This evening the Governor of South Carolina announced that she did not believe the Confederate Flag should be flown at the State Capitol. This is a positive step if followed through by South Carolina’s legislature. They should also provide through legislation that it must not be flown on State or Federal land.
South Carolina did not always fly the Confederate Flag at the State Capitol. It did so, as did other southern states, after the civil rights movement in the South in the 1950s and 1960s. There certainly was a racial tinge to this change, but it, nor the recent murders in Charleston are the only driving force for removal of the flag from government property.
It is now over 150 years since the end of the Civil War. As in all wars, not everyone who fought on one side or the other were strong believers in a particular cause or mission. Some clearly were, but young men and families fought as an expression of manhood; family and community loyalty; conscription, economics; pride and revenge. The Civil War was not just about emancipation; it was about union and secession.
Southerners are some of the most loyal Americans in many respects. This is true for South Carolinians. Within and without the state for many the Confederate Flag is a reminder of racism and bigotry. For some (maybe a substantial minority) it remains an outward symbol of it. For many southerners the rebel flag is a cultural symbol of southerner heritage. It some respects it is a regional unifier. It is embedded in country western music. It is the rebel yell and the rebel spirit.
Unfortunately, the flag is also an expression of dissociative behavior. This would be understandable within a generation of the war. However it has been 150 years to get beyond this trauma and recognize that this symbol is disloyal to the United States of America to which southerners are otherwise so loyal. Southerners may not overtly or otherwise think of the rebel flag in this context, but it is. It goes beyond states rights and an extreme extension of Jeffersonian democracy. Southerners can be more polite and gracious than northerners (who also a significant number of racists). It is time they looked at this flag in the context that many in this country see it.
Our country is built on free speech. Those in South Carolina, or elsewhere, who wish to fly the rebel flag are entirely free to do so. Flying it or not, will not change the racial beliefs of those who associate the Confederate Flag as supportive of those beliefs.
However, it must not be flown on government property in South Carolina or any other state. We are one nation and there is no need to commemorate in act to destroy it. It would be an act of grace to the country if South Carolinians, who are so loyal to this country, to move this flag off all government property and to find another symbol for the pride of the South.