My estimation of the intelligence of a Chanute resident is automatically driven downward if I see that they have a Confederate flag displayed on their clothing, on their cars, or on the ceiling tile they decorated in their favorite local drinking establishment. Kansas didn’t even join the Confederacy and its sympathies were firmly on the other side of that conflict. Historically, it was Confederate sympathizers displaying Confederate flags who came over the state line and burned down towns like Humboldt and Lawrence. No native or resident of this state who has any pride should want to openly celebrate the symbol of a group of people who would do such a thing.
There has been a lot of conversation about the Confederate flag this week in relation to last week’s shooting at a church in South Carolina. Following the usual round of arguments about mental illness and the availability of guns that seem to accompany all media coverage of mass murders, the rhetoric seems to have turned towards whether South Carolina should still display the Confederate flag at its state Capitol building. A large group of American people call that flag a symbol of “sedition” and say it reminds them of a very ugly period in American history. They point out that the flag was carried on Civil War battlefields by those who were ultimately fighting to keep slavery as an institution in certain American states, including South Carolina. After the war, the flag has long been the prop of choice for the groups of white people who wear hoods and robes in public and don’t have the best public reputation.
This reaction to the flag is understandable to me, although I’ll note that most of those who are publicly expressing it don’t seem to live anywhere close to South Carolina. Still, these views have been given some credence based on the fact that the person who is accused of killing nine innocent individuals in this church was photographed holding a Confederate flag shortly before perpetuating this monstrous act. He was an admitted racist who wrote a “manifesto” outlining the way he feels about black people. “Manifestos” only seem to be written by crazy people who have lots of bad ideas. While I have decidedly mixed feelings about whether gun control measures would really stop these incidents from occurring, I definitely think that our society should consider banning all “manifestos.”
This utterly charmless individual apparently aimed to start some type of race war, but all he really accomplished was the launch of a national call to ban state governments from displaying the Confederate flag. I would hope that people in South Carolina and other Southern states would at least consider the merits of not openly displaying this flag on government property if they want to attract a wide diversity of tourists and potential residents.
That does seem to be happening, as now the Governor of South Carolina and several other prominent politicians there are expressing a desire to take down that flag. Even Southern based companies like Wal-Mart have announced they will no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise.
It is gratifying to see Southern states try to find another aspect of their culture to highlight and celebrate on their flags than a long history of not being very nice to black people. I would much rather visit a state that had sweet tea, fried catfish, good whiskey, real country music, and yummy barbecue celebrated and observed on their flag than one that just insisted on continually rehashing old arguments from 150 years ago.
However, when it comes to actual Southern people wanting to display that flag in their homes, my view is a little different than most of those I've read over the last week. I was born in the South and the roots of both sides of my family in that region go pretty far back. I have been told of military heroism of my own ancestors who were fighting for the Confederacy – under that flag – in the Civil War. So I can at least understand the pride that some Southern people might have in their ancestors, the vast majority of whom didn't own slaves, taking on an Army that had far more guns, money or men. To at least some of them, the flag could represent grit, being strong in the midst of certain defeat, or general battlefield valor, without necessarily representing racism or division.
It seems possible for someone to maintain that kind of position and still recognize that both slavery and church shootings are horrible. It would just be nice to hear more people who insist on publicly displaying this flag openly express such a view, instead of just using it to illustrate whatever they’ve written in their “manifesto.”
Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or the usual offers to sell me various pieces of Confederate flag paraphernalia since I can no longer get them at Wal-Mart to firstname.lastname@example.org.