Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
Flag shouldn’t stop civility
A friend came over one summer day years ago to visit my wife and me when we lived in the Pines of St. James in the Burgess community.
The Pines is a nice, compact neighborhood of middle-class families, with tons of kids and friendly neighbors. We only moved because we received a good deal on a home in a new area.
But that day, our friend wasn’t impressed with our surroundings, probably because she didn’t notice them. She was taken aback by the small piece of cloth flying from the front porch of a neighbor who shared a cul-de-sac with us.
It was the infamous Confederate or rebel flag that has divided South Carolinians since the end of the Civil War when some former Confederate soldiers founded the Ku Klux Klan.
She couldn’t believe the flag was flying in our neighborhood, let alone a few dozen feet from our property.
I think she asked why we allowed them to fly it, as though we had control over our neighbor’s property.
I can’t remember if it bothered my wife and me, though I know it didn’t bother me as much as the flag on Statehouse grounds. The flag at the Statehouse is public property that is financed by and is supposed to represent us all.
We never had any cross words with our neighbor, nor did we borrow cups of sugar from each other. I’m happy about the first part, but sad that we didn’t do more to get to know each other, especially given the Confederate flag on display now in a predominantly black Summerville community.
A white woman moved in and began flying the Confederate flag alongside an American flag. According to news accounts, the flag represents a celebrated heritage and kinship with ancestors. Neighbors see it as a provocative act.
A petition against the flag garnered a few hundred signatures and both sides have gone before city council. Council members stated the obvious, that she has a right to fly the flag and they have a right to peacefully protest her decision, which they did this past Saturday.
I wish they had done what I didn’t do with my former neighbor years ago.
I wish I had welcomed him to the neighborhood, told him a little about me and encouraged him to inquire about me.
I wish I had had the humility to hear his story and his reasons and invited him to do the same for mine.
I know that had I done that, cloth that represents conflicting views wouldn’t have been powerful enough to keep us from treating each other like the fellow children of God we are.