Time for Confederate flag to stop waving — everywhere

Photo by Jason Miczek of Reuters

Photo by Jason Miczek of Reuters

It’s horrible that it had to take a tragedy like the shooting of nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church to realize that it’s time to retire the Confederate flag to the trash bin of history.

The flag has become a symbol of racism, segregation, and hatred. But let’s not forget its original intent: It was a symbol of treason. A symbol of the reason 620,000 Americans died when one side started a war against its own government. You fly the Stars and Bars, and you’re a traitor to your country.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley now is asking for the flag to be removed from the state capitol. Most GOP candidates for president first used the “states’ rights” excuse in an effort to keep courting the South Carolina white vote in that early primary, but they quickly realized that public opinion was going in the opposite direction. So many did an about-face and joined the no-Stars-and-Bars chorus. That’s showing real leadership, there, gentlemen. A story in The Daily Beast, from which the photo above was taken, called it the GOP’s “Sister Soujah” moment.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham first said the flag represented the “heritage” of the South. Sure, if you want your “heritage” to be firing on U.S. troops, like the first Confederate forces did at Fort Sumter, sparking the start of the Civil War. Now Graham and South Carolina’s other senator, Republican Tim Scott, want it lowered.

But it’s not just about the flag at a government building, repugnant as that may be. It’s the way the Confederate flag is displayed throughout the South, giving the not-so-secret message that racism is alive and well.

“After the surrender in 1865, Confederate flags were folded and put away,” says a story in The Atlantic. “They were most likely to be spotted at memorials or cemeteries. … There was no need for a banner to signal defiance; Jim Crow reigned unchallenged.”

But the Stars and Bars have come to represent Southern culture. You can pick up Confederate flags just about everywhere in the South, and you can order them online (no, I’m not giving a link). Southern Dixiecrat Democrats popularized the symbol, even carrying it into the 1948 Democratic convention. You see it waved at football games and auto races. You even see it flown on the Fourth of July, which is a slap in the face to every soldier who has ever fought for our country. The flag’s popularity grew in the South after passage of the Civil Rights Act, showing the region’s obstinate defiance. It was raised at the South Carolina state capitol in 1961, on the 100th anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter. It has been there almost continuously ever since.

What is it about that state? The state still has some Blue laws on the books, banning some businesses on Sunday. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in 1860. In 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina entered the Senate chamber and beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner into unconsciousness with a cane. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina embarrassed the country when he stood during a State of the Union speech and shouted, “You lie!” at President Barack Obama, but he’s been re-elected easily every since.

We even had perhaps the dumbest response ever to a question at a Miss Teen USA pageant from — who else — the entrant from South Carolina.

As Obama and a growing chorus of people are saying, the Confederate flag belongs only in a museum. It has become the Confederate swastika. We wouldn’t want to fly a Nazi symbol, now, would we? (Actually, some neo-Nazi white supremacist groups have embraced that symbol, too, which only strengthens the argument for getting rid of the Stars and Bars.)

“The flag was created by an army raised to kill in defense of slavery, revived by a movement that killed in defense of segregation, and now flaunted by a man who killed nine innocents in defense of white supremacy,” concluded the Atlantic story.

Let’s honor the memory of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the late pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and the other eight victims. Get rid of the Confederate flag, and not just at a government building.



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