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Battle over Confederate flag hits highways

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What effect the flags will have on public perceptions and even tourism intensifies the issue as a political force here in the only part of the country to suffer the humiliation of total defeat.

"The battle flag "is a profound statement ... and the targets of our nerve-getting are the business community, the tourist community and the political community," says Marion Lambert, the Brandon, Fla., beekeeper who spearheaded the Tampa flag monument.

Unlike the flags that were taken down from the capitol domes in Columbia, S.C. and Tallahassee, Fla., these new auto dealer-sized flags – sewn in China – may be legally untouchable. Raised on private property, the Tampa flag was OK'd by county zoning officials and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"It's not going to go away," says Jim Farmer, a history professor at the University of South Carolina at Aiken. "There is a subculture within the white Southern population, of which the SCV is the most visible voice, that feels besieged by modern culture in general, and they identify the Old South and Confederacy as a way of life and a period of time before the siege began to really hit the South."

To Confederate sympathizers, opposition to the flag is misguided. They say the "soldier's flag" represents not slavery, but the valor of Southern men in their lost cause.

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