On the heels of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying in effect that every school in the country would be above average if she were president [apparently she doesn’t know what “average” means], former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was at a campaign event when a gentleman in the audience said, “Anybody killing any other entity because of one basis or not is horrific. But does that necessarily require removing all these confederate fixtures which at one point were granted American veterans?”
Demonstrating once again that American politicians today [of all parties], like most of the American public I suppose, are woefully undereducated in American history, Governor Bush responded, “I think that’s a state-by-state decision. In the case of Florida, before any tragedies took place, when I was governor, sensing that this was going to be a deeply controversial issue that I wanted to avoid, I moved the confederate flag [the Seven Flags of Florida display] off the state premises into the Florida Museum where they would be honored because it would be part of our heritage, but it would not be a visible sign of what Florida was about–all of the flags, not just the confederate flag. And it avoided opening up wounds; it was done without a big fight, the political fight that was associated in other states didn’t exist because I unilaterally did it. Didn’t change history, and it’s in the Florida History Museum where it should be, so I think there’s a way to find the right balance as you’re bringing up because it, look, the confederacy is part of our heritage, and it should be respected like other parts, but it doesn’t have to define who we are, either because that symbol, the problem with the confederate flag isn’t the confederacy. The problem with the confederate flag is what it began to represent later, and that’s what I think we have to avoid to heal those wounds.”
Well, Governor, the confederacy, an entity dedicated to the preservation and extension of the institution of slavery and the preservation of white supremacy as well as an entity which conducted a treasonous war against the United States, an entity responsible for more deaths of American soldiers than Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS combined, is certainly a huge part of the problem of that flag. I disagree that the confederacy needs to be respected. Should we respect slavery, since that’s a part of our “heritage” as well? The confederacy was one of the worst things that ever happened to this nation, and as an entity shouldn’t be respected.
The questioner then responded, “Honestly, I don’t even think it really shows any sign of racism.” Gov. Bush then said, “Well, I’m not sure if you were a civil rights worker in the 1960s trying to fight for equal rights for African-Americans that they would necessarily agree with you. That’s the point. It isn’t the 19th Century issue, it’s the 20th Century issue.”
Well, again, Governor, no. Not only is the confederacy itself a huge problem, but the flag was used as a symbol of white supremacy by the Carolina Rifle Club, a white supremacist terrorist group in Reconstruction. The 19th Century issue is just as, if not more, important as the 20th Century issue. And the flag is still being used today as a symbol of white supremacy. So it’s also a 21st Century issue. While Governor Bush’s instinct was correct and his sensitivity to what happened during the [1950s and] 1960s in reaction to the Civil Rights Movement is commendable–in fact, he’s exactly right in pinpointing the problem with the flag as it pertains to the Civil Rights Movement, his historical understanding is incomplete. Perhaps he should read Florida’s unpublished Declaration of Causes for Secession. Then he can review Alexander Stephens’ famous “Cornerstone Speech. And to round out the Twentieth Century, he should look at the platform of the States Rights [aka Dixiecrat] Party and see what flag was most prominently displayed at their rallies.
The problem isn’t what the flag became. The problem is what the flag was for its entire existence.
I suppose we should count our blessings, though, because his incomplete understanding isn’t as bad as some other politicians’ claims. As politicians go, he’s not among the worst. But there’s room for improvement.
You can see the exchange here: