Columnist has no right to interpret meaning of Confederate flag


03/28/08


Dear editor:


The United States flag flew over many ships that brought African captives to the New World since the 1770s — no Confederate flag ever did. The United States flag oversaw the forcible removal of the Cherokees and other tribes from their ancestral lands — no Confederate flag ever did. The United States flag flew over the troops that massacred Native Americans — no Confederate flag ever did. The United States flag flew over the concentration camps where native-born Americans were interned for the heinous crime of being born of foreign ancestry — no Confederate flag ever did.


The United States flag has been widely used by Kluxers. I invite your attention to the photographic collection found at http://pointsouth.com/csanet/kkk.htm. Worse than that, the United States flag flew over the atrocities committed against Georgians in the 1860s.


In paragraph seven of Jeannie Babb Taylor’s article, she asks the questions, “But is it altogether fitting and proper to continue flying the Confederate flag — and indeed, not just any Confederate flag but the actual battle flag — over public buildings in Georgia today? Can white Georgians claim the right to keep waving that emblem in the face of other Georgians, who experienced attacks and demonstrations, feared lynching, and faced every kind of discrimination?”


I propose the counter-questions. But is it altogether fitting and proper to continue flying the 13-stripe flag over public buildings in Georgia today? Can the successors of those who subjected Georgians to rape, murder and starvation claim the right to keep waving the emblem under which those atrocities were perpetrated — albeit with more stars nowadays — in the faces of Georgians?


The flag that we know as the Confederate battle flag was used by many —but by no means all — Confederate military units during the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865). It was their flag, and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning. When the war was over, the Confederate soldiers became Confederate veterans. They formed an organization known as the United Confederate Veterans. The Confederate battle flag was still their flag and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning.


In 1896, since many of the Confederate veterans were aged, infirm, and dying off, the Sons of Confederate Veterans was formed as the successor organization to the United Confederate Veterans. The legacy and authority of the United Confederate Veterans was transferred to them over the next 10 years. This transfer of power culminated in a speech given April 25, 1906 at New Orleans, La., by Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate lieutenant general and commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans:


“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Remember, it is your duty to see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations.”


Since April 25, 1906, therefore, the Confederate battle flag has been the flag of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They alone have the right to interpret its meaning. They have interpreted its meaning and explained repeatedly that meaning — and it is not hatred, nor is it bigotry. The Confederate battle flag is not the flag of the Kluxers and other malcontents of their ilk. They do not have the right to interpret its meaning. The Confederate battle flag is not the flag of the NAACP. They do not have the right to interpret its meaning.


Taylor does not have the right to interpret its meaning. Her commentary, therefore, is out of order.


Clifton Palmer McLendon, Spring, Texas


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