June 22, 2015

DAVID FRENCH: Don’t tear down the Confederate flag.

It is telling that the South’s chosen, enduring symbol of the Confederacy wasn’t the flag of the Confederate States of America — the slave state itself — but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s army. Lee was the reluctant Confederate, the brilliant commander, the man who called slavery a “moral and political evil,” and the architect — by his example — of much of the reconciliation between North and South. His virtue grew in the retelling — and modern historians still argue about his true character — but the symbolism was clear. If the South was to rebuild, it would rebuild under Lee’s banner.

Since that time, the battle flag has grown to mean many things, including evil things. Flying it as a symbol of white racial supremacy is undeniably vile, and any official use of the flag for that purpose should end, immediately. Flying it over monuments to Confederate war dead is simply history. States should no more remove a Confederate battle flag from a Confederate memorial than they should chisel away the words on the granite or bulldoze the memorials themselves.

One cannot erase painful history by pretending it doesn’t exist, and trying to wipe out all reminders thereof. England had slavery until 1833, so should we consider the Union Jack a symbol of slavery and racism, too? Of course not. A flag symbolizes many aspects of a culture and society, not one aspect that has been long-since abolished.

RELATED: Memorial to Confederate soldiers in downtown Charleston is vandalized with spray painting that reads, “Black Lives Matter.” So apparently now, all historical “reminders” of the Confederacy are microaggressions that must be stamped out.

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