Don't be shocked to see a confederate flag flying outside Charles Goodson's new home in Payson.
It's not what you think.
Goodson is a patriot, not a racist.
He's a man who loves America, but disagrees with what it's become.
And he doesn't sit around and complain about it to the fellows in the coffee klatch. Goodson, chairman of the Southern Parties of the Southwest, is the kind of guy who does something about it.
"People are looking for alternatives to Democrats and Republicans," said Goodson. "We are different."
Goodson and his wife, Janice, both Arizona natives, relocated to Payson away from Tempe two months ago. They came to plant their political roots in Rim country soil.
"I've always loved Payson," said Goodson. "And there are a lot of confederates up here."
Goodson is fast to point out that the confederacy does not amount to a society of toothless, gun-toting rednecks. That's a misconception, he said, a negative image of the South perpetuated by the media, the government and history books.
"We are a political party," said Goodson. "We believe in equality. If I find someone make a racial slur, I'll throw them out of the party."
Indeed, Goodson recently booted 23 members for touting white supremacist beliefs.
"Some people join because they mistake the party and the confederate flag," said Goodson. "As chairman, I have to keep on top of these things because of the connotation."
Despite the flag's bad rap, a movement of Southern confederacy supporters of all races and religions is alive and well throughout the American South.
H.K. Edgerton's great-great-great-grandfather was a rebel soldier. Edgerton is a black man from Asheville, N.C., and in 2000, the former NAACP officer, outraged over the debasement of Southern heritage in public schools, dressed up as a confederate soldier and carried the confederate flag 1,300 miles from North Carolina to Austin, Texas.
"I'm a very staunch defender of a the confederate flag," said Edgerton. "It's too bad people have taken our history and heritage and made us hate each other."
The confederacy is an ideology, said Goodson, and the confederate flag represents that ideology -- an ideology that supports state governance, property rights and armed neutrality while condemning slavery, illegal immigration and gun control.
The confederate flag, also known as the confederate Navy Jack or the Southern Cross, is an interpretation of the Saint Andrew cross.
Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, considered himself a man of low esteem and when he was slated to die by the Romans, he asked to be crucified on a perverted cross -- an "X."
Then during the Civil War in the 1860s, confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard used the cross emblazoned with stars to avoid confusion on the battlefield with the Union Jack.
"Gen. Beauregard wanted to show the confederate's Christian roots," said Goodson. "So they used a version of the Scottish flag."
The contemporary Southern movement gathered momentum in 1999 when national chairman Jerry Baxley formed the Southern Party -- a national separatist group calling for a new Southern republic nation.
The Southern Party, mostly conservative, considered Democrats "a party of socialism" and Republicans "representing primarily the interests of globalist corporations."
Baxley's group also denounced the, "corrupt two-party system ... the precipitous decline of public virtue and morality ... cultural bigotry and oppression being waged against Southerners by the establishment" and "an attitude of racial malice towards people of non-European origin."
The party's biggest enemies were "the news media, left-wing agitators and the entertainment industry."
Because of internal strife, the group lost some of its centralized leadership. Local chapters have picked up the slack.
The Southern Parties of the Southwest represents Arizona and New Mexico, and maintains the same values as its parent organization. Goodson does not believe in violence and is against what he calls the "supremacy of the union," or American imperialism.
"If it doesn't happen in our back yard, it doesn't concern us," said Goodson.
You might be wondering what Arizona and New Mexico have to do with the confederacy, and if you ask Goodson, he'll say the Southwest has everything to do with the confederacy.
Neighboring Texas and abutting Mexico, the Southwest, during the Civil war, was strategically important to the confederacy. Southern leaders considered this area a gateway to the West via Texas -- a Southern manifest destiny.
"As long as supplies were coming in through Mexico, Northern armies had to subdue the Southwest," said Goodson.
The Southwest, said Goodson, cut ties with the Union in 1861. On March 16 of that year, delegates from the Arizona Territory met and drew up an ordinance of secession in what is now Mesilla, N.M. One of the articles stated:
"We do not desire to be attached as a Territory to any State seceding separately from the Union, but to and under the protection of a Confederacy of the Southern States."
Goodson said Arizona's connections to the American South are also rooted in postbellum migration and settlement. Many Southerners, economic and political casualties of the Civil War, moved west to start over.
"I've met people up here whose ancestry is in the South," said Goodson. "These are people who never owned slaves. They had their own farmhands or their acreage was too small to support slaves. Their lands were taken away after the war, so they came out here."
Third parties, are of course, nothing new to the American political scene. Ross Perot, as an independent candidate, garnered quite a bit of press and power during the 1992 presidential elections. And in 2000 Ralph Nader and the Green Party made a showing among disillusioned voters.
David Berman, Arizona State University professor emeritus of political science and senior research fellow at ASU's Morrison Institute said he's not at all surprised or alarmed at the existence of the Southern Parties of the Southwest.
Berman said alternative political parties are thriving after the last election, especially the Independent Party.
"In Arizona there's been quite a movement away from traditional parties," said Berman. "It's really a very tough go for any third party, but there are a lot of people who don't want to associate with the major parties."
Goodson's counting on the exasperation of the American people to increase his party's membership while preventing another civil war.
"It'll be a religious and racial war -- and ideological war," said Goodson.
"We can't change the federal government so let's declare war by using the system, use the ballot boxes.
"I believe that the U.S. has already seen its best days."
For more information, visit Goodson's website at: www.southernpartysw.org.