The military is ok with the confederate flag because for them it symbolized “battle” which is what they do. For many Blacks, it symbolizes the oppression of slavery. For many Whites, it symbolizes separatist sentiments from Washington (not treason, but the right to dissent and fight about it). For the vast majority of Southerners, the flag’s loss symbolizes complete decimation of their families through war, loss of their farms and livelihoods, political punishment by Washington. They cling to that flag, not because it represents slavery, but almost as a way of bringing their family ancestors who died and were humiliated, back, or at least defending their honor.
Does any one group have the right to redefine the flag’s meaning for everyone? Can people separate the issue of the flag, from that of racism? Racism was associated with the South; it was not what defined it.
Be wary of groups who want to use their power to tell others what objects have to mean for everyone. Think for yourselves. The war ended 150 years ago. Does the humiliation that resulted from the Civil War have to extend/continue to the vilification of objects that have different meanings for different people because some people still want to fight?
Yes, the debate about banning Civil War symbols of the South is being discussed in the same breath as gun control. Both issues are about defending individual rights in the face of government.
Gun violence is a tragedy, but so also is the loss of one’s ability to express oneself, and determine one’s own meaning for the objects that surround one. Yes, fight the immorality of slavery. But don’t do it, by taking a small section of meaning and expanding it with logical error to include all of a subject so that this fight becomes a fight against something that is not really as large as it is imagined to be, unless you are trying to pick a fight. And if you are trying to pick a fight, the question is why?
In the context of what happened in South Carolina, one can argue, the other side started the fight. One can argue, fighting is the antidote for depression. One can argue that the fight is “the moral fight”. There are arguments for fighting.
There are even more compelling arguments to look at the example set by Pinckney, one who wanted to welcome, love, and teach even the potential young white man filled with hatred who might be completely misguided. Look at that example and realize that although he gave his life in that mission, his spirit remains with us, dedicated to its higher purpose. Indeed, his story joins the stories of many of the missionaries who were sent into “hostile Indian territory”, who gave their lives in their efforts to civilize and save the souls of Native Americans bringing them into a more peaceful expression. We look at those sacrifices, and know how dearly they hurt our communities. We mourn the losses as we recognize too late the need for peace-building efforts across all communities. We yet look to heal the hatred, and confront it with positive examples when it is found in young people. We do not aspire to such an end for anyone, and yet we honor it when it happens.
Sometimes war is so ugly, hostages are taken. This is why we don’t look to escalate fighting to the point where that happens. We allow symbols of battles where many lives were lost to persist, not because they inflame, but because they honor those lives that were lost as something more than what they might mean to me, to you, or to any given individual. We try to desist from the temple-bashing and pillaging of ancient tribes, as a manifestation of power. We today have military conventions that allow both sides to retrieve and bury their dead (Articles 15 and 17 of the Geneva Convention). To quote H. Wayne Elliott:
“The raison d’etre for protecting and honoring the dead is captured in the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington Cemetery:
‘Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known But to God.’ ”
Was the Confederate Soldier an American one? As someone who accepts this nation’s history, I would say “yes”, arguing that by maintaining cohesion with that element of our past, we are, in fact, stronger. As an advocate of nonviolence, I might have left the inscription with the more modest:
‘Here Rests an American Soldier Known But to God.’
‘Here Rests in Honor an American Soldier Known But to God.’
We look to go beyond fighting as an attempt to solve problems. We look to preach love and demonstrate love when we rise up to our better calling. The Honorable Reverend Pinckney, Ethel Lance, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson did just that.
Guns don’t belong in sanctuaries. Black (indeed all) lives matter. Let love win.