The Confederate flag is a symbol of a society of hate, that regarded African Americans as inferior and not worthy of the rights white Americans enjoy. After the defeat of the Confederacy, it remains as a symbol for those who cling to that mentality and is flown today by the KKK and other haters. Its mere display perpetuates a stain America has fought hard to remove from its society.
After the Civil War, the Southen infrastructure was destroyed, Southern property was snatched up by carpet baggers, and many Southerners were on the brink of starvation. From this despair, the South did indeed rise again, stronger, better, and has shaken off the collar of slavery and segregation. It’s an achievement Southerners can be proud of, and displaying a form of the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of this pride.
Both images of what we now call the Confederate flag can’t be right, can they? I say they can.
The crux of the issue is the flag represents different things to different people. To a civil rights leader, it certainly represents centuries of oppression. But to someone others would brand a redneck, it represents a tradition of self-reliance and simple but honest living. To a Civil War buff like me, it’s a historical symbol. Rather than to force one consensus on everyone, I believe it’s entirely possible to come up with a policy regarding its display that, while not necessarily pleasing every American, the greatest number of Americans can live with.
I would agree with those who say it should not fly above state houses or public buildings. It’s not that I believe the flag is necessarily evil in all contexts, but I acknowledge it is an offensive symbol to a large percentage of our population and it would be wrong to subject them to it only for the sake of those who have the opposite interpretation. I also believe it is ridiculous to try to remove it from Confederate cemeteries, entertainment acts popular with a lot of people who believe in Southern pride, and it is most ridiculous to remove it from the General Lee. (Those who grew up in the 80s will know what I mean by that.)
To me, it’s a waste of time to obsess over the interpretation of a symbol which has multiple meanings when we could be focusing on more substantive issues such as equal rights and educational opportunities, things that have a measurable impact. If we concentrate on a posture that acknowledges the legitimacy of both viewpoints of the Confederate flag, we can spend our remaining energy focusing on matters of greater substance.
*By the way, what we popularly call the Confederate Flag is based on a Confederate battle flag called the Southern Cross. I used the term Stars and Bars so I could play on the word “bar”.