Today South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital. As the Palmetto State’s secession from the Union marked the advent of the Civil War this is truly an historic occasion.
The controversy involving what the flag represents is well documented. There’s no reason to recount it here. Personally, I’ve had another issue with its use by governments in what was once the Confederacy. I’ve never understood why states that opted to return to the United States, still desired to fly the flag of a nation that went out of existence.
An acquaintance of mine who once lived in South Carolina explained to me: “The flag is a symbol of their heritage.” While the South is merely a section of the country, it has a legacy many nations could envy.
I’ve traveled through the South a number of times. In fact, I’ve been to every state except two that comprised the former Confederacy. I’ve often commented on the exceptional warmth and hospitality I’ve received from Southerners.
Our country has a great political tradition, thanks to the South. A Southerner penned our “Declaration of Independence”. Four of our first five presidents were Southerners. Three of the last six presidents of the United States hailed from the South. Historian Richard Hofstadter (a Northerner) once called South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, “probably the last American statesman to do any primary political thinking.”
With the greatest of respect to New Yorkers, the South has been the wellspring of great American culture. It’s rare to listen to a song on the radio where one can’t hear elements of the Delta Blues. The original American art form known as Jazz evolved in the “Big Easy”. There’s no doubt that our literary tradition would’ve been much poorer without the contributions of Mississippian William Faulkner.
The South is justified in being proud of its heritage; by extension, all Americans should be proud of our shared heritage.
I just wonder if flying the flag of a foreign nation at government buildings is the proper way to display that pride. For instance, the South West portion of the United States was once part of Mexico. Would all Americans be as understanding if states such as Arizona, New Mexico and California decided to fly the Mexican flag on government grounds? What if Louisiana opted to hang the French flag from the state capitol? Since the entire Eastern Seaboard was once part of the United Kingdom, would people respond favorably to adding the Union Jack to the flags of the original 13 colonies? I have to admit, the latter would make 4th of July celebrations much more interesting.
We’re Americans. Our nation is comprised of States. The only flags that belong on government land are those that represent the Federal Government, the State Government or those that support the troops. Individuals wanting to display symbols of pride have the freedom to do so on their own property and possessions. That’s what freedom of speech allows us all the opportunity to do. What could be controversial about that?