There’s plenty of outrage going on right now over the decision from South Carolina’s Republican-dominated state government to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. Many people are repeating the same old story about how it’s about “heritage not hate” even as they spew some of the most hateful language they can at folks who remind them of the history of slavery and how the flag was used to signify opposition to desegregation.
I’ve seen this personally during the Confederate flag debate that has raged over the last few weeks with flag supporters making threats toward me, one of whom even threatened to shoot my dog. For a bunch of good Christian people who are so passionate about their “heritage,” they sure come across as some extremely hateful, non-Christian individuals.
I personally don’t see why we need to have a flag that represents a failed attempt to break away from a country that was formed by seceding from the British Empire less than a century prior to a conflict that was the bloodiest in our nation’s history. This is one nation, and it should be under one flag. The general vibe I get from most folks who are the biggest supporters of continuing to fly a flag of failed rebellion is that they really don’t love this country and what it stands for. They say they love the Constitution, but it turns out that they only like it when it gives them rights, and not when it gives the same rights to people who aren’t like them. They claim to support law enforcement, but that support only lasts as long as those officers have their weapons pointed at people they don’t want living in their neighborhoods and going to their schools. These aren’t patriots, they’re wannabe secessionists who are angry that a war that ended 150 years ago didn’t turn out the way they wish it could have.
I’m a Southerner, that’s no secret. When I was a small child, I was given a replica Confederate hat with the Stars and Bars on the top. I’m sure that if I were to browse through our old family photo albums, I could probably find a picture of me, probably still in diapers, wearing that stupid hat. That was the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 1980s, where rebel flags on pickup trucks were as common as the deer rifles on gun racks inside them. To be honest with you though, while I consider myself a military history enthusiast (especially with the Civil War), I have never been able to relate with the resentment so many people continue to harbor over a war that ended long before they were born.
While some say the Confederate flag represents the South, it only really represents the part of the South that bitterly clings on to the past, a time when whites and blacks were forced to eat and worship separately from each other. That South, the one that still yearns for a time before minorities had the same rights as white citizens, is still alive and passing on the resentments of their forefathers to the next generation. I’ve seen high school kids here in Louisiana tie nooses, laughingly egged on by their parents while Neo-Confederates hand out literature at food festivals not far from the site of the Reconstruction-era Opelousas Massacre. 150 years after the last shots of the Civil War were fired, the Confederate flag still appears on government buildings and even police cars in the small town of Amite, LA.
It’s time for a new flag for the South, one that represents and celebrates the best part of all of our heritages, not just the one that angrily clings to a past they never really knew. The South of George C. Wallace, Maurice Bessinger, Jim Crow and Nathan Bedford Forrest will never rise again – despite the assertions of angry old men who have repeated that promise ever since their fathers told them the same thing under burning crosses in the humid pine forests of 1950s Mississippi or Alabama.
The Confederate flag will be removed in Columbia, SC today. Across the nation, country music stars, businesses like NASCAR and even Republican politicians who have previously supported the Confederate flag are now walking away from it. If you need a flag to represent our Southern heritage, let’s use the rainbow flag that currently signifies gay pride. The many colors of the flag can represent the many ethnic groups and cultures of the new South, one where all people have a chance to live as they please, and I’m sure the LGBT community won’t mind the appropriation of this flag either.
It’s not 1865, it’s 2015. The South of the KKK and white privilege will never rise again. It’s time to take down the Confederate flag and put it in war museums where it belongs. It’s time to move on.
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