This piece by an EIN news (similar to Reuter’s) correspondent takes (Republican) Gov. Nicky Haley’s call for a removal of the Confederate flag from the state flag a step further and presents a no holds barred endorsement of the policy. I don’t think, personally, that you can hit “delete” on historical symbols, but if they are displayed in public places and on state flags they have come to be increasingly associated with disrespect for groups who did Not benefit from the Confederacy and its aftermath.
Given the passion with which the Tea Party and Southern hard-liners have attacked “liberals, Washington, Obama” etc., they need to realize that a tough position opposed to theirs can be articulated and you will find one such articulation here. This is not a trampling of the South, which has seen impressive reforms, especially in the past 30 years, shifts in attitudes etc. This might just be the next logical step.
THE CONFEDERATE FLAG…A SYMBOL? YES. OF TREASON
June 22, 2015 By Joe Rothstein
Is the confederate flag a symbol of racism? That debate has gone on for decades. It won’t end because nine people were shot and killed in a South Carolina church. But what’s not debatable is that the confederate flag is a symbol of treason.
The U.S. Constitution defines treason as levying war against the government and aiding and abetting its enemies. Under the banner of the confederate flag, the deadliest war in U.S. history was waged against the U.S. government. More than 600,000 died, half of all those killed in all wars we’ve ever fought as a nation. Jefferson Davis was charged with treason. Lincoln circulated a list of top Confederate generals he said deserved to be imprisoned for treason. That list even included Robert E. Lee.
There’s a popular sick joke that goes this way: A visitor from a northern state stops in a southern town, sees the confederate flag prominently displayed and engages a local in a discussion about it. “What do you think happened at Appomattox Court House?” he asks. The local’s reply: “The longest ceasefire in history.” For many, the Civil War never ended. And it won’t end while the flag the South marched under continues to be a respectable symbol.
As South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said, in defense of the confederate flag after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church murders, “It’s who we are. It’s our heritage.”
Eleven southern states tried to secede from the U.S. because they refused to abide by the laws of the land, laws created by democratically elected representatives. Leaders in those states had many alternatives to war. They could have worked to change majority opinion. They could have tried to change the composition of Congress at a future election. They could have banded together to try to elect a president sympathetic to their views. The U.S. Constitution provides multiple road maps for change and public expression. If anything, the founding fathers purposely over-weighted our system of government toward minority view expression and protection.
If their efforts for peaceful change failed the leaders of those 11 states could have done what state leaders before and since have done: accept the will of the majority and adjust to it. But they chose to wage war against the U.S. A century and a half later, many still are waging that war. To listen to the political narratives in many southern states and communities is not much different than listening to the rantings about the U.S. government we hear from Iran, North Korea and other enemies of the U.S. Washington is the enemy. The South will rise again.
In our global society, we often compare the U.S. with other countries. But the U.S. isn’t like any other country. No other country so willing has accepted and integrated immigrants into its society. Few countries permit the range of free speech, religion, and other rights of individual liberty as the U.S. permits. And those that do share our democratic form of government adopted those rights from the U.S. model. Even in Great Britain, home of the Magna Carta, reporters can be jailed for printing articles that routinely show up in U.S. newspapers. That’s why WikiLeaks first appeared in the N.Y. Times rather than the Times of London.
That freedom and diversity expresses itself in many ways. Vast numbers of citizens in the U.S. West are unhappy about the way federal lands are managed. Many who live in states where coal mining is a major industry are aggressively opposed to attempts to control its use. Urban areas struggle to uplift neighborhoods where populations are dense and jobs scarce. To be an American is to be part of a cauldron of interests, often conflicting, where passions and differences create on-going tension.
That’s the price we pay to avoid having a master or master group telling us what to do and what’s best. We win. We lose. We accept, but reserve the right to continue trying to steer matters in our preferred direction.
What we don’t do is take up arms against the government. Millions of Americans opposed the Vietnam and Iraqi wars. They marched in the streets. Many sought arrest to highlight their protest. Likewise the anti-nuclear arms movement of the Cold War. The Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s. What violence occurred during those uprisings was limited, condemned and punished. Hopefully, there always will be high levels of dissent in the U.S. Hopefully, we will continue to be free enough and caring enough to express our concerns with public action. There’s hardly a stronger agent for positive change than demonstrations by active citizens.
All of this happens under one flag. The American flag. The proper symbol for a free people who use that freedom to try to make lawful change.
The confederate flag is the antithesis of that. It symbolizes armed revolution by those not willing to abide by the law and defend the Constitution. It’s treason. And the more we coddle those who fly that flag and wear it on tee shirts and belt buckles the longer we contribute to the notion that Appomattox was a cease fire rather than an ignominious defeat.
It’s time to put an end to the romance of the confederacy. It was a horrible war that took an incredible toll in human life and resulted in a legacy of another hundred years of virtual servitude for African Americans. As long as we tolerate it we will have dreadful incidents such as the murder of people during Bible study.
Lindsey Graham says it’s “our heritage.” He’s right. And an ugly, treasonous one. It’s time to call it what it is.
(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)