In honor of Independence Day, I ran the Peachtree Road Race for the 4th time. The Peachtree is the world's largest 10K race with 55,000 runners, 3,000 volunteers, and an estimated 150,000 spectators. It's great fun, and in the later groups, more of a moving block party than a road race.
Because it's held on July 4th, patriotic themes abound. People carry American flags while running, spectators blast the Star Spangled Banner on their stereos, and a giant American flag hangs over the starting line. My first race was in 2002, only 10 months after the September 11 attacks. Blackhawk helicopters flew overhead, police and SWAT were out in force, and even the National Guard helped protect the thousands of people involved in the race. At mile 4, firefighters waved a flag from the top of their ladder truck to great cheers coming from the runners below.
Even today, despite rules forbidding costumes (due to the risk of heat stroke - the high today is 97!), some runners come dressed as the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam. But today I saw what is probably the least patriotic display imaginable, and unfortunately one that is perfectly accepted in the South. A man ran the race carrying a large Confederate flag. What could be less patriotic and inappropriate for July 4th than the one flag that represents rebellion and civil war? And even on days not July 4th, why is it that kids with Islamic headscarfs get harassed at school, but Confederate flags are OK? Can you think of anything less American than an armed insurrection against America?