Exactly who gets to decide the next symbol to fall?

by      June 26, 2015

Confederate Flag

Today’s Confederate flag began as the battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia. This square emblem served in this capacity from 1861 until the fall of the confederacy. It engaged in numerous battles throughout the war, most notably campaigns in Gettysburg and Appomattox.

On June 17, 2015, 21-year-old Dylan Roof shot and killed nine members of an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, wounding a tenth member. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. This senseless act of hatred is morally reprehensible and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Soon after, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the state house in Columbia. Less than a week later, however, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy all announced they would no longer sell any Confederate flags. This jarring decision bears discussion.

A government entity which removes the flag does so at the behest of its people. And rightly so. The consent of the governed and the will of the people cannot be ignored. By all means: take the flag down. Put it in a museum. But do not pretend that it is the only representation of such oppression.

This post is not written to support the Confederate Flag. Instead, its purpose is to decry the mob rule that has risen up and swept across our nation. What will the next madman with a gun cling to in his quest for notoriety? Will we ban that too?

What is our litmus test for banning the sale of products? Should the American flag be banned? Let us consider that our founding fathers owned slaves. Let us consider the terrible ways in which Americans of the last century treated Japanese americans during World War II. Let us consider how Native Americans feel when they see the American flag. These parts of our history mean that we cannot rewrite a symbol’s history nor modern perceptions of those symbols. Heritage is not one-sided. And its history cannot be revised. The high-minded country that deserves the right to wave its flag, must recognize the freedom of its citizens to embrace their heritage, for good and bad; as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

Let us not pretend that our generation is so much more enlightened. Let us not pretend that removing a flag from a store will, in one fell swoop, remove the racial divisions that this country must still fight.

When a national fervor forces a retailer to change policies which have until now, been fiscally motivated and financially reasonable, we are in trouble. It is time to stop being a cowardly people. We must stand up for the unencumbered freedoms of the individual.