FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Battle Flag For The Wrong Battle
Following the horrible, terroristic, devastating attack in South Carolina, an untimely, unwelcome debate has taken center stage: the question of the “Confederate Flag”.
Untimely and unwelcome because it was taken up and taken away from the actual aggrieved and used by activists and media not as some way of explaining the mindset of the murderer, not as a way of bringing the community together, but rather to divide and to point fingers and to characterize an entire region of the United States as racist. It wasn’t the victims or their families who changed the conversation, it was the news cycle. Those who were enduring not only a loss, but an insult to injury in their eyes were drowned out by those who would score points against Republicans for electoral gain. If ever there was a time when arguing about a Confederate flag seemed inappropriate or even ghoulish, it was after such an unthinkable crime.
But it was crime that took place in the south. It was committed out of what by any measure appears to be pure racist bile. And it was committed in a State that does, in fact, still have the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the State Capitol. Maybe not entirely unwelcome then. Maybe not entirely untimely. At least, maybe not everyone is being opportunistic.
I know something about who flies the Confederate flag. I was born and have lived my whole life in the South. I take it seriously. I get offended if people use the word “yankee” about anything I do. I brag on our food and our history. Our weather and our friendliness and our accent and our entire way of life. I say y’all. And for the last 23 years I have specifically lived and worked in both Carolinas. When I speak of the Confederate flag, I know the personal connections that people claim to have. Family connections. Brave ancestors with military victories and personal sacrifice. I’m not some yankee who just doesn’t get it. But I am also other things, as are we all.
Let’s remember again, why we are talking about this now.
I have a small personal connection to the events at the black church in Charleston. A friend of our family was a member of that church. She called it her “home church.” On the night of the shooting, when the name of the church was released in the media, she asked for all to pray for her family and friends, saying that someone had opened fire and that many of her family members were there at Bible study. She was hoping for their safety. Praying for it. Asking all of us to pray for it. Then the names were released.
She posted next on social media that indeed her aunt was one the confirmed victims. It was four hours between when she asked for prayers, and when she knew she had lost someone. She continued to seek prayer and find solace in her faith.
She posted again the following evening; a hymn. “It Is Well with My Soul,” which begins, “when peace like a river, attendeth my way.” She closed with a memoriam to her lost loved one.
It is well within my soul.
This was the journey families took. Not just in Charleston but around the country. As with all of us, the footprint of our lives extends to far places and distant people. And on that night, that murderer’s evil act extended as well. That is the point of terror. It reaches out and spreads. The ripples extend. Even as far as a RedState contributor’s circle of family and friends. Liberals call it hate. Like Erick, I call it what it is: evil.
Among the consequences of this evil act I had hoped would be increased understanding. I mean a very specific thing by that. I mean the increased understanding of the racial interactions in the United States today. It is a trope on the right that the greatest cause of racial unrest in America today is the leftists attempting to capitalize on it. There is much to credit this point of view, including, as mentioned, the very fact that the Confederate flag has come to dominate the coverage of the evil act in South Carolina. But there must come an understanding that this is not the only cause, or the only important cause, or not even, I dare to say, the most important cause. What’s more, it is too late for that to even matter. At some point you can’t keep arguing about why the dam broke, you just have to rescue people from the flood.
So it is that we come at last to what is commonly referred to these days as the Confederate flag. I tell you now, I believe strongly that it should be taken down from the Statehouse grounds in South Carolina. It is something that should have happened before now, and it is certainly a debate that could have waited until after now, but it is nevertheless here. Now. And so it must be taken down. Now.
Let me make a guess. For those of you angered by the statement and ready to rush to the comments, at least half have not yet. Half of those angry and ready to reply in anger have continued to read before doing so. To that half, let me assure you, I have heard what you are going to say. In order: slavery wasn’t really the cause of the civil war, the flag is symbolic of state’s rights, it’s part of our heritage and you can’t get rid of history, many good Americans died even on the Confederate side, and finally, that’s not even the Confederate Flag anyway.
Let me address some of this, in no particular order, and in extreme brief because I find it all terribly unimportant.
One: yes, that was what the Civil War was about. The first year college student attempt at nuance and the amateur historian that pops up in every defensive conservative about slavery is a tiresome character. I will put this as plainly as I can put it: The Civil War was about slavery. Now, even if the civil war was partly about economics or tariffs or state’s rights, or even if the Civil War was mainly about other things, it was still about slavery. The South refused to stop owning slaves. There was a war. The South no longer owned slaves. If there had not been a war, the South would have continued to own slaves. That is the sum of it.
If your cause is even ten percent, even one percent, about continuing to own slaves, then your cause is about continuing to own slaves. You lose the right to nuance when your argument is “well it wasn’t all about slavery” or “there were other factors besides slavery.” Look, there are other ingredients besides sugar in cake. But you’re eating it for the sugar. For the sweet, not the egg. That’s just the facts. You cannot sideline the owning of other human beings. You cannot back seat it. If your cause included “plus also we’d rather not stop owning human beings right now,” you don’t get to say it wasn’t about slavery. There’s no such thing as “per se slavery”. There’s just slavery. Sorry. Tough luck, you lose, but we do have some excellent food recipes as a nice parting gift, y’all.
Secondly, yes, dadgummit, it is the Confederate flag. Sure, it was a battle flag. Sure it was specific to Virginia. Sure it never flew over the Confederate states. But that is a tired objection too. For one thing, it’s not entirely accurate, and I’ll get to that. But mainly it is tiresome because it is so self-defeating. If it’s not really the Confederate flag, or even a Confederate flag, then what heritage are you honoring by keeping it? The whole argument for keeping the flag for sentimental or nostalgic or memorial or historic reasons totally falls down if the same people making the argument also say it’s not really the flag anyway. It’s just not logical. If it isn’t the flag you don’t need it anyway. But it is the flag, the symbol of the Confederacy. And we all know it.
And besides, that little square rebel flag was indeed flown over the Confederacy. Sorry, but that’s just a fact of history. Although Gen. Lee’s battle flag was rejected as the whole and entire flag of the CSA, it was in fact incorporated into the official CSA flag as a canton. It flew over the Confederate Army under Lee. It was part of the flag of the Confederacy. And most importantly, it is recognized today as the symbol of the Confederacy BY THE PEOPLE WHO FLY IT.
What is it that Republicans are fond of saying about ISIS? If they say they are Islamic I believe them. Isn’t that right? If the people fighting to keep the flag flying say it is because of their heritage and because it represents the Confederacy, I believe them. That is why they are flying it. That is what it means to them. It is absurd then to turn around and complain about the fact that that is also what it means to black men and women, to liberals, or to anyone else for that matter. Surpassingly absurd.
So there, we have settled that the flag represents the Confederacy, and the Confederacy fought to continue owning slaves. That ought to be the end of the discussion right there.
There remain the many other important questions and consequences of the Civil War. Federalism and state’s rights. Unjust taxation. The independence of American citizens. But it does not matter because that is not what the flag represents. It is not. That is only the excuse for it.
For a good many people, including many who will no doubt froth with outrage at me, it is simply the symbol of their rejection of the political correctness of liberals. A sort of “you’re not the boss of me” temper tantrum. They want to keep the flag simply because they’ve been told not to. For others, it is a more complicated symbol of keeping our grip on our independence. The idea that we cannot bend or bow to the dictates of the easily influenced crowd when doing so is merely contributing to erosion of our free speech. They will say we cannot simply ban every offensive thing or no things will be left. And for still others (I simply insist you at last recognize and admit this) it just straight out racism. Racism does exist folks. It is a real thing. There are those who have the same kind of racism as dominated the sick mind of the killer of Christians from last week. The kind of racism that constantly assures itself and others that it is not, in fact, racism at all, but simply realism. Those people are part of this too, and in larger numbers than it seems a lot of people care to admit.
And in the end, all of the objections, the lot of them, well they don’t amount to very much. Because the Civil War is simple. The Confederacy fought a war to continue the practice of owning slaves. The United States fought a war and the practice stopped. And continuing to fly the flag of the one diminishes the accomplishment of the other.
The South rebelled. The rebellion is over. The Confederate States are no more. The rebel flag should not be on the Statehouse grounds in South Carolina. Yes, because of racism. Yes, because of hate. Yes, because of perception and symbolism. What is a flag if not a symbol? That is its whole purpose. It is not the symbol of state’s rights or freedom. It is the symbol of owning human beings as slaves. It is the symbol of war against America. It is the symbol of a South that does not, and should not, exist anymore. South Carolina should recognize and understand this, and they should take it off of the capitol grounds. Because it is not a slippery slope of caving to political correctness. there are in fact some things a government should not endorse. Slavery is pretty much right there at the top of the list. Don’t make the battle flag for the Confederacy the battle flag for freedom. It’s the wrong flag for the battle.
Last week, nine Christian Americans were murdered in a House of God as they worshiped. The murderer will face trial, all but certain conviction, and probably the most severe of our penalties. America seeks justice. And though it is untimely, and unwelcome, we must decide how we feel about another injustice, too. It is my belief, along with millions of other Americans, that continuing to fly the flag of the Confederacy on State grounds is a continuing injustice.
“But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.”
Why can’t we seek the sky? We would do well to hear the cries of those in anguish and provide solace. Do not say with sneering contempt that people want to take the flag down “merely” because it offends black Americans. Say instead that we choose to take it down, in comfort and love of our fellow man.
Take down the flag.