A step too far?
If you're not living under a rock, you're aware of the horrifying events that happened in Charleston, SC, when a white man, hoping to start a race war, gunned down 9 black parishioners in an historic black church. Google it if you're not familiar.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, much has been made, and rightly so, of the fact that the Confederate flag still flies at the SC state house. Finally, the conversation is being had about the meaning of this flag and the movement to take it down has some traction.
For some, though, this is not a welcome change. It's somehow a rejection of Southern heritage. "History, not hate" is resounding on the right: it's not about race, it's about Southern pride. Unfortunately, few are willing to describe just what heritage or pride is being referred to in these admonitions.
Aside from "rebel pride" whatever that means, I generally point to the flag's meaning being tied up in the very words of those who chose it to represent their nascent union. This was beautifully and simply outlined in this article: What This Cruel War Was Over.
Now, however, there seems to be a big shove to move in to the extreme with the removal of the flag. Major retailers have stopped selling confederate flags and its memorabilia. Several articles have surfaced suggesting that Gone with the Wind should go the way of other confederate memorabilia. And today, I saw this: Apple is Removing App Store Games That Show the Confederate Flag.
Look, I support pulling down the flag from the state house. I support removing it from taxpayer supported endeavors such as license plates. But, as this article touches on, there's a difference between using the flag to support a school of thought and using the flag in historical context. A civil war game using a confederate flag is using it in a historical context. Just as I don't support banning Gone With the Wind (any more than I do Dances With Wolves or Hidalgo).
We can't whitewash our history and remove these things and pretend like they didn't matter. We just don't have to continue to support their meaning as relevant to the way we operate today. We can also use the flag in a historical context to teach history: it's a flag that represented the attempted establishment of a separate union based solely on the continuation of slavery. It was later resurrected by many former slave-holding states in the 1960s as a symbolic rebellion against de-segregation. It is a part of history and should be treated as such. We shouldn't ban its use in a historical context any more than we should ban the use of Nazi symbols in films like Indiana Jones or games like Castle Wolfenstein.
I think right now, we're in a place of confusion and shift, and the pendulum will someday rest again more toward the middle (that's my hope). Should schools and roads in southern former slave-holding states be renamed so as not to honor or promote Confederate "heroes"? Probably. Should we forget those names? Definitely not.
I wish I were more eloquent and could make my point as well as Jon Stewart did last week when it happened. But I can't, so I'll leave you with this instead: