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Fly on Confederate Flag-Jay Vaquer
A few days ago, I received a copy of FOCUS, a Columbus College Office of Institutional Advancement publication, seemingly aimed at getting the alumni to donate money to the school. It contained an article that looked back at Columbus College 30 years ago and asked for input from alumni. I attended C.C. from fall 1966 to spring 1970 and again from fall 1974 to winter 1976. As a member of a highly discriminable minority, I witnessed the triumph of the C.C. Rebel spirit overcome prejudice, the birth of an alternative society, placing C.C. in the mainstream of American education, and the cultural fruition bringing C.C. to its zenith in the middle seventies. After visiting the campus last quarter, I was saddened by not finding a booming university, but instead, a regressed Cody Road High.

 

I was born to an Army officer in West Virginia and raised on military bases in Kentucky, Missouri, and Stuttgart, Germany. At around 5 years old, one of the first books I read was "Lil Black Sambo". I can still recall the emotional vicarious excitement of going into the jungle and confronting those tigers. I had been in the woods alone many times and knew the fear of confronting a strange animal, but a man-eating tiger was really scarey. Then Sambo made them turn into butter. That just blew my mind, the only thing I knew to do was run, hide, or climb a tree and the tiger would get me in any case. But, there was some super power involved which Sambo possessed, and I did not. And talk about fortitude, he even carried the butter home and ate it for breakfast. Lil Black Sambo was my first super hero. A few weeks after reading the book, I was riding in the back of the family station wagon when my sister pointed out a Black father and young son waiting to cross the street. I looked into the boys bright eyes and felt great admiration and respect for him. I knew he was like Sambo and I wanted to get out of the car and give him a hug, but as the traffic light changed, we drove off, and I waved good-bye. This was my first experience with the Black race. My mother always sent us to private Catholic schools near the military bases and we had no Black students.When I got to high school in Germany, we had several Black students and two of them were my friends. I was quarterback and I had a tall end and a strong halfback that I could count on to make the play or die trying. They were better athletes than their White counterparts. I must have subconsciously known they possessed some of that Sambo power because I liked and respected both of them.

 

When we studied the Civil War in high school, I thought it was like studying any other historical event and the past was over. I thought racism, prejudice, and the KKK ended with the Civil War. When my father got transferred to Fort Benning, we left Germany on a ship, the Geiger, which docked in Brooklyn and we drove to Georgia. As I entered North Carolina, an overpass had a large KKK sprayed in red paint and I sensed a fear. My family had gone ahead of me in the wagon and I was in my new Triumph TR-4. I stopped to get something to eat and got my first taste of Southern fried ignorance and prejudice. These guys wanted to beat me up because I had long hair and drove a foreign car. Things did not change when I got to Columbus. Nearly everywhere I went somebody would say " Is that a boy or a girl" or " should I kiss him or kick his ass". My Dad suggested I take my sister to a pool party at the officers club and make new friends. About 10 guys forced me into the locker room where one of them tried (in vain) to kick my butt as the others watched. This direct physical threat for having an "out of norm" appearance was most definately high-grade discrimination.

 

My first day at Columbus College was equally shocking. I came to school in jeans, a t-shirt and sandals. I was the only male student with long hair. President Whitley was trying to pass a dress code with men wearing coats and ties, even though many students wore them anyway. Most students were wearing the latest college fashions. The girls snickered at me, half the guys wanted to kick my butt, and the other half would give me disapproving looks then ignore me. The instructors also had negative reactions. Mr. Battle was teaching American Government and I was humiliated at every opportunity. Coach Ragsdale would not let me on the tennis team unless I cut my hair. I told my Dad I did not want to stay in Columbus and wanted to go to Morgantown, where my oldest sister, Jana (who recently acquired a Ph.D. at Manila) was attending West Virginia University. Dad said he was going to the war in Viet Nam and wanted me to be the man of the family and take care of my Mom and younger sisters. As a reward, he would send me to Brazil for a vacation when he returned. I decided I could pay the price for my rebellious nature and freedom of expression, and deal with it, not unlike a crusader in a war zone.

 

I went to the Teen Club at Ft. Benning and met two more "freaks"- Herb and Mike Guthrie. Their father had just been transferred here from Augsburg, Germany and they were both musicians. Since I played guitar in Germany, we formed a rock band called The Bitter End and I convinced Herb to enroll at C.C. for winter quarter. The nucleus of our "Alternative Society" was formed by military brats. Bruce Preston (now a dentist in Atlanta), Manfred Rackow, Danny Henderson (Gary Burnettes predecessor as bassist for The Bitter End and later Arnold Bean) , Herb Guthrie and myself, now had our own table in the cafeteria. Located under the gym next to the Blacks table. With few exceptions, the only people who treated us like people were the Blacks, both in and out of school. They got some satisfaction in seeing the rednecks treat somebody else worse than them. Maybe empathy. At any rate, our table was the spot to hear all that rebellious anti-government , anti-establishment, anti-war, anti-discrimination, or any anti-injustice reportage. By spring quarter our table had grown to two side by side. We welcomed anyone with an open mind. After learning of the presence of a freak faculty member, Will Hipps, most of us changed our major to Art and began to feel like, now, we were part of the school and not just some ostracized lepers . Mr. Hipps let our band practice in the art studio. We adopted the schools Confederate Rebel to represent us. After all, we were Rebels too, emulating the great American Rebels like George Washington or Thomas Paine with issues in our time line. We vehemently opposed killing Americans in Viet Nam for Lady Bird to augment her hat collection. Racism had nothing to do with our Neo-Rebels, we were against the system that infringed on the constitutional right to liberty and happiness. We participated in school pep rallies waving the Confederate flag, beating the battle drum, and shouting that Rebel yell. One Black student would wear a complete Confederate uniform to lead cheers. Our platform was secure and we began to spread quickly. Our lunchroom tables were now visited by other faculty members and students wishing to express their views of the impending, paradigm shifting, cultural revolution of the Sixties. Bobby Peters, now the Columbus mayor, associated with us because we did not care if he dyed his hair blond-he had more fun. Bobby Jones, now a Columbus attorney, came up to me one day and said he thought like I did, and he would be a freak, except his Dad was paying for his school and would not allow him to openly defy traditional values or the U.S. government. C.C. turned out to have more closet freaks than expected. Girls even began to sit at our table which was totally integrated. The only real prejudice felt was against the Japanese for their sneak attack at Pearl Harbour and the atrocities committed against U.S. prisoners of war. They betrayed us, demonstrated a complete lack of respect for Americans, Black and White, ignored the international rules of war, and mocked planetary parameters of human decency. If they attack us again, I will fly the Enola Gay and press the button. Our Alternative Society wanted world controlled population with equal distribution of the earths resources. Every living human being is entitled to food, water, a home, health care, and education. These were the inalienable rights and using our democratic capitalist system, anyone could attain their individual goals. We believed world peace would be achieved when everyone had the same rights as everyone else. Our Rebel spirit was high enough to make the personal sacrifices necessary to expound our doctrines. We had to show the empowered generation that being led to meaningless destruction was not part of our American dream. Yes, we were Rebels, engaged in daily battle with mainly White provincial southerners that could not accept the fact that now, we too were southerners, the new generation southern Rebels, with a more accurate view of reality. We come in peace, we mean you no harm. But, why is your world chaotic.

 

As the war in Viet Nam escalated, so did the troop movement at Ft. Benning. On the positive side it meant economic boost, more students, new buildings, more Ph.D.s in the faculty and more freaks. On the down side, it meant a constant flow of drugs from all over the world and unprecedented violence. Take a young farm boy from Iowa, train him to kill, send him to Viet Nam where he is subjected to the horrors of war, becomes a drug user, and then, with no re-socialization, is transferred to Ft.Benning and we had to deal with him." Hey man, I used to play in Iron Butterfly, here, eat this acid I got in Saigon". Many psychos were attracted to the freaks. The love and peace hippies were about to erupt on a global scale and our slur changed from freak to hippie. I never thought of myself as a hippie since I failed to meet all the criteria. I was not a runaway, I was in school, and I took baths. However, new freaks, ex-G.I.s, began to associate with us, but shared different views on how to deal with the issues.We were non violent, but these freak Vets wanted to kill and blow things up. We also had no racial problem at C.C. in 1968 until the Black radicals arrived. They told our Black friends that they were Toms for hanging out with us and they did not need us anyway. They talked about Black Panthers that did not agree with Rev.M.L. King Jr. They convinced the religious groups on campus that the Confederacy was offensive and they wanted to delete any Confederate association from the school. This was the beginning to the end of Rebel spirit and a return to racism, with a new source, Blacks against Blacks and Whites. After some members of the S.D.S (Students for a Democratic Society) came down from Atlanta and spray painted graffiti on the library walls, many students were frightened and they voted to change our mascot to the Cougar. Like a panther, its image was very neutral, safe, banal, and insipid. It sucks. Why was Howard Beeth late with his seminar in Afro-American culture and then politically driven from the faculty at C.C. How could so many people not understand the relevance of the Confederacy and the need to preserve it. When something is not right, you need that Rebel yell, "Hey, what the hell do you think youre doing" See the Confederacy without the slavery issue. Mission Improbable. The freaks were outraged and outnumbered.

 

Dad, who had served in World War 2 and Korea, came back from Viet Nam. He said this war was a joke and did not blame me for not wanting to go. He sent me to Brazil for vacation. It was cool... pretty girls, beaches and servants. I returned and began making plans to take my band there if the war did not end.

 

Fortunately, the new Fine Arts Hall was completed and became our sanctuary. Listening to Jimi Hendrix and working on Art projects in the afternoons was a gift from God. Our band would perform on the new stage and we let other students sit in. The Fine Arts Hall became the cultural hot spot of the south. Many great artists like Lloyd McNeil and Lou Stovall came to share their art and influenced many students profoundly. Bruce Preston even transferred to U G A in Athens for a degree in graphic Arts after watching Stovall silk screen. After Woodstock, the underground became mainstream. Kids and television stars had long hair and waved peace signs of love. Even Coach Ragsdale grew his hair out of that buzz cut. The freaks had been assimilated and everyone spoke of peace. It was 1970, my 2-S deferrment was about up, there was no end to the war in sight, so I left C.C. with our band, for Rio de Janeiro. That was another story.

 

Four years later, I came home and enrolled at C.C. as a full time student. The school was even more impressive than I imagined. To land a musician the caliber of Paul VanderGheynst was unbelievable. The Art Department even had 500 level courses in film making. People like Gene Roddenberry came to the Fine Arts Hall. John Cage performed his prepared piano. The school even had a jazz band. I was really excited. C.C. had finally made it to the big time. We were nationally recognized as a cultural center in the south. Mary Blackmon let me practice with the tennis team, long hair and all. Bjorn Borg was to freak tennis what Arthur Ashe was to Black tennis. Richard Pryer released an L.P. of jokes called "That Niggers Crazy" and all the Black kids called each other nigger. I was delighted to see another barrier dropped. The colloquiality of the term dissipated its racial severity. I was busy with my cinematography class when tragedy struck. The C.C. jazz bands keyboard player, Jeannine Galloway, was tragically raped and murdered by a Black psycho. Jeannine was very beautiful with long blond hair and wire rimmed glasses. She had that freak chick look. When she played the electric piano with the band , you could close your eyes and think Herbie Hancock was up there. She was a great musician and an inestimable loss to our society.

 

The USA was finally defeated in their war effort. They apologized and granted amnesty. There was no pleasure in our victory since now we had thousands of drugged psychos on the streets and thousands of wounded Vets with inadequate medical attention. I was on the next plane back to Brazil where the Rebel spirit was thriving. After spending the next four years in Rio, I moved to Hollywood, California. I would come home to visit my parents and go to C.C. to play tennis. In the fall of 1994, I went to the Fine Arts Hall to see my friend, George Goddard. I expected to find a video production facility doing a cable T.V. show or a C.C. radio station. George told me that after a student dropped one of the 16mm Bolex cameras in a lake, and the other one got run over by a Mack truck, the school dropped all the film making classes. He told me about the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of video equipment locked up in media services that no one ever used, or will use, showed me the outdated computers in the classrooms, and said they hoped to convert one of the darkrooms into a graphic computer lab. I was stunned that 20 years ago C.C. offered more than now. I went to a free jazz band concert that night. I was really surprised to see Tom Chadwick and Edward Robinson up there playing with the band just like 20 years ago when pop music peaked with jazz fusion.Chick Corea and Return to Forever, Weather Report, Billy Cobham and the other greats from the seventies were now replaced with rap. Where were the new generation players.

 

The next day I went to the tennis courts and Skeeter said he was the latest coach and was expecting some players from South Africa in January. In the spring of 1995, I went back to the courts to pick up a game with the new talent. Again I was shocked when Skeeter told me I could not play with them until the season was over. I had practiced with Mary Blackmons teams, O.L. Gilstraps, Julie Holtzingers.and Roger Pierces. I thought if I could not play with these South Africans, and they were not going to bring Jonathan Butler here to perform, then why not send them home and take that money to implement an elementary school tennis program creating local players. Last year the Ledger-Enquirer printed more information on Brookstones tennis team than Columbus Colleges.

 

Either the couch potato generation of the eighties or the apathetic generation of the late seventies is responsible for our current de-evolutionary state. Racism has again reared its ugly head with Black activists being the most prejudiced. Last week they said they want O.J. Simpson as a role model. He did publicly humiliate, beat, terrorize, and stalk his late wife. Why not select Attila the Hun. Blacks in America do not need Black leaders. They do more harm than good. I would have thought the KKK took Lil Black Sambo from the library instead of the NAACP. They dont want young impressionable White kids to have a positive image of Blacks. There is a major difference between a 30 year old Black activist and a five year old White boy interpreting literature. Men like Arthur Ashe and Colin Powell are role models for every living human. Race does not enter the equation. Perhaps an alien invasion from space will make people realize we are the Human Race first of all, then Americans, and lastly Irish-American or Afro-Americans or whatever.

 

When I travel to another part of the United States or a foriegn country, they always ask where I went to school. When I say Columbus College, they look at me like I had said Mabel Baily College or Meadows College. I say my home is Georgia and I am proud to say I am a new southerner. The Rebel spirit from the sixties will be a part of me the rest of my life. I wave the Confederate flag high because it represents the freedom to stand up against any injustice, even the Federal governments. Our Alternative Society was pristine, free of racism, irrationality or counter-productivity. As we enter the millennium I hope to find Columbus College with a new generation of motivated students and a new name. The University of Georgia at Columbus. A.k.a. the UGAC REBELS.
 

 

 

 

 

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