June 21, 2015

Sunday morning, Jake Tapper hosted National Review writer and ACLJ attorney David French to debate the whole confederate flag issue in South Carolina with Bakari Sellers, a young African-American Democrat in the state legislature.

The debate itself was civil enough, but the civility just masked the incivility of the right-wing talking points now surrounding this issue. Remember now, we're talking about a flag flying on state property. No one is challenging the right of citizens to own or fly confederate flags on their own property.

The question here is whether the state should be flying a symbol of hate.

French maintains that it isn't a symbol of hate; it's a symbol of valor. It's history.

And I'm not defending the flag broadly. Let me be very clear. My position is, if you're flying it, or if the state is flying it as a symbol that African-American citizens are not equal to everyone else or should not be equal to everyone else, as it was flown during the segregation era, as a symbol of massive resistance, take it down. Stomp on it, for all I care.

If it's flown next to Civil War memorials, next to Civil War monuments as part of the process of teaching the public about our history, as messy as it is, that's part of history. And that's part of learning about why these men, the almost 20,000 South Carolina citizens who fought and died under that banner, why they fought, why that banner has resonance today.

Should we point out that the flag wasn't flown much of anywhere after the Civil War until the Civil Rights era, when it enjoyed a resurgence throughout Southern states?

French also argues that it should be left where it is because the South went forward after their defeat by "memorializing it through the valor" instead of "through the injustice."

But it is viewed in many different ways by many different people, and there is a view of it -- and this is one that I tried to articulate in the piece -- that said one of the ways that the South went forward after the Civil War and one of the ways that it went forward in a way where hundreds of thousands of Southerners then went on to fight and die for the Union that they were just fighting against a generation or two before is that they memorialized the war through the valor and not trying to memorialize it through the injustice.

Now, that's not to say they did so perfectly. They did many very bad things that history has -- should be very clear in condemning them for. But one thing they chose to do was not to continue on guerrilla war and to continue to resist, which would have ripped this nation to shreds.

I don't really even know what injustice he's talking about. They lost. That's not unjust. It's defeat.

I think it's fair to say that the South did not acquiesce and use the Confederate flag to memorialize valor at all. In fact, I would say that we're still fighting the same damned war today we fought 175 years ago all over again, because they continue to choose to resist.

For a guy who wants to make the Confederate flag about history, he's got a really erroneous view of what that history was. Southern states returned to the fold because they needed to in order to survive, and they were offered a pretty sweet deal to rejoin. But that doesn't mean they didn't resist. The rise of the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow -- all of it -- was a form of resistance.

Just like it is today, when their leaders refuse to adopt policies of a black president or even acknowledge his legitimacy at the price of their own people, who are denied access to basic health care.

This debate over the confederate flag did not have to be a right-left debate. The issue here isn't conservatives versus liberals, or even north versus south. The issue is really pretty simple, and it's quite similar to the one heard by the United States Supreme Court and decided last week: Should the state endorse or promote a symbol of hate, oppression and slavery? That's it. Nothing more complicated than that.

If you want history, put it in a museum. There is absolutely no need for this flag to fly over official state buildings, nor should the argument be framed as a right/left argument.

Unless, of course, the right wing is more invested in hate symbols than reconciliation. Hmmmm?

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