replace the battle flag


It’s been nearly 150 years since the end of slavery in the US, yet one still sees the institution’s imprint everywhere in America.

In solemn tribute to the nine people gunned down at a Charleston church, two flags atop the Statehouse in Columbia SC were lowered to half-staff on Thursday and will stay there for nine days in honor of each victim.

But a Confederate battle flag on statehouse grounds is still flying high. And it isn’t an oversight. It’s because of state law, which says it can’t be changed in any way without a sign-off from the South Carolina General Assembly.

The flag—as well as other historically named icons and places—is legally protected under the 2000 South Carolina Heritage Act. The battle flag continues to draw criticism from South Carolinians who say it keeps the symbol of slavery and the Civil War alive.cornell-brooks_wide-877b4231af8dc771aec5268a172a6cf37be3e194-s1100-c15

The head of the NAACP says it’s not appropriate for South Carolina to keep flying the battle flag at its Statehouse. “The flag has to come down,” NAACP President Cornell Brooks told a crowd gathered for a midday news conference last Friday. “This was not merely a mass shooting, not merely a matter of gun violence,” Brooks said. “This was a racial hate crime, and must be confronted as such.”

A symbol of the Confederate battle flag was on the car that police say Dylann Roof, 21, drove to Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church Wednesday, before opening fire on those gathered for a Bible study meeting. A photo of Roof on social media shows him wearing symbols of the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia.

Roof was captured Thursday and arraigned Friday afternoon, in a court proceeding that included emotional statements from the victims’ family members.

Speaking in Charleston Friday, Brooks acknowledged that some people view the Confederate battle flag as part of history and regional heritage. But he said: “When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence—that symbol has to come down, that symbol must be removed from our state capitol.”

Arguments over South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag have raged for decades. The Charleston City Paper describes the most recent developments: “The NAACP has been calling for tourists and businesses to boycott the state for years due to the flying of the flag. In 2000, activists won a small compromise by having the flag removed from the Statehouse dome and placed atop a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the Statehouse grounds. However, the flag remains highly visible; it is the first thing you see as you approach the Statehouse from the north on Main Street.”

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1861-1863).svgHow about a little more compromise? Replace the battle flag with the first flag of the Confederacy—the “Stars and Bars”—on the Statehouse grounds and elsewhere. This would be a way to honor Southern heritage without seeming to condone the racism that the battle flag implies. If White Supremacists want to continue displaying the battle flag on their pickup trucks and at Klan rallies, let them do so. This is still a country which defends everyone’s right to free speech, however offensive.

But state governments need not be gratuitously offensive under the cloak of ‘honoring Southern heritage.’ This would be like requiring that a swastika flag be flown over Tel Aviv. Anyway, the American Civil War ended 150 years ago. Isn’t it high time that we stop glorifying that fratricidal carnage and make peace among all Americans?


PS: When I decided to do this post over the weekend, I had no idea the question of the Confederate battle flag would so dominate Monday’s news. As I reviewed the furor, one of the most illuminating pieces was this interview of a North Carolina professor who said that the use of the battle flag originated in the ’50s and ’60s as an act of defiance following the Supreme Court’s order that the schools be desegregated.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Waylon Jennings performing “I Am A Rebel Soldier”


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95° and Clear


6 Responses to “replace the battle flag”

  1. 1 Erik Roth
    June 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Fly any flag you want privately. But the Confederate flag should not be flown from any public pole. Period.

    By the way, for what it’s worth,I lived in Columbia, South Carolina, from the fall of 1953 to the summer of 1961.

    • June 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Yes, you’re probably right… however, such an absolutist view is unlikely to be adopted. But maybe you know these people better than I do.

      • 3 Erik Roth
        June 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

        Asserting what is right must never be compromised or deterred by what is “unlikely to be adopted” or accepted or even understood.
        Recognize the distinction I draw between private and public.
        Anyone has a personal right to fly whatever flag they want.
        But over our commonwealth, as public display, that must not be other than what represents everyone.
        I wonder whether you seriously suggest that comity trumps morality.
        Note this:
        The smarmy host of politicians spouting unctuously on the issue since the white supremacist terrorist murders in Charleston is enough to make one gag, yet it is “interesting” to see now how even that amoral bunch can tell which way the wind blows the flags that fly.

  2. 4 Frank Manning
    June 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    My grandnephew Ian wrote a poem yesterday addressing this issue:


    A white felon shot up a Carolina church
    With a gun his father gave him.
    The state–
    Whose resistance to integration,
    To gun control,
    To mental health spending,
    Sponsored this terrorism–
    Lowered two of its three flags to half mast.
    The Stars and Stripes joined the Palmetto Tree
    Their collective slouch understandable and human,
    As if embarrassed to be seen on such a day.
    Only the Confederate flag stood upright,
    Its posture impeccable and proud.

  3. 5 Hat Bailey
    June 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I’ve always thought the Confederate battle flag was a beautiful banner. It stands to me for a sort of fierce independence and “nuts to you” attitude to those who would subject us to the politically approved and correct. The evil is not inherent in a piece of colored cloth, it is in people’s minds, I never saw this flag as a symbol of racism, as I believe the war of Northern aggression was not about slavery as they try to convince us. The war was about economics and the right to secede from a rule that is not serving one’s interests, but subjecting one to tyranny, and the right to find new safeguards for your liberty, a right defined quite clearly in the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson. The ancestors of many in the South died under that symbol, and their descendants still honor the memory of those that gave their lives defending what they, right or wrong, sincerely believed in. Further the Civil War was instigated as most wars by big financial interests headquartered in the City of London. Incidents like this owe more to MK Ultra and the sick, possibly mind controlled shooters, under the effects of dangerous pharmaceuticals, than to what some see as symbols of hate.

    • 6 Frank Manning
      June 20, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      I see you take the Southern view of the “War between the States”. As a descendant of a Union Army veteran I vigorously disagree, needless to say. The Civil War was not about what you say above. In fact, the Southern side summed up what the war was all about in the opening lines of one of their most famous battle songs, The Bonnie Blue Flag, which is one of my favorite Civil War songs.

      “We are a band of brothers,
      And native to the soil,
      Fighrting for the property
      We’ve earned b y honest toil.”

      BIG HINT: “Property” does not refer to real estate.

      As long as decent people still refuse to recognize the realities of why this bloodiest of all American wars was fought, the racism that is symbolized by that flag of treason and racial oppression will remain the cancerous sore that it is on American society.

      And one more thing, just to set the historical record straight: Those big financial interests headquartered in the City of London supported the South not the North. Read any book about the Civil War. I suggest Bruce Catton’s trilogy for starters.

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