is the historic burial ground of the town. We honor everyone burried there.
It is likely on the location of an original indigenous burial site. There are many women and children burried here as well. Where are the flags for them?
We have the All Wars Memorial on the Town Common. We have a cannon there as well.
These monuments publicly honor our veterans.
There is no justifiable reason to make the old burial ground into a military one. Put the small American Flags on the graves of veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The rest of the time if you have to have a flag there, fly the One American Flag that honors All Americans.
I am in complete agreement with Another View, above.
The old burial ground is a CIVILIAN cemetery – like the other(s) in town. Show it the same respect they receive. If people must, place flags on the graves of veterans – otherwise no additional flags.
As appropriately noted, there is an All Wars Memorial very close by. That should be sufficient.
Let’s stop trying to militarize everything in society.
While I am the son, brother, and father of veterans, we need to be clear that the flag belongs to ALL of us. I second the idea that we should only fly the stars and stripes, It is supposed to be something that unites us.
Definitely on board with this; it is not a war memorial. Frankly the time these should have been removed was once the soundings revealed there were graves under them.
I whole heartedly agree with the points made by Another View. The Old Burial Ground is a civilian burial ground with graves dating back to the early 1700s. According to a study of the OBG made by Gravestone Services of New England in 2017, we have gravestones ranging from 1734 through 1845 on this site, though burials likely predate this. This historic site invites us to remember our town’s rich history and the many contributions of its earliest residents, men, women, and children of different backgrounds. While some of those buried there may have served in the Revolutionary War, this is not a Revolutionary War cemetery nor is it a military cemetery as the current multi-flag array might imply. I believe these flags occlude and misrepresent the nature of this historic burial ground. The All Wars Memorial stands nearby honoring our veterans past and present, and that seems a more appropriate location for veteran commemoration.
If the flag is going to be removed, at least let’s get the history right. It was one of the original Marine Corps flags.
“It’s also possible that those early Marines carried the famous Gadsden Flag during that same operation.Gadsden Flag Also known as the rattlesnake flag, this is the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag that became so popular again after 9/11.”
Maybe an investigation should be started on who is buried in OBG. Any slave owners. Why stop with a flag?
Amusing to assert “it was” followed by a weak quote “it is possible” as evidence. Straws, you grasp at them…
Not surprised that a few find the quote amusing and weak. I used that quote for you to look further and get the history right. I do not remember that flag being used during 9/11, but could it be a reason why it was placed there? Judging from the history we have been given by the Historic Commission chair, I doubt we will get the full truth. All that matters to you and other cancel culture adherents is that it offends or was used by a hate group and therefore the flag must go.
When I first saw “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in the OBG, I thought it quite appropriate since it is a part of American History and with some pride that our town recognized that history. If the Historic Commission and BOS go along with the flag being removed at least dispose of that flag appropriately. Probably will not survive there without 24 hour guard, at least not with the current state of affairs. Maybe some other town in the US will display it.
Thank you Frank I did not know the history about the “don’t tread on me”. and that it has marine heritage. I think we should take Marines more in consideration then cancel culture. Or someone that trumps up offenses that they had nothing to do with. That makes perfect sense now. Why would someone want to cancel that? I understand its origins but it’s also a fantastic flag to unite around. And you’re right the problem with this cancel culture is that it’s divisive (at best, ie. BLM/ANTIFA) and eventually they even devour their own!
I appreciate historical perspective . It should be used just for that .- as a benchmark and mileage odometer from which to gauge our progress and direction in the onward march of time.
What we’ve seen in recent years is far from historical perspective; rather, we’ve embarked on a very dangerous, full-scale bastardizing, censorship, erasure, and misappropriation of American history to serve the convenience of political agendas and a central political class.
Ladies and gents, I hope I am not the only one who has observed, with some alarm, a rising tide of race-baiting arsonists, self-loathing malcontents, angst-ridden Liberals, hypersensitive Wussies, power-hungry trolls, HR Executives, global bureaucrats, and career government workers will do anything, and I do mean *ANYTHING*, to send America full-tilt into monochromatic darkness and Totalitarian slave state.
Mr. Weishan is apparently wrapped -around the axle over a 246-yr. old Revolutionary War flag that has ties to “White Supremacy” and “Militias”.
Has Mr. Weishan given thought to the fun historical fact that nearly all nation-states and civilizations have, at some time, embraced slavery. . . . and that a good many slave traders and slave-owning societies were non-white?? I have had quite enough of the infantile and evil ” White-Man-Be-Bad” narrative leveraged by today’s alt-Left.
I guess I should not be surprised, given today’s dysfunctional, mysterious , and over-the-top excursions by the WOKE posse and Cancel Culture. In the past month, we have been treated to Hasbro’s gender re-assignment of a plastic toy potato, Coca-Cola’s offensive and racist HR diversity sensitivity training on “How to Act Less White”, and the market-removal of Dr. Seuss children’s fiction books.
To those who support this ridiculous and racist virtue-signaling, you are only serving to inflame and promote the very racist behavior that you purport to fight against.
8 Jacobs Lane
I too am struggling with my plastic toy potato’s gender reassignment. Be strong.
And from Wikipedia:
The swastika symbol, 卐 (right-facing or clockwise) or 卍 (left-facing, counterclockwise, or sauwastika), is an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
And despite this history, most of us have accepted that it is better known as a representation of evil that is unacceptable to celebrate.
I agree with you wholeheartedly Matt, America is being eaten from within (and quite frankly intelligent minds follow the money and that’s what Soros has planned). we cannot be conquered from without so we are destroying ourselves from within and we’re allowing probably a 1% to 3% people to set that agenda. What I see in these back-and-forth is some hope that bright minds, mature minds, can come up with some solutions. But a lot of people are wasting a lot of time and it appears to Wishert is probably not the best candidate for BOS. Although if no one else in less to run, he’ll get the position by default. And after reading through this I suspect Mr. Healy became aggravated with Wishert So forgive me Mr. Healey if I said anything negative.
Anyone who refers to a Soros-planned conspiracy immediately outs himself as deluded. It 100% never fails as a diagnostic of nonsense, let’s just call what comes out of the south end of a northbound bull nonsense.
I figured I would chime in. I wouldn’t even pay attention to this OS race, i’m moving, taxes have accelerated to a point of stupidity in this town, except when I start hearing white supremacy and the Apple crap which I know is a lie, you know it follows with Black Lives Matter, in this present regime in Washington, you know you can see the political people line up on this small town issue. I’m not a friend of wchilson or Healy. But I’ll say this. There’s no one in the Graves guys, there’s no one in the ground, if you’re a Christian you believe the person is gone to heaven or hell. If you’re not a Christian, it’s rotting wood and bones and doesn’t really matter where the flag poles are although I get your respect. Concerning the flags, Wieshart is Probably one of those left wing nuts that I wouldn’t associate with but I think he has a point with the flag in question and what it did represent and the offense that people do/could take offense from. I will preface my comment with I am a staunch White male constitutional conservative Christian. I have friends down south still flying the rebel flag. And I always tell them to take it down, you’re a fool that represents a very Bad part of our American history. So I say to Southboro, change the flag, leave the polls were they are and honestly I don’t think anybody should tell anybody “stay in your lane”. If that was said, I’d be pretty pissed off. It sounds like someone in a corporate meeting. Every citizen whether on a board or not has the right to speak their mind to whom ever they wish in this town. As long as there’s not a physical threat or a violation of property lines, you have use of Mail, email, and in person comments to whom ever you wish whether they like what you’re saying or not. Thank God we live in America.
That just might be the most unsophisticated piece of writing I’ve ever read. I’d criticize you for your views — but your writing is so terrible that I can’t even tell what you’re trying to say.
Let me help you out. I don’t know Mike, but it appears he is writing in a free form of thinking. Please take a minute to read his comment out loud, and take a pause at each of his commas. You will get it.
This is not the NYTimes Editorial page, confused one. This is the Southborough blog. And we allow everyone to express themselves without judgement of their grammar or level of sophistication.
To quote someone with insight here, “you have use of Mail, email, and in person comments to whom ever you wish whether they like what you’re saying or not. “
We should have a town-wide conversation about whether we want to continue to give the Gadsden flag a place of honor and, if so, what site would be the best place in Southborough to do that.
I think this would be a conversation about meaning, since there are obviously different interpretations of the Gadsden flag’s meaning. But other perspectives always come up in a large conversation. That is to say, there are definitely more than a few things I don’t know.
The first time I noticed the Gadsden flag in the Old Burying Ground, I was taking a walk for exercise, by myself because of Covid. I was a little surprised because I’ve found that right-wing groups frequently adopt it as a symbol. The Tea Party did in 2010. They felt trodden upon by taxes.
Is Gadsden inherently racist? I’m sure racist groups have adopted it, probably in large numbers. They feel trodden upon by equal rights. But pointing out the fact of adoption by racists answers a different question than inherent racism, one about whether Gadsden has any racist associations. Racist organizations often wave the American flag. I don’t see us abandoning it to them just because they want it and give it associations we don’t want it to have (and that’s an understatement).
There’s certainly a significant and historical meaning to the Gadsden flag. It symbolizes the Colonies’ resentment of the English Crown’s taxation (and every other exercise of its authority) without representation. That doesn’t mean we in Southborough should honor it, but it may be why some veterans value it. Or they may like its message don’t mess with us.
Again, we get to choose every day what we honor, and that can and should change over time. The Revolution is ours to honor, despite the existence of slavery in our roots – in every state in the Union – and of slavery’s taint of essentially all of our national history. But there are values and victories of the Revolution that I think we still should honor.
For example, we honor Jefferson’s brilliant and aspirational words in the Declaration of Independence, while to be honest we have to acknowledge his failure to live up to his words. Not only did he enslave his fellow humans; he very probably fathered mixed race enslaved children with Sally Hemings in circumstances that would be rape today (and Hemings herself was conceived in the same way by Jefferson’s father-in-law – forcing enslaved females to bear children who were born as property, rather than free people, was part of the chattel system).
How does Gadsden differ from the Confederate battle flag?
That’s easy. All Confederate flags without exception were flown in support of treason, which had as its core purpose the preservation of slavery. It’s inherently racist, which is enough for me to keep it from any place of honor the nation contributes to, and it’s also inherently anti-American, which again is plenty to relegate it to museums and history books with appropriate, true, and blunt interpretive captions.
So, let’s talk. We can start with a topic about which (nearly) everyone agrees. Flagpoles that accidentally desecrate graves should be removed from their current locations.
Very interesting facts and analysis, Kelly, Thanks! Wish we could get together for coffee and just talk about it all.. sigh,. The discussion was beginning to depress me for even living in Southborough.
p.s. At least you are out walking, That’s more than I’ve been doing.
Thanks, Kelly. This context and nuance is what is missing from debates which seem to be increasingly polarizing on every issue. I hope that others take the time to read this and internalize not only the content but the non-aggressive, respectful, and fact based undertone.
Thanks for the lecture. I read it, disagreed with some facts of it, and I’m by no means a Republican or Tea Party fan, but I certainly would like to hear from each other and understand. That was the meaningful part of Kelly’s post to me.
If you would like to start a conversation on the Gadsden Flag, it starts with the Historical Commission getting the history right. It was good that this was brought to their attention. Part of that history is why the flag was placed there in the first place. Not to lay blame for flag poles being placed on top of grave sites, but to understand if it was placed there just after 9/11 (special meaning for some at a difficult time?). Or was there another reason?
Of course getting that information is more difficult now. Who would want to step forward to explain and risk being called a racist. Almost every issue has race injected into it these days. Mass shootings, trying to change the rules of the US Senate (filibuster, Jim Crow referenced by the President) and classical music now also tied to racism.
It is very easy to throw around the terms racist and racism. Let me give you an example. Several years back, there was a ballot question to allow more charter schools. This town voted 60/40 against. Did that harm the kids in Southborough? No it did not (although some might argue the opposite of that since the pandemic). Has any poor school district improved with the status quo maintained? That answer is no as well. These town and cities are made up of minorities. Pretty easy to accuse Southborough of being racist just looking at that vote. Of course this town is not a racist community.
Some people are tired of this subject. For the reasons above, I am as well, but why should removing history be easy. The “Emancipation” statue was recently removed from down town Boston.This is the one that has Lincoln standing over an African American. It was considered racist. Gone now are conversations on who commissioned it, what Fredrick Douglas said about it and what happened in Lincoln’s final days that inspired it.
Back to the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, it needs a new home; that is certain. I don’t know who owns it, but if it belongs to the Veterans, might be good to auction it off. I’ll start the bidding at $200.
In my opinion, the existing flag array needs to be revisited for many reasons. First and foremost, the Gadsden Flags have taken on a different meaning in modern times and are generally read as promoting non-inclusive and anti-government political ideology. Instead of uniting us in our respect for our history, the Gadsden flags are seen by many as exclusionary and even threatening in light of their adoption by various militia groups. This is hardly a message we want to convey on town property, either to our own residents or people passing through our town center. Additionally this flag is not tied to anyone buried in the graveyard as far as we know, so does not serve its intended purpose of honoring the town’s Revolutionary War veterans. (The flag is connected to South Carolina and Virginia in that era, and any marine affiliation has not been linked with the cemetery). Other more historically appropriate flags or a single US flag seem more appropriate if any flags belong there at all. And finally, the Old Burial Ground is a civilian graveyard with burials spanning at least 112 years, and its history would better be honored with a plaque commemorating its history and the diverse backgrounds of the people buried there throughout the 1700s and early 1800s.