Cameron Bailey, owner of Hillbilly Heaven
When you think of the confederate flag, what do you think of? The American Civil War? The Southern States? Slavery? The Dukes of Hazzard? Freedom? Or do you think of Canada?
Canada might seem like an inappropriate bedfellow in that list of confederate flag wavers, but somehow, these things have become an unfortunate trend up north. Recently, a high school in Ontario had to ban the display of confederate flags on school property that apparently sent it into “a flap.” Not long after that, a restaurant in Hamilton called Hillbilly Heaven was put under scrutiny by the media and the local community after the owner decided to put a confederate flag above the front door.
If you’re unfamiliar with the confederate flag and what it represents, here’s a brief history. At one point in the Southern United States, you could own Black people. Then the government decided that owning slaves was inhumane and unlawful. The Southern states went to war with the Northern states. Then the South adopted the confederate flag so they could differentiate between themselves and the Northerners and, you know, make sure that they were killing the right people on the battlefield. The war ended, the slaves were set free and everybody was happy… right? Well, no. Not at all. The South still hated the North, so they kept the confederate flag around just so they could rub it in everybody’s face and remind the whole nation that they don’t give any form of shits about what anybody else thought. Oh, and they wanted their slaves back.
Now, it’s also important to recall that Canada harboured many of the run-away slaves from the United States during this ugly time, and as a result, the confederate flag-loving South planned attacks on us because of our involvement.
Anyway, fast-forward past voting rights, civil rights, and rap music becoming one of the most powerful cultural forces ever—to the modern day, where somehow, some white Canadians think it’s okay to display a symbol that comes from the American South and is used by everyone from
Nice shirt and headdress, hipster.
So in 2013, how does one ignorant restaurant owner in one of Canada’s saddest cities defend its use of the confederate flag? Cameron Bailey, the proud owner of Hillbilly Heaven, says that he was looking for a Southern icon so decided on the flag, even though he knew its connection to slavery would cause a few problems. The only way he’d take it down, he claims, is if one of the players from Hamilton’s CFL football team asked him to. Because no one knows political nuance like a TiCat.
Meanwhile, in the article about the high school that banned the confederate flag, some of the students claim ignorance. They didn’t know the flag had anything to do with racism until they Googled it, and really, how were they supposed know? It’s not like they were immersed in an infrastructure that could have provided giudance about racial conflict and lessons in American history or something. But that all made some sense to me, because they’re teenagers and teenagers are idiots.
But still. I’m from New Brunswick, and a lot of smaller communities have redneck subcultures that love to slap confederate flag stickers on their trucks. I remember seeing the confederate flag when I was a teenager and thinking that it meant something about being from the country or acting rebellious. The guys who wore the flag (and they were almost exclusively males) would watch NASCAR and hunt and drink. They were always fixing cars and getting into trouble. They weren’t bad people, either. I’m sure if we had Google back then, or if any of them bothered to read about history at one of those ancient library things, some of them might have realized what that flag symbolized. Then they would have worn something more distinctly Canadian that represented rebellion. Maybe the flag of the Front de libération du Québec? Now those guys were fucked up.
What is most surprising about this stupid trend of Canadian confederate flag lovers is not the flag itself, but the disconnect that Canadians suffer when we look at something distinctly American and powerfully symbolic of inhumane atrocities, then try to claim it as our own. More than symbolizing anything about rural values or personal rebellion, it demonstrates how comfortable one can be in simply being ignorant. Which is fine. Be that way if you like. Freedom of speech and all that. But just know that you’re being wildly dumb.
Anyway, the owner of Hillbilly Heaven has since had his restaurant vandalized in the past few days and has changed his stipulation of taking the flag down if a TiCat tells him to, or if the Supreme Court requests it, adding, “I'm not going to let a bunch of media people, academics or hipsters intimidate me.” Since I’m all of those things, I’m glad I’m not trying to intimidate him. I’m just letting him know, publicly, that he’s a big ol’ dummy.
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