In the wake of Charleston’s tragic massacre, professional agitators are now inciting an attack on the Confederate flag –as if it was to blame for the tragedy. Weasel Zippers posted this twitter screenshot showing something is in the works.
The question of whether the Confederate flag should be displayed should be up to the citizens of Charleston, not some rent-a-mob, but as a southern gal, I feel the need to weigh in on this.
I have to say I was surprised to learn that South Carolina is still flying a Confederate flag at the capital. I always have been, and I always will be an advocate of state’s rights. I know that many of the country’s southern states fought in the Civil War to protect state’s rights and prevent an over reach by the federal government into their states and local governments.
But I also know that many of those same people — the people in power who owned vast tracts of land, who ran businesses, were involved in commerce and trade, and were part of the government of the south –didn’t want to end the slavery that made their way of life possible.
I’ve read many books and first hand accounts of the battles of the Civil War. There is no doubt that each soldier had his own reason for enlisting and fighting. Men on both sides were for and against slavery. Men on both sides fought bravely and endured terrible suffering — as do all men at war. Even today, men are still debating about the Civil War and the effects of its outcome on today’s America. Men and women meet at well known battlefields to honor the sacrifices of soldiers on both sides of the issue, and numerous movies have been made about the subject.
I’ve always been of the opinion that descendants of these soldiers should be able to honor their sacrifices as they saw fit. Monuments have been built at battlefields and re-enactors participate in mock battles on the anniversary dates of the major engagements, fighting under the flags of their ancestors. When discourse about the Confederate flag arises — as it always does — I have always been told, by my southern acquaintances, that it represents their southern heritage, the bravery of their soldiers (many to whom they were related) and the suffering of all southerners who endured that war. Couched in those terms, I have supported their right to fly that flag, or have the flag on their clothes, bumper stickers, license plates and so on.
Now, after the events of this week, the killing of nine innocent church goers by a crazed terrorist who was pictured holding a Confederate flag, I have changed my mind. While this flag may represent honor and country to some, it has also represented slavery, hate, and bigotry to others. It has been flown and worn, by people who have committed the vilest acts that can be perpetrated by one human on another. It no longer represents a country that exists, it no longer is carried by soldiers dedicated to their families and southern way of life. After the civil war, it was hijacked by killers, thugs, and terrorists — the KKK. Now it has been picked up by white supremacists, as has the Nazi flag, and it represents thoughts and actions of which no civilized society wants any part.
I’ve read many accounts of the life of Robert E. Lee and by all accounts he was a patriot, an honorable man and a dedicated Christian. This is my favorite account of Lee:
“Lee, the epitome of the image of the noble, chivalric cavalier, accepted the loss of the quest for Southern independence with extraordinary grace. With so much of the South wantonly destroyed, he, more so than the vast majority of embittered and vengeful Southerners, knew that the war ended with much more than Northern victory and reunification. Through victory an entirely new social order was to be established that would alter the relationship between the races forever. Unlike so many other Southerners, Lee embraced the new order. After peace had been achieved through unconditional surrender, the South became a vast, heavily occupied military zone with black Union soldiers seemingly everywhere.
One Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, a well-dressed, lone black man, whom no one in the community—white or black—had ever seen before, had attended the service, sitting unnoticed in the last pew.
Just before communion was to be distributed, he rose and proudly walked down the center aisle through the middle of the church where all could see him and approached the communion rail, where he knelt. The priest and the congregation were completely aghast and in total shock.
No one knew what to do…except General Lee. He went to the communion rail and knelt beside the black man and they received communion together—and then a steady flow of other church members followed the example he had set.
After the service was over, the black man was never to be seen in Richmond again. It was as if he had been sent down from a higher place purposefully for that particular occasion.”
Some scholars argue this is not a true account, but I believe it is, based on many books I’ve read about Lee. While it may be legal for the Confederate flag to be flown, I believe it is time to put it away, both from the capital of South Carolina and from American life. It deserves its rightful place in museums. It is a part of our history, and as with most history, it represents the good and the bad of the country it represented. But for the sake of our FUTURE, it needs to remain a part of the past and not of the present. I believe this would be all right with General Lee who was, based on the above story, already embracing the new America and not clinging bitterly to the past.
[Note: this article was written by Ashley Edwardson]