To the Editor:
For many years, it has been the tradition in Haywood County and other Western North Carolina counties to allow organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans to place Confederate flags at monuments and memorials to recognize the sacrifices of the soldiers that served during the War Between the States. And over the past several years, there have been minor issues relating to this time-honored tradition. The point of contention in this issue has been the flying of the Confederate Battle flag.
The Confederate Battle flag has been the most hated, debated, misrepresented and the most beloved of all symbols of the Confederacy. This flag came to exist as a result of confusion created by the First National flag at First Manassas. A decision was made to design a distinguished flag that could be carried into battle. In late 1861, the Southern Cross was created and flew over battles until the end at Appomattox. Southern patriots later carried this flag to such places as Beirut, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada and even Afghanistan. It was and is a soldier’s flag. As a matter of fact, the Federal government recognizes soldiers who fought for the South as “veterans” who are entitled to the same benefits that other veterans share: US Code, Title 38-Veteran’s Benefits, Part 2, Chapter 15, subchapter 1: Definition of “Civil War veteran” includes a person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America and the term “active military or naval service” includes active service in those forces. This definition strongly reinforces that the men designated as Confederate soldiers are American veterans and not the traitors that some might suggest.
The honor of the Southern Cross has been tarnished by individuals who forget what it represents: a call to duty. Its intent was never to be a politician’s flag nor used as a symbol of racial division. It has been decided in court cases throughout the nation that this flag and its history does not deprive any citizen of some privilege that is secured by the Constitution or by law as a result flying it. Justice John Paul Stevens in Washington v Davis wrote: “The best evidence of intentional discrimination is objective evidence of what happened, rather than the subjective state of mind of the state as an actor.” In other words, flying the Confederate Battle Flag does not interfere with the rights of any person. History of the War Between the States has been based on half-truths and revisionism by self-serving individuals and groups that have hidden the complexity of the causes that led to the War. The Confederate Battle flag has been the symbol of revisionist history since 1865. It is time for Americans to be educated about the correct history surrounding this symbol and the epic struggle it was a part of.
Honoring these soldiers by flying Confederate flags should not be the duty of just North Carolinians, but the duty of a nation.