Flag’s use a cause for scorn, and not shots

By Tom Lyons
Herald-Tribune Columnist

Published: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Because a black high school student shot a Confederate flag-waving white student in what seems to be horrendous overreaction to racist bravado, lots of the Old South heritage buffs are trying to set things straight about that flag.

Anyone who packs a gun illegally and shoots someone just because he is being baited with bigotry is so terribly in the wrong that, by comparison, the victim’s moronic words and symbolic language become incidental.

But the shooting victim and a buddy of his had waved a Confederate flag and, police report, loudly made racially disparaging remarks outside a downtown Sarasota movie theater where people of different races were present.

Anyone who acts like that is likely to face consequences, and should. Scorn, for instance, would be appropriate. Being shot would not.

But to some in the pro-Confederate flag crowd, the important point is that people like me not misunderstand the flag thing. Their e-messages insist there is nothing racist in displaying the Stars and Bars.

"It’s heritage, not hate," I’ve read a dozen times this week. Once was at a Web site a reader urged the Herald-Tribune to check out, so we’d understand.

"Welcome to the official website of the Government of the Confederate States of America established in 1861," it said. "Though we are an occupied nation, our culture, our customs, our heritage and most importantly, our Constitution, are alive and unconquered awaiting the day when freedom loving Americans awaken to once again take up the banner of truth and regain our sovereignty."

So I called the current chief justice of the CSA’s supreme court. Luckily, Vance J. Beaudreau, a former paralegal living in Texas, answers his own phone.

He told me the organization opposes racism and thinks it unfortunate that people link the Confederacy with slavery and racism. Times have changed in North and South, he said. While the CSA has not been fully functional since 1865, he’s sure that when Confederate independence is established, a first act will be to outlaw slavery and amend related "noxious" parts of the CSA constitution.

In the meantime, Beaudreau said the organization deplores any use of Confederate symbols in connection with racism.

Good for them. No matter how absurdly such groups deny and dance around the most atrocious parts of their heritage, it is progress that they see the need to deplore racism.

But that message needs to be aimed not at me but at the less thoughtful Southern heritage boosters who lag behind the curve.

When not at a historical reenactment, waving a Confederate battle flag at a mixed-race crowd invites the assumption that they are anything but champions of interracial harmony.

Please, don’t shoot at them. They need more time to grow out of it.

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