Last month a college professor and former high school classmate of mine sent me an article about the Thick-billed Longspur. It was from the Washington Post, summarizing the reason, or rather reasons, for the name change to the bird formerly known as McCown’s Longspur. I was aware of the name change, because I have it on my life list, but I only knew a high-level view of the details. So I read the article and researched a bit further.
In short, after a 21-year United States military career, which included campaigns against Native American tribes, in 1861 Major General John P. McCown resigned his U.S. Amy commission to join the Confederacy. After a meteoric rise over two years through confederate ranks, he was eventually court-martialed in 1863, later declaring the Confederacy was nothing more than “a damned stinking cotton oligarchy… gotten up for the benefit of Isham G. Harris and Jefferson Davis and their damned corrupt cliques” (citation)
Tethering a bird’s identity to a human individual, who is undoubtedly flawed, seems unfair; to the bird and to generations of future birders. This certainly won’t be the last honorary bird name to change. And although change is hard and can be frustrating, understanding the “why” behind the need for change is paramount. It is also important to recognize removing these names and confederate statues and symbols, is not rewriting history. It’s simply removing street-corner tributes to those who did not see all persons as equals or free. History books and museums are the places for these – not flagpoles and courtyards.
My friend closed his brief message with the following:
“You, me, this bird, we were all ‘rebels’ once. Times change, sometimes for the better.”
When I fought for the South.
I grew up in the small town of Spartanburg, IN, but went to school a quick six miles away in Lynn. Our address was actually a Lynn address, which I thought odd when I was young. But there was a lot that escaped me while growing up through the 80’s and 90’s.
It may not surprise you that rural Indiana doesn’t have the most diverse population. In a school that had a total of around 350 kids in grades seven through 12, there is only so much opportunity for diversity, right? I grew up around kids and parents who looked like me. My coaches, my disciplinarians and teachers, local business owners and police, my Sunday school and church family. I didn’t really give it a second thought.
Something much more poignant escaped me throughout these years. Being enrolled in Randolph Southern meant you were a ‘Randolph Southern Rebel.’ Sounds like a fun mascot. Kids like to be rebels, yeah? Green and white are the school colors. I can get on board with the color-palette.
The Mascot is a Civil War era soldier, wearing a gray uniform with sword drawn. Ok, where is this going? And, the school flag is the Confederate Battle Flag. “Ummm, holy shit, really!? And we’re ok with that?” Well, that’s what I wish my childhood self would have said.
I proudly supported the symbol of my school for athletics and never once considered how we, as a community, may have been presenting ourselves to others or the impressions we might have been making on those young and old. The desensitization we were bringing to such an oppressive symbol. What emotions did we evoke from surrounding communities? I am certainly ashamed of myself for the blind eye I had to this still ever-present flag. Yes, I still see these ‘We-lost-the-war-but-it’s-my-
I am ashamed that in the late 90’s, I stood up at a school board meeting in Lynn, IN, in order to keep this battle flag in place at Randolph Southern. I was a 17-year-old kid, against change. It was as simple and ignorant as that. I never took the time to consider the other side or those presenting the argument for change.
I’m happy to say that the school flag at Randolph Southern stands no more and was changed just a few years after the board meeting I attended. That’s a step in the right direction. However, hate is still very much present in young kids across much of America, as it still is in my hometown. It wasn’t until the last couple of years, and a nearly tragic instance of school-bullying, that the Randolph Southern administration disallowed the representation of the Confederate flag on school grounds.
I will always be a Randolph Southern Rebel, just under a different banner. I will be a listener. I will be an ally. I will pay attention to what is happening to those around me. Times change, sometimes for the better. That time is now.
While I reflected on my childhood, I thought it fitting to reflect on my beer-drinking roots and early impressions.
I grew up knowing that Budweiser, the ‘King of Beers,’ was naturally America’s Beer. The Budweiser American-lager is crisp, clean drink of clear water that tastes a little like hops. A good beer to drink if you are drinking all day. Aside from that, or the occasional chugging beer, I require a few things that good ol’ Bud doesn’t have:
1) Full Flavor
2) An Original name – The Czech beer Budweiser has been brewed in Budweis since 1245.
However, maybe a light-colored, American-lager that is mediocre at best, and leaves a bit of a bad taste in your mouth, is the most fitting of my rural Indiana roots. Just because it’s what you knew growing up, doesn’t mean it’s all there is. Looking forward to the next beer. Cheers.
Beer Info –
Brewery – Anheuser-Busch
Location – St. Louis, MO
Beer – Budweiser
Style – American Lager
ABV – 5%
Untappd Rating – Since using Untappd, I have not taken the time to drink a Budweiser and rate it. Yes, on purpose – (I have checked in 1,200+ different beers)
URL – www.budweiser.com