Loyalty to Our Ancestors Does NOT Include Loyalty to Their Mistakes [OP-ED]
"Loyalty to our ancestors does NOT include loyalty to their mistakes."
That, my friends, exactly sums up my feelings today as the state government in South Carolina has taken the Confederate Flag down. Hopefully for good this time.
Uh, oh. . .I can already hear the rumbling. But, I ask you to respectfully read the rest of this article and to think of more than just the gut feeling that someone is taking something from you today.
The last few weeks in the United States have been a test. We have been tested on where we are, where we have been, where we want to be and how we want to get there. How do we achieve that very basic idea of ONE Nation?
We do it in conversation. We do it in debate and we do it in respecting both the ideals of those who are of the same mind as us and those who view things differently. To reach this point in our journey, we've done this a lot. Sometimes we've gotten it right. Sometimes, not so much, but the ongoing and respectful debate and conversation is what makes us who we are and lifts us from being a country to being an ideal.
So, back to the flag. The Darin and I were eating Hibachi last week and one of the strangers around the table started talking about the flag and its status as a Battle Flag. That is one of the most popular arguments on social media right now.
So, I thought we might take a rare and wonderful look into real American History. Why? Because we like to rewrite ourselves in our own minds. We soften the edges and try to color in rose the things that make us uncomfortable, even when it applies to something our ancestors did that we had no control over.
BIG POINT NUMBER ONE:
The Confederate Flag was raised over the state house in South Carolina on April 11, 1961. It was supposed to fly for a year to commemorate the 100 years since the civil war. But, the resolution to fly the flag that was passed by the state government and the language did not include an end date -- so it stayed up.
In South Carolina, it was not a symbol of State's Rights, it was a symbol of refusal to let black people have equal rights. That was the same time that South Carolina was desperate to keep segregation in place. In fact, there was a national committee to help organize the 100th anniversary of the War Between The States. South Carolina refused to take part after two black people were appointed to the commission.
It was not about southern pride, it was about segregation. Don't believe me? Here's part of the speech that was delivered to the segregated population during the 100 year commemoration:
Out of the dust and ashes of War with its attendant destruction and woe, came Reconstruction more insidious than war and equally evil in consequences, until the prostrate South staggered to her knees assisted by the original Ku Klux Klan and the Red Shirts who redeemed the South and restored her to her own." -- Senator John D. Long.
It might be good to stop here for a moment and just admit that, if you believe that black people, yellow people, brown people and white people should not all have the same rights -- you won't be convinced by anything in the world and can just go ahead and jump over to the video of the rat being pulled out the guy's bellybutton.
At the same event, Senator Strom Thurmond told the crowd that having the races be equal was a plot by the Communists to destroy our government.
So, it might be something that we memorialize in museums and as part of our history and as part of our heritage, but it should never fly as a symbol of who we wish to be.
BIG POINT NUMBER TWO: WHAT'S WITH THE WHOLE BATTLE FLAG DEBATE??
That's probably the thing I have seen most on social media and the thing that makes me scratch my head the most. A battle flag is flown in times of war and taken down when the war is finished. Both the victor and the loser remove the sign of battle and embrace the sign of peace. So, unless you're still setting yourself apart and, as a group, declaring the war not to be over -- you'd better get the bars and stars up there pronto.
BIG POINT NUMBER THREE: IF YOU WANT TO BE A PROUD SOUTHERNER, FLY THE AMERICAN FLAG.
That is how we win this battle, by making sure the American Flag flies true and proud and it is the one symbol of both our agreement and our disagreement. It is the thing that brings us together and makes us unique. It is the symbol of the proud heritage of both the north and the south and how, even through struggle, we have worked to make a better system and a better future for those that come next.
The American Flag doesn't mean we agree on everything or even most things. It means we will agree and disagree with each other while still understanding our common bond as members of these United States.
I'm not sure why people are so enraged by this issue and I'm not sure why we don't see that it is the same as flying a Nazi flag. We now see that symbol for what it was: a time of shame in our world history. But, the difference may be, the shame in the Confederate flag is not thousands of miles away -- but the shame is inside our own borders.
BIG POINT NUMBER FOUR: YOU DON'T HAVE TO STOP SELLING OR MAKING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG. GET SOME SENSE, PEOPLE!
Yes, you can still buy a Nazi flag. But if one ever flew over a government building in the United States, you would totally FREAK THE HELL OUT. As would we all. I think you should still be able to make, buy and sell a Confederate flag and symbol. I think you can wear it on a shirt or put it on your car. That is a symbol of YOUR belief and YOUR ideals. Thankfully, I don't have to share yours. You don't have to share mine -- and, in the end, that is REALLY what makes our country great.
The American Flag has a star for each of us. Each state is represented. They didn't stop at 13 -- but we are all inside that flag. It doesn't say north vs. south, east vs. west or good vs. bad. It says we are United in a few core believes about what the government cannot take away: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.