A trip to the Indiana State Fair in the early 1960s was a festive event. The place seemed huge to young eyes. There were a lot of pieces of farm and construction equipment. In the livestock barns, the old man would point out the various breeds of cattle, sheep, and goats and explain why each was unique as the kids who were there to show the animals sweated and lounged on bales of straw or fold-out chairs. The really big room with aluminum siding sales pitches was okay. On the midway, some of the rides were bigger than the county fair, but that about it.
Of course there was the food. The various tents of a fair give off a one-of-a-kind smoke/smell. Some of the food sucks, some appeals to the tastes of some people and not others, and some is simply funny.
There were a lot of vendors of crap. I bought a Budweiser t-shirt when I was 11. That was my “gateway” t-shirt. There also were tents where one could buy cowboy hats, belts, and belt buckles. In the mix of the belt buckles and shirts and Zippo® lighters were familiar images—the Stars and Bars of the flag of the Confederate States of America.
This year, for the first time in about 25 years, attendance of YOUR Indiana State Fair is not one of life’s requisites. I will not miss the eat and dust (although August could be as wet as June and July). I stopped doing the rides years ago. I am a city dweller now and have no interest in farm equipment or live stock.
I am curious, however, about the issue of the sale of goods on which the Stars and Bars figures prominently.
First, the Confederacy was not an experiment in assertion of States’ rights. That people, not States, have rights, is reflected in the Declaration of Independence: “WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed...”
The concept that government exists by the consent of the governed gave rise to the modern—as in since the 1700s—concept of government. The notion that States—governmental entities—possess rights is antithetical to this notion. If a government—a State—has rights, it is on a par with, not subservient to, its creators—people. Therefore, States have no rights.
Second, the Civil War was a complex development in American history. Decades had produced divisions that erupted. The Civil War was fought for various reasons. One area of concern was “States’ rights.” The “right” in question was cited, in resolutions that accompanied secession votes, by four of the States that seceded from the Union. The “right” was the “right” of citizens to own as chattel other human beings. Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia specifically cited the threat posed to the institution of slavery as the reason for secession.
President Lincoln sought to preserve the Union. Unfortunately, he did not press for abolition of slavery. That abolition was a necessary outcome of the Civil War became obvious as fighting continued far longer than leaders on either side had anticipated. The Civil War amendments were enacted and adopted. They ended slavery and sought to protect the rights of individuals against the States.
Third, the States of the Confederacy committed treason in their effort to preserve the most evil institution ever to be memorialized in our Constitution. The “Great Compromise” was not the compromise that resulted in small States having equal representation in the Senate and members of the House of Representatives being distributed based on States’ populations----in which, for purposes of calculation, “all other Persons” were counted as three-fifths of a person, Art. I, Sec. 1, para. 3—but on the topic of slavery. Twenty of the fifty-five delegates, who attended at one time or another, the 1787 Convention, claimed ownership over other human beings. (I will footnote, or otherwise cite support, later for historical references in this blog.)
The Civil War ended. A lot of people died in what was not a “war” declared by the United States Congress. To have done so would have been to recognize the Confederacy and lend it legitimacy. The “Stars and Bars” of the Confederate flag is a bitter reminder to many of those years of slavery as well as the years of oppression that followed.
The Indiana State Fair is funded, in large part, by public funds. Vendors sign contracts to rent space. I wonder if anyone has spoken to the vendors of leather belts and t-shirts and said, “We do not want merchandise of the Confederacy sold at the Indiana State Fair.”
I believe in free speech. If a group touting itself as The Sons of the Confederacy—or the Ku Klux Klan or some form of American Nazi Party, for that matter—applied for, and was denied, space at YOUR Indiana State Fair, I think members of that group would have valid grounds to seek redress in the Federal or State courts for violation of their constitutional rights and injunctive relief requiring they be allowed space. I would not represent groups that would seek such action—this blog could be construed as solicitation of a case, and that is prohibited by Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct—but there are lawyers who could and would (including probably the ACLU) represent those groups. Each year I have passed anti-choice religious groups who have tents just off 38th Street across from the exposition building. I find the messages of those groups offensive—and protected by our Federal and State constitutions.
Vendors of t-shirts and belt buckles, however, are not selling such items for ideological reasons, any more than they sell door mats with cute sayings about cats and dogs because they are advocates for animal rights (or maybe they would not sell the cheap leather belts). Any free speech considerations are incidental to their general sale of merchandise.
As I wrote earlier in this blog, I will not attend this year’s State Fair. To address the question of whether officials of YOUR Indiana State Fair should enforce whatever morals clause—and I would presume such a clause exists in the standard contract for lease of space at YOUR Indiana State Fair—in the exhibitors’ leases or contracts and ask that any paraphernalia of the Confederacy be removed is one that seems timely.
As for the food served at the fair, I can get corn on the cob at the market on College. And I have not been a fan of deep-fried candy or cookies.