Calls to remove confederate flags from government property are big in the news these days. I was going to collect a number of articles, but the explosion of commentary is so huge it’s difficult if not impossible to put together a comprehensive collection.
I’m happy to see elected officials such as Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Tim Scott call for the removal of the confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. Likewise, I’m happy Alabama Governor Robert Bentley removed the four flags from that state’s capitol grounds. The National Park Service discontinued sales of items that depict the flag in a stand-alone format, a move that affects eleven out of over two thousand items for sale in the Gettysburg National Military Park’s museum book store.
There was a buildup of events that triggered this sea change in public opinion. First came the ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States that allowed states to ban the confederate flag from license plates, followed by Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, announcing he would ban the confederate flag from his state’s license plates. Then came the horrific terrorist attack in Charleston, South Carolina by a racist who used the confederate flag to symbolize his hatred of African-Americans. What I believe put things over the top was the depiction of the US Flag at half-staff over the South Carolina capitol while the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds stood at full staff. Outrage, shock, and horror turned to anger, and anger turned to action.
The flag needs to be removed from any context that shows or implies acceptance or support by a government entity. It doesn’t deserve such a place of honor. It is a flag that symbolizes treason against the United States. It is a flag that symbolizes a fight for the preservation of slavery. It is a flag that symbolizes racial oppression. It is a flag that symbolizes resistance to equal rights for all regardless of race.
Those who think it represents southern heritage don’t know what they’re talking about. It represents the worst four years southerners ever lived, and it represents the oppression of African-Americans for the next hundred years after that. Those who think it was “hijacked” just don’t know what they’re talking about. That flag has symbolized those things from its first moments on. Recent events have galvanized opposition to the flag’s display, and have moved many who had no opinion on it to opposition. Most welcome, it has moved several who previously supported the flag’s presence to oppose it.
This does not modify my long-standing view that an individual is free to use that flag to express his or her opinion on their own property. I’m against an outright ban on all displays of that flag, reprehensible as it is. I think the best place for the flag is in a museum. Reenactors portraying confederate units are another legitimate use of the flag. I have no problem with individuals placing flags on the graves of confederate veterans on special occasions, though I think they should be removed as soon as that occasion has passed.
Where do you stand?