Confederate Flag: Why, Why, Why?

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The story begins with General Robert E. Lee, a Virginian who had attended the College of West Point (West Point today)…as did Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general. When Lincoln, newly installed as President of the United States, offered Lee to head the Army, the southern states were already severing ties with the northern states. Lee respectfully declined, and then accepted the position of general of the Northern Virginia Army.  Lee was not a son of the South; he was a son of Virginia, and he viewed the conflict from that point. Thus, his battle flag, the Stars and Bars, was used solely by his units.

When the Battle of Appottamox ended, and General Lee could not stomach the idea of sending his war-weary and physically exhausted soldiers into another battle, he surrendered the war to General Grant. As he rode away, under the humane salutes from the Union soldiers and officers, he knew that healing would be difficult for the South. In a letter to his wife, he mentioned that “we have not suffered enough…repented enough…” and knowing the challenges of life as a defeated nation, he told his soldiers that the battle flag should be buried.

He would be horrified and brokenhearted to see what and who has taken his flag. This is a man whose father fought in the Revolutionary War.  Ten years before the Civil War, he released his slaves – gave them freedom. He had never bought or sold a slave; these were people he “inherited.” The idea of white supremacy was not his mindset.

When he passed away five years after the end of the war, the South was still devastated by the financial ruin of war and the end of slavery.  For him, the war was what he was most afraid of – the destruction of family, livelihood, safety, dignity, and humanity. Why would he want a flag of war, a catastrophe which, by design, brings out the worst in humanity, to be raised as an emblem of heritage, or more horrific, hatred and intimidation?

Robert E. Lee would view Charlotteville’s events as devastating. His battle flag was a rallying point for his soldiers, and served its purpose, and was not raised again by him. So why has it become the rallying point for white supremists and neo-nazis? We get that for some, it represents heritage, and maybe any old battle flag from a southern army would do. But when state legislatures like Georgia and Alabama exhume that flag from the dust and send it to the top of the flag pole as representative of their defiance of desegregation and destruction of Jim Crow laws, then General Lee’s flag becomes a prisoner of war itself.

If General Lee had been in North Carolina when the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia was taken down from the state capital flag pole, he probably would have said, “Should never have been up there in the first place.” Had he seen the flag being used to condone hate crimes and church burnings, lynchings and murder, he would have endeavored to gather all the flags at once and burn them. In his world, there was no room for hate.

None.

So…for those people, including the few trucks in Saratoga Springs which sport the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, please let an old, old man rest in his grave by taking the flag down. Honor his wishes to bury the flag so we can settle upon the task of healing from a war which obviously has not ended.

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Confederate Flag: Why, Why, Why?