Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Restaurant’s flag an affront to Maine’s heroes, common decency

On July 2nd, 1863, the soldiers of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry regiment---out of ammunition and facing a series of furious confederate attacks--fixed their bayonets and charged. Led by Bowdoin professor and Maine native Joshua L. Chamberlain, they routed the rebel attackers and secured the Little Round Top, a moment considered pivotal to the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

I now imagine what Chamberlain and his men would think to see a business in their very own Maine flying the noxious flag of both slavery and open rebellion against the United States of America. The owners of Grant Lee's Tavern in Farmington are surely aware of the history of Maine during the Civil War, and surely also aware of the meaning and significance of the Confederate battle flag, which makes it all the more upsetting that they would choose to fly it next to their restaurant's entrance...right along Rt. 27 where it is seen not only by locals, but thousands of tourists en route to Sugarloaf and Saddleback. What an embarrassment!

Racists and Confederate apologists will try to claim that the confederate flag is a symbol not of slavery, but of state's rights, cultural heritage, or any other number of things. But don't believe it. The only right the confederate states were fighting for was the right to hold slaves. The only heritage the flag recalls is the heritage of the plantation. That it is still flown in the south is bad enough, but that it should fly in the home state of Lt. Col. Chamberlain is a disgrace.

In this free and great nation, the owners of Grant Lee's have the right to fly whatever flag they wish. And I have the right to boycott their establishment until they remove it. I encourage all others who love their town and country to do the same.

Daniel Salerno
Farmington, Maine

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71 Responses »

  1. Well, there.
    Another victory for someone sitting around with nothing better to do than worry about what everyone else is thinking and doing.
    Here's a guy just trying to make a living and enjoy himself and someone comes along with an agenda and fires up the great political machine and injects a whole crapper load of "this is what I like, so you ought to like it too" and starts messing with trhe innocent guys life and living.
    If you don't like what you see, don't look! Why do you people think that everyone has to have the same wants, need, thoughts and values?
    Hope you're happy Mr. Salerno, you did what you came out to do. Now you can sit back and revel in the glory of a fight well fought and won right here on the good old internet.
    Do me a favor and don't ever come to my neighborhood!

  2. I have noticed that this newspaper, favors the current white house occupiers. Thus anyone who questions the high priest or his relatives, do not get the chance to voice their opinion. Does this newspaper know that it will be shut down to one reporter, who will be told what to write by the white house? Keep defending the current admin. and watch this paper fail to be a local sorce of info. I truley believe that this paper will be thrown under the bus by dumbama. I am saddened that this paper has fallen to the influence of dumbama and only allows good things to be said about him. I am happy though that soon this paper will be burdened with the extra money needed to pay the one reporter who MUST be a union member. Too bad and goodbye Daily Bulldog.

  3. The business of business is business. Flying a Confederate flag outside one's business -- for whatever reason -- is a risky business move: is it likely to attract customers or will it repel them? Will it generate positive reactions, neutral, or negative? The exact same thing is true of the Obama support sticker on the front door of Java Joe's. It's a business' decision to take the action and the consumers' decision as to whether or not to patronize the business.

    Not sure if the owners of Grant Lee's or Java Joe's ever considered the possible negative reaction to their business decisions. They may well have weighed the likely impact (to the best of their abilities) and made a conscious business decision to do what they did. Regardless, it's their right to do so.

    What I want to know, as a neutral consumer, is how good is Grant Lee's smoked brisket and how tasty are Java Joe's coffee and bagels. As a consumer, I choose not to boycott either business, but that's my decision.

  4. GrantLee's has made a business decision and that is fine with me. I have no burning desire to see the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (in which four of my great-great grandfathers served) used for commercial purposes. The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia was a soldiers' flag--- it never flew above goverment buildings or represented the government of the Confederacy. And by the way, I prefer my BBQ Lexington style (that woud be Lexington, NC).

    Mike Thomas

  5. Big Freakin deal. With all the other real problems and issues we have here in Maine , Dan here has a problem with a flag. Leave the guy alone. Its his business and if enough people dont like it,he will probably take it down, if most people dont give a hoot, thats fine too. Somebody has too much time on their hands I would say.

  6. Wow, so much vitriol. I wonder how different this comment thread would be if Farmington weren't 99.99999% white.

    First, I'd like to thank the owners of Grant Lee's for making what I think is the right decision. The confederate battle flag is obviously an artifact of American history and can be displayed tastefully as part of a historical exhibit. In my opinion, however, that display should not take the form of flying the flag in front along a busy road in the heart of the old union, where its prominence might cause confusion about the nature of our town. I think displaying the flag somewhere inside as part of a display of memorabilia is appropriate.

    Also, I'm looking forward to bringing my family to the restaurant to try the BBQ. As a native of New Jersey I might not be the most discriminating consumer of southern specialties, but I do know what looks good. And their BBQ looks darn good.

    Now, as to the "substance" of the attacks against me:

    Are people blind to the fact that the Confederate battle flag has come to prominently feature in the symbology of white supremacist, neo nazi, and neo confederate movements? There is a reason for that. You can bleat all you'd like about how there were "other issues" floating around during the Civil War--obviously--but it is fairly indisputable that had both North and South shared identical views on slavery, no war would have been fought. I've previously asserted, and history would back me here, that the real conflict was not over the nature of the North and South, but whether Southern values (slavery) would be exported to new American territories in the West. I'm grateful my union ancestors (figurative ancestors: my family came from Italy and Eastern Europe in the early 20th century) took up arms to prevent the spread of that vile practice. Revisionist and apologist claims about the secondary nature of slavery as a casus belli are pure bunk. I can only laugh when I see a post like Mike Thomas's: yes, sure, the Civil War was fought over line item vetos and funding for ports and harbors, got it.

    And now to address the bizarre rantings of Evan Van Huss:

    "I am appalled that a University Professor with a PhD would have such a narrow minded view about the Civil War. Yes, slavery was an issue in the Civil War, but there are many others..."

    Right wingers are all opposed to "moral relativism" until it suits them. They would have us believe there are lots of gray areas when it comes to abolitionists vs. anti-abolitionists, merely for the sake of culture-warrior identity politics. And, to paraphrase poster From Away, I assume you would agree with the following: there were many issues in World War 2 besides eradication of the Jews. Therefore it's o.k. to fly a Nazi flag outside my WW2 themed restaurant.

    "I would be delighted to sit in one of your lectures and see what you are teaching the students at the University of Maine at Farmington."

    Mostly medieval and Renaissance literature. You're welcome any time.

    "You fall just short of calling the owner of Grant Lee's a racist Mr. Salerno."

    A vicious, pernicious lie.

    "When I look at the Confederate Flag, I do not see a representative of slavery and hatred as you do. I am filled with pride that the Northern Part of the United States, the states that remained in the Union, stood together as one and cast down those who would see to destroy the great nation we live in today."

    Am I the only one that doesn't understand this? How can you look at the confederate flag and see all of those things, but not slavery. That is simply stubborn and willful blindness. WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY WERE FIGHTING ABOUT? Why, exactly, were men seeking to destroy this nation? To protect their right to own slaves. Period. End of Story.

    I'll leave you with a quote from the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

    "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make them free."

    What do you think the Hymn is talking about there, Mr. Van Huss?

  7. "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views"- Abraham Lincoln, Aug. 22, 1862

    Mike Thomas

  8. Dan Salerno
    January 9, 2012 • 9:39 am .Wow, so much vitriol. I wonder how different this comment thread would be if Farmington weren't 99.99999% white.

    Fact is, Farmington is 99% white, so the comments are what the comments are. Was this original rant about your dislike of the flag, your dislike of the percentage of white folks in Farmington, your love of hearing yourself speak, or were you trying to use a teachable moment on we original, native, backwoods Farmingtonians?
    If you were trying to help us with your knowledge, we'd appreciate it if you would consider it done and move along to your next mission.

  9. Mike:
    You seem to believe that dragging out that familiar old quote--which all educated individuals have read many times--proves something. You should try reading it closely.
    Lincoln is saying that everything he does if for the sake of preserving the Union. What did he do one year later? He emancipated the salves. That tells you, right there, that Lincoln saw emancipation as a necessary step in preserving the Union. And he was right. A nation divided by two cultures, two laws, two moral codes, could not stand together. Lincoln understood that abolition was a historical inevitability, and he understood the need for homogeneity in the nation's stance toward slavery: thus the necessity of emancipation.

    And I have already explained why this was the case. There is no doubt that the North would have allowed the South to continue to be slaveholding states for much longer had in the interest of national stability, had it NOT been for the issue of EXPANSION of slavery westward. This was what truly lay at the heart of the conflict. In fact, opposing the expansion of slavery into Western territories was a central plank of Lincoln's 1860 platform.

    In any case, you don't need my arguments to know that the Civil War was about slavery. Just read it from the secessionists in their own words. For instance, Mississippi's declaration of secession:

    "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world."

    There is not a thing in there about line item vetos.

  10. Of course, he emancipated the slaves. Not the salves. Oops.

  11. Ed,
    My concerns were as stated in the letter. I'm happy about the outcome. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Mr. Salerno,

    The Abraham Lincoln quote specifically states that the preservation of the Union was the only factor Lincoln felt was important. The war did not start because the Union government felt compelled to free the slaves due to some moral superiority. The Southern states felt they were within their rights to secede for whatever reason--- be it slavery, the line-item-veto, or in the case of Virginia, the threat of armed invasion. The Union lost the consent of the governed and conducted total war to force the Southern states back into the Union.

    Presently, there is an independence movement in Vermont. If the citizens of Vermont choose to leave the Union, so be it.

    Mike Thomas

    Mike Thomas

  13. All this over a flag...come on.....we still have the ways of is just we pay many bring migrant worker in to this state to get their crops out...isn't that what started slavery...the war was not just about black mans freedom..if it were why did it take a hundren years before they could vote?........look at apples, bluererries..wood harvesting..and lets not forget those wreaths we send to Arlington...who is getting the job done ...we bus workers in... .we house them and pay them well ... the thing is they get to bring the money home.......don't give a guy a hard time for making a living, he is working......history does repeat, it is the words that change and give the impression things are different...

  14. "But suggesting that I'm somehow wrong/stupid/immoral/uneducated/etc. because I'm not offended is more wrong."

    Unfortunately, my suggestion was far from what is quoted above. Anger and outrage has probably blinded any ability to interpret the real meaning (or perhaps you or someone else didn't even read what was written and just decided to attack me because I disagree; in which case I ask, "Who is the intolerant one?"). My statements indicate encouragement: if someone cannot understand what a symbol or flag flying really means, they should seek assistance (especially before entering a debate on the subject). Of course, I would never expect everyone to agree with me. That's super stupid. There's nothing wrong with HEALTHY debate and there is certainly nothing wrong with asking for help. I'm not a Maine native, sorry to disappoint you, but kudos for boxing me into whatever limits your imagination has condemned you to.

    I'm happy with the outcome of Mr. Salerno's editorial, and I'm very happy that the restaurant owners recognize the difference between flying a flag and simply displaying one. I'm sure it will find a happy home indoors, in context, with the other fine memorabilia of GrantLee's Tavern. Its removal eliminates confusion and fear. Some may have stated that there are other problems in the world needing remedy, but social awareness is a large part of the foundation for any strong community and I commend the owners of GrantLee's for doing the right thing.

  15. I went to highschool in the South, Robert E. Lee highschool to be more specific. Our school flag was the Confederate flag. However in the early 90's it was thought to be distasteful and disrespectful to fly the "stars and bars" at the school, sporting events, etc. So the students at the school prompted the action of replacing the flag. Knowing that a school of teenagers could understand the reaction that this flag causes, but adult business owners could not made me cringe every time I drove by this business. I am very happy to see that the owners have decided to make this change!

  16. So sad, in 2012, theres still people out there with so much ignorance of this country's history. And for a college professor to be so narrow minded, blows me away. I know the owners of GrantLee's Tavern & Grill. They are by no means predjudice, southern sympatizers, pro-slavery or ignorant! Here's a man who has worked his ENTIRE life to support his family. The risk he has taken by opening a restaurant in the first place (with the economy the way it is) i commend him! Then you have people (who haven't even taken the time to sit down and see HIS point of view) down grade his business... Boycott if you want - i doubt they miss your business. All these people want to do is educate their customers. So many people go into that place and come out having learned something they didnt know before they walked in. The menu has actual facts about the Civil War, the artifacts on the walls, even the children's menu has fun facts that EDUCATE!!! I have lived in south for many years, and honestly, Ive come across more people who are prejudice here in Maine then Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, etc... Theres people here that I know who have never left the state of Maine who proudly fly the Stars and Bars, have stickers on their truck windows, even have tattoos of the Stars and Bars. Yes, there are people who fly that flag with the wrong intentions, Southerners AND Northerners. Is it sad? Yes. Do I agree with it? No. Does that make me look at the Stars and Bars differently?? No. That flag is a part of history. It stood for a group of people that didnt agree with another groups opinions and laws. Today some people fly it because they are proud to be a redneck. Some people fly it because they are just proud to be a Southerner. Some people stick it on their truck window because they go mudding every weekend and consider themselves a redneck and thats just what rednecks do. SOME people fly it because its an important part of history and it goes with their Civil War restaurant theme. Not to offend someone else, not to piss people off, to simply make a statement that they care about OUR country's history. Its so sad that someone would boycott a place because of a 'flag'. In my opinion, its his loss. He's missing out on good people, great food and an atmosphere that tops any other place in Farmington. Where else can you get authentic southern BBQ, have a awesome server and learn about our country's history? No where i can think of... KEEP FLYING YOUR FLAG GRANTLEE'S!!!!! Don't let one person change what you're doing for this community!

  17. I was unaware, until after I posted, that simple things such as spacing did not appear in the posted articles, and as such could have avoided some of the bizarre in my "Bizarre rantings". Again it seems that I am in error to be a "right winger". I was born and raised in the Midwest, and I am a conservative.

    When I look at the Confederate Flag, I do know that Slavery was one of the major factors of the Civil War. I am well aware that hate exists to this day. Do I agree with the KKK, and Neo-Nazi beliefs? No, I do not. I cannot stand hatred. Yes, I am WELL aware that this flag is used by those "groups." I am sorry if I see things differently than yourself.

    Like you, Mr Salerno, my family did not arrive in the United States until the early 20th century. I am of Irish and German heritage. I was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln. I grew up hearing the stories of the Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana Armies that went off to defend the Union. THAT is why I see the southern flag as something other that outright slavery. In my own perspective, I think of the stories that I heard about the courageous actions taken by the Union Armies. Again, it seems that I must apologize that my Worldview is different than your own.

    "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make them free." from the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Yes, one can easily see what is meant. As stated above, Lincoln and the North did not want to END slavery. They wanted to curtail it's spread because of the 3/5ths compromise. If slavery was allowed into the new states and territories the North would be outvoted in Congress. If the North could be outvoted, then the United States would be run by the South. To claim that the war was about only slavery is false. Again, as stated previous, the North had it's own fair share of slaves. The fact that immigrants would work for almost nothing and required no care from the employer curtailed the spread of slavery in the North. There is a wonderful book called, "The Radical and the Republican." by James Oakes. It is a good read if you find the time, and it is a wonderful insight into the time just before the outbreak of the Civil War.

    It seems from other posts the the owner of Grant Lee's has removed the flag from display. It is his business and he may do as he likes. The Confederate Flag is not illegal to display in this country, and I am at least happy to see that the Daily Bulldog is allowing our Freedom of Speech to thrive.

    As to some of the "bizarre" nature of my post last evening. People tend to say off things when impassioned. I was angry that an establishment was "called out" because of a Confederate Flag outside of a Civil War themed restaurant. Our nation is on the end of one of the worst recessions in it's history. We can neither feed nor clothe all of the citizens of the United States, but we can raise a stink over a flag. Your opinions are your own Mr. Salerno, as my opinions are mine. I guess what I should have written last night was the following: I am saddened to hear that one of the professors of UMF is spending his time and energy trying to bring down a Confederate Flag, on private property. It would have been nice to see him comment about the plight of the destitute in his own community. Slavery was a terrible mar upon our country, and even to this day we are not completely de-segregated. There are much more important things happening here and now than a flag.

  18. Hum. It would appear that those most harmed by the recent recession (or whatever it will be called by history) are most in favor now of accepting/flying/encouraging use of the confederate battle flag (strangely like the flag used by the tea party folk). Conceptually, that's very consistent with the years of what is best called "the war of the rebellion". The ruling southern wealthy "aristocrats" (we now call such folk "oligarchs" or corporate executive fascists) were able to get the generally uneducated common folk (heartily energized by patriotism and religious fervor) to fight courageously for the government system of the wealthy, and against their own interests. One could go on a long time about this. But what the hey; many responses to Salerno's original letter are an unfortunate aspect of the information age; a massive proliferation of uninformed and hostile opinion.

    You know, about a year ago, (having been active in "civil war" reinactment and historic reading for about 10 years) I suggested to the owners of GrantLee's eatery that, instead of flying the battle flag, they would be best advised to display the "stars and bars", the "national" flag of the short-lived confederacy. That is, if their intent was to display the flag that corresponded to the US stars and stripes, as a sort of educational display. The problem being partly that a lot of people persist in believing the battle flag was the confederate national flag. Now the battle flag too often is perverted; flown or pasted on shirts, hats, truck bumpers, motorcycles, etc. as a hostile, in-yo-face statement that I'm a tough ole bubba demanding my rights even if they interfere with yours, and will kick your butt if you don't like it (or remind you that I'm for gun rights no matter what). I'm not sure the owners of GrantLee's place got the point from my relatively mild comments. Dan Salerno got the point across. The bubba flack is flying, and like the bomber pilots say, the thicker the flack, the closer one is getting to the target, or the truth, as in this case.

  19. GO ED! this guy needs to get a life and leave everyone else alone! the sign shows it perfectly...They serve both northern and southern food and those were the flags of the times... he needs a job or a hobby or something! Good grief!

  20. I was going to comment but decided nope.

    Dan has appointed himself judge, jury and executioner on this matter and is smug in the fact that the restaurant owners caved to his threat of boycott. Nothing I can add will convince him of his selfish and tyrannical means of action.

    I didn’t realize this restaurant was even open, thanks to the snobs of this world trying to educate those of us not capable of making educated choices, we get to learn the most important things, like what restaurant, book or movies to go to because if the uppity don’t like it, it must be good.
    I think there is a nice bbq meal in my future, several as a matter of fact.

  21. Im sorry but I have to say this! This is so stupid over a flag..As the Prof stated..He is from New Jersey..Havent we all figured it out yet that a lot of FLAT LANDERS come here to Maine and try to run the show.
    I hope that Grantlees displays it inside and then they can put the history of this flag by it so ppl understand. My God, so what, its a confederate are going to miss a great business because of this? Well your loss! Just because you may be a professor and know it all about history doesnt mean that you should be the dictator to someones business. There are a lot of other eating establishments in Farmington that will take your money, but then again, you willprobably find something offensive about there place too.,,so I have an idea...stay home!