He was the type of man who didn’t care if his grandchildren dressed up like soldiers and carried toy guns around the yard. How did I know this? I knew this because he had a photo of two young boys packing heat while draped in military camo sitting on the dusty shelf behind him at the cash register. When I asked who they were, he answered, “my grandsons – in my daughter‘s yard,” and smiled.

That’s how I knew.

Not that a man being okay with toddlers pretending to be soldiers is a problem. This was a man who owned a rickety store called “Southern Patriot Shoppe” and planned to dress up like Jefferson Davis at this year’s Thanksgiving Feast. There’s much more to him than his parenting style.

The feast, all the while, is slated to take place in Abbeville, S.C., which has one major claim to fame: Abbeville is the birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy – a meeting was held there in November 1860 to launch South Carolina’s secession from the Union – and Jefferson Davis, the woulda-been president of the Confederate States of America, stopped there in May 1865 to officially acknowledge the dissolution of the CSA government.

It’s also where the Southern Patriot Shoppe – owned by the man who doesn’t care if his kids are taught shooting things is cool – happens to be located.

Bill is his name. Last name could be Hayes, but I don’t recall. One syllable and begins with an H. Maybe Haynes. Doesn’t matter. First name’s Bill, and I’m sure of that. I came into his store to kill some time, but came away with $30 bucks of goods and a heck of a history lesson.

I know South Carolina’s state flag has undergone several alterations to commemorate several phases of its history. I know the Palmetto Tree is cherished there because Palmetto logs protected a fort at Charleston during the Revolutionary War by absorbing the British cannonballs rather than shattering like hardwoods. And I know there was a three-month stint when present-day Louisiana was known as the Republic of West Florida.

The Republic of West Florida’s flag was a Bonnie Blue with a single star in the middle. “Because they said it was them standing alone against the world,” Bill said.

Today, North Carolina and Texas are the only states in the Union with a single star on their flags.

South Carolina had a single star in place of the Palmetto Tree on its state flag for a time, too – right after it seceded (called the “secession flag“). It was the first state to break away from the Union. Didn’t care what the others did, either, according to Bill.

Bill had some tirades. He had some rants. One could gather he’d spent a lot of downtime in that lonely old shop with the wood floors that creaked when you walked. He’s had a lot of time to think this through.

I didn’t agree with his beliefs that it’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution when the government doesn’t allow certain people (like convicted felons) to have guns or that some should be stripped of their right to vote. I shuddered when he said the Civil War began because the U.S. violated the constitution in the 19th century because it wasn’t forcing Northern states to return slaves who had escaped from Southern slave owners.

But Bill hammered home a point I definitely can agree with: support their cause or not, you have got to hand it to South Carolina – and all the states in the Confederacy – for having the courage to secede. What a challenge it must have been. What a ballsy move. David taking on Goliath.

As a guy from Western New York who’s always believed the Civil War – sometimes referred to in the South as “The War of Northern Aggression” – began because South Carolina violated the Constitution when it seceded and President Abraham Lincoln wanted to keep the country intact, I’ve always been put off by the homage Southerners pay to Confederate soldiers. They were, after all, opponents of American soldiers – why should monuments in remembrance of them be erected in American towns?

The Civil War was the largest-scaled instance of treason America’s ever seen, right?

Right. More than 600,000 people died for, among other things, the right to keep slaves.

However, one shouldn’t lose sight of the similarities between the Confederate soldiers and the ragged rebels who sparked the Revolutionary War. That, too, was David taking on Goliath. That, too, was a ballsy move that would have had tragic after effects had it failed.

So, while it will be a while before you see me paying homage at a Confederate monument, I must say I kind of understand why they were put up throughout the South and why there’s not a drive to take them down.

If this nation never had any balls, it wouldn’t be this nation.

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