Though she vowed to die before lowering her then beloved Confederate flag on her property, a South Carolina woman recently had a change of heart and brought down the flag. Despite never having served as any sort of national flag of the defeated Confederacy, the so-called “rebel flag” has doggedly preserved its symbolic meaning for more than 150 years — for some, a symbol of heritage; for others of racism, treason, and defeat. It was exactly those battle lines that Annie Caddell decided to agitate when she first posted Confederate symbols on her porch and yard in her new — predominantly black — neighborhood in 2010.
Following the display of her particular version of Southern pride, neighbors sought to convince Caddell the display was unappreciated, if not offensive. They did so at first through a petition with hundreds of signatures, then through a community fund that erected a fence to hide the flags. Caddell responded by digging in her heels, raising the flagpoles even higher, and settling in for a fight to the death, in her own words. And she almost got her wish, when she recently had the harrowing experience of a heart attack and triple bybass heart surgery.
“After seven long years of battling my community over my Confederate flag, I made the decision that I would like to have unity in my community,” she told the Post and Courier newspaper last week. “I never considered how offended they truly were. I didn’t care. Well, I finally had an eye-opening experience. It’s not about what I feel.”
After her brush with mortality, Caddell put an end to her standoff and reached out to a local community leader who has led the charges against other such controversial displays. The two worked together to remove her symbols and find an appropriate venue for them: a museum.
While Caddell’s dispute with neighbors over the meaning of the Confederate battle flag came a bit earlier, it was convicted mass murderer Dylan Rooff’s brutal slaying of nine members of a South Carolina church that brought the symbol back into the public spotlight in 2015. The battle continues to this day, but perhaps Caddell’s change of heart stands as a symbol of new directions in the debate of hate versus heritage.
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