Barbeque and the Battle Flag

Leave it to liberals to figure out how to rewrite Newton's Third Law, and replace it with:

"For every action, there is an outrageous and excessive reaction."

According to the September 13, 2000, on-line edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wal-Mart, one of the nation's largest discount retailers, has decided "it will no longer sell a popular barbecue sauce in six Southern states because the manufacturer sells merchandise with racist overtones." The manufacturer in question is Maurice's Gourmet Barbeque of West Columbia, South Carolina.

Before we jump the gun here and assume that Maurice's is some little roadhouse barbeque shack with a handful of redneck local patrons, there is some explaining to do. Maurice's is a landmark in South Carolina. Maurice Bessinger's father Joseph started the business in 1939, and Maurice opened his first "Piggie Park" restaurant in 1953. Today they have eight locations in and around Columbia. They also support a thriving mail order business with customers all over the United States and beyond. Maurice's was once rated the "Best All-in-One Barbeque Restaurant" by People magazine, and it has been favorably reviewed by publications as varied as Southern Living and Chili Pepper.

As stated in the article, a Wal-Mart customer (emphasis on "a") complained about the owner, Maurice Bessinger's removal of the American flag at his store locations, and his replacement of said flag with the flag of the State of South Carolina and the Confederate battle flag. Upon receiving the complaint, Wal-Mart removed the sauces from the shelves of eight stores in North and South Carolina, and began an "investigation" into Mr. Bessinger's business. After completing the investigation, Wal-Mart decided to remove Mr. Bessinger's products from the shelves of more than 90 Wal-Mart stores throughout the South.

According to Wal-Mart spokesman Jay Allen, "We're just not comfortable with some of the things he is selling in there." Allen was quick to point out "This has nothing to do with the Confederate flag." The Atlanta Journal followed with "The merchandise includes tracts that offer justification for slavery."

Whoa!

"Tracts that offer justification for slavery?"

I travel throughout the southeast on business, and was in Maurice’s flagship store recently for dinner. Mr. Bessinger does have written materials, some free and some available for sale in his store. He is a strong proponent of states rights, and is using space in his business to promote these ideas. These documents promote the Southern view of the War Between the States, many indicating that the history of the South and the war are being misrepresented. Mr. Bessinger is hardly alone in this view. In his current book, reviewed recently on this site, When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, tax historian Charles Adams makes a scholarly and compelling case that we have been led to a mythology about the causes of the war. Adam's research and documentation are impeccable and incontrovertible. Although no one has called Adam's work a "justification for slavery," it's probably a good thing for Mr. Adams he isn't in the processed food business, or Wal-Mart would surely be after him as well.

None of the documents I saw in Maurice's restaurant contained a justification for slavery, unless today merely defending the Confederacy’s constitutional right to secede and form a new government, or displaying documents with the Confederate battle emblem on the cover is “offering justification for slavery”. One is left to assume that there can no longer be any discourse on socially or politically sensitive topics. You either knuckle under to the “correct” worldview, or you risk having your business destroyed and your reputation maligned.

If we are to believe the Atlanta Journal, on the basis of one customer complaint, Wal-Mart has chosen to no longer carry Maurice’s barbecue sauces. This will impact Mr. Bessinger's business, and is tantamount to allowing a special interest group to exact economic terrorism on Wal-Mart's vendors.

Wal-Mart’s response should have been to advise the customer that they do not have to buy the product and, if they chose, to contact Maurice Bessinger directly and register their complaint. This option would have allowed the customer to use his own economic power to send a message to Maurice’s, without denying all other Wal-Mart shoppers the right to make their own choice about what products to purchase and what causes to support.

For those interested, Maurice's makes outstanding Carolina-style barbeque, and they can be contacted at:

Maurice’s Gourmet Barbeque P.O. Box 6847 West Columbia, SC 29171 Toll Free: 1-800-MAURICE E-mail: mail@mauricesbbq.com

Web Site: http://www.mauricesbbq.com/

September 15, 2000

Jef Allen is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee, who has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very little tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual liberty.