Loda Good Ole Days items for sale

Some of the items being sold in the village park at Saturday's annual Loda Good Ole Days celebration.

Once again, Loda Good Ole Days weekend went spectacularly well ... with the exception of one problem.

The Loda Good Ole Days Truck & Tractor Pull Association provided outstanding fireworks and a great band on Saturday night and hosted a wonderful pull event on Sunday.  They also deserve kudos for hosting the kids’ pageant, the parade and mud volleyball tournament.

The one problem that marred an otherwise-enjoyable weekend had nothing to do with the Loda Good Ole Days Truck & Tractor Pull Association but rather with activities in Loda’s park sponsored by a small group of Loda residents. The problem was a vendor in the park selling items with Confederate flags on them.

The key issue is not how each of us feels about the Confederate flag; the issue is whether it is appropriate to allow those items to be sold at a community event.

Symbols of the Confederacy have been controversial since the rise of segregationists in the 1950s and ’60s and are especially so lately since Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to prohibit a band called Confederate Railroad from playing at the DuQuoin fair.

As co-chair of the Loda residents’ informal events-in-the-park committee, I urged the other co-chair to see the wisdom of avoiding controversial, “hot-button” issues — of any sort — at an event that was geared toward fun activities for children. I also asked for a show of hands at the public Loda Village Board meeting of July 10 as to the possible inappropriateness of Confederate items at the park on July 27; all but two people felt it would be appropriate.

The discussion then degenerated into individuals’ opinions about Confederate flags (the secondary issue). I then resigned as co-chair of that committee because I have never and will never participate in any endeavor that encourages support for slavery, racism, and oppression — it’s a moral line that I (and many, many other people) will not cross.

Here is my question for Loda residents and any other interested parties here in Illinois:  What if next year a vendor wants to sell Nazi paraphernalia and uses this year’s approval of a racist symbol to manipulate you into allowing more types of hate-filled propaganda to be sold? Where will you draw the line?

Freedom of speech does not mean that anyone can promote any cause at any event. The organizers of public events/sanctioning bodies have a right and an obligation to draw those lines, and they do so every single day.

We live in a northern state which fought for the Union in the Civil War. We have a number of African-American residents in both Iroquois and Ford counties. We have a number of white residents, too, who despise the Confederate flag and think it should have been banned 154 years ago.

Apparently a core group of Loda residents doesn’t care if people see the village as hostile, angry, ignorant, insular white people.

Well, some of us do care.

The main concern, though, isn’t how Loda is perceived — it’s about welcoming all people to community events that are not intended to be political or controversial.

The second key issue, again, is the simple moral question of endorsing one of the most profoundly hateful symbols the world has known.