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The Rebel issue rolls on…

May 18, 2009

More thoughts on the Rebel issue…

Over the past few months, I have been observing the WalpoleWords forum and reading the various opinions about the Rebel mascot.  While I have largely tried to stay out of the discussion, I now have an even greater understanding of what the Rebel proponents are using as their main arguments against changing the name.

First, although I respect those who argue that the Rebel mascot is perfectly acceptable in Walpole, I do not have any respect for those who do not stand up for themselves and do not put their own name on what they believe in. Unfortunately, due to the anonymity WalpoleWords provides, there are many who have stated their opinion on both sides of this issue without ever identifying themselves.  The few who do, like Mike Amaral and myself, end up getting trashed simply because we spoke up about an issue we believe in very strongly and didn’t hide behind the veil of the internet while doing it.  Please stand up for what you believe and post your name when possible.  (I appreciate those that already have).

Regarding the greater issue we are discussing here, it surprises me that Walpole, which supposedly prides itself on being “The Friendly Town”, would show so much resistance towards changing the name of mascot that is so divisive and unfriendly.  It is natural for Walpole residents to be proud of their town, as any town’s residents would be.  But what it is remarkable is the fact that Walpole residents appear to be unwilling to look outside the box on this issue and recognize that the Rebel and Confederate flag is deeply offensive to many people, and besides that, it has a very heavy negative impact on our town’s reputation.  I think we can all agree that waving Confederate flags in the stands of Gillette Stadium during the Superbowl is certainly not the best way to represent our town.

To me, the Confederate flag shows out-of-towners that Walpole needs a history lesson.  The fact is, the Rebels lost the Civil War because they sought to destroy the Union and maintain slavery.  Walpole, as a town, sent many soldiers to fight against the Rebels during the Civil War.  Several died.  Abraham Lincoln’s war agenda was to keep the Union together, and although he still saw African Americans as the inferior race, he was simply echoing the feelings many people in that era had of African Americans.

Our town has a reputation to uphold.  We are not necessarily “bowing to the politically correct police” or “giving in” by changing the name.  In reality, we are showing the world that Walpole does not condone the Confederates or what they stood for.  There are some who have argued that the Rebel mascot can also be connected to the Rebels during the Revolutionary War, but when we wave Confederate flags, and proudly display a “gun-totin Reb” on the sign on our front lawn, I don’t see how this connection can be made.

I have spoken to many people on this issue, living both in Walpole and out of town.  Most have told me they agree with me, but for obvious reasons they do not step forward and speak up. My guess is that there is a silent majority of people in Walpole who do not feel the Rebel is appropriate.

While it is certainly true that most Walpole High students are fine with the Rebel mascot, I am willing to bet that most will quickly give up the mascot once they fully comprehend its negative connotations and work together to come up with a new mascot.

It is time that Walpole ends the sharp division that has resulted from years of debate about this controversial mascot.  There are some who have said that the Rebel actually unifies the community, and is a rallying symbol for our athletes.  Unfortunately, the mere fact that people are discussing this right now shows that there is significant division as a direct result of this mascot, and the division started over two decades ago.

My message to Walpole residents who are so unwilling to change the mascot is this: Let it go.  I have heard many times the various arguments for keeping this mascot, and I fully understand the points of view.  However, a mascot is meant to unify, not divide.  This mascot does not unify, no matter what you personally believe.  It brings more harm than good to our town’s reputation, and it offends many.  The Rebels sought to destroy the Union and maintain slavery.  By changing our mascot name, we are showing, and sending a strong message to future generations and people outside of our town, that we believe in diversity and working together to come up with a name that everyone can agree on.

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