Your article "Confederate Flag Closure" at
IGNORANCE indicates a lack of knowledge, either in general or of a particular point.
We read in the Book of Acts that Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee the son of a Pharisee, and a pupil of Gamaliel. He had been taught from his early youth that Judaism was the One Correct Way to worship the One True God. According to the information he had received, his opposition to Christianity was totally correct. Indeed, had he done anything else, he would have been less than true to his teachings.
Saul was no lukewarm believer. He put his beliefs into action. He actively led the movement to pull Christianity up by its roots and end it once and for all.
Saul’s zeal and devotion to duty are above criticism. The only drawback was that he was reasoning from incomplete information. He was missing one important piece of the puzzle: that Christianity was the fulfillment of Judaism, not a perversion of it. When that information was imparted to him (rather dramatically!) en route to Damascus, and he received it, he continued to put his beliefs into action based on his new, complete, knowledge. Under the Latin version of his name (Paul) he became the greatest missionary of New Testament times.
Before the Damascus Road incident, Saul reasoned from ignorance (“lack of knowledge of a particular point“). After that incident, he (as Paul) reasoned from knowledge.
Many people believe that the Confederate Flags are symbols of bigotry, hatred, prejudice, and racism. Indeed, lots of information can be cited to support that conclusion, and those observers who rely solely upon that information are justified in drawing that conclusion. The true seeker after information, however, does not base his conclusions solely upon the surface information. Rather, he gathers all the information he can find before he draws a conclusion.
There exists a large body of information that, when known, makes it obvious that Confederate Flags mean bigotry/hate/prejudice/racism only to (1) those who use them to symbolize those qualities, and (2) those who know only of those uses. Once the true seeker after information has this additional information, he can readily see that Confederate Flags are, far from being symbols of evil, symbols sometimes used (or abused) by people with evil intentions.
So that you may be more of a Paul than a Saul, I shall give you some of that information:
You write: “Whether it’s hanging in their dorm rooms or wearing it on their clothes, the [Confederate Battle] flag simply does not belong at Notre Dame, a school that prides itself on both its Catholic character and academic strength.”
Several points of your article make it obvious that either you have not partaken of Notre Dame’s academic strength or that strength is over-rated. (My opinion is of the former.)
As for Catholic character: One of the more prominent people who recognized Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America, and wrote him a letter of comfort and counsel while he was dungeoned following the war, was born 13 May 1792 as Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti. He is better known as Pope Pius IX. (In the autumn of 2000, he was beatified, which puts him one step removed from sainthood.) Under his Papacy the dogma of Papal Infallibility was promulgated. Although his support of President Davis did not involve speaking ex cathedra on a matter of faith and morals, it seems rather obvious that, being a Supreme Pontiff and a Beatus, his were no doubt Roman Catholic opinions.
You write: “It has been 146 years since Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sat down inside a courthouse in Appomattox, Va. to cease the bloodiest war in American history.”
As of 9 April 2011, it was 146 years since Generals Lee and Grant sat down together to do the paperwork – but they did it in a private residence, specifically in the house of Wilmer McLean in the town of Appomattox Court House, Appomattox County, Virginia. (Another clue that you have not partaken of Notre Dame’s academic strength, perhaps?)
You write: “…the war was fought, amongst other reasons, over the institution of slavery …”
To refute the oft-repeated canard that the War was fought over slavery, I need only mention the Corwin Amendment– proposed by Congressman Thomas Corwin of Ohio, passed by Congress 2 March 1861, and endorsed by Abraham Lincoln. That amendment read: "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State."
If the seceded States had wished to perpetuate slavery, they had only to re-join the Union and ratify that amendment.
They did not because they seceded to escape an overweening, all-intrusive big government – the same reason that thirteen States seceded from Britain in 1776, Mexico from Spain in 1818, and Texas from Mexico in 1836.
You write: “I believe it is plausible to say that when a reason for war is upholding the law of the enslavement of another human being, the battle flag for the pro-slavery side will become a symbol of both hatred and heartache to those who were adversely affected by it.”
Those who seek a pro-slavery flag need look no farther than the thirteen-stripe United States flag.
Under that flag, many thousands of Africans were transported to slavery in the New World.
No Confederate-flagged ship ever made a slaving-run.
The nation that flew that flag permitted the importation of slaves from overseas for 32 years (1776-1808).
The Confederate Constitution prohibited the importation of slaves from overseas.
The nation that flew that flag permitted slavery for 89 years (1776-1865).
The Confederate States of America permitted slavery for four years.
You write: “The Confederate flag is a symbol both of Southern heritage and slavery and segregation. It’s been used by the Ku Klux Klan and hundreds of other extremist groups.”
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 the Confederate soldiers’ 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 ten years. This transfer of power culminated in a speech given 25 April 1906 at New Orleans, Louisiana by Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate lieutenant-general, and commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans, wherein he delivered the following charge:
"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 25 April 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.
Anyone other than the Sons of Confederate Veterans who uses or attempts to define the Confederate Battle Flag does so on grounds at best shaky, and any interpretation so given is questionable.
As for a Ku Kluxer flag: The thirteen-stripe United States flag is the favored flag of the Ku Kluxers. See http://pointsouth.com/csanet/kkk.htm for pictures.
You write: “So why has [the Confederate Battle] flag made its way to the University of Notre Dame, an institution that firmly believes in the foundations of diversity and community?”
Diversity is a synonym for variety or dissimilarity – a situation wherein several things that are not alike are considered together. Given that Notre Dame as an institution truly believes in diversity, it follows that all opinions are welcome, including all opinions about all symbols, be they politically correct or not, so it should come as no surprise that some people at Notre Dame have a favorable opinion of the Confederate Battle Flag.
If any opinion is unwelcome at Notre Dame, then it logically follows that Notre Dame is not truly diverse.
Rather than showing respect for diversity, your article smacks of bigotry (obstinate and unreasoning attachment to one’s own belief and opinions with intolerance of beliefs opposed to them) and prejudice (an opinion or leaning adverse to anything without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge; or an opinion or judgment formed beforehand or without due examination) [definitions taken from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.; 1981)].
Now, then – you have been informed, so you are more of a Paul than a Saul.
So that I may know that you are not a prejudiced bigot, but wrote your article out of simple ignorance (lack of knowledge about the Confederate Battle Flag), I look for you to write a retraction.
Thank you and good day.
Clifton Palmer McLendon