The people opposed to the taking down of the Confederate flag need to explain their opposition to the rest of us.
I just can’t understand why some people are going so far as to make this some kind of violation of Free Speech. This isn’t about the Constitution, it’s about symbols, and embracing the Confederate flag is symbolic of a violation of common decency and empathy for those who see the Stars and Bars for what they truly symbolize; racism, slavery, and secession from the Union.
If you’re a Caucasian like I am, you and I will never, ever, ever fully understand what it must mean to our fellow human beings whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains to have to see that symbol still on display by their government.
Let’s be clear. That’s the issue. The Confederate flag being flown by the government.
That’s why we can’t allow people to try to side-step or deflect the question about this or any other symbol. No one would stand for a government office flying the flag of another nation. The Confederacy attempted to be a separate nation, and that attempt failed. The symbol belongs in a museum, and nowhere else when it comes to government actions funded by our tax dollars.
To my fellow Americans who call themselves Southerners and who want to attach romantic notions of bravery and heroism and sacrifice to the symbols of the Confederacy, let me ask you this. Isn’t it time to acknowledge that secession in defense of slavery can never be admired or defended? Your ancestors fought and died for what they believed was right, but that doesn’t make it so. Haven’t we finally arrived at a point in our cultural evolution when we can acknowledge that the symbol of the Confederacy is not a symbol that ought to be displayed by any governmental body?
Let me wrap up by trying to be as absolutely clear on this last point as I can be.
To all the defenders, admirers, and fliers of the Confederacy and its flags:
I defend your right to fly whatever flag you like. You are not a government agency or entity. Just as I defend the rights of skinheads to march in Jewish neighborhoods, to do so while flying Nazi flags, and for the Klan to gather at night to burn crosses on private land, I am a strong and vocal proponent of free speech.
This issue never was and still isn’t an argument about free speech. It’s about the symbols our government adopts and displays.
On a personal level, it’s about empathy and, yes, being on the right side of history. It’s about demonstrating our humanity regardless of how anyone chooses to interpret a 227-year old document written by a privileged few white men mostly for their own benefit and which is in serious need of a 21st century update.
It’s about what our elected officials choose to use as symbols of the power and authority we bestow on them, and what that power and authority means to each and every one of us. It should never be used to extol any virtues that are so undeniably and inextricably tied to the enslavement of millions of people.
It’s time for us to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and to put the symbols of those mistakes in places where we can be reminded of them so as not to repeat them.
A state capitol’s flag pole is not one of those places.