The reaction to Tuesday’s news that Warner Bros. would stop licensing recreations of the General Lee from “Dukes of Hazzard” due to its Confederate flag roof has drawn enough reaction to fill all the hollers in Kentucky. Today, the actor who’s made a lifetime career out of his role in the show announced he would stick by the flag and the show, modernity be damned.
Ben Jones, who played Cooter in the series, runs a chain of “Cooter’s Place” stores in Tennessee and serves as the unofficial head of Hazzard fandom, organizing festivals and making public appearances with his copy of the General Lee. In a Facebook message (changed here from the all-caps version as posted,) Jones said the Confederate battle flag was a “symbol of independence,” and vowed his stores would keep selling them until a chilly day in hell.
As for the flag on the General Lee:
That flag on top of the General Lee made a statement that the values of the rural South were the values of courage and family and good times.
Our beloved symbol is now being attacked in a wave of political correctness that is unprecedented in our nation of free speech and free expression. Activists and politicians are villifying southern culture and our heritage as being bigoted and racist. We know that this is not the case. And we know that in Hazzard county there was never any racism…
We are not racists. We despise racism and bigotry. And we think the people who are creating this “cultural cleansing” are the real bigots in this story.
When we say our flag stands for “heritage, not hate” and “pride, not prejudice”, we mean it. And we believe that old saying, “you can’t know where you are going if you forget where you came from.”
Given how sales of Confederate merchandise have risen since the move to eliminate it from stores and Southern statehouses, Jones’s call probably makes good business sense. Judging by the photos of Cooter’s Place in Nashville, removing anything with the battle flag would cut his inventory by roughly half. For $5, visitors can sit in the General Lee and feel like the original good old boys — although that flag on its roof will always spark debate about “never meaning no harm.”