Every Sunday, The State newspaper (South Carolina’s largest) prints the column shown here on page A2. I never read past the headline “This week in the Civil War.” I probably would if I lived up North or further west. But down South, the war is apparently still alive and well. For me, reading that article would be feeding into that on some level.
Now, before you get your dander up too early, let me say that I love learning about history – no matter the era. I read historical fiction and non-fiction, biographies of historical figures and watch historical documentaries and films based on historical facts. I made an A in my last history class. That’s why I say if I lived anywhere but here I’d read the article. I’m sure it’s interesting.
But the one-time standard of the Confederate Army still flies in front of the S.C. State House (and many other places in the South). It’s a huge issue in South Carolina. It practically took an act of God to get it removed from atop the State House dome and placed on the front lawn several years ago.
I understand the pride Southerners have in their heritage and efforts during the war. But the war is over, as are the issues over which the sides were fighting. The Confederate flag no longer represents a viable body or cause. We don’t fly Betsy Ross’ original 13-starred flag over the U.S. Capitol. We remember and honor it in museums and textbooks. That’s where the this relic of a flag belongs, too.
Memorial Day is still considered a Yankee holiday by many Southerners. Really. In South Carolina we observe Confederate Memorial Day every May 10. Really. I always take my out-of-state visitors for a drive or walk past that flag at the State House. It’s like my personal version of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” It’s embarrassing. I can’t help but wonder how I would feel if I were an African American walking past that flag. Not good, I’m sure, as is pointed out by Corey Brooks, professor of history at York College of Pennsylvania.
“The flag, as many of its supporters avow, represents a distinctive symbol of states’ rights, politics and resistance to federal encroachment. But the specific states’ rights that the flag was historically mobilized to protect were first and foremost African-American slavery and racial segregation.” [Italics mine] Consequently the flag will always remain a racially charged, and for many, very hurtful, historical symbol, even if it carries a wide array of other meanings [Italics mine] for those white southerners whose ancestors fought and died under it.”
It’s time for the South to learn how to honor their past while respecting the fact that much of it is painful to many who live, work and pay taxes here.
Lecture over. I realize I’ve waded into dangerous territory today and am risking the wrath of some. But that’s OK, as long as the wrathful are civil and genteel in their responses.
NOTE: I became aware of an interesting article that was serendipitously published simultaneously by “The Daily Gamecock.” I told you this flag issue is a big deal here in South Carolina!