It's that time of year again, what we will call Come and Take It season. It's better than dove season, it's better than the holiday season. It might even be better than the seasoning they use at Baker Boys.
Like most small-town festivals, the Come and Take It Celebration is a chance for reunion and fellowship, a time for flying chickens, free street dances, and cold beer. Also, it's a time to celebrate Texas independence.
On Sunday of festival weekend is the solemn ceremony that pays homage to that Come and Take It spirit and sacrifice, recalling those who fired that little cannon on the banks of the Guadalupe River, honoring the Immortal 32, and remembering the Runaway Scrape. It is truly difficult to present your festival namesake that exists as legend and a historical movement as something tangible. Much easier it is to tell folks about your festival that honors watermelons, kolaches or turkeys.
But organizers try their best to get folks to realize what the Come and Take It Celebration is all about. Texas freedom and all of that.
Second Amendment defenders have seemed to understand this, though they get their jollies showing up at grand openings and baby showers to brandish their assault rifles and sidearms for the world to see. You'll see them preening downtown at this year's event. Pickup truck gun racks just aren't good enough anymore to prove that point.
But what does “Come and Take It” really mean? It is a cry of war and a stand against oppression, much like the Rebel Yell or the shrieks of “Banzai,” “Allahu Akbar,” “Remember the Alamo” or “Currahee” said by fighters of conflicts past. “Come and Take It” was uttered by a bunch of rebels standing against an army in an antiquated time. It meant something deep to them. It is a battle cry that should only be said by those who really understand its meaning.
Lately, it seems that everyone has got their hands on this slogan and have co-opted it for their own, sometimes slanted, always personal gains.
I get it. The Second Amendment protesters like their guns. But do you have to put an AK-47 on this flag in place of the classic cannon? Doesn't that cheapen the meaning, undoing the original impression and placing a common, contemporary instrument of war? Judging by the less-than-athletic physiques of some of these Come and Take It Second Amendment Truthers, I don't think that they could come and take anything if a terrorist did strike. Well, maybe a donut....
What would the original inhabitants of Gonzales understand about the many emblems that have been cast upon the Come and Take It flag in place of the iconic cannon? What would they say about the battles that the flag has been thrust into in these current times? Does the battle cry fit the bill?
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott have taking a liking to using the phrase, most often lobbing it at the administration of President Barack Obama. Recently, Patrick said that government regulators could “Come and Take It” regarding the public school transgendered bathroom debate in Fort Worth. Would the Immortal 32 approve of Patrick using the line so carelessly against his own citizens?
Here's something fun to do when you have 10 minutes to waste. Type in “Come and Take It” into a Google search and look at the images. There, you'll find the flag and the phrase, but with a thousand different symbols replacing the cannon. There's a shot glass, a microphone, bar bells, guitars, trash cans, even the Astrodome. Whataburger and Lone Star Beer have recently jumped into the game, emblazoning their logos on the sacred flag. And there are many more than them that have latched on to this flag of pride for monetary gain.
That is some creative liberty which should provoke questions of what is in good taste when it comes to this. When corporate interests take a revered symbol of resistance, rebellion and freedom and splash their logo on it for profit, does that cheapen the essence of what Come and Take It is? Would they do that with the “Live Free or Die” flag? How about the “Don't Tread On Me” one? Too soon to rebrand the Confederate Flag with Dallas Cowboys stars? Should McDonalds put their logo on the American flag for Independence Day? Our country likes to be served edible mysteries wrapped in disposal wrapping, so why not?
Did you see the Come and Take It flag that had a marijuana leaf sprouting where the cannon once was? Naturally, the flag was green, but was it made from hemp? Most notably, the word “take” was changed to “toke,” and millions of Colorado and Oregon residents had a banner to fly when they voted to allow the sale of the plant in their states.
How do you feel about putting a pair of ovaries on the flag and bathing it in burnt orange? That's what protesters of House Bill 2 did in Texas this year, making their stand against restrictive abortion practices passed by the state legislature. It's not exactly the cutest flag to look at, but boy, does it get the point across.
And just a couple of weeks ago — back in Austin no less — a University of Texas group gathered to protest the new law that went into effect Sept. 1, which allows folks to carry handguns on state university campuses if they are so licensed.
The “Cocks not Glocks” protest was billed as a way to satirize the “absurdity of weapons being allowed on campus but not the showing of sex toys.” In a move meant to shock and create debate, thousands of phallic items were handed out to participants who slung them around as freely as you would a 9mm in your holster. Their flag had replaced the long cannon with an unprintable unit, along with the phrase — which appears to have been written during a bout of dyslexia — “Take It and Come.”
What was flown down by the river on Oct. 1, 1835, sewn from a wedding dress, was meant to intimidate, inflame, and drive a point home to Gonzales' foes. Do you think that they fathomed that their sign of resistance would still inspire millions of patriots some 181 years later?
What do you agree with? Do you think that printing these various takes on “Come and Take It” has watered down the movement or crated more freedom fighters? Do you have a favorite one? Has parody gone too far? Does free speech hold an opinion?
The only thing that is certain is that whoever came up with the original flag idea in 1835 should have copyrighted their slogan. With the royalties they could have made since, Gonzales could have purchased a much bigger and better cannon than the pea-shooter they were given.