After the tragedy in Charleston and pictures of the psychopath who committed the mass murder surfaced showing him posing with a confederate flag, there was and still is a chorus of calls from politicians both conservative and liberal and civil rights activists for the confederate flag to come down from official state government sites and monuments.
The flag has to come down. But no one calling for it to come down in the wake of the mass murders is a hero. Nor should they consider themselves to be.
Everything that is offensive about the Confederate flag and what it stood for was offensive a day before the murders, it was offensive a year ago, 5 years ago,10 years ago, 25 years ago, 50 years ago and 150 years ago.
Many in the south say the flag doesn't represent racism it represents heritage. The south has an awful lot of things to be proud of. That flag and everything it represents isn't one of them.
It doesn't just represent racism. That is the nice way to put it. What it really represents are atrocities. Atrocities sanctioned by Southern state governments committed against a large segment of the American population. And the Confederate battle flag represented the right to continue those atrocities without federal interference.
That it took 9 African Americans getting murdered in a Charleston church by a psychopath who posed with the Confederate flag for people, black as well as white, to say that flag has no place in a government office or building or to be flying at state houses or be part of a state flag, and to call for its removal 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the civil war, doesn't make any one a hero.
Though the flag has few supporters now, some who do support it's display say it's not about slavery but States rights. What they don't say is that the states rights they are talking about was the right of those states to commit atrocities as part of their way of life and economy. That is the principle they were fighting for. That the federal government had no right to interfere and force those states to end those atrocities. Yet those flags continued to fly at southern state houses or were integrated into the flags of the states that were once part of the confederacy.
Which means no one calling for the removal of those flags now including Obama is demonstrating an act of courage. Those flags should have come down from state capitols and schools and universities as something that was part of official business a long time ago.
About 25 years ago on a Saturday afternoon I settled down in front of my TV to watch a college football game. Ole Miss was playing at home. I don't remember the other team but it was a team from the SEC.
Before the game started, running out of the tunnel into the field with the Ole Miss football team running behind him, was a black male cheerleader carrying a Confederate flag about the size of 10 bed sheets while the crowd cheered. I almost fell out of my chair. I thought to myself, " what's wrong with that guy? How could he do that? How could he agree or take part in carrying that flag"? I never gave it another thought since whatever that black cheerleader wanted to do was his own business not mine, nor was it my place to criticize something the university sanctioned, people cheered and the announcers said nothing about. So I settled in to watch the football game. But I was still flabbergasted by it.
Why black lawmakers who went to work at southern state legislatures every day where those flags were flying didn't object to it sooner is something only they know. Why there wasn't some public debate about what those flags represent and whether or not they were appropriate to still be flying anywhere connected to any government function, has more to do with benign neglect.
That flag represented state sponsored atrocities, it represented treason against the United States and, it represented racism as a way of life. Some try to defend it by bringing up the courage of the southern boys who fought under that flag. No one ever questioned their courage or bravery in battle so it was never about that. Its always mentioned that hardly any of them owned slaves and that was true. But all that means is they were duped into fighting for the rich plantation owners under the guise of it being something else.
At Gettysburg during Pickets Charge General Lewis Armistead put his hat on his saber and egged his confederate soldiers on shouting, " for your mothers, for your wives,your sisters and your sweethearts". Well, not exactly. Those boys may have believed it but it was for the plantation owners whose wealth depended on slavery and all the atrocities that went with it. One thing is certain however. Any one man on either side of that battle had more courage than all the politicians and activists calling for the flag to come down now in the wake of the Charleston murders put together.
Bree Newsome who some are incredulously calling a hero for climbing a flag pole and taking down the confederate flag at the state capitol in South Carolina is no hero either. Neither is Obama who could have appropriately used his election in 2008 to say it was way past time to bring that flag down. However Mr."I know what I'm doing and I'm fearless" didn't say a word.
Neither did Bree Newsome for most of her adult life. Which didn't stop CNN and their usual pandering from trying to treat her like she was.
Had Bree Newsome did the same thing a week before the Charleston murders, had she did it 6 months ago, or a year ago or 5 years ago and sparked the debate, caused the debate, forced the debate instead of cashing in on the debate, she would have been a hero and forced everyone to examine their conscience.
Had Bree Newsome did the same thing then she might have qualified for a small place in the history books.
Doing it after every politician in the country including southern conservative Republicans, the Republican governor of South Carolina, the conservative Republican senator from South Carolina, governors of Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama, and every major retailer in the country from Amazon to Walmart, who announced they are removing items with the flag from their shelves and inventories, when even the head of NASCAR said they are going to remove the confederate flag from NASCAR related events and asked fans not to bring it or display it at events, it took no courage to climb that flag pole and take down the flag. It was going to come down anyway as soon as the legislature met to vote.
It wasn't a political statement, those had already been made. It was something that didn't rise much beyond the level of a prank and knew she'd have political, public and news media opinion on her side. The only courage it took was the risk of slipping and falling down the pole though it looked like she had the equipment to make sure that didn't happen.
The people who do deserve some credit are the retailers and NASCAR. At least they are putting their money where their mouth is and are doing it even though they are risking disturbing a large segment of their customer base. In other words they are putting principle ahead of profits and self interest, something no politician from the president to state and local politicians were ever willing to do until the tragedy in Charleston.
It's true that one can argue better late than never. But people calling for the flag to come down now who think they are heroes hopefully will not dislocate their elbows patting themselves on the back.
There is an old disparaging comment about those who in the field of battle find their courage in a bottle. For many politicians and those in the news media who are now loudly calling for or supporting the removal of that flag from any and all official government property, they could be considered to have found their courage at Walmart. That flag should have been removed a long time ago. And no one calling for it now should consider themselves heroes.