Honor S.C.’s past, don’t abolish it

Monday, Oct. 06, 2008

By Randy Bryan

Apparently the S.C. National Association of the Advancement of Colored People intends to pursue its relentless efforts to ban the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia. By refusing to underwrite major athletic championships in the Palmetto State, the NCAA has joined the NAACP in efforts to blackmail South Carolina. We are still good enough or profitable enough in Myrtle Beach to host the Beach Ball Classic, but that event may be the next to be threatened by the arm twisting of the NAACP.

Ironically, I saw a lot of black basketball players at the 2007 Classic, including the winner, Duncanville, Texas. I talked to the coaches at Duncanville. Their kids had a great time. My parents once lived in Duncanville, my sister-in-law taught in their public schools, and my brother was valedictorian at D.H.S. many years ago.

Now the NAACP is courting Hollywood (The Sun News, Sept. 23) to shun South Carolina’s "efforts to lure film makers." NAACP branches across the Southeast and in Hollywood are united in this attempt to exterminate a symbol honoring the noble spirit of many Southern soldiers, not all white. The "evil flag" flying on our Capitol grounds is not the national flag of the Confederacy but a naval battle flag. My great, great-grandfather James Lafayette Bryan, a private in the 28th of Tennessee, fought under such a banner in places like Chickamauga, Peachtree Creek, Kinnesaw Mountain, Atlanta and Franklin, battlefields where thousands of soldiers lost their lives, Rebs and Yanks alike.

My wife’s great-grandfather John D. Vautier, a private in the Pennsylvania 88th out of Reading and Philadelphia, fought at Antietam, Cold Harbour and Petersburg. Both Bryan and Vautier were wounded. Vautier, historian for the 88th, was instrumental in building a monument to the 88th at Gettysburg. Long after the war was over, soldiers from the North and the South would meet at Gettysburg, shake hands, unite in brotherhood and honor each other. It is tragic that we do not continue to honor all of our veteran soldiers from the Civil War, not just those who fought for the Union.

Anyone who has ever read Stephen Crane’s "Red Badge of Courage" or Henry Timrod’s "Ode to the Confederate Dead" knows of the pride in carrying a regimental flag and the unspeakable grief of loved ones as they buried dead brothers, sons, husbands and fathers. Henry Fleming, the youth in "Red Badge," came to realize true selflessness and sacrifice as he struggled with a friend over the right to carry the flag they wrested from the hands of the dead color bearer, who even in death would not relinquish that beautiful symbol of camaraderie and pride.

That some people today and in years past have perverted the Confederate flag and perhaps used it for some evil purpose does not diminish the original pride and spirit that accompanied that flag in battle. South Carolina was the first state to secede. The NAACP can try to rewrite history and make ogres out of South Carolinians who carried their flags into battle, but anyone who visits Gettysburg and sees the North Carolina and South Carolina monuments must recognize the valor of the Carolinians who fought in that monumental battle. Anyone who has read Michael Shaara’s "Killer Angels" knows the heartbreak, suffering and death experienced by the soldiers and their leaders.

The NAACP needs to remember slavery existed both in the North and the South. Our nation’s history has both a shameful and a glorious past. A flag may represent shame to some, glory to others. Congratulations to Gov. Mark Sanford for refusing to cower to the ridiculous demands of the NAACP, the new "abolitionists," whose goal is to abolish a symbol that, while inglorious to some, is glorious to others. It is an immutable part of our South Carolinian history, a history we should not try to revise or abolish.

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