Categories: Letters to the Editor
Confederate flag means different things to different people, shouldn’t be banned
The Nov. 13 Daily Gazette reported the testimony of three individuals before the Washington County Fair Board of Directors urging the prohibition of vendor sales of the Confederate flag at the 2016 fair.
They argued that the flag represented slavery during the Civil War and promotes racism now. They reportedly stated that displaying the flag is an insult to the memory of federal units from New York that fought during the war and to all persons today who pledge allegiance to the American flag.
On Nov. 17, The Daily Gazette editorialized that the fair board should respect our Constitution’s First Amendment freedom of speech and expression, among our basic freedoms, and allow vendor sales of the Confederate flag even though tolerant people should abhor that flag as representing slavery and racism.
It is true that some racists, most infamously one recently in Charleston, S.C., display the Confederate flag as a symbol of their hatred of persons of color and other ethnicities. These people are contemptible and most people view them as such. Many observers see nothing represented by the Confederate flag other than slavery, racism and hatred.
In fact, however, the flag most people today view as the Confederate flag was actually not the flag of the Confederate States of America, but was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and was later adopted by other branches of the Confederate military. As such, those with a sense of history are much more likely to view the Confederate flag as symbolizing the bravery and honor with which men fought and died under that flag.
True, their government was defending the horrible institution of slavery. These men, however, were not fighting for slavery. Few of them understood the politics behind the war and even fewer of them were slave owners. Rather they were defending their homeland from an invading army that was destroying their property, that was viewed as threatening to brutalize their families, and that was set upon eliminating their self-reliance. Hopefully, we would respond in the same way if we were invaded today.
One individual protesting to the fair board stated that having the Confederate battle flag on display for sale at the Washington County Fair would be an insult to the federal troops from New York who fought equally bravely. Nothing could be further from the truth. During the decades after the Civil War, soldiers from both sides met at reunions and showed the greatest respect, admiration and good will toward their former opponents.
Today at re-enactments, the Confederate troops march and “fight” with honor under the Confederate battle flag and surely no one would logically want it to be otherwise; after all, it takes two sides to have a war.
The fair board protester further indicated that veterans would be insulted by the public appearance of the Confederate battle flag and that it would be a “slap in the face” to all who pledge allegiance to the American flag.
I can attest that nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a veteran, I am a direct descendent of a Union veteran of the Civil War. I honor our flag to the highest degree. I also respect the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of the courage and honor with which those men fought to defend their homeland.
People who disagree do not have to share that respect. They should not, however, presume to dictate the amount of respect others feel for the men who bravely and honorably fought under that flag.
Given the sensitivity, inappropriate as it may be, of some people who are offended by the sight of the Confederate battle flag, it should only be displayed with thoughtful consideration of the feelings of the people who would observe it.
Prohibiting the sale or ownership of the flag, however, should not be proposed nor seriously considered.