Confederate flags won’t be flown for centennial

By Eleanor Evans Staff Writer //
Posted on Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BENTONVILLE – Although the statue of the Confederate soldier on the Bentonville Square will be honored with a centennial celebration Friday, no Confederate flags will fly at the event.

A 100-year celebration is planned for 11 a.m. Friday at the Bentonville Public Library to honor the monument. The event will feature speakers who will discuss the history behind the statue.

Johnny Haney, a downtown businessman and Bentonville resident, explained why the Confederate flag won’t be flown.

"Many may view the flags in a different light," Haney said. "You know, this event isn’t about the Confederacy. We felt it would be enjoyed by more people without the Confederate flags about as part of the recognition."

Haney explained that the celebration is more about the statue’s dedication to Sen. James H. Barry than about the Confederacy.

"The statue is a wonderful memorial, but the war was 143 years ago," Haney said.

John Scott, superintendent of the Pea Ridge National Military Park, explained some of the history behind the Confederate flag. The famous "rebel flag"with the red background and blue "X"was not a Confederate flag during the Battle of Pea Ridge, Scott said.

"At the battle here at Pea Ridge, the flag that the Confederate Army would have been carrying was the first National Flag. It was basically similar to the U. S. flag, which had 13 stars and a circle, whereas we had 34 stars."

During the early battles of the war, Smith said, the flags looked so similar that Confederate and Union soldiers would often attack their own troops by mistake. So in 1863, the Confederate battle flag was adopted.

The Battle of Pea Ridge, fought in 1862, took place during the original flag’s incarnation.

Scott said he understands the conflicting opinions regarding the flag. "For one group of people, it’s seen as something … to be proud of, and for another, it’s seen as a symbol of … terrorism," Scott said. Current connotations of the rebel flag "certainly came out of the post-Civil War era, when the Ku Klux Klan and various white-supremacy groups adopted that flag as a symbol. "

Scott noted that the current stigma of the rebel flag is reminiscent of another symbol that was once a religious symbol, representing good and peace, and later taken on as a symbol of hate.

That symbol is the Swastika, which has roots in Hinduism and Buddhism and was later transformed and adopted by the Nazi party.

Scott agrees that in this case, the battle flag should be left to rest. "Out of respect for all of us Americans, … it’s probably appropriate that the flag, in that context, not be flown."

"The Civil War brought about emancipation, but emancipation didn’t have anything to do with civil rights," Scott said. "It took another 100-plus years to get toward civil rights. … I think that flag represents, to a whole part of our American citizens, a symbol of hatred and terror after the Civil War. "

But Scott doesn’t see any reason why the monument should be removed from the Square. "Historical monuments are markers, whether we like them or don’t like them. Also, they help us remember particularly that if we didn’t like something, that we’ve learned through the history, and as a country, that we don’t allow those choices to make that happen again.

"I think in a way, you can look at that monument as a symbol of a time in our nation’s history when we were totally divided, but now to look at it as a time to come back together and become united.

Hopefully, as a country, we’re ready to take the next step and go from civil rights, which is a state of law, to the next step, which would be human rights, which would be a state of enlightenment," Scott said.

Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc

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