Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Rebel flag has to go

In the aftermath of the murder of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina last week, much hay is being made over the State's impending decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from a memorial near the capitol in Columbia. As the murderer was a racist and the flag is seen as a symbol of racism, many retailers are also now refusing to sell memorabilia with the flag as well.

While we will grant that with all the more pressing problems in the world a dispute over a flag could be seen as innocuous, we see more than that ourselves. Defenders of the rebel banner say it doesn't mean anything, that it's just a symbol of a long ago time in American history. This seems disingenuous. You can't argue that it's 'only' a symbol because symbols have purpose. They mean things. In this case, given that the Civil War was in fact about slavery and not states' rights (a concept disingenuous itself) it is easy to see that the Confederate flag means slavery and racism. That's a rather nasty symbol in our book.

Then too, if a flag is merely a symbol, what can we say of the Stars and Stripes? What could that famous picture at the top of Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima mean should the raising of that glorious banner not be the focal point? What might be said in general of the Maple Leaf, the Union Jack, or the Fleur-de-lis? Have they raised pride during their use? How many Don't tread on Me flags do we see around in recent times? What's the point, if it doesn't mean something stirring and positive? On the other side of the issue, need it be said what the swastika or the rising sun have come to mean?

This is not to say that such flags should not be produced or sold. But it is to say that they do not need to be nor should be a part of any patriotic display or government sanctioned memorial, or adorned on a government building or grounds. Such banners may be useful in historical displays, in film backgrounds, or in private collections, to name a few areas. But as the symbol of a supposedly free people, the very same symbol worshiped by a murderous thug for all the divisive reasons it entails, the rebel flag has got to go. It is specious to believe otherwise, and dubious to give credence to any defense of the Confederate battle flag as a mere symbol.

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