Editor's Column: Confederate Flag Should Not Be Flown

28 January 2000

By Stentor Danielson

For the past 38 years, South Carolina has had three flags. It had its own state flag, of course, as well as the flag of the United States. The controversial third one is the banner of the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate flag was hoisted above the state capitol in 1962 to commemorate the anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union at the outset of the Civil War. But when lawmakers signed the order for the banner to be raised in honor of South Carolinians who gave their lives in the war, they neglected to specify when it should come down again. Recently, the oversight has been brought to the current government's attention. And what should have been a simple decision to remove an advertisement for a celebration nearly four decades past has turned ugly.

Many southerners see the Confederate flag as a symbol of a proud heritage and a reminder of those who died in the Civil War. To others, the flag represents a history of slavery and racism. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is so incensed that it has threatened a boycott of the South Carolina tourist industry until the flag is removed.

Supporters of keeping the flag up are right that it's a part of their Civil War heritage, ut they forget the reason for which the Confederacy was founded: an act of rebellion.

Slavery and racism were elements in the complex set of forces that prompted South Carolina and other states to secede from the Union, but the reason the flag was created was to replace the stars and stripes. South Carolinians and their neighbors had become tired of being part of a democracy and wished to remove themselves forcibly from it.

That is not an act that should be commended. I do not consider those who fought to break up this nation to be heroes.

But as I have said, this is a democracy. I can't tell the people of South Carolina to dishonor the memory of their ancestors, many of whom fought valiantly to protect their land, whatever the eventual political consequence of their actions. However, I also cannot agree with continuing to let a symbol of rebellion fly above the center of government of one of the states.

The commotion raised around this issue has prompted the question to be posed to various Presidential candidates. Republican front-runner George W. Bush decided to simply dodge the issue by declaring that it is the state's decision, not his.

Regardless of the harassment Bush has taken from the media about his response, he is right. The South Carolina legislature put the flag up there, and so it is up to the South Carolina legislature to take it down. I don't mean to excuse Bush, though, as his decision seems colored mostly by a desire to avoid antagonizing voters. What Bush ought to have said is that he hopes that South Carolina will make the right decision and remove the flag.

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