Confederate flag: It means different things

I don’t have a dog in this fight. None of my ancestors fought for the North or the South. All four of my grandparents were born in Italy and emigrated to America during the late 1800s. So what do I know about the Confederate flag?

I was born in the segregated South and, except for my two years in the Army, have lived only in Southern states: Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

I spent my first 40 years in Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That happened only a few months after my return home from Vietnam.

In 12 years of public schooling, I never had a black classmate and I never knew any blacks until my Army boot camp days.

While in the army, about 20 of us decided to get something to eat at a restaurant across from the train station in Jackson, Miss. Several blacks were with us. We were just soldiers. Soon there was a commotion and the manager told us to step back outside, which we did.

In a few short minutes, we were surrounded by police. They told us they weren’t allowing any sit-ins in their city. I think it was there that I got a little view of what it was like to be black. As a group, we all went back to the train without eating.

In many parts of the South today you can still see Confederate flags. A few are on public buildings and some are flown on private property. They can be found on license plates, as decals on truck window, bumper stickers, T-shirts and hats.

But they are few and far between. Most Southerners have moved on.

So what is the solution to the Confederate flag problem?

Is it as a symbol of hatred, slavery and repression which is painful to many?

Is it as a historical statement of a past grand time that should be protected and preserved?

Or is it merely a work of art?

The answer is yes. It’s a combination of all the above and always will be. So take it for what it means to you and respect those who have a different opinion.

This is America. Decades from now, our great-grandchildren will still be having this debate. They won’t be able to resolve it, either.

JOHN LIBERTO

St. Johns