Is The Confederate Flag a Symbol of Hate?

I hated history in school – high school and college.  But for some reason for the past few years I’ve been drawn back into it.  It’s interesting to see how societies, communities, and governments form and grow.  It’s also important that we learn and reflect on history from time to time so that we learn from our past mistakes and successes.  Recently there’s been much commotion about the “rebel flag” or more formally known as the Confederate flag, being “racist” and “a symbol of hate.”  Let’s clear a few things up about the Civil War and dispel all of this nonsense.

Some say that the causes of the Civil War are debatable, but I disagree.  It was clear that then newly elected Lincoln wanted to continue the abolishment of slavery in the north, even in those territories that were not yet officially states. Since the southern states didn’t agree with the federal authority over slave ownership, many of the southern states seceded, called themselves The Confederate States of America and then attacked a federally controlled (Union) Fort Sumter.  This was considered constitutional, since they were invoking the 10th amendment, or at least they thought they were.  It was viewed that since federal authority over slave ownership wasn’t named in The Constitution, it was left for the states to decide.

It’s interesting to note that at the time, Lincoln had no intention of pushing his slave abolishment agenda to those southern states.  It wasn’t until the war began that he pushed for an “all or nothing scenario” to end slavery and reunite the country.  It was feared that if the southern states were victorious, it would set a precedent of further secessions down the line every time a state disagreed with a federal ruling.  In conclusion, the south was fighting for independence and to leave slave authority with the states rather than federal control, and the north was fighting to keep the country together.  The entire abolishment of slavery at the time was just a symptom of the north’s victory.

President Lincoln visiting the battlefield at Antietam, MD. Photo courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration Identifier 533297.

So what about the flag?  That evil, hateful Confederate flag.  Many flag designs were flown by the south during the Civil War. The Confederate flag as we know it today (as shown above) was flown first as a battle flag in Northern Virginia.  This flag was later adopted through the entire Confederate states as a symbol of “The South”, but not until after the war had ended. The Confederate flag as we see it today is a symbol of a time in history.  It is a symbol of what those southern states believed and fought for during that time.  It is a symbol of a large group of Americans; black, white, and native American, in numbers over 300,000, that died in a domestic dispute that in the end, made a much stronger and free nation.

Should we shun symbols such as The Confederate flag because groups such as white supremacists usurp the true symbolism of it?  Absolutely not.  To those crying for its entire abolishment from society, I will say this.  Leaving the symbols, statues, landmarks, and other important relics of The Civil War in tact is much more effective in achieving the exact goal that one may be trying to accomplish by abolishing these things.  Do we want future generations to just forget about The Civil War altogether?  Do we not want to continue to remember the actions of our Republic during that time: what drew us apart, and then pulled us back together?  These monuments and symbols aren’t for worship or for communicating a message of any sort.  They were placed there and are used to help us remember why we are where we are today.  The Confederate flag is a part of our history.  It is a part of our heritage and society.  Removing it from all facets of society changes nothing and only ensures that in time we will forget an important part of American history.

What are your thoughts on the Confederate flag?

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain


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