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burning of flagsAs one who has adopted South Carolina as my home, I am still haunted by the recent events in Charleston and more than a little alarmed by its dark and disturbing aftermath.

I cannot help feeling that a culture that advocates the banning or burning of flags is on the slippery slope to becoming a society that advocates the banning or burning of books. To fight intolerance with intolerance is to fight fire with fire, or, to extend the alliterative analogy still further, it is to fight fascism with fascism. Those of us who cherish our freedom cannot help but be disturbed by this turn of events.

Particularly disturbing is the fact that this kneejerk reaction has been caused by the actions of one pathetically pathological neo-Nazi or neo-Nutzi. What would happen if an equally pathetic and pathological young man, carrying Old Glory, walked into a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan, and opened fire on Muslims at prayer? Would there be calls for the banning or burning of the American flag? Of course not, even though it would no doubt lead to the burning of the American flag by Arabs in an angered Middle East and perhaps by angry Muslims on the streets of Dearborn, Michigan. Rather than any suggestion that the nation’s flag should be banned, there would be a sense of shame, mingled perhaps with a sense of disgust, that an act of terrorism had been carried out under the flag of the American nation. There would, however, be an insistence that the flag and the nation should not be judged on the basis of the deranged misperceptions of one individual about the meaning of both the nation and its flag.

In the dark and dismal days of my youth, as a teenage member of a white supremacist organization in my native England, I carried the red, white and blue of my own country’s flag, the Union Flag or Union Jack, believing that it represented my own bigoted and racist creed. Should the British flag be banned because it is used or abused by neo-Nazi British Nationalists? Should the Confederate Flag be banned because it is used or abused by neo-Nazi members of the Ku Klux Klan? If so, should Old Glory be banned because it, too, is used or abused by the Ku Klux Klan? Should the Confederate Flag be banned because it was flown in the Civil War (or War Between the States) by those who resisted the abolition of the abomination which is human slavery? If so, should Old Glory be banned because it was the flag under which the slave trade was conducted?

At this juncture, I sense that I will be irritating many of my readers. How dare I compare Old Glory with the Confederate Battle Flag? Like it or not, my irritated readers are no doubt saying, the Confederate Flag is forever sullied by its historical association with slavery and for its contemporary association with the KKK and neo-Nazi skinheads. Any comparison between such a flag and the dignity of the Stars and Stripes is illicit and perhaps offensive.

My readers have a point. Indeed, I concede the point.

confederatewire2n-1-webI am not interested in defending the Confederate Flag but in defending the freedom of others to fly it. Take, for instance, Byron Thomas, the student at the University of South Carolina who, in 2011, refused to take down the Confederate Flag which was displayed in his dorm-room window. The university authorities gave the student an ultimatum to take it down because it was “racist” and therefore offensive to other students. The student refused to remove the flag on the grounds that it was not a racist flag but was merely the flag of his homeland and a symbol of Southern heritage. The student in question was an African-American. And then there is the case of H. K. Edgerton, an African-American member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who, as the former president of the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), is a Southern heritage activist who advocates the restoration of the Confederate Flag.

Once again, I sense that I have exasperated my readers. Surely, I can hear them say, you can’t use eccentric and unusual people such as these two African American mavericks to justify your position? My response would be to ask whether they are any more eccentric and unusual than Dylann Roof? If it is illicit to use the small minority of African Americans who fly the Confederate Flag as grounds for defending the flag, why is it not illicit to use a solitary psychopath as grounds for banning it?

As one who has adopted South Carolina as my home, I am delighted to count Byron Thomas and H. K. Edgerton, my flag flying black brothers, as my neighbours. I will, however, not be joining them in flying the flag, though as a freedom loving adoptive son of the South I hope that they will continue to be free to do so. I will not be flying the flag because, whether I like it or not, people will think that I’m a racist if I do so. This was the case before the spectre of Dylann Roof came to haunt us and is even more the case now that his moment of madness has allowed the media to launch a witch-hunt against the South.

south-carolina-porch-flag-kitNo, I shan’t be flying the Confederate Flag but visitors to our home will continue to see the state flag of South Carolina flying from our porch, as it has done for several years. Now, as more and more of our freedoms are being stripped away by big government, aided and abetted by big business and big media, the need for States Rights and the devolution of power away from the Federal Government are more needed than ever. As an adoptive son of the South, sickened by Dylann Roof’s atrocity and by the witch-hunt that has been unleashed in its wake, I will continue to fly my state’s flag as a symbol of the freedoms we have either lost or are in the process of losing.

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11 replies to this post
  1. A reasonable distinction might be drawn between a flag as a self-expression and a flag as a unifying sign of all in a locale. The Confederate flag can serve as self-expression for any individual who identifies with it, but it cannot serve as a unifying sign where any large part of the population rejects it. We may disapprove either the identification or the rejection, but in the end we cannot ignore them. On a pickup truck, the Stars and Bars might work; in front of the South Carolina state capitol, it is inappropriate.

  2. States have the absolute right to fly their flags (which ever one they choose). This is falls under Freedom of Expression

    • This is correct, as it’s been recently decided by SCOTUS in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, inc. that government speech falls under the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. Therefore, should the government of South Carolina decide that it was in its best interests to fly the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on state grounds, it would be well within its right to do so. Here is the link to that decision:
      Conversely, if the South Carolina government decided to no longer fly the above mentioned flag, it would still be well within its right.
      Mr. Pearce seems to be of the opinion that the S. Carolina government’s recent decision to remove the above mentioned flag from state grounds is tantamount to censorship, and therefore a violation of the civil liberties of the citizenry of S. Carolina. He seems to believe that removing said flag creates a slippery slope in which certain books and other unpopular speech will be progressively banned. Nothing could be further from the truth, as no government entity is requiring that private citizens remove the flag from their personal property, nor would it be able to do so without a huge outcry from both the right and left. After all, it has been long and thoroughly established that unpopular speech is still free and protected speech, no matter how hated it is by the general public, and *especially* if a government dislikes it.

      • Thank you for calling out the author on his overzealous use of the slippery slope argument. Despite what I say below, I think you are correct on the personal display question. Thanks again for your comment.

  3. The aftermath of the event in Charleston was nine people dead. The author wants us to believe that somehow the banning of the confederate flag is the most significant aftermath. It is not. The inability of the author to even spend one sentence eulogizing the dead ought to be what we, as intelligent and sensitive human beings, should be commenting on.

    As for the confederate flag vs. the U.S. Flag — surely it takes little effort to realize that for most Americans, the U.S. Flag does not bring immediately to mind racism, but the confederate flag does. The governor of South Carolina has called for its removal from state grounds. I think she is, most certainly, in the proper position to be the one to call for this. This removal is not a new idea, but it is a reasonable one.

    I would go beyond this and argue that the confederate flag should not be flown on personal property in such a way that it can be seen by members of the community. Here is my argument: Mill in his essay On Liberty tells us that government ought not to regulate individual action wherein no harm is done to anyone other than the individual performing the action. The confederate flag, particularly in the South, is often seen by blacks as a threat of violence — a not unreasonable inference. On these grounds, community leaders concerned about their community, can and, one might argue, should ban the flying of the confederate flag.

    Now it’s time for conservatives to be honest on this. This is not about free speech. Threats of violence are not free speech. Do conservatives wish to continue linking their politics to racism for the sake of a handful of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals and the pretense that they are securing freedom of expression?

    I am neither a liberal nor a conservative, but I am tired of having to defend my conservative ideas because the bulk of conservatives use such mawkish logic to defend things like racism — and trust me, that is what you are seen as defending by liberals and independents alike.

    I want to end by saying how sad the death of those nine has made me. I wish I could say that my conservative friends really join me in that, but instead they seem more saddened that one of their most vulgar toys is being taken away.

    • You do not seem altogether aware of the very irony of your own position.

      It is the media itself, as well as the governor of the state, who have taken this issue away from the matter of nine individuals being shot dead, and turned it into a farce regarding the symbolism of the flag. Yes, I say farce, because I, for one, do not recall all these protesters calling for the banning of the flag prior to this incident. If the flag is indeed wholly synonymous with racism, then why must it take this lone idiot to bring that call to action? Moral laziness? Lack of courage? A need to rally around the flag, as it were, only when it becomes perverted media ceremony?

      There is another, larger issue here: that of the Civil War. A half million people died in that war, the South incurring most of the losses. Those are lands soaked in the blood of ancestors who fought for a way of life that was not, I am sorry, limited to slaves. Those who are passionate about their Southern heritage should not be intimidated into submission in this manner.

      What gets to me are all these holier than thou Yanks (and I am a born and bred Maine) who scream about racism and slavery, yet think nothing about buying cheap as hell clothing from the sweatshops of Malaysia and China, where the conditions are practically no better. And their masters crack a whip festooned with the Stars and Stripes .

  4. I don’t care about the Confederate Flag either, and frankly I’m surprised anything that divisive can be flown on government property. But you are correct. One shouldn’t make a decision on something like this based on an unrelated event. But that is how the left works. “Never leave a tragedy unexploited.”

  5. Karen, I’m not a yank. I suppose that is the best place to start. I was born in the north, but my understanding is that Alaska is not accounted as Yankee territory.

    The call to get rid of the flag was around long before this incident, as I already noted, and has never been properly acted on, though it should have been. This more or less negates the whole of your second paragraph. Sorry about that, but, in truth, only you can be held responsible for what you did not know — I am sorry, but clearly that responsibility does not lie with me.

    The irony here lies mostly with those who are willing to set the nine aside. Did you not read the first and last paragraph I wrote? If you did, how can you accuse me of turning away from these nine gentle folk who are now dead? The fact that I tried to put focus on the nine and share the sadness it produced in me, suggests that failing to recognize irony is most likely not my greatest failure. I have many other failures, but surely that cannot, at this point, be counted amongst them.

    The confederate flag does not seem, at least to me, necessary to recognizing the losses that the south faced in that terrible war. And, as you say, the losses were great, and all Americans, not just southerners, should recognize those losses. They are, at this point in time, no longer yours alone. We are one country, let us mourn them as a country. Pretending that they are the South’s alone exacerbates the problem. Both north and south have raised memorials over the years that have recognized these losses. At this juncture, it is time to let those memorials serve their purpose. The confederate flag is not the memorial our ancestors deserve, particularly as the flag has become associated with racism, which you yourself point out is not the full measure of the south.

    The feeling you have of intimidation, suggests this has nothing to do with the Civil War and everything to do with the present. Is it the northerner that bothers you, or the liberal? As I am not a liberal, nor a northerner, I can’t really address these problems for you. Nor can I see how anything I have said or done should be seen as intimidating. If it has been, please accept my apology.

    Finally, if bringing up the long standing question of the flag detracts from the eulogy to the nine, then perhaps we ought to agree that the sweatshops in Asia carries us much too far afield. And “their masters crack a whip festooned with the Stars and Stripes” — I appreciate the effort you put into that comment, but as it is basically digressive, I suspect we shall have to let it go; what a shame.

  6. Most people, like myself, aren’t advocating making the average citizen who wants to own or fly the confederate flag to be illegal. The complaint is that a government building has a Confederate Flag above it. It’s a painful symbol to a lot of citizens of the state. Also, it was the flag of a group of people that were waging war against the United States and our constitution. Why would we glorify that on a State building? There are very few states that have any Confederate symbols officially used in their buildings or gov. None of those states has made the ownership of the flag to be illegal. I don’t get why South Carolina would be any different. It’s a pretty big leap to say that if this one flag were to be taken down the gov would be confiscating people’s private property.

  7. Freedom of expression is a right of private individuals and groups not of governmental entities. Moreoever, if the state legislature so desires it can change the state flag and should if a significant portion of the population is offended and for good reason.

    As for the incidents involving students hanging Confederate or other flags on their dorm room doors, it really depends and must be decided on a case by case basis. Certainly it would be proper to ban any display or rally that is meant to intimidate other students such as a cross burning ceremony.

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