Two significant events in the last couple of days have revived discussion about the Confederate Flag. On Wednesday, a racially motivated gunman opened fire inside a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter was pictured in a photo with a car that featured images of the flag on its plates. As the American and South Carolina flags flew at half mast after the tragedy, the Confederate Flag continued to fly high atop the state’s capitol. The Supreme Court also ruled that Texas can refuse to allow images of the flag on specialty license plates on Thursday.
As a born and raised New Yorker who attended school in New England, I’m a Yankee through and through. It sickens me when I have to listen to some folksy-sounding politician decry “East Coast, Ivy League types” like that’s some sort of insult. Even though I identify as liberal on only a handful of issues, I find that I have more in common with my fellow Northeasterners across the political spectrum than with like minded Southerners. What boils my blood the most is depictions of the Confederate flag.
The GOP likes to champion themselves as the true Americans. They’re the party of strong defense, patriotism, religion and Capitalism. The Democrats, by contrast, are the weak, nanny state party who wants your kids to be gay, atheist communists intent on destroying the foundation of our democracy. Why, then are these “true Americans” always the ones I see celebrating the Confederate flag like its some proud symbol of Southern heritage?
The Confederate flag is a symbol of two things: Rebellion and Slavery. It’s value as a historical object is one of acknowledgment in a textbook. And it certainly doesn’t hold value as a beacon of states’ rights. Because when a government entity’s entire existence is predicated on the systemic denial of rights to an entire racial or ethnic group, then that entity is a disgrace. Is displaying the Confederate flag as shameful as displaying a Swastika? No. But it’s a lot closer than flying “Don’t Tread on Me” on your porch. This isn’t some retired flag updated to fit the current U.S. state model. These are the colors of rebels. The flag used to secede from our country.
This, of course, should not suggest that I’m in favor of banning people from showing it anytime they want. The first amendment guarantees individuals have a right to display the flag in any way they see fit and that’s a great thing. But when you choose to fly that flag, you choose to draw attention to yourself, positively or negatively. Every instance of the flag makes my stomach turn. When I see a fellow New Yorker with a Confederate flag bumper sticker jumping off the back of his truck, I judge. I judge hard. You’re denying your proud Northern heritage in favor of a slaveholding legacy.
Governments are not, however, in the business of making the same statements. We have one national flag, the stars and stripes, fifty state flags, and flags of any other territories and commonwealths. None of these include the Confederacy. The United States isn’t going to fly the British flag above the Capitol. Puerto Rico isn’t flying the Spanish flag. Louisiana isn’t flying the French flag. The North won, the union was preserved, and the Confederate flag belongs in the metaphorical toilet of national history.
If South Carolina continues to fly the Confederate flag above its capitol, then it continues to implicitly support its own racist history. I’m proud of one history, that of the United States. We didn’t allow these states to go their separate ways at the expense of millions of disenfranchised African American slaves. Our predecessors fought and died to bring every territory back into the fold and abolish the abhorrent practice completely.
I hope all people can appreciate Dixie hypocrisy and continue the fight against hanging on to the dark periods of our past. When I think of patriotism, it usually involves an interest in preserving the union and making it stronger, not running away when you don’t get your way.