Battle Flag

Photo Courtesy of the Georgia Capitol Museum.

Today’s papers bring us two stories about the conflicts over when and where the public and private display of the Confederate flag may be appropriate.

The first story, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, notes that the Sons of Confederate Veterans has paid to fly flags within sight of Georgia interstates, including one that reachs 30 feet by 50 feet near Tifton.

April Hunt, writing for the AJC, notes that some civil rights activists take less exception to private displays of the flag, than when the state government flew it as part of our state flag.

The DeKalb NAACP President’s statement suggests that much of the sting of the flag as a symbol of racial animus has faded:

“We don’t like it, but they have every right to put it up if they can find someone who wants that mess on their property,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP. “As long as it’s just a symbol and not an action, it’s just a distraction from how much the world has changed from when that flag represented a real threat.”

Elsewhere, a story from the Associated Press notes that the City of Lexington, Virginia, voted Thursday to ban the flying of any flag other than those of the United States, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or the City itself from city property. That measure is notable for the fact that General Robert E. Lee lies down the hill from Lexington City Hall in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University, and Stonewall Jackson lies in a nearby cemetery.

Some within the NAACP had a different take on Lexington’s action:

H.K. Edgerton, the former president of the NAACP chapter in Asheville, N.C., said he supported flying the Confederate flag because he wanted to honor black Confederate soldiers. Edgerton, who is black, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with images of those black soldiers.

Contrary to what some people are saying, the Lexington ordinance does not affect private displays. Confederate flags will continue to hang in the Chapel, on the fraternity houses, and frankly, on just about any surface you can see. Young men will leave flags on Traveller’s gravestone and in the family crypt.

Nearly 20 years ago, Lexington fought this fight, proposing to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag in a parade honoring General Jackson. The ACLU intervened on behalf of the marchers and took the city to court.

The main thing that will change in Lexington is that Confederate flags will no longer adorn the utility poles in downtown Lexington for Lee-Jackson-King Day.

Georgia hosts at least two other disputes of where and when it is appropriate to publicly display the Confederate flag.

At an August funeral for SCLC Leader Dr. Howard Creecy at Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery, some attendees were apparently offended at the visibility of the Confederate flag flying above a private memorial within the cemetery, asked for its removal and some have protested it. The cemetery says they cannot order the flag’s removal because the monument belongs to the SCV.

In April, the Dodge County Commission voted to fly the Confederate flag 365 days a year at the courthouse. In Eastman, the flag also flies over a monument to the Confederate dead.

“We’ve been battling this for some time, trying to resolve it without going outside the county,” said John Battle, president of the Dodge County branch of the NAACP, which he said has repeatedly asked the county to remove the flag.

“We don’t have any heartburn about the Confederate flag itself, but we have heartburn because it’s up there on the public property,” he said.

The NAACP has indicated that they would not oppose flying the flag one day a year in Dodge County, as was apparently the original intention. But 365 days is a bit much for their sensibilities. I’m inclined to support the position that the occasional and limited display of the flag, given its proximity to the war memorial, would be honorable, but that insistence upon it flying every day is unreasonable.

In my mind, it’s not about political correctness, but about the role of a flag, as a unifying symbol for a state or nation’s citizens. If a substantial number of the citizens are offended by the government’s choice of a flag, that banner is not doing its job and should be retired. But its role in memorial services and attached to memorial displays doesn’t trouble me.

In August of 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to former Virginia Governor John Letcher,:

“The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt…. They should … elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country, and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself.”

Interestingly, the letter is dated 28 August 1865, about five weeks before Lee was inaugurated President of Washington College, now named Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. Letcher was born in Lexington, graduated from Washington Academy, later W&L, and served on the Board of Visitors for Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

Because our state and nation still bear the scars of centuries of racial animus, we cannot say that we have yet healed all dissensions. Perhaps we should heed General Lee’s order to “furl the flag, boys.”

58 comments

  1. SallyForth says:

    I wonder if these same people argue over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin! Some people obviously have way too much time on their hands. With all the real problems in our country today, it sure seems petty to keep fussing about the Confederate battle flag.

    Like it or not, this flag is and always will be part of our nation’s history and represents hundreds of thousands of Southerners of all ethnicities who were killed by federal troops. Remember pyromaniac Sherman and his thugs? The Confederate States of America DID seceed (actually adopted a CSA Constitution that outlawed slavery before the US did) and existed as a separate nation for approximately twelve years (allowed back into the Union in early 1870’s). Honoring the memory of soldiers and civilians who honorably served in the CSA military, laid down their lives for their homes and families is a reasonable thing for many people.

    The flag clearly means different things to different people – but remember this IS America! Freedom of expression, and all that stuff. Next thing we know, there will be an outcry to ban the Mexican flag and Cinco de Mayo, ban African flags, dress and Kwanza, ban the Irish flag and St. Patrick’s celebrations, etc. out the wazoo. Personally, the Confederate battle flag looks like the Union Jack, reminds me of jolly old England and our nation’s roots. (see what I mean about different things to different people?) I say live and let live.

    My own pet peeve: I find Green Bay Packer fans and those big chunks of cheese on their heads REALLY offensive in our GA Dome – can we get them outlawed so that I don’t have to look at them at our Falcons’ games? Now football, that’s something serious! 🙂
    Happy Labor Day, gang!

    • rense says:

      I agree with – or at least have no objection to – everything that you said in your missive except “actually adopted a CSA Constitution that outlawed slavery before the US did.” Allow me to propose that the version of the CSA Constitution that I read must have been different from the one that you read! Incidentally, the slavery issue is one that should not be demagogued the way that it is. Slavery was common all over the world, including Africa where it is still being practiced to this day. The only reason why slavery disappeared from the north, where it was originally practiced also, was that it was no longer economically necessary because of their shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. Lincoln offered to allow the south to keep their slaves if they would not secede, and the south offered to free the slaves if it meant being allowed to secede. Many prominent abolitionists were primarily interested in getting rid of the black population (whether sending the blacks to Africa, as Lincoln wanted, or Mexico as Joseph Smith wanted) because they knew that slavery would inevitably end one day, and when that happened that citizenship, integration and intermarriage would soon result.

      The issue with slavery in the south was its brutal, cruel exploitative nature, which was never necessary and was done only to maximize profits. (There was also the kidnapping and the middle passage, but then again the transatlantic slave trade had already been made illegal decades before the Civil War for precisely that reason, so it is improper to hold the middle passage against the south only.) Beyond that, white supremacy was a bigger problem than slavery, and in many respects was the real problem. Consider that white supremacy was why de facto and de jure segregation and other forms of discrimination continued over 100 years after slavery ended. And of course, it was by no means limited to the south. Go read some of the crackpot racial theories that were being taught at not a few northern universities about 200 years ago to see what I mean.

      • jiminga says:

        “The issue with slavery in the south was its brutal, cruel exploitative nature, which was never necessary and was done only to maximize profits.” This is an interesting statement and reflects the revisionist view of “history”. It is a fact that slaves were the most valuable asset at the time, more valuable than the plantations and farms themselves. It’s pretty hard to imagine a slave owner beating and murdering his most valuable assets. Simon Legree was a myth.

        To support the truth, huge numbers of freed slaves remained on the plantations as employees and even adopted their former owners last names.

        The Confederate battle flag is not a symbol of racism. It is a symbol of huge numbers of people fighting for, and dying for, their beliefs and states’ rights as was provided for in the Constitution.

        • rense says:

          Oh please. It is not a revisionist view of history, but rather based on the testimony of ex-slaves themselves. I find the writings and oral histories of ex-slaves to be far more credible than the bothersome neo-Confederate movement today, especially since “the south was right” crowd is unaware of how ideologically different the Confederacy actually was from GOP neo-conservatism of today. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

          And I could care less about the Confederate battle flag. It doesn’t have anything to do with me one way or another, apart from my preferring to refer to it as the Saint Andrew’s cross. The “League of the South” types do make one good argument: why criticize the CSA flag that represented slavery for 4 years and not the U.S. flag that represented slavery and white supremacy for like 200 years, in the north and south. But that is a question for the NAACP types, of which I am certainly not one.

        • Georgian34 says:

          I think jiminga’s statement, “huge number of freed slaves remained on the plantations as employees and even adopted their former owners last names” is false. I’m not saying there may not have been slaves that did this, but using this to discribe the majority of freed slaves misrepresents the truth. Jiminga did get the fact that many slaves stayed on their former masters plantations right, but it wasn’t out of some misplaced since of loyalty to a person that at the end of the day listed them as property. They stayed out of lack of options. For the most part when slaves were freed they weren’t given a picnic basket and some cash and sent on the way. Some masters didn’t want to give these slaves anything, and after long hard years of war some masters might not have had anything to give, but the truth is most slaves were given little more then the clothes they were wearing. In lieu of any real options most slaves agreed to stay on the plantation and work under a new arrangement that over the following years would develop into the economic slavery of sharecropping. Get it right.

      • SallyForth says:

        @rense, re the CSA outlawing slavery before the US did, Section 9(1) of the CSA Constitution I’m reading states: “The importation of Negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slave-holding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. ” This clause makes a permanent ban on the slave trade, with an exception for the US where slave trading was still permitted.

        Section 9(2) states: “Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy. ”
        This clause gives Congress the power to ban slave imports from specific US states. It is thus a clever loophole of sorts, in that it allows the CSA to ban slave imports from the US while simultaneously not contradicting clause 1 — thereby outlawing the slave trade period.

        Lincoln had ships ready to start shipping Blacks back to Africa, and the Southern states said “No.” He did not even mention slavery until his Emancipation Proclamation written over two years after the war started, and this was to enable use of Blacks in the federal army to replace Whites who were walking away, going home and refusing to keep killing Southerners. The War of Northern Aggression had much in common with all wars in that it boiled down to money- all about wresting away economic power from the Confederate states. Subjugation of the South by the industrialists of the North was the name of the game.
        Maybe this means we should outlaw “mean green” and “green-back dollar” instead of flags??

        Historians engage in reconstructing the past with all of history’s perils. They never get it completely right because the witnesses are biased, or blame shifting, or wrong – or the investigators never ask the right questions, don’t even know which questions to ask.

        I hope this answers your questions re my comment on the CSA Constitution. You are SO right about discrimination not being limited to the South, and you made a good reference to the historical crackpot racial theories of northern universities too. This puts me right back where I started: our country has too many serious problems today for any of us to be fussing about historical flags!

        • rense says:

          Sorry, but that is an artful dodge. Those passages banned the slave trade, but not the ownership of slaves itself. As there were millions of slaves in the Confederacy with no practical way of receiving manumission, the CSA didn’t need to import new slaves anyway. They could have just kept the slaves that they had plus their progeny.

          I think that I should point out that I have no dog in this “Union versus Confederacy” hunt other than to criticize the revisionist history practiced by both sides. (I really don’t like how the left keeps using the Confederacy issue as a political tool against contemporary conservative politicians. But then again, southern politicians used resentment against the north to stay in power for almost a hundred years, so they are in no position to complain.) The south seceded for its own reasons, as they had the right to do. And the north attacked south, defeated them and took their land, which is no different from what was done to the British (in which we committed a seditious rebellion and took territory that belonged to England) and the Native Americans. Any southerner who complains about what the north did to them needs to take their place in the grievance line behind the Native Americans and the British.

          In any event, it is history that needs to remain in the history books.

          • SallyForth says:

            At least the CSA Constitution outlawed slave trade and bringing in more enslaved people, which the US still had not done. Re existing slaves, as mentioned above, Lincoln and his cronies in DC had plans to load them up on boats and ship them back to Africa. The Confederate states said “nope” to that plan that would have heaped more misery on Black folks, many of whom had lived their whole lives in the US.

            And you are right about the formation of the Confederate States of America being in the same pattern as the Revolutionary War and formation of the United States of America. The sons of Virginians and other Southerners carried that spirit of independence of our nation’s founding fathers into 1860 – they thought they were free and sovereign states, that anything you could join, you could also un-join.

            What the Civil War actually proved was that there is no such thing as state’s rights and that, while we might not have a king, the president and federal rule had replaced a monarchy. The adage that “Might makes right” prevailed, and as you say, it is history.

            • Baker says:

              Wow. I was gonna stay out of it, but did you really just say “Lincoln and his cronies”?

              And this part?: “Lincoln and his cronies in DC had plans to load them up on boats and ship them back to Africa. The Confederate states said “nope” to that plan that would have heaped more misery on Black folks, many of whom had lived their whole lives in the US.”

              That’s some real revisionism.

              Lincoln and his “cronies” did consider the back to Africa plan…because they didnt see how blacks would ever be accepted in American society. And the reason Confederates said nope to that was most definitely not because they were concerned about the welfare or potential misery of black folks.

              • SallyForth says:

                Yeah Baker, I did get a little loose with my terminology – sorry if it offended, didn’t mean to. Bottom line, I repeat:
                “Historians engage in reconstructing the past with all of history’s perils. They never get it completely right because the witnesses are biased, or blame shifting, or wrong – or the investigators never ask the right questions, don’t even know which questions to ask.
                What the Civil War actually proved was that there is no such thing as state’s rights and that, while we might not have a king, the president and federal rule had replaced a monarchy. The adage that “Might makes right” prevailed, and as you say, it is history.”

                • Baker says:

                  Apology accepted, not that I was offended, but I think Lincoln deserves better. I do agree with you that historians do a bad job of explaing the full background in the lead-up to the war.

                  I’m reading the John Adams bio from McCullough right now and one thing that he makes abundantly clear is how, from the very beginning, there were large differences beyond just slavery between the north and south.

                  Abigail Adams in 1792: “I firmly believe if I live ten years longer, I shall see a division of the Southern and Northern states, unless more candor and less intrigue, of which I have no hopes, should prevail.”

                  I definitely think continued slavery was the camel’s back-breaker, but the Federalism/ Republicanism issue had been simmering since the beginning in one way or another and that was the foundation on which the war was built.

            • benevolus says:

              How did it “outlaw the slave trade” when it says EXCEPT from the U.S.? Did the confederate Congress then go and ban it from the northern states? If not, then slavery was not banned in the confederate states.

  2. Ken says:

    Some additional information about the Confederate battle flag at the Dodge County Confederate Memorial:

    The Dodge County Commission voted to incorporate the flagpole as a part of the monument as well as fly the confederate battle flag 365 days per year. The former is the more important part of the motion that was passed. My understanding of the law is that once the flagpole became an official part of the monument, it cannot be removed and neither can the flag due to the state code related to memorials.

    The state NAACP had threatened a boycott and a legal suit against Dodge County, but has taken no noticeable action to date. I’m fairly certain that they are aware of the law and that is why they have ceased their legal threats.

    In addition, the Dodge County Commissioners were threatened with a lawsuit by both the NAACP and the Sons of Confederate Veterans contingent upon the outcome of the vote related to the flag. It would appear that the SCV would have the stronger legal suit if all of this were to go to court.

  3. seenbetrdayz says:

    The only way we’re going to get a handle on racism is to stop talking about it.

    The famous Morgan Freeman 60 minute interview clip on how to defeat racism:

  4. Baker says:

    I’m guessing some folks havent gotten around to reading this post yet. Cue the angry responses to Sally at any moment.

    And that Morgan Freeman clip is awesome. First of all, I think he has a great point. And second, it’s amusing to see Mike Wallace squirm.

  5. saltycracker says:

    When the flag was picked up by hate groups it became soiled and the opposition will use it as a symbol that will not rest until history is rewritten. Too bad it is politically correct to purge history of all the those associated with indian displacement (most of whom had displaced previous natives), slavery, decendants of colonists and all but the 20th century immigrant players in dominance.

    If even a school name of a prominent citizen touches such a past it is vilified. The next step is to get those Confederate heros off Stone Mountain and replaced by the modern icon of Atlanta – MLK. About all we can find on the web page is mention who those guys were:
    http://www.stonemountainpark.com/

    The battle flag has historical meaning for all of us. It is a disgrace to use it for causes of hatred. While there should be a public outcry against disgrace of the retired flags of states, it should be a crime to disgrace the U.S. Flag.

    • rense says:

      The KKK flew the American flag at their rallies alongside the Confederate battle flag. (If you recall, the KKK used to market itself as the most patriotic – and the only truly patriotic – group in America.) The media simply refused to publish photos of the KKK flying the American flag, and only ran images and used video footage of the KKK flying the Confederate flag. There were even credible accusations that the media cropped the American flag out of the pictures, because they only wanted the Confederate flag to be associated with the KKK and racism, not the American flag. That allowed them to use the issue as a political tool against southern conservatives, who unfortunately played right into their hands.

      So, I reject the idea that hate groups soiled the Confederate flag. Instead, it was the national media who did it, and they did it to further their own agenda.

      • Ed says:

        “So, I reject the idea that hate groups soiled the Confederate flag. Instead, it was the national media who did it, and they did it to further their own agenda.”

        This is 10000000% awesome. Scratch that–it is 100000000000000000% awesome.

  6. Ed says:

    FWIW I think both NAACPs have it right. As long as it isn’t a galvanizing symbol for hatred (the same could be said for any emblem/icon/or similar graphic) and the government isn’t using it in lieu of their flag or in conjunction, with one exception, why not use it? I mean, it is a good flag aesthetically.

    The one exception is at Confederate burial grounds that may be governmental property. Can’t really find qualms with flying the flag 365 there.

  7. Todd Rehm says:

    Here’s my proposed rules:

    1. No official government use or sanction of use. Government may allow private displays on/close to public property if display is connected to a memorial and is limited in time/scope. Tread carefully here.

    2. Private displays okay, subject to my personal aesthetic judgment.

    3. Don’t be an asshat.

    That last one is the most important rule, and the one that folks on both sides of the debate seem to have some trouble with.

    • saltycracker says:

      So was it your rules or media subversion that we did not see the flag on TV this weekend leading the southern division of the black gay pride parade ?

    • Ed says:

      “close to public property if display is connected to a memorial and is limited in time/scope”

      For some reason this really gets to me. You would have a problem with a burial ground or significant site, that is run by the state, having a CFB flying year round? I have no problem with that, just don’t see why if it is at a place like that it would be bad to have a CFB.

      • Todd Rehm says:

        If it were an actual Civil War site, I might be okay with it. But generally speaking, if it offends a significant and reasonable portion of the state’s citizens, don’t do it. We’re not talking about something that has a public safety component or anything. At the end of the day, we’re talking about how the state and local governments decorate property.

        The problem with “burial ground or significant site” is that it easily comes to encompass places where the display would be unreasonable. One could make a strong argument that in Virginia, for example, the most significant Civil War site would be the state capitol.

        If it’s an honest to goodness Civil War site and the flag offers something different, maybe a solution is to sell or long-term lease a portion of it to the SCV or a similar organization. But I believe that the occasional display in conjunction with an event, commemoration, memorial day, etc. makes that day more meaningful, while 24/7 displays cheapens it and allows it to fade into the background.

        • Ed says:

          Don’t get me wrong, I don’t understand why states wouldn’t give up those sites to SCV because it is so offensive (and genuinely offensive, not just “offensive) but you also saw my caveat which excludes Virginia Commonwealth Capitol from being a site where it could be flown. The CBF can’t be used to supplant or conjoined with the state flag.

          • Todd Rehm says:

            The problem with cemeterys that are publicly-owned is more logistical than anything else. A single flagpole with the Confederate flag flying 365 is probably preferable to individual flags placed on graves because the flags eventually deteriorate and become garbage.

            If it’s solely a military gravesite not having fresh burials, it’d be easier to let go than if it’s an actively receiving cemetery. God forbid the family of a recently-killed soldier, sailor, etc. be offended by something our government does at the gravesite of their loved one.

    • Ken says:

      Todd,

      I’m sorry, but I think you’re missing something. Freedom of speech would certainly cover the right to fly a flag. So when someone says, “It’s okay with me if you fly that flag at your home or at your business, but you can’t fly it in public” what I hear is “It’s okay with me if you speak your mind at home or at your business, but you can’t speak freely in public”. I have a real problem with that and it has little to do with a particular flag or even a particular idea. People should be able to express themselves in public without concern of being pressured into moderating or halting their right to express themselves.

      • Todd Rehm says:

        Freedom of speech comes with the responsibility to not be an asshat.

        I never said I would outlaw it. I said that if you do something you know offends other people and act self-righteous about it, you’re an asshat.

        A little restraint on everybody’s side would go far.

        I have no problem saying “you can’t put fliers, flags, anything on lightpoles held by the city/county/state government” if for no other reason than to prevent the litter and the cost to the government of cleaning it up.

        Someone can fly the Nazi flag from a 50-foot flagpole in their front yard next to the elementary school and I don’t think it should be made illegal. I do think that someone choosing to do so is an asshat.

        Freedom of speech should be tempered at all times by the individual willingness to not be a complete asshat.

        In the City of Lexington, I’m pretty sure you can wear a Confederate flag lapel pin, baseball cap, t-shirt, whatever. Put a sticker on your car or paint its roof. Those are valid exercises of free speech and the ordinance won’t stop it. Probably couldn’t pass such an ordinance, because when I lived there the major industry was selling stuff with the Confederate flag on it.

        There’s a bar in Lexington where I may have exercised my First Amendment right to sing “Purple Rain” into a microphone.

        The fraternity houses on Red Square will likely still fly the flag whenever the hell they want to, and replicas of the originals will hang in the crypt of Lee Chapel. Businesses in downtown will string banners across the street for Lee-Jackson-King Day, and that’s all okay. You can put the flag in the window of your student apartment overlooking North Main Street and the cemetery, being privately-owned, can decorate General Jackson’s gravesite any way it wishes.

        You just can’t put any flags on the city-owned utility poles. That’s not really so onerous, is it?

        They’re not even talking about preventing homeowners from flying whatever goofy flag might catch their fancy from a flagpole or the tops of their home, unlike the Commies in a lot of HOAs.

        Ultimately, what I’m talking about is a few laws to further restrain governments from doing things. Combined with a little bit of common sense for private individuals.

        I wouldn’t suggest that the SCV be prevented from flying sixteen different versions of Confederate flags over a privately-owned memorial. Hell, I’d fight for their right to do so. But if the family of a civil rights leader who was to be buried nearby asked them to kindly take them down for a couple of hours as they honor their family member, I’d hope they’d have the goldarned human decency to do so. And we could all get back to the business of not having protests and stupid laws have to be passed.

        You just can’t attach them to the city-owned utility poles or run ’em up the city’s flagpole. Pretty reasonable.

        The only thing I’ve said that could possibly be construed as indicating my desire to stop anybody from flying any flag they wish is where I said my own personal aesthetic judgment should rule. Do you remember a couple of years ago when every flake out there had one of those goofy garden flags with butterflies and crap on it? That’s whay I’m talking about. That crap should be illegal solely because it offends my sense of aesthetics.

        I like the Confederate flag – all of them. I’ve spent a lot of time in museums in Atlanta, Richmond, Lexington, even Columbus, Ohio, just to see original battle-flown Confederate flags. Got a nifty set of silk suspenders with the flag all over them. However, I can assure you that Lexington, Virginia will never have too few of them.

        • Ken says:

          Freedom of speech comes with the responsibility to not be an asshat.

          Actually, no. Freedom of speech comes with the responsibility to not suppress the freedom of speech of others.

          How many people were considered asshats by contemporaries that were ultimately right? Start with the guy who first utilized fire to every major prophet in the Old Testament to Socrates to Galileo to Copernicus to Voltaire to Edmund Burke to Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Paine (who was, at times, an asshat but not always) to Frederick Douglass to Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Nikola Tesla to Joseph McCarthy to Bill James to Ronald Reagan. I expect blowback from the last three, but they certainly look more right than wrong at this point in time.

          The truth is that the asshats need to have protected speech far more than those who propose an extension of the popular culture – especially if you define asshat as someone who makes others uncomfortable.

        • Ken says:

          Todd,

          I want to make it clear that I know you are not exactly calling for laws to enforce censorship. I simply have a different thought on how public places should be treated with regard to freedom of expression. To me, public property should be where ideas are all welcome to be expressed and to be attacked. It’s not a place where we should be pressured to pretend we believe ideas we do not or to acquiesce to sentiments we find repulsive. Let the ideas battle for the minds of the people and may the best ideas win.

          Common sense, decency and consideration are characteristics people should exhibit as individuals, but never something that government should even consider encouraging at the risk of abandoning the smallest amount of freedom. As a culture we can survive being offended every day of our lives, but we cannot survive if ideas are subject to the harsh suppression of the sensibilities of the sensitive who callously disregard the right of others to freely express their beliefs.

          “There is always a chance that he who sets himself up as his brother’s keeper will end up being his jailkeeper.” – Eric Hoffer

          • Todd Rehm says:

            Sorry, Ken, but you’re wrong.

            There is no right that comes without a corresponding responsibility. To think otherwise is liberal(tarian) nonsense.

            And the idea that the public forum should exist without pressure from people who disagree is pure fantasy. Say what you want and be prepared to accept the consequences from people who disagree.

            You really think it’s a Constitutional crisis that the flagpoles of Lexington, Virginia are now off-limits to any and all flags?

            Is it unconstitutional for a local government to prohibit citizens from spraypainting over the windows of the police station or city hall?

            If it’s not, how do you distinguish between the two?

            • Ken says:

              Wrong? Me? No.

              And the idea that the public forum should exist without pressure from people who disagree is pure fantasy. Say what you want and be prepared to accept the consequences from people who disagree.

              So which is it? “Pressure from people who disagree” to silence the minority viewpoint or “say what you want and be prepared to accept the consequences”? If BOTH sides can do the latter then there is not a problem. On the other hand if you side with those who would use political pressure or political correctness to stifle ideas then you cannot have the latter at all.

              Encouraging censorship is different than openly disagreeing. I encourage public discourse and reject the rights of the majority to silence the minority opinion.

              As for the flagpoles and “spraypainting over . . . windows” that involves property not owned by the individuals in question so their rights are obviously limited by the property rights of others. This is different than the Confederate War Memorial and flagpole in Dodge County. That flag pole was erected for the single purpose of flying the Confederate battle flag in honor of the dead the memorial honors.

              You will note that I have not addressed the issue of Lexington, Virginia, at all. What I am attempting to address is censorship of ideas. There are few opinions and factual statements that are unconstitutional to express; sedition is the only one that readily comes to mind, in fact. Then there are issues surrounding polling places on election day which are regulated by the states.

              There are, of course, responsibilities that go with free speech. There are also remedies for the abuse of free speech such as libel and slander laws. Then there is the remedy available to most people who do not want to hear what someone else is saying: walk away.

              Who should decide if ideas should be repressed and by whom?

              There is a problem when people feel good about the closing of the marketplace of ideas to new vendors. When we lessen the ability of individuals to hear, and thus consider, alternative ideas then we rob them of the ability to maximize themselves as human beings. I much prefer to live my life hearing ideas with which I strongly disagree, but being able to express myself freely than a life in a cocoon where I am “protected” from new thoughts and arguments.

  8. GB101 says:

    I noticed that for the umpteenth time the AJC said the the 1956 Georgia flag contained the Stars and Bars. It did not. It contained the St. Andrew’s Cross. Entirely different. The AJC has been making this mistake for 25 years. As often as the paper has been covering controversies concerning the Confederate flag, you would think that everybody of the payroll would know the difference.

      • Ed says:

        The problem is that it has fallen into popular use and would lead to confusion if they started referring to it as the St. Andrew’s Cross.

        /asshattery.

          • GB101 says:

            Trust me, Calypso, it is the St. Andrew’s Cross. The X-shaped cross is called the St. Andrew’s Cross because St. Andrew was crucified on a cross of this kind. The essential characteristic is the shape, not the color. The flag of Scotland contains the St. Andrew’s Cross; the Confederate Battle Flag contains the St. Andrew’s Cross. The First National Flag of the Confederacy is the Stars and Bars. The current Georgia flag is very similiar to the Stars and Bars.

  9. Noel says:

    Sorry, folks, but these efforts to differentiate between brutal and “enlightened” slavery is splitting hairs. Asserting ownership of other human beings and using violence or the threat of violence to maintain the relationship is morally wrong. Period. And it’s flat out bizarre to hear rationalizations of it — and the flag that undeniably represented it — coming primarily from people who claim to hold freedom precious. Flying — flaunting — the Confederacy’s flag today is a selfish, spiteful act, an insult to the Americans who were once “owned” and to their descendents. And that trumps anything and everything men and women of the 1860s South, even those who were brave and in many ways honorable, did in that flag’s service.

  10. GB101 says:

    And one more thing. Gordon Jones is wrong about the reason the 1956 flag was adopted. But that is a long story, and is not quite as cut-and-dry as the issue of Stars and Bars and St. Andrew’s Crosses. If anyone really wants to know I can explain.

  11. GB101 says:

    The key evidence against the oft-repeated assertion (to wit, that the flag was changed as a protest against court-ordered desegration) is the total lack of anything in contempory records making that link. That is the short story.

    The long version:

    The AJC, for years, had a formulaic insertion, in every article it published (and there were many) saying that the flag was changed “as a protest against court-ordered desegregation.” People read it again and again and some began to ask questions. What was the newspaper’s source? Well, it turned out the paper had no source. It is just something the editors took as self-evidently true. Readers began to challenge the paper. What was the source? It is unprofessional to make this kind of assertion, as if it is fact, without citing a source.

    The paper put some people on the case. They looked and could find nothing. Nothing.

    One retired reporter wrote an article in the mid 90s saying he was there in ’56 and he knew that the measure was meant as a segregationist protest. Now, that looked pretty good, until someone went back to see what this reporter had written in 1956. His article then had nothing to say about segregationist protests. All he saw that was amiss was that one legislator was in the flag business and would profit from the change.

    Also, Governor Barnes enlisted Demark Groover, gravely ill, come to Atlanta to testify. He made some statements in support of the segregationist protest thesis, but he was vague. Supportive, but less than definite.

    The key thing about the reporter and Groover is that they were saying in the 90s that people had certain motives in the 50s. This is evidence, but not very good evidence. After all, if legislators had certain motives, why was there no contemporary evidence. This wasn’t the Dark Ages. It was 40 years in the past.

    Well, the good people in their offices on Marietta St were in a tough spot. Having looked and having found no evidence, they had to do some fast thinking, and they did. They argued that the legislators MUST have had a racist motive because they were all white, almost all segregationists; courts had ordered desegregation; and the flag was changed. As I recall, the paper admitted that there was no smoking gun, but the balance of evidence pointed to the segregationist protest theory.

    That is a very faulty conclusion, for reasons that are readily apparent. The legislature at the time WAS all white and nearly all were segregationists. Few blacks voted then, so all these white segregationists answered to a white and mostly segregationist electorate. They were not closet segregationists. They were very open about it. They campaigned on a segregationist platform. They bragged about it. (“No, not one!” said candidate Ernest Vandiver, tho he moderated when he was elected.) So to buy the paper’s logic, you have to believe that scores of segregationist legislators had a segregationist motive, and conspired (and conspired successfully) to keep it a secret. What is the point of that? Had they possessed such a motive they would have publicized it in every way possible. Something would be in the record.

    Not only would they have bragged about their motives, their opponents would have criticized them. Ralph McGill never wrote an editorial on the subject. Why not? Because there was nothing to write about. No racist motive to criticize.

    As I said, this is a long story, but it is almost over.

    Someone sued the state before the flag was changed. Claimed the Confederate Battle Flag on the state flag amounted to discrimination, caused him emotional harm or some such. Several prominent Georgians gave testimony. I think Carl Sanders, Ernest Vandiver, and Judge John Samnons Bell. They were there in ’56 and said under oath that the reason the flag was changed was to change to a more recognizable Confederate symbol as the state prepared for the Centennial.

    (The pre-’56 flag was based on the First National (as is the present flag), but by then (as now) few recognized it as a Confederate symbol. Everybody knew the Battle Flag.)

    The paper never admitted its mistake, but it did change its behavior. The formulaic phrase, appearing over and over, was changed from “changed in 1956 as a protest against court-ordered desegregation” to “changed in an era when there was widespread protest against court-ordered desegregation.”

    Actions speak louder than words. The claim was quietly dropped because there was no evidence backing it up.

    QED And I have to go the grocery store.

      • GB101 says:

        Glad you found this to be of interest. I left out one thing. There was another legislator from the era who testified. James Mackay. He was definite in his testimony. Said there was no question that the people voting had a racist motive. I should include this. Not fair to ignore info that conflicts with my conclusion. But like the others, Mackay was saying in the 90s that something had happened in the mid 50s. Contemporary evidence is not there.

        • griftdrift says:

          Well, not quite, Quo Erat Demonstrata.

          The court case you cite is Coleman vs. Miller. And you are correct that several members of the legislature testified that segregation played no part in the decision. James Mackay was also a member of the legislature and insisted it did play a part. So the story is not quite as clean cut as you would make it.

          As far as contemporary evidence, I’d like to see this ’56 article to judge for myself.

          But the bottom line is the AJC is correct about prevailing evidence. One argument is it was changed to honor the Centennial which was still five years away and on the other side is the argument that it was changed in response to a Supreme Court ruling on segregation that happened two years previous. Occam’s razor.

          • Calypso says:

            The old flag was changed solely because its color scheme clashed with the recently installed wallpaper in the rotunda of the capitol. Nothing to see here, move along.

          • GB101 says:

            I no longer have a copy of the 56 article by the reporter. But it would not be too hard to find. As for the Centennial being five years in the future, that is true. But people didn’t just start on April 12 1961. There was planning ahead of time. The US Centennial Commission was formed in 57. The Ga Commission in 59. The Centennial was certainly on people’s minds before the anniversary was upon them. Gov Vandiver did not just wake up one morning and say “Today I am going to sign an executive order creating the Centennial Commission.”

            I am sure you noticed that I mentioned Mackay’s testimony. Nothing is certain and there is evidence on both sides. What tilts the balance, in my mind, is the lack of contempory evidence.

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