As I read the many controversial columns, stories and posts on the battle flag, I begin to see an underlying pattern that is not being addressed. Like some sort of “buzz word”, the object and its name have little to do with what is being debated. It’s not the flag, its the cause that is being maligned and condemned. Indeed, the flag of Nazi Germany (to which the battle flag has been compared) is not subject to such universal condemnation mostly because very few people defend or take pride in that regime and if they do, they do it privately.
On the other hand, many who have ancestors who fought for the South take pride in that fact and defend the actions of their forebears. There are also many people outside the South who while having no personal connection to the Confederacy believe in the constitutionality of secession and deplore the bloody and fratricidal war that was waged illegitimately by the North. For a time in this country, there was no overt rejection of this period of Southern history. Indeed, as has been noted at Gettysburg, the majority of people are more sympathetic to the South than the North. From the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, the South was held in high esteem especially for her tragic and courageous struggle. Then that all changed and for decades, the South has been made a symbol of the worst of “white” sins against humanity (that is, non-whites). Viewpoints universal in Western culture were blamed on the South alone. The noble struggle for independence became a war to maintain the institution of slavery and the history of that institution was carefully edited to apply only to the South.
Today, when there are attacks on displays of the flag, the real object of hatred is revealed by those who say that the flag stands for “racism” and treason. Our good folks defend the flag when they should be defending what it stood for. That means that we have to be defending the actions taken by the people of the South and the reasons for which they took those actions of which the flag is only a symbol. We cannot legitimize the flag if we do not legitimize the cause defended by the men who carried that flag into battle. It isn’t enough to say that the flag has been “misused” by certain groups – which is true enough – because those who are attacking the flag believe that it stands for a cause that in and of itself is wicked.
Our attackers use the flag in the same way that a matador uses his cape to confuse the bull so that he does not know where (and who) his real enemy is. It’s time that we stopped responding to attacks on the flag (which responses easily confuse the ignorant) and concentrate on defending that cause and those actions that led to the flag in the first place.
Battle Flag #2