Debating over the wrong flag

By Andy Winemiller - [email protected]

A reasonable person can’t possibly contend that the Confederate battle flag, the same one that until recently flew over the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, hasn’t become a symbol of racism and hate in our society.

I’m from the north, but I think southern folks ought to honor their history, and part of that history is that ancestors fought and died for the confederacy’s cause. However, to deny that the war between the states had at least something to do with slavery is a little ignorant. Yes, it was about states’ rights, but the culminating factor in the conflict was slavery.

The “confederate flag” is constantly seen being used by white supremacist groups across the nation, not just in the South. However, the truth is that folks that say that flag ought to fly over a capitol building or in front of a courthouse because of its historical significance ought to open a history book.

It seems that lawmakers, commentators and average folks are talking about the wrong flag.

A few months ago I wrote a short article about matters that would be coming before the Surry County Board of Commissioners at a subsequent meeting. One matter was that the Sons of Confederate Veterans wanted permission to fly the “first national flag” in front of the historic courthouse in Dobson to commemorate the end of the war between the states.

Being a “Yankee,” I thought they meant the first flag of the United States of America. I quickly corrected my thought, however, and did a quick “google” search of “the first national flag.” The image that popped-up was one of a flag with a blue block containing seven stars atop a background of three bars, red and white in color.

After reading a little bit, I learned that the flag I had come to know as the “Confederate flag” wasn’t really the confederate flag at all. In fact, the flag that has become synonymous with hate and racism never served as the flag of the Confederate States of America. It was, in fact, the battle flag of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

It would seem that the battle flag’s proper place in history would be for use by a group of re-enactors posing as Lee’s army, not as a piece of cloth that is representative of the entire confederacy.

So it seems like at some point history really got a bit mangled. Children and adults throughout the United States of America see the battle flag and say, “that’s the Confederate flag.”

That same battle flag recently became a point of contention in the U.S. House of Representatives. An amendment to a National Parks Service funding bill threatens to remove the flag of Robert E. Lee’s army from two federal cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi. Confederate soldiers are buried at those sites.

I hope that one day when I lay at rest in a cemetery, whether it’s tomorrow or in 60 years, the flag for which I fought will fly over my grave. I completely understand why folks would want a flag that symbolizes the confederacy to fly over the graves of confederate soldiers.

However, it’s unlikely that those confederate soldiers ever fought under the direction of Robert E. Lee. It would seem more likely that they fought with armies such as the Army of Mississippi. In the end, no matter for which army they fought, they were fighting for the Confederate States of America.

That brings me to my conclusion that we can make both sides of this flag debate happy. Why not fly the actual flag of the Confederate States of America at those cemeteries?

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. I don’t blame folks from that state for being proud of that history. Why not fly the first national flag of the Confederate States of America over the capitol building in Columbia?

In both instances, it would seem that flying the flag of the Confederate States of America would make more sense than flying the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

What I’m saying here is that in most instances, both sides can win this debate. Proud southerners can honor their history and heritage by viewing the actual flag of the confederacy proudly waving in the wind.

Folks concerned about the battle flag’s negative impact on society would no longer have to view that flag atop public buildings or at national cemeteries.

The flag could be reserved for the use in representing the Army of Northern Virginia in a reenactment, or be waved around by a bunch of knuckleheads wearing white sheets.

By Andy Winemiller

[email protected]

Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]

Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]

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