The events in Charleston, South Carolina a few weeks ago brought back a flood of memories about the South and how it has changed so much in the past 50 years. Yes the South, and all of us in the North as well, have a ways to travel in improving the relationship between races and although the events in Charleston were horrific, the grace and forgiveness of members of the Mother Emanuel Church will go a long way to improve relations and move us forward a bit more.
One subtopic that has been in the news is the debate yet again about flying the Confederate Flag. My views on the subject are bit more nuanced then most. Although I never lived for any length in the south, except for a stent in the military at Fort Benning Georgia, I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and all my relatives are from the south.
If I go back four generations I find the graves of many relatives who wore the gray uniform and fought for the Confederacy. Were they in favor of slavery, I doubt it. Most were poor farmers who joined the fight to protect their land. I think historian Shelby Foot in the PBS Documentary got it right when he quoted a Confederate solider, when ask why he was fighting, said “because they’s here”.
The civil war was a horrific tragedy in American history. In part it was about slavery, in part it was about states rights, but it was also about a clash of cultures, between an ever increasing industrialized north and a rural agrarian south. It took 100 years to create that difference and it culminated in the greatest war America has ever fought and it was fought between one another.
That said, should states still fly the flag? In my view no, we live in a different time. We have grown beyond that early time in our history. The flag should be folded, reverently, in honor of all the folks who died on the Confederate side and then placed in a historical venue.
It represents a different time and place and it is now part of our history, not a part of our present. Let’s move on to a better place.