Ms. Caddell explained to a reporter:
That flag means a lot more to me than anything I can describe to you. … It’s my heritage and it’s my right.
James Patterson, a black man who lives next door, agrees that she has the right, like the critics of the Ground Zero mosque. Also like those critics, he says that exercising that right is “insensitive”:
“I know she has a legal right to do that on her property. But just because it’s legally right doesn’t make it morally right,” said Patterson, who is black.
I wonder how many liberals who think it insensitive and un-American to oppose the Ground Zero mosque are ready to stand in solidarity with Annie Chambers Caddell. I suspect not very many.
By contrast, I suspect most conservatives would say to her what they say to those who insist that the only location they will accept for their mosque is the very spot where it will antagonize the most people. I know I would, even though I grew up happy in a place and time where most people I knew thought “damnyankee” was one word. Why go out of your way to offend your neighbors?
In short, there is nothing inconsistent in our recognizing how important that flag is to her, and tolerating her veneration of it, while suggesting that she restrict its display to the inside of her house, where after all she would see it more often while not riling up her neighbors.
Civility, in short, should have a strong claim on our affections. I believe we can, and should, give it its due, and I believe we can do that without surrendering our rights to every heckler’s veto that comes along.