Sunday, 12/03/06

The Tennessean asked readers to send us their thoughts on the Confederate flag. Following are excerpts from their responses:

Is the Confederate battle flag a symbol of hate? No more than the cross is to these same groups who spew their hatred upon others. Should every church in America tear down their crosses because a small group of radicals use it to symbolize their hatred for a brother? Hatred comes from the heart, not from symbols. When I see the Confederate flag I am reminded of a time period in our country when brothers fought brothers for ideas and beliefs that they each held dear. I am reminded, though crushed and bewildered, our country set aside the hate that tore at the very core of our nation and rose up from the hatred to be so richly blessed. Today, when I see our American flag I am reminded that even right now our gallant men and women are still fighting for those cherished beliefs. But greater still, when I see the cross, I see the one who loves you and me and who knows no such hate.

Bobby Trail, Manchester
bobandmon@charter.net

The Confederate battle flag is a crucial element of our state’s history—to say nothing of our nation’s past. Like it or not, revere it or hate it, that flag must not be ignored or forgotten or our sense of history, and culture will be seriously eroded.

In a more practical sense, thousands of tourists visit Tennessee every year to see Civil War sites, including those in Franklin. Trying to get rid of the flag will not encourage these visitors to spend their time and money in our community; giving into revisionist thinking may, in fact, undermine the economic benefit of tourism. As for those who complain they are embarrassed or offended by representations of Tennessee’s Rebel past, I point out that we have a First Amendment that protects freedom of speech. I see things on billboards, bumper stickers, and T-shirts virtually every day that embarrass or offend me, or that simply seem in bad taste, but I deal with my unhappy feelings because we all have rights to self-expression. Efforts to ban or diminish the Rebel flag are as corrosive to our rights as Americans as they are to our national identity.

Jonathan M. Lampley,
Nashville
jonathanlampley@msn.com

One side says that it’s pathetic how a bunch of rednecks want to keep flying a symbol of hate that was used to preserve slavery, that I’m a fool for wanting to fly a flag that represented a lost cause that ended years ago. The other side says that the flag represents more than just rebellion — it’s a symbol of the Southern culture and its proud heritage and that I’m foolish to want to give in to banning this flag, and, if this flag is banned, then what comes next?. One side says the Civil War was fought over nothing but slavery and, due to hate groups using this symbol to promote their cause, gives all the reason needed to ban it. The other side says that the Civil War was fought for a confederate (states rights) form of government, and, that the hate groups do not represent the true values of the battle flag.

While I believe that the Confederate battle flag should be used and displayed for historical accuracy, I do believe that, due to the flag’s past misuses, it should be limited in usage, while the other symbols of the Confederacy are showcased instead.

Bryan Collins, Smyrna
bccoolj@yahoo.com

From a transplanted Michigander, here’s a perspective about the Rebel flag. First let me point out as a 58-year-old, I grew up with the Rebel flag being shown occasionally on pickup trucks and jackets over 50 years ago. It was more a symbol of freedom and an expression of anti-establishment ( government ). Hunters, bikers, students, and schools — even in Michigan — used the flag and term Rebel for such expression. There was not a connection with slavery or hate for blacks. If this flag design were available during the Revolutionary War, it could have been the battle flag of the new United States of America. We were rebels against the Crown. This flag was used during the War of Secession (what we commonly call the Civil War). There was hate, as in every war … but there was also valor and honor on both sides. If you were to talk with any long-term re-enactor, they will tell you they are honoring history and those that fought. Pride in their state, pride in their region, pride in their history.

Bill Thornton, Franklin
bill.2.thornton@gm.com

The meaning of any symbol is found in the eye of the beholder. If a person looks at a Confederate flag and sees a symbol of hate, that is what it is — for them.

But, if I look at a Confederate flag and see a symbol of courage, devotion to home and a symbol of my ancestors, that is what it is—for me.

In a nation which guarantees free speech, the person who is offended by a Confederate flag has no legal or moral right to silence other points of view. That person alone does not define the Confederate flag.

I oppose those who use the Confederate flag to promote racist ideas, I also oppose those who would curtail the Constitutional right of free speech by making a negative view of the flag the only accepted definition.

Michael R. Bradley,
Tullahoma
michaelrbradley@bellsouth.net

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