An amazing transformation is taking place in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston and throughout the state are coming together in peace and love as a result of the horrible hate based tragedy that took place with the murder of the 9 people in the AME church in Charleston. The pictures coming out of Charleston are worth a thousand words as we see black and white people marching together. We see white faces bringing flowers to the church. We even saw and heard an amazingly profound and glorious speech being given by Strom Thurmond’s son, state senator Paul Thurmond that will echo through the Halls of the State legislature for some time.
The Confederate flag will come down. The flag will go where it belongs, in a museum. But while it comes down in other Southern states we should beware of the language that is used in describing people who take a sense of personal pride in the Confederate flag. Just because you take pride in the flag does not mean that you are a racist.
Words like racist and traitor are being used by the media and individuals on the left part of the political spectrum to describe in a broad stroke what they think the flag represents. They do so with good intent but they do so without a sense of perspective and human understanding. Yes, for those who belong to hate groups the flag represents their feelings of hate and bigotry. But for many thousands whose relatives lie in a grave on some forgotten battlefield or in some lonely cemetery the flag represents the pride for a family member who lost their life during our horrible Civil War. The flag also is a symbol, a reminder of a time when a relative served in a lost cause.
The War ended 150 years ago. The war ended. There is no need to start the war all over again, by creating hard feelings. There is no need to use the inflammatory word traitor. For those who encouraged and wanted secession, yes, they were traitors. For most of the soldiers who served in our Great War, they served for different reasons. Yes, the war was about slavery. Not all who served in the war believed in slavery. Their home state was more important than the Union. Amnesty was given to many, and we should let the past stay in the past. The Confederate flag represents the past, that is why it belongs in a museum. It does not serve the interest of the nation to continue to light the fire of distrust by giving the public the impression that all Southerners are racists. We will never heal our nations wounds if we continue this way.
For many Southerners the war did not end because many Northerners would not let it end. They sought retribution and the scourge of the Carpetbaggers and the profiteers who descended on the South left bitter feelings that lingered for years and years.
Many men who served in the war on the Southern side lived distinguished lives after the war. Members of Robert E. Lee’s family are examples of that, with his nephew Fitzhugh Lee and Robert E. Lee’s his two sons being examples of individuals living an exemplary life serving our country and their state. Robert E. Lee was against secession. Two of Lee’s relatives signed the Declaration of Independence. His son sold land that had belonged in the Lee family for years so that we could have the Arlington Cemetery. The Lee family is related to George Washington through marriage.
If you are going to inflame the public by brandishing about words like racist or traitor you better have your facts in order. All of those who lived in the mid to early 19th Century had a different view of things based upon the time that they lived in. It is unwise to judge people who lived in another time based upon today’s morality. Only use the words racist when appropriate, when the person fits the facts and the description. Racists are found not just in the South but in every place, town, village and city in America.
If we are to move on from the tragedy of the murders at the AME church we need to stop using words that do not fit each and every person that you hurl such charges against as being a racist or traitor. The South is changing, people are changing. Let us encourage the positive change that is taking place. Let us call those who belong to the hate based groups who and what they are. But let us be wise and not assume that everyone who lives in the South is a racist. We need to finally bind up the wounds of that war from a bygone era and move together into the future as one people, one nation, indivisible.