Confederate flag doesn’t do evil, but people do

Latest flap over Confederate flag raises plenty of questions, including how one ended up in New York
Date published: 11/2/2007

I SUPPOSE THE uproar of the week came when the Rev. Al Sharpton publicly rebuked Vice President Dick Cheney for hunting at an upscale New York club where a Confederate flag was reportedly discovered in a garage on the grounds.

Sharpton called for Cheney to disassociate himself with the club and called the vice president’s visit there "the epitome of an insult."

Where is all this Confederate flag business going? If Sharpton is offended because one is displayed in a barn in New York, will the good reverend soon demand that pictures of all Confederate flags be removed from history books?

Will he ask the federal government to go door-to-door ransacking homes to make sure there are no Confederate flags or books containing pictures of them?

I don’t own a Confederate flag and, as well as I can remember, I never have. I also have never owned a slave, and there are no records showing that any of my family–which was dirt poor–ever did.

Still, my ancestors fought for the South during the Civil War, not because they supported slavery but because Virginia was the land where they were born and raised.

We must remember, too, that the Civil War was about much more than just slavery. It was more about the federal government trying to shove edicts down Southerners’ throats than anything else, a problem we are still faced with today.

Still, there are many people who take out their anger at slavery on the Confederate flag.

If those people are going to spit on a flag because it was the symbol of slavery then they had better start with the American flag.

Perhaps Brother Sharpton doesn’t realize slavery existed under the American flag for 84 years before the Confederacy (which lasted only four years) was formed.

Would the good reverend have us remove all the American flags that flew between 1777 and 1861 from our museums and statehouses? After all, slavery thrived under them–and in places such as New York and Massachusetts, not just the South.

What about the American flags between 1865 and 1954? Jim Crow laws were passed and upheld under those flags and racial segregation existed for almost a century as they were flowing in the breezes of our great country.

If Sharpton despises the Confederate flag because he associates it with slavery, shouldn’t he despise the American flag, which kept blacks as second-class citizens for almost a century after the Civil War?

And if he becomes infuriated whenever he sees a Confederate flag, perhaps he should tell me how I, being one-eighth Chippewa, should feel about the American flag under which federal officials declared, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

Despite images of that flag being carried into villages where American soldiers slaughtered and mutilated innocent Indian women and children, I still respect Old Glory.

It is people, not flags, who do evil.

Dick Cheney has a lot of reasons to apologize to the American people–like for illegal wiretaps and 3,800 dead soldiers in Iraq–but hunting at a preserve where a Confederate flag is stuck to a wall inside a barn shouldn’t be one of them.

Slavery was one of the two greatest evils of our country (the slaughter of untold thousands of Indians so white people could steal their land was the other), but it is in the past.

We’re not going to re-fight the Civil War any more than we’re going to give the Indians back their land, so let’s just get on with life.

While I would suggest that Al Sharpton put the hunt club issue to rest, I would encourage him to stay on Cheney’s case for the other reasons I mentioned. After all, if the vice president had his way, we would all probably be slaves.

I do have one more question. How in the world did a Confederate flag get way up there among those Yankees?

That in itself seems almost a sin.

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com

On The Web: http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2007/112007/11022007/329808