Mr. Smashed Face vs Mr. Confederate Flag

July 14th, 2010

You never know what you are going to experience on a river deep in the Ozarks of Missouri. Wild boar, rabid coons, wild-eyed hillbillies, and then there’s the times when a guy gets his face smashed in by a mad man on a canoe and wobbles into your picnic spot with a bleeding head.

We had stopped for lunch on a sandy island in the middle of the river and the man in the photo and two of his friends pulled up beside us in their canoes. The guy with the bleeding face said he had just been attacked by a man ‘for no good reason.’

His friends were strangely quiet about the attack.

We weren’t sure what exactly ‘no good reason’ meant so we kept our distance from Mr. Smashed Face and his entourage making quiet clucking sounds of sympathy as we quickly herded the kids to the other side of the island.

The guy was clearly in distress. He held his bleeding face in his hands. His friends waited patiently beside him until he pulled himself back together and then they all took off together in their canoes down the river.  We never saw him again.

When we reached the end of our trip, there were half a dozen rangers lined up on shore. Evidently, Mr. Smashed Face had reported the crime and the rangers were waiting for the head basher to show up. There were rumors flying around about a severely unbalanced man out there… somewhere… on the Current River… who randomly bashes people in the head ‘for no good reason’.  Scenes from the movie Deliverance flashed through my mind. I was glad we were done for the day.

Strangely, the strange times were not yet over.

When we got back to camp there was a different guy in a pick up truck who kept circling the campground with a confederate flag flying proudly behind him. Eventually, the rangers asked Mr. Confederate Flag to stop his parade, which was a relief, because I don’t know what kind of person circles a campground with a confederate flag flying unless they are looking for trouble.

Turns out that Mr. Confederate Flag was not a Missourian. He was from further south and we were to eventually learn that one of his  buddies was from Illinois as he stopped by our campground to give us an update on how the rangers were treating (or mistreating) Mr. Confederate Flag.  We asked him why his friend was parading the flag in the first place. The Illinoisan said that his friend was a soldier and he didn’t really know why he was doing it. Then he made sure to remind us that ‘Illinois is where the union was born.” We just nodded our heads and let the silence fall between us. He eventually wandered down the road to his own camp probably stopping at each site on his way to give everyone else an update too.

The rest of the trip was without incident and I have some photos up under ‘snapshot’ on the header, but the confederate flag incident made me wonder what people think about that particular symbol.  To me it is an emblem of slavery and war and general backwards thinking. But to other people it means something entirely different.  What does the confederate flag mean to you?  And in the spirit of the river weekend when the following type of question was asked by they boys several times – who do you think would win in a fight?  Mr. Smashed Face or Mr. Confederate Flag?


  • I think I’ve gotta go with Mr. Confederate Flag…seems like Mr. Smashed Face already got his butt kicked once. LOL

  • I think Mr. Confederate is the one who attacked Mr. Smashed Face ‘for no good reason’. Only there was a reason- Mr. Smashed Face was a Yankee! There you go, any other crimes that need to be solved around here?

  • Jan Blawat:

    As a Californian, I had never felt empathy toward either side in the Civil War. Then I went to the south 3 or 4 times and pardon me for saying this, but some of those fellows are painfully cocky. I’d see the Confederate flag after that and think, “There’s another stupid redneck.” After watching the PBS special on the Civil War, however, I’ve decided people on both sides of that war were pretty stupid. So on this issue, I’m going to take a different view. MR. Confed Flag and MR. Smashed Face both acted like stupid GUYS. Along with a planet half full of MEN, doing things “for no good reason” is a daily occurrence.

  • I think the Confederate flag fully represents slavery and the evils of the Civil War, and the strong sentiments that are still held by many in the south. It may have been a bit more subtle for a while, but recently it’s been much more in vogue to sport the flag with the full knowledge that it is intimidating and a statement of white supremacy.

    I suspect the driver of that truck knew full well what he was doing, and the fact his friend was wandering around complaining about how he was treated (oh, poor poor victim!) seems to me like they were trying to drum up support and start a little rally.

    Free speech is all fine and good, but if you’re being a dick don’t complain if somebody calls you out on it.

    As for Mr. Smashed in Head – the silence of his friends says it all. THERE WAS A VERY GOOD REASON SOMEBODY FOUND IT NECESSARY TO CLOCK HIM!

    I LOVE the background on your blog – quite mesmerizing!

    • I have to agree with Anne! I also think the Confederate flag fully represents slavery and the evils of the Civil War. I’m a New England transplant in Florida. We have someone at the I-4/I-75 intersection that flies his confederate flag loud and proud. He even built a shrine that is gated and you can park and stop and do…. I don’t know what. I have to drive by this flag twice a day, and each time I think I need to get a paintball gun.

      I really think the rebel flag is ignorant. And to claim it’s anything more than about slavery is ignorant. Nothing like re-writing history into a romance novel.

  • Diane:

    Does anyone else think that Mr. Smashed Face kinda looks like Neil Patrick Harris?

  • Jenn:

    I’ve never been to the South and can’t act like I can talk for the actions of others; however, as a history major I’m always surprised that the ‘confederate’ flag is flown. This flag isn’t the confederate flag at all, it is a confederate battle flag flown by one of the Confederate regiments. If I saw someone with an actual stars and bars flag I might be more inclined to believe that they are showing southern pride. As is, it seems that, regardless of the pride behind the battle flag, it has become a disrespectful symbol and in my non-southern experiences those that I’ve come into contact with that fly it are attempting to be antagonistic.

    And also in my experience, those that complain that they got hit for ‘no good reason’ definitely had it coming:)

  • km:

    From my little New England cottage I feel very sheltered as I read all this.

    As a Damn Yankee anytime I see the confederate flag I hear dueling banjos and someone not too bright. Isn’t that incredibly condescending??
    Historically I suppose the South can fly it, but if I see it around here it really and truly means that there is some bigotted bugger behind the wheel of the particular pickup it’s hung from.
    “For no good reason” means Mr. Smashed Face is a yob, got mouthy, and then got on the teaching side of someone’s closed fist.

  • amy:

    This isn’t nice but my immediate reaction is: flyer of the confederate flag = redneck. I’ve never understood flying that flag for any other reason than to be inflammatory. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a confederate flag flyer that looked like he ever ate vegetables, exercised, dressed nicely or combed his hair. I admit, I’m not a southerner so maybe I’m missing something…

  • amy:

    “A blog for people who think, read, are skeptical, sarcastic, and weird.”

    Just saw this. I like it!!!

  • sandy:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who encounters “nutjobs” when they leave the safety/sanctity of their own neighborhood!!!!!!!!

  • I’m from the South (moved to Maine just five years ago) and when I see the Confederate flag I always think ‘symbol of treason.’ It may not always be true for the person flying it – for many southerners its just a symbol of where they live and nothing political at all – but it almost always stands for an attitude of superiority. Although the only thing I envy of the south is their longer gardening season. :)

  • Hey amy – I love your first comment and I agree!

  • LOL! Rechelle, this is a typical weekend in NC! We have at least three of those trucks that fly the rebel flag all through town regularly. Rednecks? You bet! Inflammatory? You bet! Winner of the smackdown? Yes, ma’am! Hell hath no wrath like a rebel scorned!

  • Alison:

    I am from the South–my family is from Alabama, I grew up in rural Florida (yes there is such a thing), and I’m currently living in Georgia. I’m conflicted about the Confederate flag. I agree that it is flown in most cases to stir up trouble. That said, I have no problem flying it in a historical context. It is part of Southern heritage and the Civil War is what it is. I have great-great-great grandparents on all sides that fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. To see the flag flying in a civil war reenactment or at the Sons of the Confederacy office does not bother me. You are correct that most people flying the flag–like the gentleman you saw–are not the most civilized folks. But I’d like to point out that the South does not have a monopoly on morons.

    • km:

      But I’d like to point out that the South does not have a monopoly on morons…..
      That is for sure Alison. We have a nice contingent here ourselves….

  • Kristin:

    Thank goodness Mr. Confederate Flag was not from Missouri…as a current resident, the thought that he might be makes me cringe. But Mr. Smashed Face probably was. He was probably drunk & hit himself in the face with his own paddle. Or went under a low hanging tree branch. Or had an encounter with a cave wall. Or annoyed his friends so much that they smacked him & said, “Whoa! Who WAS that guy & where did he go?!”

  • Oops should have been “fury”! I need more coffee!

  • I guess I see ignorance when I see that flag flying. I always wonder why people still fly it. Do they want to go back to those times? Also, why is it someone always gets punched for no good reason?! That cracked me up.

    • Emily:

      Yes, they want to go back to those times. They have a very skewed, rosy view of “the good ol’ days”. They’d like to go back to a time where men were men and things were “simple”. They grow increasingly paranoid that their religion, holidays, ways of life, etc. are being threatened, and it’s easy to see the past as weirdly glamorous when they aren’t actually plowing fields by torchlight and dying of tetanus.

      I’ve lived in NC my whole life, and rebel flags definitely have a redneck vibe. I don’t know anyone closely who would actually consider displaying one, even a few family members or co-workers who could probably fit the redneck category. I think there’s an extra layer of aggression with people who display the rebel flag; the people I know are content to drink beer, shoot at inanimate objects and maybe spew some racist crap if they’re feeling belligerent…

  • Nancy:

    I agree with Alison as far as the historical context of the Confederate Flag. I take care of a cemetery here in Oklahoma where a famous Civil War Confederate General is buried. We have about 10 Confederate veterans buried here that fought under him. On Memorial Day we fly small Confederate flags on their graves, and we fly U.S. flags on the graves of all the other veterans. We fly the flag that the veteran fought under as a sign of respect. As far as your “Mr. Confederate Flag” – you can tell he’s an ignorant so-and-so.

  • Therese:

    Living in the south (or so we call ourselves in KY…even though we’re really a border state!) I can see this multiple ways. It has been my experience that in most instances people flying confederate flags are ignorant, small minded and trying to make a statement of the not so positive variety. I do have to say there are some that fly it as there way of showing “southern pride.” Now, I still think this shows a level of ignorance as the confederate flag we see flying now really represents war, opression…. and not pride in one’s “home.” Is ignorance of this variety any better/worse, not really …

    As for who would win a fight, I have to say Mr. Confederate Flag all the way. Just because he’s ignorant doesn’t mean he’s not tough!

    Lastly, his “friend” should know that the “union” was not born in Illinois. If he’s referring to President Lincoln (which I assume he was…), then the “union” was born in KY!

  • Priss:

    I am a lifelong resident of South Carolina and am happy to see a lot less of the Confederate flag flying than I used to. Every time that I see it, I assume the person flying it is a racist, plain and simple. My husband disagrees with me, and maybe he’s right, but he’s old south himself so I don’t think he’s particularly objective. I know I get a sinking feeling every time I see that flag.

    There is a great humorous story about the flag, one that turns old south racism on its head: The Appropriation of Cultures”, by Perceival Everett. It was read on PRI’s Selected Shorts podcast and a link to listen is here, with that story beginning about 39 minutes into the podcast:

  • So, you know how they do the homecoming parades in Wamego? My class only got to participate in one of those during our whole High School career. When we were Freshmen, the Sophomore class had notoriously red necks. They thought it’d be a good idea to fly about 4 huge confederate flags on their float – you know, just for the fun of it.

    The one and only Donna K. Donke – I mean – Workman, marched right on up there and pulled the flags off mid-parade, effectively halting the homecoming parade tradition until I was well out of high school.

    Basically, i’ve never been in a situation where any good came from a confederate flag was present.

    Also, doesn’t the state of Mississippi or something have it on the corner of their state flag?

  • ***Basically, i’ve never been in a situation where any good came from a confederate being present.

  • Kathy:

    Yeah, I think it too–Oooo! Looky! An ignorant redneck looking for trouble.

    Then there’s Alison’s comment: “But I’d like to point out that the South does not have a monopoly on morons.”

    True! We have Phred and company in Kansas!

  • Really? I’m the only one? First thing I think is the General Lee! As in:

    After that…redneck. Hillbilly. Likely arrogant, idiotic, and drunk. But that’s probably from all the tales my hubby tells of managing the Front Royal KOA. Those would make your run-ins seem like bedtime stories for toddlers.

    I take Mr. Confed Flag – Mr. Smashed Face obviously can’t fight back.

  • Corrie:

    I think the confederate flag stands for slavery and the civil war and the tragedies surrounding both subjects. My in-laws live in Arkansas (although they spent most of their lives in California) and they hang a small confederate flag from their trailer when they are camping. It was very embarrassing when they parked the trailer in front of our house and had this small flag hanging from it. They also have a VERY LARGE confederate flag hanging above their bed on the wall. They let us sleep in their bed one time and I told my husband I will never sleep in that room again as long as that flag is hanging on the wall. While I can understand taking pride in being from a certain location of the United States, I cannot fathom how, after hundreds of years, people can still be proud to fly a flag that represents so much heartache and injustice to humanity.

  • michael:

    What the Confederate flag means to me: The God given FREEDOM to wake up in a puddle of my own blood and vomit

  • I agree with you (& most of the commenters): the flag is a symbol of racism. I’m from South Carolina (living in CA 5 years now), & until recent history, the Confederate flag even hung from the State House in Columbia, SC!

    Supporters of the flag like to say it’s about “heritage, not hate,” & spout off about honoring their great-great-grandpappies who fought & died in the Civil War; but to me (& most people) seeing the flag is a reminder of slavery & racism & backward thinking rednecks. I understand wanting to honor ones dead relatives, but what would one think of someone flying a Nazi flag & saying that it’s not about hating Jews or genocide, but about honoring their grandpa who fought under Hitler & died in WWII?

    Also, I’d like to ask Mr. Smashed Face exactly why the other guy hit him so I can judge for myself whether it was really “for no good reason.” HA!

  • carrie W:

    As a lifelong Missourian, I humbly apologize to your family for having to put up with the crazyness that is the Current River floaters. Let me assure you that many of our state parks that are not located on popular floating river contain a lower crazy per capita ratio. Try one of many trout parks next time, they are normally families and retirees. Some inebriated country folk, but they tend to keep to themselves. As for the confederate flag I consider it to be a sign that a person failed history at some point in life. Not much redeeming value for that one.

  • Another lifelong Southerner here. I think that the situation with the flag is a very tenuous one. For starters, to be totally honest, racism and slavery are awful institutions and the South has thrived on it for too many years, using it for economic and social gain. However, the fact of the matter is that most people who fly that flag now are poor whites– they are not descended from slave owners or anyone who benefitted from slavery (although they certainly benefitted from racial discrimination, although class discrimination is in some ways just as bad as race discrimination).

    But another fact is….the “North ” is a concept, a construct, just like many people (not me) consider God to be. The idea that everyone down South was a racist and that everyone up North was an abolitionist is patently untrue. The fact of the matter is, history has been written to make the Civil War sound like a war about ideals when it was really a war about politics and money. No-one wants to remember a war that had so many victims, so much bloodshed, as being one essentially about cotton trading. There was no compelling reason for Northern industry to have slaves. The de facto reason for why the North didn’t have slavery is because they didn’t need it. And while politicians may have been abolitionist (and I should mention that Abraham Lincoln was not one of them until it was politically necessary for him to be so), that isn’t why they won elections at that time and it didn’t reflect the opinions of most Northerners. Northern does not “equal” Abolitionist, even if some of them went along with it. So although I can certainly say that most Southerners were indeed racist, I must also say that it isn’t fair to say that most Northerners were not racists. They just happened to live in a place where slavery was not economically beneficial, and where some influential politicians were abolitionist.

    The other fact is….the Civil War was economically and socially crippling to the South and its effects (the Reconstruction, population stagnation) have basically kept the South from being on par with the North on almost every level since the war ended. I think that people who fly that flag do so out of a serious sense that they are the victims in a centuries-long political battle where the South is constantly pitted against the North, and the North always seems to come out ahead. These people are not considering that the real victims are African Americans who, for as long as they have been in this country, have always been on the bad end of every bargain. Regardless, that doesn’t discount the fact that poor whites in the South have had a hard time assimilating into an increasingly urbanized culture where some of their skills (working the land) and values (religion, tradition) are no longer valued.

    I would also like to humbly submit that every time we see a Confederate flag it isn’t being flown by some rich white guy. It is usually some poor white who competes with black people for jobs, etc. It is almost like a race rivalry– kinda like in NYC or other large cities where different races don’t get along because they are both fighting for the same resources (I don’t think I am being unfair when I say that Mexicans and black people often dislike each other for this reason). Poor whites don’t have any more power or prestige than black people, they are basically treated like roaches by old money whites. They take that frustration (of being poor and having no power) and act out against blacks because it is the only option they have for release. Is that a justification? Certainly not. But it isn’t really any different from the aggressive behavior you see in any other poor community– black, Latino, etc.

    Of course for a more soulful argument along these very lines I would suggest listening to this song:

    …knowing full well it was written by a Canadian who understood that the Civil War is a sad subject where there were nearly no winners.

    “Take what you need and leave the rest
    They should never have taken the very best”

  • As a Canadian (and originally from Ireland) I read this post and all the comments with great interest! The thought of a crazy madman who is wandering around the Osarks hitting random people in the head is scary!
    Deliverance scared the bejeazus (Irish term) out of me…as did this post LOL!

  • I have to agree with Jenn: “This flag isn’t the confederate flag at all, it is a confederate battle flag flown by one of the Confederate regiments. ”

    Those that fought under that flag LOST.
    It is a flag that represents a loser.

    Which, in my opinion, speaks volumes about those that fly it.

  • km:

    thanks CP for the measured response. Most wars have the “idealism” ascribed to them when in reality they are about riches/resources or geographical advantage.
    Northern Ireland is a good example. It really has nothing to do with religious belief but more a question of equal access to/lackther of jobs, housing, education etc.
    If you hear a politician give a reason for a war discard it and ask what the advantage is you will probably find an economic benefit. There are rarely lofty ideals involved. There were rarely lofty ideals in the past and few in the present. that have sent people to war.

  • Nancy:

    I grew up in Alaska (and NO, I don’t like Sarah Palin) and eventually married a man from the south who dragged me kicking and screaming to Tennessee. Living here has been my first exposure to blatant racism, rampant ignorance, and plenty of rebel flags flying everywhere from the backs of trucks to belt buckles. When I naively entered into a discussion with a local about the flag, which I consider a symbol of ignorance and racism, I was treated to a lecture on southern pride. Thing is, I can’t figure out what they’re so damn proud of. They still insist that the Civil War was not about slavery, but about states’ rights…uhhhh…you mean a state’s right to keep slaves? So yeah, I think the flag represents history…really awful history, kind of like the swastika. I have brainwashed my dear husband and we are actively looking for an opportunity to leave the south and return to the 21st century. Admittedly, I have met some lovely people and made some good friends – but they are definitely not the majority down here. I think America would have been in better shape if we’d just let the southern states secede and carried on. They’d all be part of Mexico now….oh, wouldn’t that burn ‘em up?

  • Amy:

    In Texas, the “rebel” flag means just that. “Look at me, Im such a rebel.”
    I know many young jackasses that have tatoos and whatnot and they realy have no grasp on what the flag means as far as history goes.

  • Meanie:

    In our family, it is referred to as “the racist flag”

  • Isn’t that just the Duke’s of Hazard flag? I didn’t realize it was connected with the Confederacy.

    Seriously, I think anyone who flies the confederate flag should have a pass a Southern history test. Most people who fly the flag don’t know the difference between Jefferson Davis and George Jefferson.

    I’m movin’ on up,

  • Tim:

    The south will rise AGAIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!