Monday, July 6, 2009

Confederate Flag and the Statehouse

Nine years after the Confederate battle flag was taken from its perch over the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, it remains over the Confederate soldiers memorial there.

The debate still rages over whether it should even be where it is. Some say that the flag is a symbol of degradation. The NAACP maintains a multi-year boycott over this issue. Yet there are black state lawmakers in South Carolina who support the flag remaining over the memorial.

I think it should remain there. The Confederate battle flag is a part of history that cannot be erased. Hundreds of thousands of Southerners fought and died for the Confederate cause. They were Americans too. Whatever one thinks of their cause, they too should be honored and remembered.

However, that flag is not an identity. I once read an estimate that over forty percent of Southerners fought against the Confederacy. The recent book State of Jones (which is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read) describes such an anti-Confederate revolt in Mississippi. Prominent ex-Confederates like James Longstreet and P.T. Beauregard risked ostracism from their neighbors to fight for the rights of black people after the war. No, to be a Southerner did not necessarily mean being a Confederate. Longstreet and Beauregard fought for that flag. Should their wartime and postwar services be denigrated by lowering it?

Democracy means living with and tolerating people who don't agree with you and may have different viewpoints on the same history. Keeping the flag over the soldiers memorial symbolizes that spirit of toleration.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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