Some see the Confederate flag as a blatant symbol of racism; others as a proud historical landmark; some as a generic stamp of plain old redneck status. Ken Webber is of the latter opinion. And after flying the Stars and Bars from the pickup truck he drives to work as a school-bus driver in Medford, Ore., he was given an ultimatum: Either the flag goes or he does. Webber chose secession.
Webber drives a kindergarten bus and parks his truck/banner at the bus yard which is on school property.
On Tuesday, Webber posted this description of his firing on his Facebook page:
Well I guess i'll update everyone on whats been going on. today I was called into the bus yards office where I was asked to remove the flag (I think y'all know the answer to that) so I got Fired!!! thats right I am now unemployed for standing up for my rights and what I believe.
Webber swears the flag isn't racist, but seems to see it as a prop in his very passionate hobby of being a textbook hick.
He tells the AP:
"I work for what I have. I support my family. It's just who I am. I'm a redneck. It's a way of life. When you've got the word 'redneck' going straight across (the flag), it takes away that whole thing. It's just about standing up for what you believe in. This is one thing I'm doing. It ain't coming down."
The school's argument is that he's parking his hillbilly wagon on school property and therefore he should be made to take it down. OK, but this is the bus yard we're talking about, not the principal's reserved parking spot in front of the school.
The most recent legal precedent concerning displaying a Confederate flag on school property came just last November in the case of Tommy Defoe, a student at Blount High School in Maryville, Tenn., who wore a Confederate flag and belt buckle to school during a intense period of racial tension (some fights, a bunch of racist graffiti) and was suspended for it.
Three students filed a lawsuit claiming the suspension and ban on displaying the flag violated their free-speech rights. The case made it all the way to a U.S. District Court and appeal, but the judges sided with the school district, saying that such a ban is indeed constitutional and citing heavily on the school's recent racial hostility as a factor.
None of that hostility appears to be in play at Talent Elementary School. Plus, those were actual students displaying the flag in school, not in the bus yard parking lot.
Not that flying a Confederate flag isn't offensive--it is. But if free speech extends all the way to wackos holding "God Hates Fags" signs, it would seem that some country boy with the old Dixie Battle Flag should do just as well.