Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Flag

My post this week on Monuments was generated after seeing the controversy in New Orleans regarding removing some monuments to Civil War generals.  You can read it here.  I linked it over on FB and it has in turn generated quite a few comments on both sides of the issue.  I'm happy to say most are respectful and thoughtful.  

But I guess inevitably the issue of the Confederate Flag, the stars and bars, has been raised.  Now I'm not one to engage passionately on FB on some controversial issue.  I'd much rather post photos of my wonderful dog or exciting vacations or special events that are sorta fun.  But every once in a while, a subject begs to be addressed.  So I thought I'd publish a few thoughts here and link them there and let the chips fall where they may.  Anyone who wants to follow the link and read this must have interest. Otherwise they will just move on to the next post with photos of puppies.

First, this is the flag we honor.  Full Stop.  The Stars and Stripes were born in the earliest days of the country and symbolize this unique experiment in Democracy we call the United States of America.  

Of course people might honor other flags in separate ways.  Sometimes it's their state flag or city flag.  Or maybe they are a member or veteran of one of the branches of the military and will honor that flag.  But above all, honoring those flags never usurps the honor all Americans should show to the flag of the United States.

In the discussion of monuments, I came down on the side of agreeing with Mayor Landreiu.  Remove the monuments.  But I also think they have a place.  Put them on a battlefield, or a museum, or a historical site, or somewhere that the story can be told.  And where it can be assured that the story is told truthfully and fully.  It doesn't mean that the historical nature of the monument or the aspects of heritage are minimized, but rather that the pain inflicted by such monuments in the public square are just not appropriate or worth the battle to keep them.  Not when they cause such pain to some of our fellow citizens.  To my mind, there are much bigger battles to wage.  But that's just my opinion.

But then we get inevitably to this flag.  The Stars and Bars have generated huge controversy for many years and that is not going away.  After the horrific murder of black parishioners in Charleston, SC a few years ago the controversy came to a fever pitch.  The State of South Carolina removed the flag from state grounds under what I thought was pretty courageous leadership by Governor Nikki Haley.  And life goes on.  On this controversy I'm a bit more definitive.  This is the Confederate Battle Flag and known to symbolize the Confederacy.  To many it is indicative of a heritage.  They say it symbolizes a way of life and a cause that so many fought and died for.  They say it's not about slavery.  Many bristle when it is related to the brutal and shameful oppression of black people.  But in doing a very cursory search on the confederate flag and it's origins I came across this disclaimer on one of the prominent web sites:  
It is necessary to disclaim any connection of these flags to neo-nazis, red-necks, skin-heads and the like. These groups have adopted this flag and desecrated it by their acts. They have no right to use this flag - it is a flag of honor, designed by the confederacy as a banner representing state's rights and still revered by the South. The South denies any relation to these hate groups and denies them the right to use the flags of the confederacy for any purpose. The crimes committed by these groups under the stolen banner of the Confederacy only exacerbate the lies which link the secession to slavery interests when, from a Southerner's view, the cause was state's rights.
There's that claim again, that it's all about state's rights.  It just seems to me that the protest is too strident.  As I said in the previous post, any serious student of the Civil War knows that at it's heart, it was about slavery.  Now don't get me wrong.  We live in a free country.  Anyone who wants to can display this flag.  Anyone who wants to can tell themselves that it's honoring a way of life 150 years ago that just wanted to be left alone to grow their cotton.  Anyone who wants to can even celebrate the independence and rebellion of a rogue section of the country.  But at the same time they should remember two things.  Most of the population is not in your corner.  And the symbolism you're flouting has a sinister meaning and deep down you know it.

Which brings me to what I think is a logical conclusion.  If this flag engenders such heartache why would we want to inflict that on our fellow citizens?  One of the most prominent and concerning issue facing this country today are the strong and vitriolic divisions in our citizenry.  What does flying, glorifying, boasting about, and promoting the stars and bars do to help heal a divided country.  I know many will say it's history and if people can't take reality, too bad.  And I agree it's history.  But let's put history in it's rightful place.  Let's put it in museums, in battlefields, in historic sites.  Let's bring this flag into classrooms and tell the story.  Let's let the historians tell the truthful history.  But for God's sake, it just simply doesn't belong in the public square as an atrocious reminder of the whippings, the deprivations, the squalor, the rending of families, the selling of people.  It's not a reminder, it's an affront.

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