Roanoke Times editorial letter
Chuck, this is my letter answering the Roanoke Times editorial.
Dear Mr. Trejbal,
I am writing to you from Spain in far Europe after reading your editorial in the Roanoke Times with the surprising title "Keep the battle flag out of the Capitol" and a very shameful content. The title is surprising to me because it makes public that a man who claims to be a Virginian has total lack of knowledge about the history of his home state and the true meaning of the flag by saying the Confederate battle flag should not be restored to the House chamber of the State Capitol. Your argumentation about it is based on ignorance, and nevertheless includes many shameful examples as the ones used by malicious people.
I won’t go into a detailed discussion about how accurate the renovation of the House is, or if the flag would stay well beneath the statue of General Robert E. Lee or not, but you say you want a Capitol that welcomes all Virginians, free from pressure from Confederate heritagists and apologists who naively believe theirs is the only valid history of the flag. But then you admit the Battle flag to have represented the soldiers of the Confederacy. I think you are aware that the average fighting man fought for his family, his homestead and a sovereign native state and not for slavery, as most did not own slaves and General Lee himself was opposed to the institution.
Then you say today’s Virginians cannot claim intellectual honesty while ignoring the other meanings it embodies. And you start with the typical story. It is also the flag of racism, often misused by the KKK groups, Nazis, etc. You call it a corrupted symbol. Reason enough to disappear from the Virginia House of Representatives. You follow an effective argumentation by drawing the comparison to the Nazi Swastika, once the Buddhist symbol of happiness and peace, then turned to a terrible thing by the Nazis. But the fact, Mr. Trejbal, is that the Swastika is still the symbol of peace and happiness for many hundreds of millions of Buddhists in the world, were it has no racist and criminal attributes. And it is highly offensive to the followers of such a Religion of peace to see their symbol misused by criminals in history and criminals today. If you ask a German Jew about the Swastika, he will tell you the difference: in Germany the Nazi Cross is forbidden by law, even private property, if it has a Nazi connection, Skinheads, Racist gangs, Neo-Nazis, etc. but not if used by Buddhist believers as a religious symbol of historical significance. If you ask the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy or any other serious Confederate Heritage group they will tell you the same about the misuse of the Battle Flag. The flag is to be honored, at least respected, the misuse and abuse is disgusting, not the symbol.
You say Racism and slavery now are inextricably interwoven into the battle flag’s fabric. This is just a lie and an offense to many Virginians who see in the flag the effort, heroism and idealism of the citizen soldiers of Virginia during 1861-65. For that reason it is also unacceptable that you maintain the flag to be also the banner of rebellion, insurrection and even treason. I can strongly recommend you to have an eye at the Federal government attitude towards the first centennial anniversary celebrations in 1961: Reconciliation confirmed and mutual respect. Including pride for the past and what had been done, in Virginia and elsewhere in the Confederacy. In Robert E. Lee you may find the very best example of a great Virginian and American. General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower did have a picture of General Lee on his desk, both during WW2 (while he crushed the Nazis) and later in the Oval Office. In the Eisenhower Presidential Library you will find a wonderful letter explaining his admiration for General Lee, both as a soldier and as a great American.
Finally you say that more than 100.000 visitors pass through the doors of the Capitol building every year. Some would see the battle flag and smile. Others would see it and curse. History justifies both reactions, and the state cannot impose just one. In fact you are imposing one by defending to erase the symbol.
History does NOT justify both reactions, as the curser is just an ignorant who needs education. If someone sees a Buddhist monk praying with a Swastika and curses or spits out, he is just an ignorant. You may spit on the Swastika on a Hitler poster, but not on the monk, who is a holy man. The same occurs to the glorious banner of the Confederate Army, an American idea, close to Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, their spirit was Confederate, American spirit at its very best.
The Battle Flag must be seen as what it is. A great banner in American history, even by people who not agree to the ideals of the American Confederacy. Misuse of the flag do not constitute argumentation to ban it. Otherwise you must design a new USA flag, as it is much more often misused and, by the way, it is the most hated flag in the whole world.
An ignorant mind can be healed by education and by getting knowledge about historical facts. A malicious mind is more difficult to heal. I will pray for both your mind and soul, and hope God will concede you the awareness about how much damage you are doing with such false scripts.
Yours most sincerely
Raphael Waldburg Zeil