What we owe the dead

Graffiti near a Confederate statue in Charleston, S.C., this week. (AP file photo)

Graffiti near a Confederate statue in Charleston, S.C., this week. (AP file photo)

The dead in Charleston were not yet buried before their memory rendered a moral clarity 150 years in the making.

The arguments about whether the preponderance of the evidence lay with the Confederate battle flag as a way to honor men who may have been admirable in spite of their unconscionable cause, or against the flag as a symbol of white supremacy decades after the cause was lost — those arguments were silenced by the shots fired in a historic black church, and the colorblind grief that followed.

Within days, the young man who told police he aimed to start a “race war” instead had prompted a bipartisan, multiracial effort to remove the flag with which he’d posed from the state capitol grounds. His actions backfired with historic effect and stunning swiftness.

In fact, the speed with which sentiment hardened against the flag has been breathtaking. It is a speed that carries with it momentum: The emblem has been taken down in Alabama, its removal called for in Mississippi. Goods with the image are being removed from the shelves of Wal-Mart and the webpages of Amazon.com. Statues honoring Confederate officers from small Southern towns to the U.S. capitol find themselves targeted if not vandalized. Street names are coming under scrutiny.

It is worth pausing here to consider whether our momentum will carry us too far.

Do not misunderstand: I see no defense for keeping the flag raised at South Carolina’s state capitol. The same goes for Mississippi’s flag.

From there, however, we should proceed with caution.

Unity is a beautiful thing, and we have seen much of it since the Charleston shooting. But unity is not long sustained in a free and diverse nation. Most of the time we can settle for harmony: Different voices sounding different notes in a pleasing way.

While harmony makes room for many, there are sounds which are not lovely but rather like a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. When a government reserves a place of prominence for such an emblem as divisive as the battle flag, the message it sends is just that discordant.

Not every reminder of the war, though, is equally prone to disharmony. To act otherwise in haste is to risk the relative unity of this moment.

If consensus around the battle flag’s removal has taken too long to develop, it is in no small part because those truly interested in their heritage were fearful something like this would happen. Proving them right will make further reconciliation more, not less, difficult. And it will only add to the sense of grievance, however misconceived, among those who have already retreated to the fringes of society.

In any event, removing all signs of that misbegotten war will not heal the divisions that linger from it and its aftermath. Our energies would be better used for the hard work of building ties than the easy, but fruitless, job of toppling statues. And the only way a campaign of tearing down monuments to flawed men can end is when all monuments, everywhere, are gone.

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34 comments
Dusty2
Dusty2

I am trying to lose interest in a case where the actions of a bigoted, unstable murderer are used to indict all people of the South.. There is a great surge of hate against those who respect an ancient flag of people who thought their rights were usurped. My Southern  ancestors lost their battle and they moved on .  They recovered  even in the worst Reconstruction in history and war tactics (by Sherman) that would be called' crimes against humanity' these days.  But Southerners moved on to establish an area  of real freedom and compatibility..  We have no Indian reservations, no ghettos,  and people of all skin colors move here for its advantages; great universities, great climate and great people!


So fight this crime of madness so closely resembling hateful restriction, I. e.,  a frenzy mob dictating how to maintain freedom.   Take this down!  Take that down 'cause we said so! 


Those actions are just as anti-American  as any outside aggression whether by race, politics or ignorance.    

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Kyle, Good article, and one I agree with. 


State symbols can be powerful, so states probably shouldn't use the image of a losing country as a symbol to fly over the states buildings. 

However, symbols still should be free to display by individuals.  

Some companies will not carry these symbols, but others will.  

It's a difficult balance to use a symbol that has been hijacked by racists individuals, and racists government policies. (see: The reason the confederate flag flies above these states is because racist governments in the 50's and 60's protested civil rights and chose to display them.) 

There are valid non-racist reasons to display the flag, but there are probably much better choices of symbols to use rather than one that is viewed as racist by so many. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

We have seen here many highfalutin “explanations” what the Confederate battle flag represents. So let’s not mince words. If somebody wants to take on the mental blinders, make a shrine to Confederacy in his home, and pretend that the flag is a symbol of his predecessor’s courage and sacrifice in the Civil War, it is his/her privilege. But as a public display it is a symbol of racism, slavery, and more lately and most pertinently, defiance of desegregation.

A battle flag is not a symbol of any individual’s behavior in the war, it is a symbol representing the whole army and the cause for which the army waged the specific war. No individual soldier, or his descendant, can redefine it’s meaning as he/she wishes. And the cause of the Confederacy was very clearly defined by her Vice President, Alexander Stephens:

“Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

A fight for that is what the Confederate battle flag represents.

MarkVV
MarkVV

“an ancient flag of people who thought their rights were usurped.”

Yes, the right to have slaves and to consider white race superior.

MarkVV
MarkVV

One might be sympathetic with the urge for moderation in Kyle’ article, were it not for two arguments, one silly, the other one repulsive. The silly one was the following:

Kyle: “If consensus around the battle flag’s removal has taken too long to develop, it is in no small part because those truly interested in their heritage were fearful something like this would happen.”

Is Kyle serious?The SC legislators did not take down the Confederate Battle flag earlier, or were not urged by “those truly interested in their heritage“ to do so, because they thought it would be followed by an uproar of demands like we have seen in the past few days? Where did they see, in states that took down the flag, evidence that that would happen?

The second argument is a travesty of moral equivalence:

Kyle: “And the only way a campaign of tearing down monuments to flawed men can end is when all monuments, everywhere, are gone.”

So, people in question, such as Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens, racists, defenders of slavery, responsible for deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, were just “flawed men,” and if we removed their statues, we would have to remove a statue, say of Martin Luther King Jr., also a “flawed man?” Are there no degrees of “flaws?” That is a disgusting argument.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

A thoughtful column, filled with a sense of historical vision and the meaning of dissension in America.  I agree with your thoughts regarding leaving statues, including Confederate statues, standing as artifacts of this nation's history - except in certain special circumstances - so that we do not hastily and without forethought sterilize historical understanding. Truth, even in its ugliness, must be known and internalized so that we can learn from history in more ways than one.  I, also, agree that the Confederate flag must be placed in museums and not flying, with current power, on the grounds of state Capitols.  It hurts too many of our citizens for it to remain flying.  The United States of America won the Civil War and we must, in the South especially, move on.


Imo, God used Dylann Roof's racism and hatred toward African-Americans as a means to change what has been much too divisive for far too long. The Lord works in mysterious ways to achieve His ends.  Martin Luther King, Jr.:  "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

MHSmith
MHSmith

Just a few folks who want to protect and celebrate their Southern Heritage, right? : (




String of apparent arson fires plague black churches in Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee 



Suspicious fires have damaged or razed a scattering of at least four predominantly black churches throughout the South ever since the June 17 church massacre in Charleston, S.C., authorities said.


A pattern of nighttime fires have been reported in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and Tennessee with most being suspected as arson.



http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/string-alleged-arson-fires-plague-black-churches-south-article-1.2274566



Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

In your last blog about the flag, many of us warned about how the Cultural Marxists would not stop at just the flag and they would continue to desecrate the memories and memorials of fallen Civil War heroes.


You said you would evaluate subsequent issues "on their merits".  What excuse are you giving now, Kyle?


Whipped into a frenzy by the politically correct media, of which, AJC is a prime member, blacks and guilt ridden white trash have desecrated Confederate War memorials across the South.  What say ye now, Kyle?


In the 1990's, when the Confederate Flag flew above the S. Carolina capital, weak willed politicians "compromised" and agreed to move it to it's current location, at a Confederate War memorial.  Many of us back then opined that it wouldn't satisfy the Cultural Marxists - and we were right.


During the War of Southern Independence, soldiers would brave cannon and rifle fire to pick up a fallen banner.  Today, weak willed white politicians try to appease the politically correct by compromising away their history.  So-called "conservative" commentators try to make excuses for their new masters. 



Juanx
Juanx

I never knew until this tragic evilness carried out by Roof made me realize that I had been waiting to exhale. For the first time in my life knowing that hate and evilness will be dispensed with publicly as quickly as is humanly possible does not leave room for caution. My relatives who were hung by the neck, or those recently murdered in cold blood were not asked if they wanted the executioners to proceed with caution. The time to act is yesterday!

GMFA
GMFA

You can't change a hater by changing a symbol, as they will still be a bigot. And they will deny that fact and re-write the cause of the Civil War to fit their warped sense of things.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I don't ever agree with Louis Farhakhan, can't even spell his name, however he is right about one thing if you are going to remove symbols that have existed during bad times and flown over tyranny then you are back to Old Glory.  I am certainly opposed to his rant about removing the US Flag, but some of what he said is true.  The US Flag flew over slavery many many years longer than the Confederate Flag.  It flew over the Jim Crow days of segregation.  Under the US Flag we pretty much eliminated native Americans and we interred the Japanese into camps.   History is a litany of things that countries and people did that by today's standards are considered horrible, inhumane, and illegal.


We can't purge history of all things we don't approve of, or we become a tyrannical state like Russia and ISIS.  You have to live and move on.  The flag should be removed from the South Carolina Capitol grounds, but this purge of any computer game, TV show, movie, sales at Civil War battlefields, etc is just deranged.  I read a liberal this morning, who said the Confederate Flag was a symbol of everything he believed to be wrong, but he seriously thought about putting one on his twitter feed to protest this mass hysteria and the effort to purge history. 


I have never owed a Confederate Flag, wanted to own one or had my hands on one, but if this hysterical rant and purge continues, I like him, will fly one to protest.  People have a right to their personal feelings and government and the media can just go put their repression where the sun doesn't shine.

Mustang100
Mustang100

It is deplorable how the murder of 9 Christians has devolved into ... this.

I guess they'll be wanting to break out the explosives on the face of Stone Mountain next,

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

Those who hate the history of the south and are now in a fury to eliminate it from existence should consider this.  99% of those who fought and died for the CSA were simply men who owned no slaves, and who on one day were citizens of the USA and on the next were citizens of the CSA.  This occurred not by their vote or "consensus", but by the simple virtue of the location of their home.

As a son of the south I have the right to honor THEIR memories.  They were patriots called by their new country to defend against the actions of an aggressive central government, just as were the soldiers of the Continental Army and minutemen 100 years before when rebelling against the tyranny of the British rulers.

When you hear the word heritage, but register it as hate, these are the men we are talking about.

JoelEdge
JoelEdge

"risk the relative unity of this moment."

There is no "unity" in this moment, Wingfield. We tried the unity cr*p for decades. Some people don't want unity. Their main purpose is grievance and division.

Caius
Caius

I live in a rather rural county with the county seat being a small town with a square and a monument to the "confederate" dead in the center off the square.  No confederate flag is in sight.


I go to church in a neighboring county, not quite as rural as my home county, with a square in the middle of town and a statute honoring the "confederate" dead in the center off the square.  No confederate flag is in sight.

Just off the square there is a memorial that carries the name of every citizen of the county killed in defense of the United States since World War I.  It is surrounded by American flags.


Define honor.


Infraredguy
Infraredguy

The suggestion has been made by the Carter Center that all Atlanta Democrats should bring their ladders out to Stone Mountain where Home Depot will donate boxes of sandpaper to start the process of erasing those racists images 

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

Yes by all means TAKE DOWN THAT FLAG...keeps us from focusing on what really killed those people and so many others...the gun.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@TheRealJDW Yep, that gun loaded itself and drove down to that church and just exploded right into those folks.  If the car would have just refused to start, this might not have happened.   I blame the car and the government for creating the roads and streets that allowed that car to cause this massacre. 


As long as we can blame inanimate objects for our failures, we get nowhere.  Those 37 beach goers in Tunisia should focus on the caliber of those weapons that marched out on that beach and just splatted those folks enjoying the surf.  The knife that beheaded that guy in France should be found and beaten to death.  If they had been successful in igniting that gas at Air Products, we could blamed the chemist who taught us to isolate and bottle those explosive vapors into lethal weapons.

Dman
Dman

Yep, just think, if one or several of those church goers had a gun they could have protected themselves.

Dusty2
Dusty2

Kyle,  you have written a piece on how to rid the Southern mind of any loyalty whatsoever with a few hmms and haws. .  I'm almost surprised you did not say a nice nuclear blast in these parts would clear up OUR problem much faster and neater.


What makes this situation even sadder is there was no hate in the hearts of the victim's  families..  They recognized a sick mind in a young man and declared forgiveness for his terrible sick hate.  They were so humane and wise and set the finest example of forgiveness I have ever seen.   They set no fires of hate, no declarations and demands on other citizens no mention of flags..They were honorable people  and acted like it. .A killer is a sick man in his own way, not a belief as you seem to think. 


These fires you so admire are being set, not by Southerners who hate others, but by people who hate the South.  They have worked on that project many years while those who achieved moved onward and upward.  We have all seen black doctors, lawyers, journalists, ministers, workers  and business people who do not spend their time "improving the past".  They are too busy and they  are recognized as contributors  wherever they go.


I'm sorry you are ashamed of being Southern. Why did you return to a place you seem to consider so decadent?  Reform?

It is a place I love as did my ancestors. So do "new"  Southerners who are coming here eagerly. 


Not one of us is perfect (even Southerners!) but that is the state of all humans.  ALL of them!   Recognize it!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Dusty2 "Kyle,  you have written a piece on how to rid the Southern mind of any loyalty whatsoever with a few hmms and haws."

I'm not sure you read what I actually wrote.

PerryNeheum
PerryNeheum

You know, all the hullabaloo about the Charleston killings are giving shooter Dylann Roof exactly what he wanted: Fame, forever.  Recall he reportedly let one intended victim live so she could, "Describe what happened here."

So, make no mistake, DYLANN ROOF will be forever cited  in the history books, like John Wilkes Booth and Timothy McVeigh.  And guess what?  Given that few who receive the death penalty in the U.S. ever get executed, Roof could very well live into his 90s, when many of us are long dead.  Three nice daily hots and a cot, at  taxpayer's expense.  His own private cell.  Maybe costing $80 a day, for starters.  And, at his leisure, he might become a sort of yo-yo philosopher and bad will adviser.  Like Charlie Manson.   

lvg
lvg

@PerryNeheum Not mentioned here or his picture shown for good reason. . 

Point
Point

I don't have a problem with monuments nearly as much as politicians speaking in code.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

If consensus around the battle flag’s removal has taken too long to develop, it is in no small part because those truly interested in their heritage were fearful something like this would happen. Proving them right will make further reconciliation more, not less, difficult. And it will only add to the sense of grievance, however misconceived, among those who have already retreated to the fringes of society.

My sentiments exactly, Kyle. 

Bayonet
Bayonet

According to some African-American voices we've heard during the past week, ultimately, the only way to reach the goal of race harmony, is genocide....the obliteration of white people (y'know...the folks that minorities teach their children to see as the "devil").  And geez, the "objective" news press sure is silent when the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam (both are actually hate groups) jabber the premise of a race cleansing of white people on the planet!  AS THEY ANGRILY PROSCRIBED THIS VERY WEEK.  Well...if you're a devoted progressive, ONLY white people can be racist...and as white people are intractable racists, the only cure for racism is....by extension....y'know.  So, do we appease blackness by eliminating the majority of Americans?  (Behind closed doors, there are gleeful choruses of "YES!!!  Kill 'em all!!!")  Look we should be real careful about all this culture scrubbing, and selectively abolishing things deemed offensive by complaint groups.  Because, complainers find their identity in perpetual complaint---and you'll NEVER satisfy them; they'll always shift the goal posts.  Candidly, I see a Tu Pac tee-shirt and I'm offended (I used to work in the nightclub business, and everytime Tu Pac came into a club with his entourage, if a white male was working there, he'd call over the manager and demand the immediate firing of the white guy; this was common knowlege in the Atlanta club business...Tu Pac was a hateful bigot).  BUT, I am an adult, and don't expect an offense-free world like liberals demand.  SOOOOOO.....yeah, I get removing the flag from state property---no problem.  However, only a fool thinks it stops there.  Stone Mountain will have to be blasted....and even when the most absurd things are done (like the coming white tax to fund reparations----you really don't think the concept of "white privilege" hasn't been introduced without an agenda to fix the problem do you?); it still won't ever be enough.  Listen to what the Panthers are telling you.  THAT is the real goalpost.  You're whistling past the graveyard if you see it different.  Generations have been taught white males are the whole problem with the world.  Many want a permanent utopian solution.  They will not rest until they have that final solution. Roll you eyes now....but history is saturated with never-say-never moments coming true; and that the most radical often takes control of the movement and imposes his desire. 


By the way, I've long advocated that we could improve race relations with a Unity Day (where each year, Americans do something nice for someone of another race).  It'll go nowhere.  Sadly.  BUT, I'll get called every kind of bigot because I'll warn against genocide over the horizon. 

Bhorsoft
Bhorsoft

Darn, Kyle I'm agreeing with you more and more.


I've heard calls to rename military bases and street named after Confederate generals and politicians and remove Confederate monuments.  Most were built, named, or created long before we started flying the battle flag to protest integration.  Military bases named after general were done so to honor the combat skill and prowess of those generals.  Robert E. Lee was a Union general before he was a Confederate general.  Many memorials were erected while there were still surviving Confederate soldiers.  Often these were put up after community fundraising because federal money wasn't available to erect them though federal money was available for Union memorials.  Many Confederate cemeteries are local creations while Union cemeteries were created by with federal government funds.  All these things are history and shouldn't be purged from the record.  After all, we need these things around to remind us of our past and to hopefully learn from it.

Bhorsoft
Bhorsoft

Hate to reply to myself, but as an addendum how about we start renaming all the MLK Jr. streets and tearing down the MLK memorials due to the reprehensible behaviors of some of the King children?

Juanx
Juanx

@Bhorsoft  ...The Smithsonian can take care of any storage problems for the hateful images can be placed.

straker
straker

"tearing down monuments"


Those if favor of this might ponder on the fact that ISIS is doing the same thing.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Agreed Kyle. We have made progress these last two weeks but some people are going over board.

lvg
lvg

Excellent article. It is only a few steps to radicals demolshing  statues and historic sites such as by Taliban  and ISIL if the crazies and extremists enter the debate on removing historic symbols.